3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time: Gospel – Mark 1:14-20

"
Live the New Year with Real Hope"

Preached by Fr Philip Heng, SJ at Church of St Ignatius – Singapore
on 22nd January 2012

“The Kingdom of God is close at hand.  Repent, and believe the Good News.”  The Second Reading too reminds us that “our time is growing short.”  We are in the beginning of a new year 2012 and we should look forward to the coming year with hope; real hope.

For those of us who are going through pain and uncertainties of life, we may tend to feel somewhat discourage and pessimistic about what this coming year holds for us.  Our pains are real, our pessimism is understandable and our hopes can be fragile.  However, there is one real hope that we can rely on that will never fail . . . and I dare say this to every one of us here.  How can you be so sure . . . you may ask?

Well, the certainty of the real hope that I am offering does not come from me, but from Jesus.  Jesus is our real and only hope.  And He is offering you and I this real hope today; here in this Mass that we are all celebrating.  Jesus is asking you and I, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men!”

To be called to be “fishers of men” refers to a call to the priesthood and religious life vocation; but it is also more than that.  When Jesus, in today’s Gospel called Simon, Andrew, James and John to be His apostles, Jesus is also extending His invitation to you and I to believe and live the Good News of eternal happiness that begins here on earth in our lives.

          

We all know from the Gospels that the apostles left their nets and everything they owned and followed Jesus; from then on, they experience a new life the “real hope” that all of us and indeed, everyone in the world long to have.  What is this real hope in God mean?  Here in one illustration.

There is a true story of Jana Wegner which I will adapt here for our reflection.  Jana shares, “It was 15 years ago and as I recall what happened on that Monday morning, it feels as if my life is flashing before my eyes.

It was a cold spring morning in early April; I rushed around the house getting ready for work and coaxed my two little children out of bed to bring them to day care.  As I was speeding along a gravel road, trying to drop off my kids at the day care to my horror, I suddenly saw a huge black hole on the road in front of me.  It was too close for me to stop.  Neither could I swerve my car to either side as there were two lakes just beside the road.  So, as my car hit the crater, it lunged forward; the loose grave spun beneath my tires, sending me into a frightening spin that I could not pull out of.  “Oh, God, please save us!”

As I screamed in terror, my car plunged into the lake . . . the black icy water immediately began to bubble around my feet below; I turned around and grabbed hold of Lauren my 7 month old baby.  Philip my five year old son climbed over and got on to my lap; the water began to rise higher and have reached my knees; I tried to kick open the door, but it could not open; unless God helps us, we are as good as dead; moreover, I can’t even swim.  Yet, I knew that unless we get out, we will all be drowned in no time.

So, I kept kicking the door; suddenly it opened; my children and I were all screaming in terror; the deep penetrating cold water shocked my senses and robbed me of my breath as the black icy water rushed in with intense pressure and force.  I remember gasping in pain and clenching my babies close to my body as I prayed, “Lord, save me; I can’t do without You.”

I must have lost consciousness.  The next moment, I found myself gripping to some frozen dirty grass at the bank of the lake; my son was sitting at the edge of the road and my baby still in my arms!  To make a long story short, my husband finally arrived; we hugged each other tightly and kept crying with joy in our hearts because we knew that it was God who had saved our lives; it was God who answered my plea and we are sure of this.  Not only was it a deep experience of God’s mystery; my husband was stunned to find that my shoulder length hair was not even wet!?

My brothers and sisters in Christ, our “real hope” in life is truly trusting in God and believing that He will never fail us and never abandon us when we are in need.  Real hope is believing in a God who is almighty, and who is all merciful and all loving.  But, for that to happen; for God to perform miracles in our lives, we need to dare respond radically to His call like the apostles in today’s Gospel.

In life we will always have to make choices.  But, in our choices, we can either choose to be pessimistic or optimistic; choose to complain about everything and everyone or decide to take the first step towards mending a broken relationship or bring hope to a distressful situation; light a candle of hope or curse the darkness and gloom around.  The choice is always for us each to make.

The easiest thing is to blame others for things that don’t work out or for the pains and trials of our lives; that is never the Gospel way, because in doing so, we immediately shut ourselves from offering hope to others as God wills of us.  Throughout the Gospel, instead of condemning sinners like the adulteress, tax-collectors, Scribes and Pharisees, Jesus offers them the real hope through a repentance that brings a new life of peace and happiness into their lives.

When Jesus in today’s Gospel is calling us to be “fishers of men,” He is inviting us to follow Him; to learn from Him and make His Good News of Salvation known to others; to live a more wholesome life of being God-centered in everything that we do.  The apostles responded with radical obedience, decisiveness and single-mindedness.

Yet, let us note that while the Gospel account of Mark, presented the Simon, Andrew, James and John as responding to Jesus’ call immediately, we can be sure that before Jesus called them, they had already been hearing about Jesus, getting to know Him like the rest of the crowd who followed Him wherever he preached, taught and performed miracles.  We can be sure that their hearts were already drawn towards the Good News of Salvation that Jesus was offering them.  We too are called to live in this manner as “fishers of men.”

If we look around us and the world, we can either be discouraged at the destruction and suffering that is going on.  Yet, we can also see that there is hope around us.  God’s miracles and mysteries never cease to unfold themselves.  One such mystery has been brought to light by Nasa's Kepler telescope, which recently detected two new planet systems with two suns.  As the search for life beyond Earth goes on, God’s bounty is proving to be inexhaustible and regenerating our planet earth in its divine mystery.  Some time ago, it was reported that scientist exploring waters off Indonesia, discovered at least 40 new plant and animal species.  The world is old but life is new as God is always renews His creation.  Medical discoveries and inventions too continue to improve the quality lives of millions of aged and sick people. The frontiers of science keep chasing after the graciousness and goodness of God.

God’s blessings and miracles becomes even more profound when we reflect on human relationships and our relationship with Jesus, Our Lord and Saviour.  The story of the miracle of Jana that we heard is only one of millions of such happenings in human relationships with God.  I have no doubts you too have experienced God in very profound ways.

However, one of the main problems of our faith is that while God continues to love us and bless us abundantly, we seem to have very short memories of the abundant blessings and the miracles that He has done for us.  Have we not heard of miraculous cures from critical illness and even miracles that are as dramatic miracles like that of Lara in our true story, but as soon God answers our prayers, we so easily get back to our old ways of putting our petty concerns and material needs of our daily living as a higher priority than our need to deepen our relationship with Him.  Is this an exaggeration?  We all know that it is not.

              

I would like to conclude by reminding ourselves that the fundamental challenge in today’s Gospel and in all that I have said is that Jesus is calling you and I, and everyone who is attending Mass throughout the world, to live the Gospel that offers eternal happiness.  We are each called personally to accept this divine and eternal gift.

We all need to make choices.  We can either choose the ways of Christ that offers us true hope for this year 2012 or we can brush this invitation aside and continue with our daily living as though we have not heard Jesus’ invitation in today’s Gospel.  Jesus wants our response to be like His apostles: decisive, unconditional and wholehearted – that’s the certain and true hope that Jesus is offering you and I and the whole world.

Fr Philip Heng,S.J.

 

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