What does the future hold? What is God’s plan for me? What is God’s will? These are common enough questions we ask ourselves at any given time.
Our readings today give us a glimpse into the cycle of how we respond to God’s will – our psalm has a common enough plea of those who profess to want to come closer to God – the antiphon for Psalm 25 is ‘Lord let me know your ways”. In it the psalmist, along with us, asks God to reveal His path, His truth, His will.
But when we ask God to reveal His will, sometimes we don’t like what we hear.
Jonah is told directly by God to preach a message of repentance to Nineveh; initially Jonah refuses, going so far as to travel to the opposite end of the known world to avoid delivering God’s message of mercy to the Ninevites; if you haven’t read Jonah, I invite you to do so – it’s the shortest book in the Old Testament and is quite a lesson in human behaviour when it comes to God’s will. Jonah not only doesn’t like God’s message for Nineveh, but when God shows He means what He says when He offers mercy and compassion, Jonah becomes upset with God’s compassion to ‘sinners’. Jonah knows God’s will, and he wastes a lot of time fighting against it, even though he is a prophet, one of God’s messengers.
But in St. Mark’s Gospel we see Jesus, the Word of God incarnate in human flesh– calling of Peter and Andrew, and then James and John – and their response is ‘immediate’ – St. Mark doesn’t take up time with discussions or points of view or circumstances or details; the fishermen don’t run the other way when, in a personal encounter, God makes His will known: Jesus says, ‘follow me’ and they respond ‘immediately’ and follow him.
The inference in this vocation story is rather clear; that when Jesus speaks to us, invites us to follow Him, to do God’s will, our response should be immediate; not weighed down by personal desires or opinions or viewpoints; it should be immediate – without delay – at the moment.
Often we might be tempted to consider God’s will and suggest, we don’t really know what God wants from us; we might be tempted to say we need to plan out our life path and goals and take a longer-term and broader approach in discerning God’s will; we might even be tempted to say, ‘if only God would speak directly to me to tell me His will ‘ or’ if Jesus would somehow make Himself present to me and clearly tell me what He wants me to do, it would be easier for me to follow Him’.
But isn’t this really demanding a sign? Hasn’t God already spoken to us? Have we not already received His word in Sacred Scripture? Doesn’t Jesus make himself present to us daily, in His Church, His Sacraments, and in those around us – the poor, the neglected and the marginalized?
Too often we take the approach of looking for and at the ‘big picture’; sometimes we lose site of the immediate, the little picture; the present. In our everyday lives, time and time again, we have opportunities to live out the teachings of Jesus, opportunities to follow Him, to live out the will of God – to love God and to love our neighbors. In our words, do we speak to others in charity or in unkindness? In our actions, are we directed towards our own comfort at the expense of others? Do we take more than we need either socially or materially so that others will not have sufficient? Every day there are countless opportunities to promote the Kingdom of God or chances to refuse to participate in the Kingdom; and in each of these we are presented with a choice – we can either follow the example of Jesus in that immediate moment, speaking and acting with love and compassion – or we can follow our own path; acting without love or compassion – we can’t say, as Christians, that we really don’t know what God wants us to do, or what being a follower of Jesus really means; we’ve been told repeatedly – maybe not in some grand spectacular high definition presentation; but we have been told and shown by Jesus himself.
If someone needs a kind word or help, and we are able to provide those things, our decision to act or not plays a part in establishing the Kingdom of God. And each opportunity is only for a present moment – it can pass without our moving towards God’s will, or it can become a movement towards closer identification with Christ.
And at the end of each day, we can take a few moments to examine our own conscience to see how we have followed God’s will, how we have followed Jesus – in all of the little interactions with others we have had through our day; and we can offer a prayer of thanks to God for the chances we had to play a small part in building the Kingdom, or offer a prayer of petition, asking God to help us do a better job of it the next day.
In His word and in His Church, God has already spoken to us and told us what is expected of us, if we would truly be His children, if we would truly be followers of Jesus; the choice is truly ours. In the events of our daily lives, the little or the great, we can respond like Jonah and run the other way, or we can be like Peter and Andrew, James and John and respond ‘immediately’.
When we make the effort to reflect on where God has already spoken to us, and what Jesus has taught us, the building of the Kingdom won’t be some monumental task – it will simply be an extension of the daily pattern of a genuine, authentic lived faith that we continue to grow in, strengthened by God’s Word and the Sacramental gift of Jesus.
Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!