Today's readings are Isaiah 9: 1-4; psalm 27; 1 Cor. 1" 10-13, 17-18 and Mt. 4: 12-23
Believe it or not, there is an aspect of the poker game called “Texas Hold ‘em” that nicely relates to today’s gospel.
The game begins with 2 cards dealt face down to each player. Each player looks at their cards and then decides if they want to place a bet. Some decide to drop out, or fold, right away. For those remaining, 3 common cards are dealt face up. More betting. Then the dealer lays down a 4th common card, face up. More betting. There is still one last common card dealt, again face up. Now along the way, a player who thinks he has a strong hand can make a very bold bet – by declaring they are “all in”. This means they are betting all that they have. This in turn forces they other players remaining with the choice of matching the bet or folding their hands and losing what they thus far wagered.
As Jesus walked alongside the Sea of Galilee, he invites 2 sets of brothers to follow Him. To follow Him would mean that they leave behind their families, their boats, their livelihood. It was a big risk, for they were betting the rest of the lives. But each one said, “I’m all in”.
But what was it they made them to decide to do so? It’s fair to assume they must have been aware of Jesus’ message and ministry. After all, up to this point Jesus’ ministry occurred only in Galilee. But His message also must have been striking a chord in each one of them. For His message was new – he was speaking of a new way of life, a new way of looking at things, a new way of being in relation with other people, a way that was God based and God centred. This message stirred something deep inside them. So, they went “all in” and followed Him.
Other people didn’t though, even though they were amazed by His miracles, impressed by His teachings. Why? Because they were trapped in an attitude of submissive complacency - to the way things had always been, and believing that nothing could really change in their lives. They thought the poor would always be poor, and the rich would always exploit them. They thought injustice and cheating would always be the rule of the day. They firmly believed that in their own lives and that of their society, the golden rule always applied – a rather corrupt version of the golden rule, that is, - “Whoever has the gold, rules”. So, they thought the future would always be a repeat of the same old, same old. In their eyes it didn’t matter if someone actually came along to challenge and teach them about a possibility of a new life, a new way of seeing things, just as God sees.
But those four fishermen, and subsequently others, set aside any complacent submissiveness and fear and went “all in” with Jesus. They opened their lives up to Him and what He offered. No longer would they catch fish to feed others, but they themselves would feed others - by the example of their lives and by their teaching others about Jesus. Rather then being part of just one family, they now would become the foundation of a new, universal family: the Church.
Another thing about their decision – it had to be renewed frequently. For they found out to truly follow Him sacrifices would have to be made. They found out they would have to change. And change can be hard, as other people would oppose that change. But they knew change was needed. So, they kept saying yes to Him.
Fast forward 2000 years. My dear people, have you ever thought of the fact that Jesus has been walking along the shore of your life, ever since you were born? And He too, especially if you were baptized, invites you to decide to come and follow Him, just like those 4 fishermen did, and so many others have done.
Yes, it’s a big decision He asks of you. If you want, you can say no. Or you can say a yes with conditions attached – yes, when it’s convenient I will follow Jesus, especially when life gets hard. Or your yes can be one in which you’re going to go “all in”, by following Jesus in all aspects of your life. Why would you do so? Because you know this will bring true change in you and a true sense of peace and purpose in your life. Because you know deep in your heart good isn’t good enough. God doesn’t call you to be good. God calls you to be great. Do you dare try to become that great woman, that great man that God wants you to be?
One last thing – yes, that call of His to follow Him is a very personal call. But Jesus doesn’t just call you; He calls all of you – and me. And if a whole lot of us together, as a community of faith, go “all in” we can make Jesus Christ truly present in our world. And Lord knows this world of ours could use a lot more Jesus.
P.S. Dear reader, I will be away for the rest of this week. My reflections will resume on January 31st. Until then, may God bless you!