Last Sunday’s readings continue the theme of revealing Christ and of our vocation. The Gospel has the fulfilling of Isaiah’s prophecy and Jesus proclaiming the Kingdom of Heaven. He then calls the first disciples, who leave everything and follow him. Here is a summary of Fr Neil’s homily:
Important to our self-understanding and us are the communities that we belong to. These communities allow us to understand who we are and where we have come from. This identification can, of course also be the cause of conflict as St Paul highlights in his letter to the Corinthians (New Testament reading) We can also see the brutality of a self-identity that seeks to obliterate anyone who is different. Syria is a typical case.
Zebulum and Naphtali are identified communities that made up part of the Kingdom of Israel. They are the first to see their communities destroyed and go into exile at the hands of the Assyrians. This slow destruction of a nation concludes a number of years later with the destruction of Jerusalem and its people also going into exile. It is no wonder that the prophet’s talk of those who live in darkness – the darkness of loss and sorrow.
Yet into this darkness, light dawns with the coming of Jesus. Those who were first into exile are those first to have the light of the kingdom of heaven dawn on them. “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand,” cries Jesus.
The kingdom of heaven, as opposed to any nation state Kingdom, is proclaimed. Jesus calls us into a kingdom where an everlasting and deeper sense of our origin and identity is discovered. In this kingdom, we become aware that our origin is from God and our Vocation and destiny is in our return to God.
St Paul reminds the Corinthians and us that our identity as the children of God overcomes all other distinctions we might imagine there are between us. Although our human cultural differences can be a rich source of joy and understanding it is as children of God that we discover our real dignity.
Jesus continues to invite us, as he first invited Peter, Andrew, James and John, into a greater discovery of ourselves as citizens of heaven. To respond to this invitation requires repentance: a turning around and changing direction and a change of heart and mind. It requires us to stop living for ourselves and start living for God.
This change of life is dramatically illustrated with Peter, Andrew, James and John literally leaving everything behind to begin new lives as disciples and later as Apostles of Christ. We ourselves are aware of the call for a dramatic ‘leaving behind.’ No less important however, is the leaving behind of the less obvious, unseen, internal changes that following Christ requires.
Are we prepared to hear this call, “O that today you would listen to his voice!”, made new every morning? Are we ready to leave those things we need to, when Jesus says “Come, follow me, leave the shadows behind and walk in my light.”