January 17, 2012
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time [January 22, 2012]
I am quite sure that, as I look back on my life’s history, I could say that I missed a lot of opportunities to do something or avoid something that could have made all the difference in the remainder of my life. Life is a great mystery, of course, and lots of things can go wrong, lots of mistakes are possible. We seldom have enough sight or insight to know whether we have made correct decisions. So, no matter what, we blunder on the best we can, never knowing what could have been. Perhaps it is fortunate that we do not know what we missed.
Nonetheless, there are instances in our lives that are critical, moments when we do have sufficient time to decide well about our future. The decision to continue our education, for instance, is critical, so too the decision to marry and have children or not to marry, yes even the opportunity to accept a position in another part of the country and move far from friends and relatives.
Of course, in many instances we have little control over our decisions. The world around us often makes decisions for us: An office, for instance, in our hometown shuts down and we are out of work. We have no other option than to look elsewhere.
In my own life, the decision to study for the priesthood occurred at a certain point in time, although I have no sense when that actually occurred. Indeed, I do not know whether I ever made a clear decision about it. It just sort of happened gradually, almost imperceptibly.
Even the decision to be Catholic was never a true decision; my mother and father made that decision for me and I am glad they did. I would not have made a good Protestant, good as those folks are.
One point that is clear to me, however, is that God places opportunities before us every day; they are not gigantic or world shaking, but they do count and add up to something very important.
Sometimes I just think the best thing to do on arising in the morning is to say: “Lord, right now, half awake, I want to do whatever it is you have in mind. Just try to make it clear, okay. I hope that will cover the day.”
Add to all this the fact that in many instances, unique people will come through our lives who will make God’s will very clear. If we have the good sense to listen to them, it may make a tremendous difference for our future.
Oddly enough when I read of someone who is in prison for some serious malfeasance of justice, I wonder if he or she ever imagined as a youngster that life would turn out like it did. Again, decisions, decisions.
We have several examples in our scriptures for this Third Sunday in Ordinary Time that outline the critical difference decisions make. In that lovely reading from Jonah the prophet we learn of the story of a man who heard God’s call to preach repentance to people he cared little about. They lived in the metropolitan city of Nineveh in a country foreign to Israel. The inhabitants were neither of his own culture nor his religion and yet, God felt that it was necessary to call on a Jewish person to be a missionary to these foreigners.
As the story proceeds, we learn that Jonah, in an attempt to escape God’s call, decided to go in a completely opposite direction than Nineveh. He was foiled in this attempt, however, by being thrown overboard by sailors and ending up in the belly of a sea monster that very unceremoniously dumped Jonah on the shores of the country where Nineveh was located.
“Oh well,” Jonah said to himself, “ Now that I am here I might as well try to preach repentance even though these people obviously have no desire to change their lives.”
We all know the outcome, of course. The entire city, including dogs, cats and cattle, did repent. The moral of the story is that, at least in some instances, God will have God’s way, despite our reluctance to follow the clear instinct with which God has blessed us.
That same theme is the one Saint Paul preaches to his Christian converts: “The time is short,” he says. “Do not let the ways of the world overwhelm you so that you do not even recognize God’s call when it happens.
And finally, we have the well-known story of Peter and his brother Andrew who gave up their fishing business (and even perhaps their families) and follow Jesus, to go out and preach the good news of the kingdom of God. Leaving all, they followed Jesus. That short line describes a decision that ultimately changed the world. It’s called Christianity.
I am sure that most of the life decisions we make or shall make during our lives will not be as dramatic as those we just quoted. Nonetheless, God moves in strange ways and at unexpected times and in strange circumstances. Again, as we mentioned earlier, the ways of the world and the mind of God are a great mystery. Perhaps the old saying, better safe than sorry will fit our ordinary daily life. Choice is always a risk but we need never fear failure if we simply say: “Well, Lord, if this is what you want, I’ll give it a try. Just don’t let me fail, okay?”
Posted by Cindy Lentine on January 17, 2012 03:53 PM.