Monday, January 12, 2015

Jesus, Andrew, Peter, and Peyton Manning

Today’s Gospel reading is Mark 1:14-20, here it is from the USCCB website:

After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the Gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel.”

As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen. Jesus said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Then they left their nets and followed him. He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets. Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him.

I’m always amazed at the instant response of these men. They knew very little about the man calling them and they seem to be in the middle of their work day, yet they immediately follow Jesus. During the homily today the priest asked, “What is our response? Are we quick to obey?” My immediate thought was that I never respond with quite the urgency of the disciples, but most of the time I am striving to obey – though not always. The priest then asked about our response to obstacles in life – which led me to a thought explosion for most of the remainder of mass – although not as distracted as that sounds.

Mass ended and I sat and prayed for a bit and thought more about my response and response in general to obstacles. I thanked the Lord for the attitude I’ve been given to respond to obstacles, I wouldn’t say I embrace them, but I endure them, attack them, take them head on. As I’m driving home I hear the news about Peyton Manning’s injury – that’s he’s played through a torn quad muscle for nearly a month. I’m still not sure if I think it was courageous or stupid of him, but he does deserve credit. I pulled my hamstring a few years ago, very slight pull, but I didn’t want to walk to the fridge, let alone get chased by dudes trying to take my head off! (So I guess Peyton was courageous). Man’s response to obstacles in our culture, largely sports, is called “heroic”, “unbelievable”, “amazing”, “unforgettable” and the list goes on. But when it comes to the spiritual, virtuous or moral life – all which require a serious amount of sacrifice, self-denial, service, and above all love – people are laughed at, mocked, and called weak. Self-denial, service and love although laughed at today are the best words we could use to describe the most heroic, unbelievable, amazing and unforgettable person that ever lived, died, rose and lived again.

Nothing in life is easy. College: both socially and intellectually challenging, marriage/vocation: beautiful, joy-filled yet faced with many trials, work: worth it, at times enjoyable yet demanding. Why would the spiritual life and a relationship with Jesus Christ be different? There are amazing highs and painful lows just like anything else in life – yet in the spiritual life why is man’s (myself included) response to obstacles often lazy, lack luster, slothful? Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, and Tony Romo (along with many others I’m sure) were willing to risk further, maybe even career threatening injuries for 60 minutes on Sunday. And for what?

I was sad and upset because this puzzles me. In every aspect of life I can think of man’s response is to face obstacles with confidence, toughness, a bit stubborn, some might even say defiant – every aspect of life but the spiritual aspect. Is a Super Bowl ring or another $100,000 really going to deliver something that lasts? That is truly life giving? That is eternal? Without a Google search, who won the Super Bowl and Super Bowl MVP in Super Bowl XXVI? 100 years from now that will mean even less than it does now. Who were the first men to follow Jesus? 2,000 years come and gone and those guys are still being talked about!

Those men in today’s Gospel followed Jesus because they were attracted to Him. Those men saw something in Jesus that promised more than anything they would ever pull into their boat or that they could ever do on their own. It was not always smooth sailing for those 1st men to run after Jesus, but I guarantee you they’re happy they did.

The priest ended his homily with the following questions, something I will continue to think about, “…the obstacle, is it a stepping stone towards or away from Jesus? Jesus meets us in our daily lives, how will we respond?”

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