Monday, October 14, 2013

Called to Belong

Through [Jesus Christ our Lord], we have received the grace of apostleship, to bring about the obedience of faith, for the sake of his name, among all the Gentiles, among whom are you also, who are called to belong to Jesus Christ; to all the beloved of God in Rome, called to be holy.  Romans 1:5-7a

“This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah.  Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation.  Luke 11:29-30

Last week our readings focused directly on the narrative of the book of Jonah.  This week, Jonah’s well-known story is one of the many allegories Jesus uses to communicate with his contemporary audience and to our generation as well.  Whether in the ancient Ninevah of Jonah, ancient Palestine of Jesus, ancient Rome of Paul or contemporary Fairfax County, the thread which connects all of these stories are of people who did change their ways and then went on to convince others to do likewise.

For our piety to be authentic, it has to bring about more than just piety – it has to bring about a change.  We have to take the message to heart and move from disobedience to obedience, from listening to action.  But Jesus is persistent.  He does not stop at just our conversion.  He wants us to take the lessons we learn to others.

Our first reading this week shifts into Romans – and will remain there for the next four weeks.  Paul sets forth some pretty explicit choices:  He can either please the people or be an obedient servant (slave) to the Lord. 

In accepting the latter role, he sets himself apart from the people – and that lands him in prison.  So he ends up getting set apart on several levels.  Those prophetic writings promised long ago are now made manifest (real) in the world of ancient Rome. But belief is not the end of the road.  Belief requires Paul to turn to the Gentiles “to open their eyes that they may turn from darkness to light.”   

Easier said than done.  People just do not respond solely to preaching.  They want more.  They demand a sign.  Paul got that sign when he was knocked off his horse, lost sight and recovered.  He now knows that the only sign needed is Christ crucified and risen.  This sign is greater than Jonah. 

Jonah’s example helped the Ninevites to repent.  But Luke’s Gospel notes that even though the example of Jesus in their midst is a greater sign, “this generation” will not change.  Jonah preached that:
“Man and beast alike must be covered with sackcloth and call loudly to God; they all must turn from their evil way and from the violence of their hands.  Who knows? God may again repent and turn from his blazing wrath, so that we will not perish.”  Jonah 3:8-9

If we change, God, too will change the fate He has in store for us. 

The uncertainty of what happens next in the Federal government shutdown and how this impacts our brothers and sisters who are poor and vulnerable here in the U.S. and overseas is of great concern.  Not only does this stalemate drag on, but this week, it takes place against the backdrop of World Food Day.  

As Christians, we are called to belong to a community of disciples who look upon the fate of others more than our own.  Can we set aside our agenda to concentrate on the needs of those who are most vulnerable?  October 16 (Wednesday) is the date.  It also will be Shutdown Day 16 if nothing else changes.  This day is an opportunity for all of us to increase our awareness of global hunger issues, and more specifically, to call on Congress to pass the Farm Bill once the government returns from the shutdown.

Take a few minutes to learn something new about how ending hunger is possible by checking out this interactive photo provided by CRS.  You can also share this prayer for World Food Day with your family and parish community. “May all our harvests reflect the Harvest that is to come.”

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