Sunday, January 11, 2015

Then, He Called Them

In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he spoke to us through a son, whom he made heir of all things and through whom he created the universe, who is the refulgence of his glory, the very imprint of his being, and who sustains all things by his mighty word.  Hebrews 1:1-3A

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.”  Mark 1:14-15

In the meantime
There are bills to be paid, machines to keep in repair,
Irregular verbs to learn, the Time Being to redeem
From insignificance. The happy morning is over,
The night of agony still to come; the time is noon:
When the Spirit must practice his scales of rejoicing
Without even a hostile audience, and the Soul endure
A silence that is neither for nor against her faith
That God's Will will be done, That, in spite of her prayers,
God will cheat no one, not even the world of its triumph.
(W.H. Auden, For the Time Being)

Auden’s For the Time Being is a Christmas Oratorio written for the bleak mid-Winter, post-Christmas malaise – like the time we are in now.  The decorations and music and parties of the holiday season are over.  We now get back to our “regularly scheduled programming” (also known as our daily lives which appear all the more monotonous in comparison to the recent holidays). 

However, this regular life is really what the Advent-Christmas buildup is all about…the first Monday of ordinary time.   We have turned the high, holy birthday into a gift-giving day for the children.  Now, as we reach into the long, repetitious ordinary days, we enter a time for adults.  After all, when it came upon a midnight clear, the day that the shepherds were drawn to the Nativity, started out as a normal ordinary day in the fields.

Jesus’ birth “silently but decisively” disrupted the lives of people we have come to know from his day.  Mary.  Joseph.  John.  Herod.  The shepherds.  The magi.  The disciples who are now starting to hear the call – a call that resonates while they try to move about their day-jobs as fishermen and tax collectors.  

In our everyday, ordinary re-calibration and re-celebration of the Nativity, the Crucifixion and the Resurrection, Jesus also is here to silently but decisively disrupt our lives, too.  He wants to shake us out of our boring existence.  As we move from the color-filled white-red-purple calendar to the greening of ordinary time, suns will rise and set these cold winter days just like they do in the humid summers of our youth and the shadowy leafy autumns of our ages.  Yet these days are now marked with a special presence and present that we unwrapped from swaddling clothes on Christmas morn.

After the warmth of the holiday season, we are snapped back to consciousness.  Daily we are confronted with evidence that people do pretty horrible things to each other.  Herod slaughtered the innocent boys.  We do not have to think back in history (Inquisition, Holocaust, atomic bombs) to see humanity at its worst. 

Now we have the reality of a 24-7 news cycle-driven television and (anti?) social media that bear witness to the terror last week in France and the stories of the mass murder by Boko Haram. To redeem us from our worst is precisely why Jesus came.  Wishes of glad tidings of comfort and joy now seem trite and worn.  Back to Auden’s words:

The Christmas Feast is already a fading memory,
And already the mind begins to be vaguely aware
Of an unpleasant whiff of apprehension at the thought
Of Lent and Good Friday which cannot, after all, now
Be very far off. But, for the time being, here we all are…

Yes, here we all are…in ordinary time pursuing the tripod of piety, study and action as the sunlit portion of our days get longer by the minute giving us a few more waking hours to fulfil the promises of Christmas morning day-by-chilly-day.  Then, he calls us.  

Our first reading reminds us that in times past, God spoke through the prophets.  The Gospel reminds us that God spoke through the Son.  Now, God still speaks through the Holy Spirit.  As you go about your business, how is God calling you away from the “boats and nets” that preoccupy your time?  Are you aware enough about the revelation of the present moment to know that moment when it comes? 

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