Saturday, January 13, 2018

He Got Up

Now the asses of Saul's father, Kish, had wandered off. Kish said to his son Saul, "Take one of the servants with you and go out and hunt for the asses." Accordingly, they went through the hill country of Ephraim, and through the land of Shalishah. Not finding them there, they continued through the land of Shaalim without success. They also went through the land of Benjamin, but they failed to find the animals. 1 Samuel 9:3-4

Jesus went out along the sea. All the crowd came to him, and he taught them. As he passed by, he saw Levi, son of Alphaeus, sitting at the customs post. Jesus said to him, "Follow me." And he got up and followed Jesus. Mark 2:13-14

Prayer To Know One's Vocation
Lord, my God and my loving Father, you have made me to know you, to love you, to serve you, and thereby to find and to fulfill my deepest longings. I know that you are in all things and that every path can lead me to you. 

But of them all, there is one especially by which you want me to come to you. Since I will do what you want of me, I pray you, send your Holy Spirit to me.  Send the Spirit into my mind to show me what you want of me.  Send the Spirit into my heart to give me the determination to do it, and to do it with all my love, with all my mind, and with all of my strength right to the end. Jesus, I trust in you. Amen

Get up. Go out.

In both readings today, we realize that standing pat is no way to pursue the mission of God.  Saul has to go out and find the wandering donkeys.  He can not just sit on his father's farm.  While looking for the donkeys, you never know what else you are going to find. While searching for the donkey's, he came across Samuel. Or maybe it was Samuel who came across Saul.

The serendipity and surprise of the present moment also hit Levi.  He probably just told his father that he was going out for a walk down by the seashore. While on this stroll, he came across Jesus. Or maybe it was Jesus who came across Levi.

We can not be pre-occupied with another task and think we can do what God wants us to do. We have to set that other task aside when we are called to do God’s work.

Today, I was thinking about Barry Knestout as I meditated on the calling of Levi and Saul.  I just saw this great photo on Twitter.

He is one of the nine Knestout children. His goal was to be a good parish priest until one day he got a call from the Pope.  When the Pope calls, you pretty much drop everything and answer the phone. And hope mom approves. 

That call widened his “flock” to be the entire Diocese of Richmond, Virginia.  He is now Bishop Barry Knestout, the 13th Bishop of Richmond.  Yesterday, that good pastor accepted the crozier, miter, and cathedra as he was installed as Bishop yesterday.

All of the apostles Jesus called were doing something else. Andrew, Peter, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, worked as fishermen.

Matthew, called Levi in today’s Gospel, worked as a tax collector for the Roman government. He would have acquired some education and reputation to achieve this job. His job provided him with considerable wealth, because tax collectors earned a portion of what they collected, as noted in the story of Zacchaeus, another famous tax collector who followed Jesus. Matthew invited Jesus home and threw a party that included many of his sinful friends. Matthew’s wealth may have helped fund Jesus' ministry.[ii]

The Caravaggio Call of Levi
Answering this call could not have been easy.  In the Renaissance painting on the invitation of St. Matthew, there is anguish on the face of the tax collector when he realizes that the gaze and gesture of Jesus are resting in his general direction. Who me?  Why me? Jesus does not present a recruiting campaign.  There is no application fee or form. No election.  Just "Follow me." Simple.  Sweet. It is no easier for us today. 

Also, according to Kathryn Rateliff Barr’s web article titled “What Were the Professions of the Twelve Apostles,” Simon was known as the Zealot, not strictly a profession, and as a Canaanite. Zealots engaged in politics and anarchy, attempting to overthrow the Roman government. He may have been a politician or a revolutionary (today he might have been a Catholic Worker or lived at the Bruderhof).  When Simon joined up with Jesus and his disciples, he remained zealous, but with allegiance to Jesus rather than political revolution.

Judas served as the treasurer of Jesus' band, and John 12:4-6 identifies him as a thief and an embezzler. Maybe Matthew/Levi would have been a better choice as treasurer.  If he were trustful to the Romans, then perhaps the bank account of the apostles would have been treated better. The Bible doesn’t tell us what Judas did before becoming an apostle nor does it provide any information on the professions of Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Thaddaeus or James, the son of Alphaeus.[iii]

However, when Jesus called, they dropped their nets, the tax rolls, the political issues and their former professions and followed Jesus.  They got up.  They went out.  They led by following.

People today pretty much answer their mobile phone, text messages and e-mail from everywhere and anywhere.  You hear a voice on the bus. When you turn towards it, you realize that the person is not calling on you but instead is talking to someone miles away.  The voice in the aisle at the grocery store is not asking you where to find the peanut butter or bananas.  That person is talking to a friend or family member or colleague about some other issue. 

We cannot and are not going to follow Jesus watching TV or playing video games.  We will not support him going to our day job.  However, we have to be aware of what is happening around us in the present moment.  That mindfulness will help us recognize the call in case Jesus, or Pope Francis or someone in need (who is Christ to us at the moment) calls.

When they call, get up.  Go out. Follow Jesus.

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