Thursday, July 05, 2018

Follow Me

Follow Me

Then shall they wander from sea to sea and rove from the north to the east in search of the word of the LORD, but they shall not find it. Amos 8:12
As Jesus passed by, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, "Follow me." And he got up and followed him. While he was at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples. The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?"  Matthew 9:9-11

The New Serenity Prayer
By Rev. James Martin, SJ

God, grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, which is pretty much everyone since I’m clearly not you, God. At least, not the last time I check.

And, while you’re at it, God, please give me the courage to change what I need to change about myself, which is frankly a lot, since, once again, I’m not you, which means I’m not perfect. 

It’s better for me to focus on changing myself than to worry about changing other people, who, as you’ll no doubt remember me saying, I can’t change anyway. 

Finally, give me the wisdom to just shut up whenever I think that I’m clearly smarter than everyone else in the room, that no one knows what they’re talking about except me, or that I alone have all the answers. 

Basically, God, grant me the wisdom to remember that I’m not you.  Amen.

True North.  True north (also called geodetic north) is the direction along Earth's surface towards the geographic North Pole. Geodetic north differs from magnetic north (the direction that a compass point toward the Magnetic North Pole), and from grid north (the direction northwards along the grid lines of a map projection).

Although these concepts differ, if you are trying to navigate you need some constant reference point otherwise you will wander from sea to sea and rove from north to east. 

Now we have smartphones in our pockets or a compass in clipped to every backpack with a sturdy carabiner.  If you are traveling, you need to know some reference point.  Sometimes, sailors used the North Star (Polaris) to help guide them on their journey. Once they locked onto the North Star – you know, the one that you find by following those indicators in the Big Dipper – sailors would find their way home.

Is it any wonder that God gave the Magi a star to point them to a theological True North in the desert on that Christmas night so long ago?

We know that Jesus replaced that star as “True North.” However, in today’s Good News, Jesus might as well have been eating publicly with someone with leprosy.  No one was likely to follow him.  The Jews reviled tax collectors in Roman-occupied Palestine.  They consorted with the enemy by collecting (extorting) money from neighbors that would be shipped back to Rome to fund the war effort against the same neighbors.

That did not stop Jesus from calling Matthew. The call could have been to any one of us. Beth, follow me.  Colleen, follow me.  Sam, follow me.  Phil, follow me.  Diane.  Jim.  Wayne.  Follow me.

Today, Jesus calls us not only to action (eating with the sinners, lepers and tax collectors) but Jesus also calls us to study the word and find True North.  “Go and learn the meaning of the words, I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” 

This phrase echoes the line in the Hebrew Bible that the Pharisees would well remember.  The verse comes from Hosea 6:6. “For it is loyalty that I desire, not sacrifice and knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”
If mercy is superior to the temple sacrifices, then how much more excellent is offering forgiveness to others over meticulously following the laws of ritual impurity?

Jesus reminds the Pharisees of this lesson again when the temple leaders attempt to scold Jesus and his followers for eating the seeds from grain on the Sabbath.  However, for all their positional power, the Pharisees do not seem to understand what they are learning from Jesus entirely. They continue to wander from sea to sea and rove from the north to the east.  For all the power that the tax collector wielded in society, he knew, and he responded in a way that all the learned men did not or could not or would not.

Matthew/Levi could not have been much more of a polar opposite to Peter.  The two men shared something extraordinary.  They responded to the call when they encountered Jesus.  The Pharisees, on the other hand, are still searching.

What can we take away from Matthew/Levi’s example? He followed Jesus in spite of the scorn he suffered because of his occupation.  The Pharisees did not follow Jesus even though they had the benefit of superior education and having an exalted position in the community.  

How is Jesus calling you to recognize True North?  When have you veered off of the path?  How did you course-correct?  

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