January 25, 2015, 3rd Ordinary Time B
Jonah 3, 1-10, The word of the Lord came to Jonah, saying…..
Psalm 25, Teach me your ways, O Lord.
1 Corinthians 7, 29-31, Let those having wives act as not having them.
Mark 1, 14-20, Come after me and I will make you fishers of people.
Jonah: This little book of 4 chapters is a gem and tells a delightful short story. It is so good I would like to read it all, but will read only chapter 1 and most of chapter 3.
Background: Jonah has been asked by Yahweh to go to Nineveh in Assyria to tell the people & leaders that they are evil and will be punished shortly by Yahweh. Trouble is, Nineveh is the enemy, like me going to Houston or Philadelphia.
So he runs away, catches a boat headed for Spain, is blamed by the sailors for causing a big storm on the sea, and is dumped overboard. The whale swallows him and for three days Jonah is constrained to reflect on what he is doing. When, after 3 days, the whale dumps him on shore, Jonah is more willing to listen. We arrive at this point and I will have most of chapter 3 read.
Author: For centuries, while people took this story as factual, Jonah was considered author of his own story. Once it was seen as a fable or allegory, it is accepted that the story probably has some unknown ancient as the author.
Date of composition: no one really knows, but educated guesses put it ca. 800 before Christ.
Note: the story of Jonah and the story of Jesus' interaction with his future apostles are both about The Call. 1 Corinthians is really bad. Just like last week. Who in Rome chooses these readings?
Reminiscing at 75
This morning I would like to reminisce on the theme of call at 75. I propose that calls can be blessings or gifts. For example.
I see three big calls in my 75 years. The first came when I was in high school at the old Jesuit on Oak Lawn. I felt drawn to be a Jesuit & a priest.
I admit there was a lot of scare in this decision, scare that I was going to hell because of my sinful ways and the guys I hung around with. I remember clearly one of the sermons commonly used with us guys. You go out with your girl friend, you neck a little bit, you head home, you are hit by a train, and killed instantly. You go straight to hell.
I remember the pastor at Christ the King telling the people that where you go will depend upon the people you hang out with. Good people, you go to heaven. Bad people, you know where. I looked around and thought to myself, ‘I know where I’m going.’ I look around now and see some of my best friends, one a lawyer, another a banker, and my friend in Chicago, FBI. On second thought, I still don’t know where we all might be going.
Trouble is, now I don’t think there is a hell thanks to my Jesuit training. I grew up in the Jesuits. We simply had to. I used to look at some of my classmates in the military and thought they were lucky. We entered the Jesuits in those days and never went home for anything, weddings, special events, maybe funerals of parents.
With all this, my decision to follow this inner call to be a Jesuit was an enormous blessing.
It led me to a second momentous blessing in my life, my years in East Africa, especially Tanzania. I really had to learn how to adapt. I learned Swahili and in the process discovered I have a gift for languages.
A high moment for me during maybe my 8th year came one afternoon when I went to a market in a big shed at my base near Kilimanjaro. I had an old Tanzanian who was a buddy. He sold fruits and veggies. I always chatted with him when I was in town. One day after we had chatted, a little old lady asked him, while I was to the side picking fruit, was I one of them, their people.
I used Swahili so good she thought I was an ndugu, which means something like a brother, something I would never had used for myself. The old guy told me and I was floored.
Then I was somewhat unpleasantly invited to go back to the States, which led to the third most incredible call and blessing, Rosemary and marriage.
Looking back I returned to the States with a loneliness that I picked up in Tanzania and a much different perspective on marriage that I also picked up from the people, the priests, and even the bishops and a particular cardinal. Tanzanians deep inside think not getting married is contrary to the laws of the universe. I came home with this and I now could not be a happier person.
Finally, a side effect call and gift: you people, our community, the gift and the fun I receive from you every week.
Calls can be marvelous gifts and blessings. I have had three and a half marvelous ones.