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Fr Billy Swan

Dear friends. We live in an age in which there is a strong emphasis on the self or individual – my rights, my plans and my freedom. We hear it all the time in language and slogans like: ‘My life, my death, my body, my choice’. By nature, we like to live within a safe little world with boundaries of our own making. We are suspicious of anyone or any religion that makes demands of us and that calls us beyond our safety zone. So then, how is life within that space that we have made for ourselves? Well, in a word, boring! It is boring to exist within that space of the self because it’s too narrow, too limiting and is often drawn up by fear of what we might lose. In contrast, the Gospel breaks us out of that narrow space and opens us out to greater possibilities and to a life of adventure that is life-giving and wonderful.

The first reading this Sunday presents us with the prophet Jonah who tried to run away from God’s call to him to go to Nineveh to preach a message of repentance. Jonah had other plans for himself but when he eventually did respond, his mission was successful for the people of the whole city turned back to God. Then in the Gospel today, Jesus calls the first Apostles to leave everything and follow him. They were fishermen and happy to remain as fishermen. But Jesus had other ideas. Suddenly they received a call to leave that space, trust him completely and follow him. This would lead to an adventure that would change the course of history as Christianity caught fire and spread rapidly. All this happened because these fishermen dared to say ‘YES’ to the call of the Master that day on the shore of the Sea of Galilee and the ‘YES’ they continued to give after that.

God has plans for your life and mine that are far bigger and greater than we imagine. God does not want us to stay within the narrow space of our fears and desires. Rather his love calls us to new adventures and possibilities. Like the Apostles on the sea-shore that day when Jesus came along, the call of the Lord is addressed to each of us too. It is a call that is deep and personal as he calls us by name to be missionaries and prophets like he called Jonah, James, John, Andrew and Peter. It is a call that begins with the love he has for each of us but does not end there. For he calls us not for ourselves but for others. God’s call is always missionary, directed outward, risky but rewarding and successful. We see that with the call of Jonah and the Apostles themselves.

And so, when we word of the Lord is addressed to us like it was to Jonah that says – ‘Up and Go!’ and when we respond, we begin to see things in a new way. Instead of staying in a small space out of fear, we are led to a new space because of trust and love. Instead of staying as we are, we trust God to make us more than we thought we could be. Instead of trying to fit God into my plans, we surrender ourselves into fitting into his plans. Instead of trying to find happiness for ourselves, we bring joy to others and find happiness by doing so. This is what makes the Christian life so compelling, exciting and never boring.

Friends, the readings today invite us to imagine bigger and expand our horizons. They invite us not to stay in the narrow and small space of the self or the ego. We are made for something greater. We are not made for comfort but for greatness. We have a mission and a calling that is directed to the good of others. God loves us first and wants us to receive that gift. The experience of this love then calls us to trust, surrender and go to where the Spirit takes us. So do not be afraid to go where he leads you. ‘Lord, make me know your ways’ (Today’s Psalm).


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