January 26, 2020
Fr. Joseph Jacobi
Recently I went out to eat lunch with a friend. He wanted to treat me to a meal at the Cheesecake factory, along with some of that famously delicious dessert, and then to a movie afterward.
At this meal, my friend immediately made a connection with the young man who waited on our table. He asked the young man’s name and then called him by name every time he came by to fill our tea and water glasses. With a few questions, he found out that our waiter was attending OU and that he was a graduate of Mustang High School.
My friend can come across as a bit gruff and tough. His effort to make a connection with our waiter was intentionalbeing friendly is not naturally pa11 of who he is. It was something he was making an effort to do, because of my friend’s faith. It was his way of showing this young man waiting on our table that he mattered, that he was not just someone working for us and thus “below” us, but that he had an inherent dignity which called forth respect and interest and compassion from my friend.
The connection he made with our waiter probably meant just as much as the generous tip he left on the table for him. My friend also does this with whoever checks him out at the grocery store. He made the same effort, though with a much more limited window of time, with the person who took our movie tickets and directed us to where our movie was showing.
Now this may sound like a small thing, but it is actually huge in the plan of God. Connecting with another person makes all the difference in the world, for such an effort says, “I care. You are important.” Such loving attention & interest is a way of sharing the good news of God’s love in Christ. So often, though, the opposite happens, as we bury ourselves in our cell phones at a restaurant, bank, or store, and don’t even pay attention to the person who is serving us. Often we interact with others w/out even making contact, much less a connection w/them.
Jesus connected with people so they would want to enter into relationship with him. This is what Jesus did over and over again with people.
This loving attention began with the Incarnation, as the Son of God came down to our level, to the human level, because he wanted to connect with us. He burned with a deep desire to enter into a friendship with humanity and with individual persons.
Surely this is what happened with the call of Andrew, Peter, James and John. Jesus lived in Capernaum and most likely encountered these four before he invited them to follow him, maybe at the fish market or elsewhere. He came to know their names and showed an interest in their lives. He connected with them and hooked them by his love for them.
So that when he walked by and simply said, “Come after me,” they were willing to leave the security of their present life behind to be with him. Notice this is first and foremost what Jesus is inviting them to do-to be with him. We can imagine the 2 sets of brothers and Jesus sitting down to break bread later that day and over a meal coming to know each other even better. He is not inviting them into a certain ideology or group, but to his very person! He is not inviting them to do something, but to be with him, to go where he goes.
This was Jesus’ modus-operandi, the way he operated as he established the relationship model of the Kingdom of heaven. He would go out to where people were, meet them where they were at, share a meal with them, get to know them and open his heart for them to know him.
This connection with others happened in the most ordinary of ways, but it was always intentional. He did not sit in the temple in Jerusalem and hope people would come to him to learn about the kingdom of heaven, about the great good news of the Gospel. He went out to them to invite them into a love story, God’s love for the human race.
The way we connect with the Risen Jesus today happens in a multitude of ways, but the easiest and most consistent way is by listening to Him speak to us in the Gospels. By taking time to be with him each day in His Word, we come to know him better. [tis where he comes to meet us and to speak to us. Pope Francis has declared this 3rd Sunday in Ordinary time to be “The Sunday of the Word of God”. In doing so, our Pope wants to emphasize the importance of Scriptures but most especially of the 4 Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Pope Francis carries around a small book with the Gospels in it, and whenever he has a short break, he pulls it out, and listens to what the Lord Jesus is saying through His Word.
By listening to the Risen Jesus speak to us through the Gospels, we connect with him. It is how we can do so easily and naturally, coming to know him better and entering deeper into relationship with him. When many people think of prayer, they think of it as a one-way conversation, of giving God a to-do list for the day. Others complain that God never speaks to them. By daily immersing ourselves in the Word of God, especially in the Gospels, we enter into a two-way conversation with the Lord where he speaks to us if we but listen.
If we have never prayed with the Word of God, there are several basic things which help us listen better. First, find a place that is quite, where you can be in silence, away from the noise of TV, phones, and other devices. Choose a regular time every day when you can take at least 5-10 minutes to read and reflect on the Word of God. The easiest way to choose a Gospel passage is to use the passage that will be proclaimed at daily Mass or at Sunday Mass—the verses for these Gospel passages are listed in our bulletin or you can find them online. When you have the passage marked in your bible, read it our loud, and listen for a word or a phrase that strikes you. Ask Jesus questions about this word or phrase, chew on it. This can then become a way to talk to Jesus about anything and everything going on in your life.
In the person and life of Jesus, we see how God is by nature a fisherman. In Jesus, God searches for us in the deep waters where we hide, baiting and hooking us by his love. He reels us in out of the watery depths of our old life clouded by the darkness of fear, into the light, into the light of a new world. Where he will never ever let us go, for we are caught in a love story that snags us for life. He even gives himself to us as food and drink to live this new life.
So that we can go forth as fishers of men and women, to meet others where they are, and reel them into the Kingdom of Heaven.