A lifetime of service

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jan. 25

Jonah 3:1-5,10; Psalm 25:4-5,6-7,8-9; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31; Mark 1:14-20

I recently read an article by Ben Stein, a columnist who has covered the Hollywood scene for years. His biweekly column has kept tabs on the “best” of the glamour world.

In his latest article, Stein wrote that he had made a decision that he could no longer spend his energy focusing on people whose acclaim became real because of money. He realized that the real “stars” of our society are those who give themselves to others. He used the examples of individuals in the military, such as the man who retrieved a child playing near an explosive and threw himself on it to protect her. He spoke of police officers who stand watch in the inner cities of our country and of teachers who care for the most disabled of our society.

The readings today focus on those who are called to be for others. In a sense, it is a continuation of last week’s theme of “call.”

Jonah was called to bring good news to a people he was convinced did not care about the good news. These people were the most brutal of people, enforcing peace through cruelty. In no way could Jonah believe that they would be converted to the Lord.

In the Gospel, Jesus calls some of the disciples to the same journey — to leave their daily work and give themselves to others as Jesus did. Surprisingly, the disciples dropped their nets immediately and followed Jesus.

What a dilemma the disciples must have faced! They knew what would bring in a livelihood for their families. Yet they seemed to respond without much deliberation to Jesus’ call.

Each of us can fill in the blanks in our own lives when we are asked to change course abruptly. Somehow, we hope in faith that there is more than meets the eye in change. God is present in the contours of our lives. As it was for those first disciples, we are confronted with the need to change our priorities.

Jesus drew them out of their own preoccupations of whatever the world of fishing brought them. He was clear that giving of oneself was imperative. They were to learn that to be truly the person God created them to be, they must serve others. Making a difference in the lives of others is the message of the good news.

As he began his ministry, Jesus was clear about what was needed: “Repent and believe in the good news.” (Mark 1: 15) Unless we are willing to repent of our own preoccupation with ourselves and our own needs, we will not be able to understand and take in (believe) the good news of Jesus.

The cost of believing the words of Jesus is a letting go of the self-absorbed world we create so that we can see the needs of others. And in doing so, we discover ourselves.

As I write this, I am aware of our country’s call for everyone to be involved in a work of service for a day. What a difference that would make!

Would that we understood Jesus’ call to make it a lifetime of service.

A member of the Sisters of St. Benedict of St. Mary Monastery in Rock Island, Sister Rachel Bergschneider, OSB, has been pastoral associate at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Peoria Heights since 1983.

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