For those of you who are 35 and older, you’re a part of a world that remembers, who experienced life before the internet and those who have grown up with the internet as just a part of your lives. Working with college students, this is one of a growing number of areas that makes me feel much much older than the kids. But for those of you who like me, remember when you first got an email address; the first time you went online to maybe Alta-vista which was the first “google” to “search” for something – you probably can’t believe how dramatically life, the world has changed. I’ll never forget the day this happened for me. In my Senior year of college, at the start of the spring semester, I was being “forced” to get an email address. Up until then, you didn’t need to “log in” or anything, you just fired up the computer, took out your handwritten notes, transcribed them on Word Perfect (which, don’t laugh, I still use) printed it out, had your floppy disk so you could save it and that was it.
Thanks so much for stopping by to read this, my homily for THE 3rd SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME January 24, 2021, for sharing it on your social media posts and your feedback and comments! For the audio version you can get them at SOUNDCLOUD click HERE or from ITUNES as a podcast HERE. Thanks again… I hope you and yours experience all of God’s blessings today and always! In Christ – Father Jim
This one particular day, we were told we needed to get this new ID (which turned out to be our email address) in order to sign on to use a machine. I remember just being annoyed at this added layer preventing me from creating what I hoped would be received as a literary masterpiece by my professor (I kind of had images of that kid Ralphie from “A Christmas story” with his teacher giving him an A + + + + when in actuality would end up with similar grades and feedback that made shooting your eye out seem tame, but I digress). After getting the ID – something so unique like JNC01@allentown college dot edu and logging on for the first time, I was still assorting my notes and books and stuff. That’s when a friend of mine sitting just on the other side of the computer lab emailed me for the first time… a profound, memorable email that said “Hi”.
I didn’t even know what email was. I just remember the “alert” coming on my screen and reading it. I literally got up and walked over to the other side of the room to him and asked “what is this? How’d you do that?” – I didn’t even know how to reply. After he showed me, I remember thinking “what is the point of this?” It seemed like a waste of time… I couldn’t even see it having any significant impact other than my friends annoying me when I was trying to get work done. It hadn’t even registered that eventually everyone would have emails, that we would all be connected and able to communicate like that. I never imagined staying in touch with my friends in any other way but seeing them, a phone call (with a land line) or perhaps writing a letter and mailing it.
This one particular day in the basement of Dooling Hall remains incredibly memorable recognizing how the world was changing and would continue to in ways I never anticipated. That some 25 years later, we would be wireless, have laptops, get emails on a phone that could fit in our hand and have basically attached to us – some even going more mobile and having those things on their wrists as a watch is incredible…We used to be amused or curious watching cartoons of “the Jetsons” which imagined all these inventions in some far off futuristic time but I guess I never expected to see it. I could never had anticipated how life was changing that particular day sitting in front of a computer screen, getting my first email from my buddy Fred.
When was the last time you can remember your life changed on a particular day?
The internet is a pretty materialistic/earthly example. Working with college students, when we’ve asked that question – some of them will point to the day they got their drivers license and took out on the road alone for the first time… or moved out to school and were on their own that first night in there dorm room. A bunch of my former students, alumni have gotten married recently and will talk about when they first met one another or a particular time when they knew this person was “the one.” One couple who included the first student I ever met when I first started out as chaplain at Montclair Sate University and was able to witness their marriage and two weeks ago baptize their first born son said “when did we become parents??? when did that happen?” I said “well the paperwork says March 20, 2020″ but I get their point. They were just taken aback by how much life had changed for them. When was the last time you can remember your life changed on a particular day?
Familiarity often times isn’t our friend. We can hear this Gospel account, remember hearing it before and think “oh yeah, this is the call of the disciples” and almost treat it like signing up for a club or class or something. Yet in these few verses, this was no ordinary day. Life was changing: Not just for Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John… but for the entire world… from the very beginning of creation to the end of the world whenever that comes – and for every human being who the Lord God had breathed his very life into who ever walked on this planet.
Sounds like hyperbole. Yet these very first words that Jesus utters in the Gospel of Mark are meant to echo throughout creation and history – THIS IS THE TIME OF FULFILLMENT. THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS AT HAND. Fulfillment – for humanity who suffers, experiences broken ness in their own individual lives, and can easily rattle off examples of broken ness all around – that word, FULFILLMENT is meant to stop humanity in it’s tracks. Yes, the deepest things that every soul hopes for, longs for is here… the restoration, the peace, the reconciliation we seek between God and Man is here THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS AT HAND –all of that in Jesus.
These 4 we read “abandoned” their nets. These first words of Jesus captivated their souls. They heard the invitation to truly experience this change and followed him. Their life’s work, their relationships with family and friends, their ambitions – this is a dividing line between before and after…their very lives were forever changed on what would turn out to be no ordinary day.
For most of us, we were baptized as infants – and once again, familiarity often times isn’t our friend. Because we’ve had this sense of belonging throughout our lives the radicalness of life before Jesus Christ and after isn’t a vivid memory. And unfortunately for a vast majority of Catholic Christians, particularly here in the United States – there’s not even any sense of sacrifice or demands that are required from belonging to Him. Being Christian is treated like a membership to a club that was signed up for a long time ago that much thought hasn’t been given to what that even means. Some even come to Mass with a sense that they should be thanked for coming rather than seeing our worship as something that, as we say during Mass is “right and just” that we do… that God who has given us everything deserves our worship. In the process we’ve in a sense let the world, the things of the world, our pursuits of them to corrupt the identity, to diminish what is expected when we recognize Jesus has called us to follow Him.
If we want to experience the radical transformation that affects this life and the next that Jesus offers, then we need to hear his directions again: Repent and believe in the gospel. Just hearing that usually brings up thoughts with Lent, with sins that we need to turn away from – which is in part true – but limits it to behaviors and actions that need to be corrected. Bishop Robert Barron explains that “Jesus seems to be hinting at a change at a far more fundamental level of one’s being. Jesus urges his listeners to change their way of knowing, their way of perceiving and grasping reality, their perspective, their mode of seeing…”
That means we too have to “drop our nets.” We need to let go of the fears that limit and inhibit us. We need to recognize the futility in pursuing wealth that ultimately will always lead to a dead end. We have to abandon our desire for popularity knowing how fleeting being admired by the world lasts – people are lucky if they have 15 minutes of fame. When we drop our nets, leave all of those things behind, it is then when we are left with Christ alone. Perhaps seeing Jesus with new eyes, hearing Jesus for the first time calling out to us… Only then will the Kingdom become real, the fulfillment we desire actualized, and our lives are forever changed.