3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, January 21st, 2018

The day we honored the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I viewed the Frontline presentation, “I Am Not Your Negro”; highlighting the work and writings of American novelist James Baldwin.  At one point he said, “We care more about our safety and our projects.”   His provocative word with its challenge exposed a tendency in us all—the white community, in particular—to distract ourselves rather than face the injustices in our own time. 

Racism prevails and rears its ugly head, despite the advances that have been made in this country.  The current President’s agenda, intent on undoing the Obama legacy, as well as his anemic reaction at what happened in Charlottesville this past summer, is demonstrative of this from my perspective.  Add to this the disproportionately number of shootings of black people by law enforcement officers.  All is not well; racially, or when it comes to other areas of our nation’s public and moral life.  Too often, we ‘turn the page’.   How blind we can sometimes be when we judge NFL players who ‘take a knee’ as unpatriotic.  We completely miss its significance and prophetic nature; the care involved by that selfless action.

It’s like not enough of us care when it comes to eradicating the root causes of injustice; to address the malaise in our time.  I do understand how easy it is to ‘check out’ when faced with the overwhelming nature of such issues.  However, Pope Francis points out in his New Year’s homily that we can be “artisans of the common good” in small, everyday   ways.  It’s simple, really.  Yet, it’s not all that easy to demonstrate care; putting the concerns of another before my own.  This is why I find Baldwin’s words so telling:  We care more about our safety and our projects more than anything; people of every race and color.  It’s the Original sin that wounds us all, this indifference. 

With Baldwin’s words in mind, I find myself viewing Jesus’ call of the first disciples this Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (Mark 1:14-20) with fresh eyes.  Jesus makes his move by calling both pairs of brothers to follow him.  Letting go of their nets, they do it “immediately” the evangelist reminds us.  There’s no hesitation or foot dragging at this first flush of grace.  Dropping their nets, there’s less care for their own safety and projects at this turning point in their lives and as they risk all.  There is a greater desire for the common good Jesus offers: to be “fishers of men” (women, too!)

In the waters of baptism, we’ve been called to follow Christ as happened to those disciples by the sea centuries ago.  Are we willing to drop our nets; to demonstrate less concern for our own safety and projects and more for the common good to which all of us are called by the humanity we share?  The philosopher Soren Kierkegaard once commented that we’re more admirers of Christ than his followers much of the time. I believe he was on to something…

Father Tim Clark, Pastor  

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