Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2017:
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2017
By Deacon Lawrence N. Kaas January 22, 2017
I found a story that I wish to share with you today because it poses a question, fans or followers?
A man by the name of Kyle Idelman, wrote an article where he posed the statement, “why I’m not a ‘fan’ of Jesus.” He began by noting that, according to recent surveys, something like over 75% of the people in our country call themselves Christian. Really? He stated, three out of four people are followers of Christ? Bringing the number of Christians in our country in the neighborhood of 233 million.
He goes on to write, that the numbers just don’t add up. If 75% of Americans are Christians… Then why are there more than 120 thousand children waiting to be adopted? Further he claims that 35 million people in America go to bed hungry each night which includes 13 million children?
He poses a comparison, as he speaks of the new “vegetarians.” One of them explains to him that she was a vegetarian but she likes to eat bacon. (And so she eats it.) Now claiming themselves to be Flexitarians.
“A Christian,” continue Idelman, “by definition, is a follower of Christ. So I’m thinking that may help make sense of the 233 million number as a new word to describe people who identify themselves as Christians but have little interest in actually following the teachings of Jesus. Perhaps instead of followers, it would be more accurate to call them fans.
The word fan is most simply defined as, an enthusiastic admirer. And I think Jesus has lots of fans these days. Some fans may even get dressed up for church on Sunday and make their ring tone a worship song. They like being associated with Jesus. Fans want to be close enough to Jesus to get the benefits, but not so close that it requires anything from them. They want a no strings attached, relationship with Jesus. So a fan says, I like Jesus but don’t ask me to serve the poor. I like Jesus, but I’m not going to give money to the people who are in need. I like Jesus, but don’t ask me to forgive the person who hurts me. I like Jesus, but don’t talk to me about money or sex that’s off-limits. Fans like Jesus, but they don’t want to give up the bacon.
Today’s reading from Matthew’s Gospel is about four men who were called by Jesus to be his Disciples. They were not called to be fans of Jesus, but followers. Their names were Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John, four fishermen, but really, this reading is also about you and me, because we have been called to be disciples as well. We also have been called to be followers and not fans. I’ll let you decide which group you belong. But first let’s ask, what does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus Christ?
Notice, first of all how ordinary these four men were they had no formal education that we know of. Neither did they possess any particular personal attractiveness or extraordinary talent of which we are aware. They were just ordinary fishermen. We often make the mistake of assuming that God calls only the most impressive, the most gifted, the most talented people. Indeed that seems to be the exact opposite of what God does!
God comes to Moses with a summons to go tell Pharaoh to “let my people go.” Moses responds, “who am I that I could go to Pharaoh?” Later Moses protests that he’s too slow of speech to carry out such a mission, we all know the outcome.
God comes to Gideon who would later be a great leader of God’s people, but Gideon responds.” “My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”
Even the most successful of all Israel’s Kings, David, was flabbergasted by God’s call. “I’m only a poor man and little known,” replies David.
St. Paul tells us in first Corinthians, first chapter, that God has deliberately chosen what the world considers foolish.
You realize he’s talking about you and me. God chooses ordinary people to do his work so that they would all depend on his power and not their own for this reason says, St. Paul, that no one will be able “to boast in the presence of God.”
In the play, Green Pastures, God asks Gabriel to recruit a leader and Gabriel asked in return, “do you want the brainiest or do you want the holiest?” God answers, “get me the holiest, I’ll make him the brainiest.”
Each year at the beginning of ordinary time I pose the question, what is so ordinary about ordinary time? Today I have received my answer, it is a time in which ordinary people respond to the call of God in extraordinary ways.
So maybe Mr. Adelman needs to look more deeply into the ordinary lives of ordinary Christians, who make ordinary time into an extra ordinary response to the call of God! Someone posed the question to me the other day about stewardship and my response simply was, love God, love your neighbor, and do as you will. Once again supporting the statement of ordinary people responding in an extraordinary way to the call of God!
By the way maybe Mr. Idleman wasn’t a fan but a follower!
So you all be Good, be Holy, Preach the Gospel, always and if necessary use words.
(‘Thank you’ to Deacon Kaas, for letting me post his reflection here — Brian H. Gill.)