Pastor's Pen, for The 3rd Sunday

I’ve given only a few retreats but it is often the case that at the end of a retreat participants set for themselves very lofty expectations.  For example, after a few days of consoling prayer one may think they need to completely reform their Christian life, that is, they need to pray and do much more.  While it is true that we can always love more, it is also true that our conversion and redemption is a life-long process.  In this week’s Gospel we hear of Jesus’ proclamation to “repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven has come near,” and we also witness the call of the first four Apostles.  When Peter, Andrew, James and John heard Jesus say “Come, follow me,” we see how they left their nets and immediately followed him.  We can see their response and wish that we too could respond with such clarity and immediacy.  We can think that we want to follow as they did, but we are held back by the same temptations that we have struggled with for years.  We can think that we lack proper consistency and devotion in our prayer.  We can think that we haven’t made the time to do the things that we want to do in our faith.  The problem we create for ourselves, like some of those who have just finished a retreat, is that we have set expectations that we cannot reach.  Because they cannot be reached immediately, we can retreat further into doubt, discouragement and even despair.  If the bar is placed so high it is difficult to even try.  But with the call of the first four Apostles we must always remember that when they left their nets their faith was not full, that they were not yet free enough to fully give their hearts to the Lord at that time. Did Peter not try to correct the Lord when the Lord spoke of his impending Passion?  Did Peter not deny the Lord on the night of his arrest?  Did the sons of Zebedee not seek positions of power at the right and left hand of the Lord?  What we can see then, was that the first four Apostles were not so different from me and you.  

The Prophet Isaiah says that “there will be no gloom for those who were in anguish” and those “who walked in darkness have seen a great light.”  The light that now embraces us is the love of the Father revealed in Christ.  In particular, this light most clearly illuminates us through the Passion of the Son, as St. Paul writes, the Cross “is the power of God.”  The Cross gives us freedom, a freedom to grow and a freedom to fail.  When we think we have failed in our faith we need never feel that God has then removed us from his loving gaze.  The Cross tells us the extent of God’s love and that this love knows no end.  We do not belong to a specific spiritual program.  We do not belong to any faith practices.  We do not belong to the opinions of others.  Christ has not been divided, therefore, we belong to Christ.  And our belonging is cemented through the revelation of his love.  The “Cross is foolishness” but in our hearts it is life.  For we are coming to know this most incredible truth, that no matter what, the love of the Father is fully offered to each.  That no matter what, the Lord says “Come, follow me.”  We may not be able to put our nets down immediately or give our hearts full, but these are the demands that we have put on ourselves not ones that God has given.  God does not want perfection, rather he wants you.      

God Bless & Take Care!

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