One of the great spiritual documents of Hinduism, the Bhagavad-Gita teaches us a great truth, “On this path, effort never goes to waste, and there is no failure”—in other words, attempting to do our best is always success.
And this idea is important for us to keep in mind as all of the readings this week have a sense of urgency—the message is really that, time is short; we should not waste a minute of it doing anything less than the good that each of us is called to by our baptisms. And when did our country, especially, need to hear this message more. I find myself responding to the nightly news with less than a positive response and I am often reminded by my “better angels” to not go down that same path that I abhor. When so-called leaders act with ignorance, intolerance, racism and other evils; I must remember former first lady, Michelle Obama’s words, “When they go low, we go higher.”
Jonah the prophet, in today’s first reading is told to, “Get up, preach [to the people] as I do to you—or in Jesus’ words, “Come; follow me!” Jonah is told in no uncertain terms, [Respond] “in obedience to the word.”
Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians continues the urgency of doing the “right, now!” In Paul’s time, there was the sense that the Second Coming of Jesus was upon them; that the world as they knew it was coming to an end soon—their time here was short and should not be wasted.
And again, in Mark’s gospel, we hear that “the time of fulfillment “is at hand. This sense of urgency might be likened to the national movement, #Timesup that demands of us that we be our best selves and do unto others what we would want done to ourselves in regard to sexual abuse and domination of women in all walks of life.
Mark continues with Jesus’ words, “We are to change our hearts and minds.” This reminds me of a commentary I read this past week containing the worry that our country is losing its moral sense—forgetting what we stand for, being willing to accept boorish, selfish and mean stances from our leaders without saying a word—almost as if there is nothing we can do! The commentary urged its readers to remember what our country was founded upon—a nobleness that shone a light to the world and ask if we want to let go of that.
I think sometimes we have the feeling that the problems are too great for us to make a dent in, that we don’t have a chance in making a difference—that we don’t have what is needed to change hearts and minds, to be prophets in our time, but our God has always chosen people who seem less than equipped to do what is needed.
We only have to look at the Scriptures today to see that—Jonah was an unlikely prophet—he ran from God, in the opposite direction of the place God wanted him to go before he headed to his mission in the belly of a whale—you will recall that all of this happened prior to our Gospel selection today. Now whether this story was true as written or part of the imagination of the writer in order to teach us a truth, the point is that our God believes in each of us and will not keep trying to have us respond and live up to our potential.
Paul had to be struck off his horse before God could get his attention! Even Jesus, exegetes tell us, in his humanity had to struggle to know completely who he was, what he was to do and when. He appeared to the people, in the beginning, as we spoke of here last week, as one like others—John had to point him out and name him as the one they had been waiting for.
So what is it that makes us people who can make a difference? We must look to our brother Jesus for the answer. He was one who continually asked his Abba to show him the way—he prayed for guidance and strength—he took the time to become a model for others to follow. Paul, throughout his ministry prayed, “I believe O God, help my unbelief.”
Jonah’s time in the belly of the whale, or again, some other kind of confinement, intended to help him see beyond his own needs, must have been quite instructive to him and given him the courage to do what he had first run from because once he got to Nineveh, he seemed, in his preaching, to be someone the people couldn’t ignore, for we are told that from the youngest to the oldest, the people began to fast and pray in order to become the people God had called them to be.
When Jesus walked the earth, one of the main professions was fishing—several of his first disciples were fishermen and in Jesus’ call to them, he said he would make them, “fishers of humankind.”
Our task, my friends, is to make Jesus’ call fit our own lives. From the Scriptures today; we have seen that we must make their message our own. None of us are in the fishing trade, but each of us is called within the profession we have chosen to model Jesus to our world. Whether we are teachers, nurses, farmers, business people, in any of many trades, moms and dads, grandparents, wives, husbands, pastors, athletes, students, congress people, writers, actors or any of many other professions; we will be called through all of that to be our best selves, to live our lives extraordinarily well. That is what people will see in us and attract them to do the same.
The gifts of living our lives extraordinarily well will be obvious to those around us: peace, love, understanding, kindness generosity, patience, mercy, and so on and we will be irresistible. Not that we always do it perfectly, but that we try! And as the wisdom of the Bhagavad-Gita teaches, we will always be a success!
People will want to know what makes our lives so meaningful and we can humbly tell them that we try to walk in the footsteps of our brother Jesus and that it makes all the difference. Amen? Amen!