Breath of the Spirit Reflection: Answering the Call
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January 24th, 2021: Third Sunday of Ordinary Time
Jonah 3:1-5, 10
1 Corinthians 7:29-31
Reflection from Marianne Duddy-Burke
For a few weeks, we have been focused on the early days of Jesus’ public life and ministry. The Feast of the Baptism of Jesus is a beautiful bridge from the Christmas season to the start of the Jesus Movement. Last week, we heard about the Divine Call to several individuals, representing all of us who are called to share in building the reign of justice. And this week, we are invited to consider the challenges and impacts of responding to that Call.
Jonah is a very reluctant prophet, resentful and resistant to God’s call at first, as he had clear ideas about the wickedness of the people of Nineveh. He felt they were far from entitled to Divine Mercy, and believed they deserved to suffer God’s wrath. It was a huge leap of faith to travel to this city and to proclaim the opportunity for redemption. He may have feared for his life and safety in entering a community that he saw as wrong-headed. Answering the Call meant setting aside his own prejudices and deeply held beliefs to respond to God’s directives. By doing so, he became the channel through which many were converted, including himself.
Paul speaks to the radical transformation of life and self that being a Christian demands. At the time this passage was written, many believed the end times were very near, and that Christ’s followers’ focus should be preparing for the Second Coming. Even two millennia later, however, the urgency of these words should compel us to consider how radical are the demands of discipleship. Being a follower of Christ calls us to counter-cultural living, to challenge the goals of an individualistic society with our every word and action, and to root our entire lives in justice.
Our passage from Mark’s Gospel is very clear about the cost of discipleship. It opens with these chilling words: “After John had been arrested…” We know that this arrest ended in John’s beheading. Mark foreshadows the Crucifixion in the opening chapter of his Gospel, even as he shows Jesus starting to gather the community that will support the Gospel's world-shaking message. Those who hear and accept the Call start on a path the involves personal risk, a transformation of their lives, and connection with those they would never have encountered had they not responded to the stirring of faith deep within.
This feels like a very timely message at this moment in the lives of our nation, our church, and the justice movements we embrace. As people who believe that the Body of Christ must fully include and affirm LGBTQI people, we know something of the risk that Call involves. As the polarization within our country and the Catholic church come increasingly to the fore, this week’s Scriptures seem to be asking us to recommit to radical engagement with those who may not support our conviction, in both the civil and religious realms. Like Jonah, we are called to do so in a way that invites transformation and welcomes them into God’s mercy. We cannot write them off, rejoice in their downfall, or fail to offer a message of hope. Engagements of this sort can carry risk, even danger. Even so, we are called beyond comfort and routine, and will be led to where there is need.
This reflection will be published on Inauguration Day, as Joseph Biden and Kamala Harris accept the call of the majority of the American people to lead and to serve. Each of them has spoken of their belief that they have been called to serve all the people, whether supporters or not. This is no easy task, and they, too, face risk, opposition, even danger. May we give them our prayerful support, our engagement with the work they do to ensure that all people living in our country have access to food, shelter, health care, education, sustaining income, and other basic human rights, and our thoughtful, respectful critiques when we believe there are better ways to accomplish these goals.
Our country, our church, and our world must be drastically transformed for God’s realm to truly be brought to fulfillment on the earth. May these Scriptures inspire us to deepen our commitment to the Call to birth this reality.
Marianne Duddy-Burke is the Executive Director of DignityUSA and has been involved with Dignity and leading LGBTQI justice for decades.