Kathleen Giffin


Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – January 25, 2015
Jonah 3.1-5, 10 | Psalm 25 | 1 Corinthians 7.29-31 | Mark 1.14-20
January 12, 2015

Gordon Neufeld tells a story of meeting a young man who had extraordinary success in overcoming an early childhood of abuse and neglect.

When asked what had sustained him to continue to choose life and goodness instead of the despair and self-destruction so typical of those who suffered as he had, he told this story: Someone had taken him to church once when he was young. He was sitting by the aisle when, at the end of Mass, the priest walked by in the closing procession.

This priest saw the young boy and reached out his hand to tousle his hair; they exchanged a look and the boy saw that he was seen – and believed he was known and loved. The boy carried that certainty with him ever after; this priest's care for him was proof of his value.

This man was the one who was proud of him when he did well, the one who spoke words of encouragement and hope when he struggled. He credited the inner representation of the priest with saving his life.

Follow me, and I will make you fishers of people. – Mark 1.17

'Follow me, and I will make you fishers of people.'

Mark 1.17

It's a beautiful illustration of the power of our deepest desire, the desire to be seen, known and loved. When we have experienced those things in healthy measure, we have the capacity to live well and love freely. Even a taste of it is enough to sustain us in the darkest times.

But every human person is created with the longing for the fulfillment of that desire, which is only possible in God.

The Gospel of Mark recounts the call of the first apostles away from the mending of nets and the casting for fish to the discipleship from which there was no return. Mark says Simon and Andrew, James and John all left "immediately" when Jesus invited them to follow him.

I wonder, what makes possible that full abandonment of their lives into his hands on a moment's notice? There must have been a powerful experience of having been seen, known, loved and called that was the fulfilment of all desire for them.

What else would have the strength to evoke such spontaneous commitment from men who had responsibilities, who had something to stay with, something to work for already?

The times in my life in which my response to God has been most complete are those times in which I experienced being seen, known, loved and called. But that was simply my experience of it.

God has always seen, known, loved and called me. God has always seen, known, loved and called each of us. But we become afraid, or distracted by the desire itself, wanting to satisfy that desire with the good and not-so-good things that are within reach.

Perhaps it is a simple enough way forward; perhaps we need only hope, in spite of fear and the lure of second-best options, that we too could live in the certainty of God's love for us. Perhaps we too can leave our nets and follow him.

(Kathleen Giffin kgif@telus.net)