Learning to Respond

– Feast of St Andrew –

As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” (Matthew 4:18-19)

Yesterday was the day for acknowledging our paralysis. Today our ability to see, hear and respond comes to the fore. While these first disciples have no idea where the call they receive will lead them, they recognise the invitation and say ‘yes’. 

When it comes to our encounter with God, we all stand in need of having our ability to respond healed. The moment we start to take our relationship with God seriously and begin to reflect on how we are called to live in response to that relationship, our blindness becomes apparent. Do we even see what God is doing, much less how we are to respond to it? Perhaps we would rather not see? 

Central to this is our willingness to ‘encounter reality’ [Rejoice and Be Glad n 47]. By this, we mean each of us needs to learn to look at ourselves and the world we live in with wisdom and peace. Without upset or judgement, we are called to encounter things as they are, on their own terms. This can take a certain amount of spiritual bravery, which may be why we resist. We form our pictures of the way we think things are, and even though we do not always like the picture we have created, we take comfort from the thought that it makes sense to us. It is our vision of ourselves and our world. We need God to show us what we are to do [see Rejoice and Be Glad n 96].

Too easily, we can become caught in an unreality – seeking to impose our ideals on ourselves and others – and increasingly stressed about the fact that, with the best efforts in the world, it inevitably does not go very well. To deal with this, we can seek to hide away with those we consider to be like-minded, with the ‘world outside’ related to as the enemy. Our faith is intended to be our way of engaging with the world that God so loves (John 3:16), and yet we can at times act as if our faith calls us to be part of a cult – turned in on itself for our protection and to keep us from being disturbed. Cults thrive on drawing people in, but from there, seek to control their behaviour and keep them in line by making them feel special and distrustful of the outside world. This is the death of faith and the path to spiritual inauthenticity. 

That is not what Jesus did, and it is not what we are called to do. We may be tempted to stay in ‘the upper room’ (Acts 2), but an encounter with the Holy Spirit, in the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, will always drive us out of our place of security to engage with the world, if it is authentic. 

Here we discover why those stories about the healing of the blind, the deaf and the lame are relevant to us. We are the “man born blind”, fundamentally unable to see who God is and what God is doing without the intervention of God’s grace. We are the ones with hearing and speech impediments: we cannot hear God’s words, and we do not know how to proclaim God’s truth. We are the lame: we can run away on our own paths, but are we able to take one step along the path to which God is calling us? 

If Jesus Christ is to be born in us, we must begin by acknowledging a problem: we cannot see, we cannot hear, we cannot speak, and we do not know how to walk the paths of God.

By Shane Dwyer

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