The word of the Lord came to Jonah… we hear that kind of phrase VERY often in the scriptures… in fact, (unscientifically), I counted 126 times in the Old Testament. The Word of the Lord still comes to people today – in fact, I guarantee He’s trying to speak to every person in here. I mean that.
Did God speak to you last year? Most of us would honestly sit here and think, "I don't think so."
Remember these little Mass Journals which we passed out at the beginning of 2017? I know – most of us have forgotten them or thrown them away or they’re stashed in a drawer somewhere – but I know SOME people are still diligently using them. Imagine if you had that – you could look back and see what spiritual insights you found throughout the year….you could say it would be a book of 52 times that the Word of the Lord came to ME this year. See – without a journal, we might sit here and think God hasn’t really spoken to me at all in the last year… but if we force ourselves to pay attention enough to write it down, then we NOTICE the Spirit speaking to us. Find your journals. Make that your new year’s resolution to replace the ones you’ve already given up on. If you’ve misplaced your journal or if you’ve filled yours up, we have more at the doors of church.
The word of the Lord came to Jonah… like I said, we hear that kind of phrase 126 times in the Old Testament …. What’s interesting is we don’t hear that phrase once in the New Testament. Obviously, the word of the Lord stopped coming to people after Jesus arrived, right?
Actually, In the New Testament, it took on a new way of being expressed. After Jesus’ resurrection, the Paraclete came – which of course, is the Holy Spirit. MANY times in the new testament, in fact so many times I didn’t bother counting, it refers to someone being ‘filled with the Spirit’ or ‘the Spirit said to them’. The Word of the Lord still comes to people – but we recognize it as the work of the Holy Spirit.
What’s supposed to happen to people when the Word of the Lord comes to us?
Same thing that happened when Jonah did what the word of the Lord told him to say. Ninevah – which was in the modern day Mosul in Iraq, repented. Jonah didn’t even want to BE there, but after just one day of delivering the word of the Lord to them, the entire country repented!! Jonah was ticked off that God forgave them. To understand why, let’s say that God threatened to destroy Isis. Now from our perspective, that would be a great thing… it’s about time they get what’s coming to them. OK – let’s say the word of the lord came to you to go to Isis and tell them that God is going to destroy them in 30 days if they don’t change their ways. You and I would be like Jonah – no way – I ain’t going. Let them be destroyed!! Jonah went so far out of his way to avoid going – that’s when he got swallowed by the whale. So you can imagine that even when Jonah finally got there, his heart likely wasn’t into it. That actually makes it even more amazing that they listened. BUT it also proves a valuable point to us: the word of the Lord is powerful and fulfills its purpose regardless of the worthiness of the messenger.
Let me repeat that, because it’s an important point and we’ll come back to it: the word of the Lord is powerful and fulfills its purpose regardless of the worthiness of the messenger.
But that was the Old Testament – again – a long, long time ago in a country far, far away.
Well in the New Testament … remember, the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. So now instead of talking about the Word of the Lord coming to people, we have Jesus –THE WORD - coming to people. – and today’s Gospel is a great example of that. Jesus says to Peter and Andrew – Come – and they dropped everything and went – then he saw James and John and said Come – and they dropped everything and went. The Word of God fulfills its purpose.
If you think about it, you and I would not be here today if those fishermen had refused to follow the word of the Lord. The entire Church was founded on the Word and expanded leaps and bounds because the disciples were open to not only HEARING the word of the Lord – but DOING what the Word of the Lord told them to do.
That’s where it comes back to you and me. The Spirit continues to speak to and through anyone who will listen. Trouble is, many of us, myself included are not very good at listening to the Word of the Lord. Several issues – first is busy-ness. We’re not good at stopping doing doing doing… even when I go to the chapel to pray, I usually take a book, or work on a homily… not bad things - in fact, often the Spirit will speak to us through a book we’re reading. BUT – there’s a type of message the Lord can only deliver to us when we’ve removed all distractions and just let Him speak. The silence is the first necessity, and the chapel is perfect for that. Next problem – if the Spirit does speak to me, I’m not sure I’d recognize it. I mean – I’m not accustomed to the Spirit speaking to me. But – maybe you’ve had an experience like this: someone comes up to you or calls you or sends you a card which says EXACTLY what you needed to hear…. There’s a good chance the Spirit prompted them to deliver that message. I had a perfect example last month… I sent a text to one of our college students to invite her to the retreat at the end of December, and she replied immediately that my note was perfect timing – she’d just had a major event occur within the past couple hours and felt like God knew that this retreat was EXACTLY what she needed! Is that a coincidence? No way…The Word of the Lord came to her through me!! But there’s a second reason I tell that story – because the very next thing she asked was ‘how long do I have to decide?’. I was like ‘ WHAT’! You just said that God knows this is EXACTLY what you need – and you have to WAIT to decide?! Are you waiting for something better to come along!?!?! She got the point – and immediately committed – and it really was exactly where she needed to be on that retreat with us.
What message is God trying to tell you? What message is He asking YOU to deliver?
Remember last week, Father had us kneel in adoration 1 minute at the end of his homily so we could practice listening? Did you hear anything? See we’re not accustomed to actually EXPECTING God to talk to us at Church… think about how crazy that sounds: we come to God’s house, listen to His words in the scripture, and receive His body/blood in the Eucharist, but we don’t EXPECT him to actually speak to us!!! or Maybe you didn’t know what you were listening for… so I’d like to suggest being a little more specific in your prayer. We’ll take a minute of silence at the end of the homily to practice listening again – try Thinking about the people you’ve talked to in the last day or so. Ask God – is there a message you want me to deliver to one of these people? Maybe someone is struggling with something and as you think of them, God puts it on your heart to say something.
I’m hoping some of you share some interesting stories with me this week of what message God asked you to deliver.
My point is, we have to EXPECT the Word of the Lord to come to us – we should EXPECT the Spirit to speak to us in prayer – especially in church!! That’s why we need a journal to write it down – not ‘if’ but ‘when’ He does speak to us. Jesus told us today the Kingdom of God is at hand! That means it’s here, in our midst, all we gotta do is tap into it! We don’t have to do anything special – like the fishermen in the Gospel, we just go about our daily business – but when the Word of the Lord comes to us, we should be detached enough from our worldly possessions to walk away when we hear him say ‘Come Follow’.