Is It I, Lord?

3RD Sunday in Ordinary Time (B); 1-25-15

Jon 3:1-5,10; Ps 25; 1 Cor 7:29-31; Mk 1:14-21

Deacon Jim McFadden; Folsom Prison

         Twelve years ago, I was preparing a convict at Minimum Facility for his confirmation on Christmas Day, which was presided by Bishop Garcia. He was so excited but wanted to stay focused on his pending Confirmation. “What should I meditate on?” he blurted. I encouraged him to trust the movement of his heart and perhaps reflect on how the Lord is calling him to a deeper level of adult faith and commitment. I encouraged him to reflect on when he first heard that call, how he discerned what the Lord wanted, and how he has been changed in the process. We talked about each one.   So, here we are at Maximum C-facility, I’d like to ask the same of you.

The Invitation. Discipleship is not something we take upon ourselves. It is an invitation from God. In the first reading the Ninevites heard the call from the preaching of Jonah. They believed God and responded by proclaiming “a fast and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth” (3:5). So, the call came from the ordinary preaching of Jonah. Every Sunday we hear a homily; since   we’re familiar with the readings, we can get lulled into complacency, which may deceive us into misjudging its significance. The call you’ve received from God probably came from your ordinary experience. But, be assured that however you received your call from God it is a very big deal because you are being invited to join the Lord in bringing about the Kingdom of God here at Folsom Prison.

The Discerning Process. The second stage of this process is discovering what the Lord is saying to us. The call to discipleship is a profound moment of religious experience because the Holy Spirit is bursting into our lives, and today’s gospel from Mark shows how it happens. Jesus approaches two sets of brothers who are fishermen. Jesus is encountering them in their ordinary lives. He simply says, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men” (1:17). That’s it: simple, to the point; this is what I want you to do. And, they do it because “they left their nets—their comfort and security systems—and followed him” (1:18). The same thing happened to James and John. They, too said “yes” to the attractive figure of Christ Jesus. Brothers, are you willing to leave those external things that give you a temporary sense of identity. Are you willing to leave everything to follow Jesus?

The Resulting Transformation. As we make a conscious, firm decision to follow Jesus in our ordinary experience no matter where we are living, we will be radically changed because we will be abiding in his presence. Brothers, by virtue of our baptism, we are called to participate in Christ’s mission to bring about the Kingdom of God. That means you give witness here at C-facility or wherever you may be transferred. You can only do that by staying connected to Jesus—by abiding in His presence. You can do that by being with him in prayer and through grace, strive to follow his example. In so doing you will be transformed as you come closer to our Lord by imitating his way of being.

People of God if you do not strive to help bring about the Kingdom of God at Folsom Prison, who will?     You are called to participate in the Kingdom and to pass that creative energy of God’s love here and now. God needs you to make your prison culture a better place to be or, to put it biblically, to restore creation—to raise the consciousness of your fellow inmates that they have intrinsic value because they are made in the Image of God and are a unique and precious child of God.

To accept this invitation means to repent just as the Ninevites did. It means reestablishing your priorities. What can never be lost sight of is that you are the recipients of a divine invitation to build a better world through whatever is your specific path.   And, as you fully, actively, and consciously participate in this call to discipleship, you will be changed into a new person. As you proclaim through your life example that the Risen Christ is Lord, you will be conformed into his peace and joy. What a challenge and what a glorious honor this is! Praise God!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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You Are My Beloved

The Baptism of the Lord (B)

Is 42: 1-4,6-7   Ps 29   Acts 10:34-38   Mk 1:7-11

Deacon Jim McFadden; St. John the Baptist C.C.

 

         Did you ever wonder why Jesus was able to see the essential goodness of the people he encountered?   Jesus saw in others what he knew in himself. The heart he knew inside, he saw in others. In Buddhist literature there’s a story in which a colonel comes up to a monk and says, “When I look at you, I see a pig.” The monk replied, “When I look at you, I see the Buddha.” Taken aback the colonel asks, “How’s that?” The monk replied, “What you see on the outside is what you are in the inside.” The Talmud, an extra-biblical source of Jewish wisdom, also says that we don’t see the world as it is, but as we are.

            In today’s gospel, Mark tells us when and how Jesus came to full consciousness of the essential goodness in himself. Jesus is going to know who he is at his baptism. I know what you make be thinking: Jesus is divine—he always knew that he was God. While Jesus is God incarnate, he’s also human and Scripture reveals to us that Jesus grew in wisdom, which would include his self-awareness. In any case, through his baptism, the eye of Jesus’ soul is open to transcendent realities: “On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open and the

Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him” (Mk 1:10). With his soul opened to the presence of his Father and the Spirit upon him, he hears a heavenly voice speak: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (v. 11).

That’s what Jesus learned at his baptism and that is what we learn when we open the Eye of the Soul: we are able to see who we truly are—that we are his beloved ones. We are beloved not because we have done the right things or have correct beliefs; we are loved not because we are good; we are good because we are loved! We are loved for no good reason; we simply have to learn how to deal with that. The pleasure of God that rested on Mary, that rested on Jesus, now rests on us. As the Father is handing himself over to Jesus, he also is handing himself over to us.

Why could Jesus look at people and see blessed people who are made in the image of God? Because inside himself he knew that he was THE beloved Son of God. That’s the beginning of the game; that’s the beginning of the journey. It all begins when we discover we are God’s beloved. We don’t acquire it, earn it, control it; we simply have to say “yes” to the reality that is already there. Until we get that the journey doesn’t take hold.

In the spiritual life, there are two types of work that go on: the first type is all the things we do before we find out who we are: it’s going into the wilderness where we try to find our self-worth through stuff outside of ourselves: through wealth, prestige, control, and pleasure. This is the necessary work; it is clearing the path until finally we let go of externals and begin the process of surrender. Once we let go, a whole new type of works flows out of us.

Once we find out who we are, the work that flows from our identity as the beloved begins: our will and the divine will are interconnected; we become Kingdom people. Through regular prayer, which leads us to that state of repose intoned in Psalm 46: “Be still and know that I am God” —we keep vibrant our awareness as the beloved. The greatest challenge is having an awareness of how reality reflects God. As Paul D’Arcy once said, “God comes to us disguised as our life.”

Yes, God is present in the Blessed Sacrament; yes, he is present at Mass. Yes, he is present when prayer and when good things happen. But, can we say we have the awareness that “God is here” when I lose a loved one, when I’m terminated from work, when I’m rejected by a dear friend, or when I experience a profound failure? Can we move out of our fears and expectations to being a delighting in the present moment no matter what the existential reality is? I find that when I do, I experience God’s grace and peace.

We are the biological daughter or son of our parents, but at a deeper level, we are a beloved child of God; we are sustained in that relationship by God. We are generated by divine reality at every moment of our existence. When we become conscious of that reality, then we know that we are loved and we’ll live the rest of our life from that power. We will see and act the way Jesus does. As God pours himself into our hearts, we also will pour ourselves out into all of our relationships and, in so doing sanctify our life.