Third Sunday in Ordinary Time A 2011

I am an extremely cheap person when it comes to vacations, which means I stay in the cheapest hotels and rarely take cabs.  While in Texas, I made my hour and fifteen-minute walk to a used bookstore on a cold and windy day.  I did not mind for I would rather walk the distance rather than to pay for a cab.  As I was walking along, a car stopped, and a woman asked if I needed a ride.  I am sure that I looked like a mess; my cheeks were red.  I must admit, I was surprised that she would ask.  I wanted to tell her, lady, don’t pick up hitchhikers; it’s dangerous out here.  For all she knows, I could be a mass murder.  I thanked her and continued my journey but I thought of her all day long.  Why would she willingly volunteer for something so senseless?

We are told not to pick up hitchhikers.  Ladies know not to take drinks from strange guys in bars.  Children are taught not to speak to strangers.  We rightly protect ourselves from harm.  Why would the apostles take Jesus at his word and endanger their lives with this strange man?  Jesus simply asks them to follow him and they do.  If I told you to come follow me, leave behind your family and friends, leave behind your house and assets, leave behind your dreams and social security checks, you would tell me where to go. 

We know what happens when people trust others.  Look at the massive fraud committed by seemingly trustworthy people.  For every Mother Teresa in the world, there are a hundred Bernie Madoffs.  The apostles left everything behind simply at the request of Jesus.  Were they stupid?  Were they crazy?  Perhaps in their simplicity, they could not help but to respond.   Maybe their own character allowed them to see the character of Jesus but of course we know how imperfect they are.  Whatever it was, they responded while we find it difficult.

We can excuse ourselves saying that times were much simpler then, but truth be told, times were just as hard if not harder.  They were living in a period of high taxes, foreign occupation, terrorism, brutality, crucifixion, riots, poverty, stoning, crime, and the loss of traditional values.  There were no safety nets, no health care, no real job opportunities.  In spite of all obstacles, these apostles left everything and trusted in this Jesus.  Why trust?  Why trust Jesus?  Was it merely because Jesus cured disease and illness?  Surely, others could have done that.

I wish I knew what allowed the apostles to trust Jesus like they did.  I wish I had their kind of faith.  Kierkegaard describes faith as a leap.  Imagine, you have to cross a canyon and the only way across is by jumping across.  If you miss, that is the end of you, but if you don’t leap then you will never arrive at your destination, your true self.  After looking down and realizing how high the fall would be, you begin practicing.  You try to figure out the distance you have to jump.  Day after day, you go back and look.  Finally, one day you realize that either you must attempt the leap or you go back home.  Through the gift of the Eucharist, may we take the leap of faith as the apostles did.

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