Brothers and sisters, our time is growing short. (1 Corinthians 7:29)
This day last week, two women in their 50's living very different lives in different places had no thought of dying and yet by Friday and Saturday I was celebrating their funeral Masses. A very sobering thought! A sobering message from St. Paul!
Our time is growing short! My time is growing short and there is wisdom to be discovered, there are lessons to be learned in the shortness of time.
Over Christmas I learned two simple and important lessons. On Christmas day my two youngest nieces received lots and lots of presents. Mine were the last to be given them and by then the girls were so saturated with stuff that my gifts to them had little or no impact. I might as well have given them nothing and I think that next year I will give them gifts at a different time.
What really had an impact on the girls was the fact that I was sleeping over in their house, an event that excited them more than all the presents put together. They were in on top of me in the morning, jumping on the bed. Laura, the four year old, thought it was hilarious to see me going around in my pyjamas. And when it came to leaving, Katie the six year old wrapped herself around my legs, holding me tight and she looked up at me and said "when will I see you again?" She let go of me and then came back to do the same thing again.
What matters is not what I do or don't give; what matters is that I am there, present.
When Jesus calls us like he does his first disciples in the Gospel, He is not primarily looking at what they will do for Him. He is firstly inviting them to be with Him as companions. It is in companionship with Jesus that we are shaped, formed and transformed - converted. Actions may or may not follow.
And I have to ask myself in the shortness of my time - is my life with Jesus too taken up with what I can do for Him, what I can do on His behalf; do I come to Him (in prayer) for what I can get out of Him? Or am I content just to be with Him?
I think this is the repentence being asked of me - to attend to the quality of my time spent with Him and with others. If I am to have a New Year's resolution, this might well be it.
Without boasting, from my youth I have responded to the call of Jesus as promptly as the first disciples, as promptly as Jonah in the first reading. But in terms of continuity and fidelity I am more like Jonah than Peter, James or John.
Jonah "uped and went" but then there set in this great reluctance on his part. Reluctance has marked the greater part of my following of Jesus and, while I'm reluctant about doing what He asks, I am even more reluctant about being with Him as a loved and loving companion. A companionship which is mutual and which is not first and foremost about activity, or even giving but it is about presence, a presence that pervades every single fibre of our lives.
(Sunday Week 3B: Jonah 3:1-5,10; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31; Mark 1:14-20)