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Awaken to the Divine: A 5-Day Silent Retreat Guided by Paul Coutinho

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I THOUGHT YOU SHOULD KNOW | Christ’s call to us is an answer to our hunger for the infinite

Perhaps the responsorial psalm for the third Sunday in Ordinary Time summarizes God's movement in the day's readings. God answers mankind's hunger for the infinite and He is man's light, salvation and refuge.

He alone speaks to the deepest hunger for the infinite placed in the heart of man. "One thing I ask of the Lord; this I seek: to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, that I may gaze on the loveliness of the Lord and contemplate His temple," the psalmist wrote. "Wait for the Lord with courage; be stouthearted, and wait for the Lord."

God placed in the heart of Abraham the light of faith, so Abraham's descendants grew to be stouthearted and to wait for the Lord. When they were inconsistent, and wavered, God was consistent in His love and determination. He let them experience their darkness to share with them His light.

We see this in the first reading, which states: "First the Lord degraded the land of Naphtali; but in the end He has glorified the seaward road, the land west of the Jordan, the District of the Gentiles." Because the people in this region had fallen away from the covenant, God permitted the Assyrians to lead them into captivity. However, these people were also the first to be returned to their homeland.

"The people who had walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom, a light has shown."

This is the pattern of God working with mankind. He reveals truth to them; they accept it for a time and then fall away. God returns and brings them back into the light. God teaches through these rhythms how His grace is available when we recognize the darkness into which we have fallen. God reveals His fidelity and wants to grow in friendship.

In the Gospel, God initiates a far greater move on His people by having Jesus begin His public ministry. When Jesus heard that John the Baptist had been arrested, He moved into the land of Zebulun and Naphtali, which was the first region to experience restoration from captivity. In doing so, He fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah, except this time the "great light" is nothing less than Jesus, the Light of the world. "Jesus began to preach and say, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.'"

He then does something seemingly low-key but profoundly effective: He calls His first disciples.

"As He was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen."

What seems so casual is anything but nonchalance. Jesus was never a casual walker nor was He ever a casual observer. Perhaps walking along the Sea of Galilee and calling Peter and Andrew were similar to God in the Garden of Eden walking in search of Adam after he had sinned and hid from God.

God is relentless. He wasn't about to leave Adam's descendants wandering in the kingdom of darkness. Jesus is beginning a new kingdom of light and redemption and calls simple fishermen — Peter and Andrew — to help Him. "Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men." Jesus does the same thing with James and John. He calls them to get behind Him, follow Him, learn from Him and imitate Him.

Notice He isn't calling them to follow a creed or a philosophy but to follow. There is something about His presence, face, voice and gestures that disarms them. They abandon their livelihood to take up a new calling, to become fishers of men.

Jesus observed their fishing skills and decided to use them for a much higher purpose. His call spoke to a profound hunger in their hearts. They were looking for something more than a livelihood. They were searching for more meaning in their lives. His very presence led them to trust that in following Him they would find that deeper meaning.

Isn't that how He has called us as we search for a deeper meaning and a deeper purpose in life? Perhaps we first felt attracted to Jesus because of the faith stories we heard from our parents or from the prayers they taught us.

On the other hand, perhaps we went through the rituals of religion without experiencing anything, until one day our eyes opened and we discovered we weren't merely following Scriptures and Church teachings, but a person who really cared for us and loved us. Suddenly our whole world changed and life became warm, purposeful, and filled with love, joy and expectation.

Whether that initial vehicle of faith discovery was our parents or a renewal movement such as Cursillo, Marriage Encounter, Charismatic Renewal, ACTS, TEC, or something else, Christ calls us into a deeper union with Himself.

Even if you're undergoing a serious trial at the present time, it might be a prelude to a much deeper breakthrough in your relationship with Jesus and his Father. The reason Jesus says "Take up your cross and follow me" is that He knows He's leading you into paradise, which is right around the corner. 

RELATED ARTICLE(S):'I Thought You Should Know' | To truly listen we must truly believe

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