Saturday, January 21, 2017

Inaugural address

Isaiah 8:23-9:3; Ps 27 The Lord is my light and my salvation; 1 corinthians 1:10-13,17; Matthew 4:12-23

Inaugurations are always fantastic.  What is most fascinating is not so much the one being inaugurated but the reactions of everyone else to the one and his words.

I have been particularly amused by the left and right and their critique of President Trumps Inauguration.  His balls have been smaller compared to Obama's they say.  His speech was the worst ever others have pined.  Many are appalled and others are excited.  Who is to say what will unfold as this administration moves forward but there will be plenty of critiques for sure that lie hidden waiting to leap forth.

As the buzz of the inauguration lingers and the news print and internet blogs pronounce their own sentences, this weekend in the Liturgy we encounter another inauguration address.  On this second weekend of Ordinary time, Jesus commences his public ministry,  He steps out of the hidden life of Nazareth and moves into the crossroad of Capernaum, its no Trump tower, but it certainly is a change of pace from little boring Nazareth.

Jesus picks his place so that the majority of people might encounter his message and mission. This is what his public life is about: a showcase of his message and mission and reach into the lives of all.

Surely, a busy crossroads and cosmopolitan like Carpenaum is more suitable than the quite hidden place of Nazareth.

The place is prime.  Not unlike the capital of DC, it draws a crowd regularly and it is is ideal for the inauguration and inaugural address.

What of his inaugural address that begins his public ministry.  It isn't a lengthy discourse.  Unlike most inaugural addresses that last anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes, some even longer.  Jesus' words are short, sweet and to the point.

"Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand."

That's it.  No fancy rhymes.  No subtle images or metaphors.  No lengthy descriptions.  Just a few short words sets the tone of Jesus' mission and message.  The address has been spoken.  Let the critics take heed.

"Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand."

Repent means to change.  It is not just an idea but an invitation.  In fact it isn't just an invitation it is a command.  Change.  It is time.  The waiting is over.  There is hope.  Our past no longer determines our future.  Our follies and foibles do not constitute our substance.  Christ now stands on the threshold of possibilities and transformation and invites us, commands us to come and let the kingdom break through into our hearts, minds, and lives.

The unchanging God has given us a command to welcome change in to our life by sending his son to begin the process of restoration. Things do not have to keep going as they are.  There is in the air a movement, a force, a light that beckons.  Repent!

This repentance isn't proclaimed with a sour note of guilt or shame.  Rather it is promised with an air of certainty and finality.  It issues forth with a resonating force of joy and hope.  The gloom is lifted and light shines forth.

St Augustin says that "God has made himself our debtor not because he has accepted anything from us but by promising us such great blessings."  The great blessings is rooted deeply in the invitation and command to change.  We do not do it on our own but rather we receive that change as simply as we receive the one God has sent.

The kingdom has come in Jesus himself. Heaven has come to earth.  Change is a real possibility not because of our doing but because God has bridged the gap and has stepped into our time and space.

Not only has Jesus proclaimed his inaugural address he also comes to choose his cabinet, so to speak.  He begins by calling Peter and Andrew, James and John.  The first four to make up the twelve.

Jesus doesn't want to bring about change on his own; he wants co workers.  He involves us in the process of transformation.   The contours of the kingdom of heaven no longer are to be found geographically in the terrain on which he stands but rather the contours take shape in the interior of man whose heart now is shaped by the word of God himself.

In the Judaism, it was permissible to cease one's livelihood and to break family ties for the sake of the study of God's word, torah, the law.  When Jesus says "follow me" he is inserting himself as the word of God, the torah, the law.  The first disciples  understand this at a deep and profound way.  In following Christ, in imitating him, they study the Word, the law and allow themselves to be shaped a new.

This is the beauty of the calling of the disciples.   They cut ties with all that they know so that the word of God and the new law that is Jesus can shape them and transform them and thus through them the world around can also benefit.

They show case their freedom as they move forth.

Are we free?  Are we free to follow His command?  What holds us back?  What keeps us from experiencing the change God wants for us as a blessing on a grand scale?

Just as Jesus' decision is decisive and the disciples decision is decisive so we too if we are to let the kingdom come and break through into our lives must also be decisive.

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