I am grateful to the Roman Catholic Rector of Wells in the Diocese of Clifton whose genius has provided the main ideas that run through this homily.
Sometime ago I was at a meeting where the discussion was getting very heated. The longer the meeting went on the more heated it got. One of the folk at the meeting leaned over to me and said 'This reminds me of Sunday's Gospel, Father.' I was somewhat puzzled at what he meant. He then leaned over again and said 'That part where Jesus says: Come follow me and I will make you viscious old men.' Sometimes there truth in that statement.
Today we continue where we left off last week with our children on the Sacramental Programme as they focused on the Liturgy of the word. We are a people who celebrate God's Word. The theme of our readings at Mass this weekend is listening.
In many ways, the whole of the Book of Jonah from where our first reading is taken is about listening. It begins with the prophet receiving a message from God to go to Nineveh, but he does not like the message he hears, so he does not listen. He runs away from God. Storms at sea make him realise that he must listen, so shipwreck and the famous big fish are the means of him coming to Nineveh.
He preaches the message that he has received from God - a message of repentance. Unfortunately for Jonah the people of Nineveh listened. They listened intently to what he had to say. As a result they began to change their ways. They turned to the Lord in repentance for their past faults and failings. They took Jonah and his message seriously.
The story of the call of the Apostles in today's Gosepl is not just a tale of vocation, but also a story of 4 fishermen, who listened. There must have been something in them that made them ready to accept God’s invitation to be part of His plan. They were open and ready.
Listening is something that we do every day of our lives. But there can be different levels of hearing. Chaps imagine the wife is nagging you to do something and you listen only half heartedly or you turn the deaf ear and pretend that you havent heard what was said. There is the disinterested listening to the televison or radio as background noise. And there is listening intently, hanging on the speakers every word to gain as much as you possibly can.
We listen when we come to Mass. The question is how do we listen? Is it a disinterested listening? We have come to Mass plonked ourselves down in the bench, folded our arms and closed our ears? We are physically present at Mass but we are not really listening and taking in what is going on.
We might have decided 'I dont like Father so and so. He's not a very nice priest so I won't listen to what he has to say. I can't stand the person who did the First Reading so I won't listen. These are just a few examples of our listening (or not) at Mass.
But there could be a deeper reason. There is an attitude of 'I'm not going to listen to the preacher as I don't like what he says. He challenges me to live my life differently. He challenges me to change my attitudes about others, about the faith about how I am living and I dont like it. If the preacher will not reinforce my existing views I am not interested.
I don't like what the scriptures are saying so I won't listen. I don't like what Jesus says in the Gosepl so I won't listen. Because if I actually believe what is being read, if I actually believe wh at the Lord is saying then I might have to change the way I live. The challenges are all there, but I can bury my head in the sand and pretend that I have not heard it so that I can remain the same.
Some people will day they do not come to Mass because it is boring!!! This is often said by young people, but I have heard it said by those old enough to know better too. My repsonse to this has always been 'Yes it is. I too am bored at Mass. If its entertainment that I am looking for then there are plenty of opportunities for this elsewhere: the cinema, the theatre, spending time with friends. I am even discovering going to the gym can be a form of entertainment and fun.
Mass is not the place to come seeking entertainment. It is the place we come to give God that which is His right - our worship. It is by bringing our joys and sorrows before the altar of God that we gain strength to continue living the Christian life.
We can say the Mass is boring and we may go away frm church thinking we got nothing out of it. Could that be because I did not make a real effort to listen?