Reflection by Rev. Leonard N. Peterson
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
For quite some time I have been fascinated by the flexibility of our beloved English language. Its development is often rather quick, especially with the advent of “techno speak.” Old words get evicted or completely change their meaning. New words are created swiftly and get widespread use. So it is with the acronym “ASAP.” Its imperative implications come paired with urgency, and in a fast paced world, the letters have even been turned into a word. It has a “cousin,” if you will, in an older creation, namely “PDQ.” The milder translation is “pretty darn quick.” I am deliberately omitting the vulgar meaning of letter “D” because we’re in church for a homily. But you get the idea. I eventually found out that there are 37 other meanings for PDQ, including a restaurant chain!
All this talk of language arose in my mind after rereading what St. Matthew has to say about how Our Lord’s first disciples reacted to His invitation to follow Him. Matthew tells us that they did it “immediately.” How refreshing it was to read that for me. So often I wrestle with indecision. “Immediately” for me involves a certain freedom, unhampered by doubt or indecision. It further notifies all of us that the attraction Jesus had here was for real men used to making quick but important decisions fighting for their livelihood on the open sea. Where and when to toss their nets for fish could almost be a matter of life or death in their daily struggle to provide for their families and themselves.
I read a scriptural commentary in which the writer almost hastens to tell us that Matthew’s account is a compressed one. That St. John’s version of the same incident is more likely because it includes the natural human tendency to be hesitant to embark on a new direction in life. But I thought to myself that “Sure, we all have to do our research and give serious thought to any major decision.” Today we might say “Go on Google first.” Certainly, the early four Apostles likely consulted their wives, children, and others before stepping away from their usual lives to follow this amazing young Rabbi from Nazareth.
But allow me to take Matthew literally for just a moment or two, to admire Saints Peter, Andrew, James and John for following their hearts as well as their heads in answering Jesus’ invitation right away, without consulting a checklist. There is something invigorating about letting go of fear and apprehension and simply saying “Yes” to God right away. I can summon a certain Francis of Assisi who did it centuries later. We all have a knack for delay. We like staying right where we are in our custom made comfort zone and asking Jesus for His understanding.
Such immediate decisions don’t have to be any more uprooting than a change in our daily schedule to get out of bed a half hour earlier to pray each day. Or choosing to fast one day a week to know what it feels like for those among us who through no fault of their own must go hungry most days if not all. You are mature enough to make your own list. But do it immediately.
Beware those well-meaning souls who will happily point out practical obstacles to your decisions. That’s why we have to avoid delay. Like the apostles’ decisions made long ago and far away, which they made “asap.” Look where they are now. Meanwhile, we can imagine those first four Apostles saying to us at times: “Do it now! Today will be yesterday tomorrow.”