Local stories, events, and Catholic inspiration in northeast Wisconsin

Jesus returns the calmness

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

By Lyn Zahorik | For On Mission

“They left their father Zebedee in the boat and followed him” (Jesus). That day certainly rocked Zebedee’s boat. He most likely had already encountered Jesus and heard him speak. Yet, when both of his sons left him to go with Jesus, it had to be a shock. 

Consider what he was faced with. His catch of fish — caught in nets that needed the strength of three men to manage — was now left for him to struggle with on his own. How would this affect his fish market? He was aging and relying on his sons to take over the family business. What about his family name? With both sons going off to be disciples of Jesus they might not marry, and his family name would not continue. And then, worst of all, he had to go home to his wife and say, “Rachel, you need only set the table for two. Our sons have left home to go with Jesus.”

This was not the life Zebedee had planned for himself or his family. Let us assume, however, that he was a good and holy Jew, faithful to God. That evening, as he lay in bed with anxiety overtaking him, his mind and heart were saying, “Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God” (Jewish Shema prayer).

We can all identify with Zebedee. We work hard to have our lives in order. There is a natural rhythm to our prayer, our work, being with family and friends, enjoying all this world has to offer. It is comfortable to be in the boat, lulled by gentle waves. We are grateful, we are secure, we are happy and content. All is well.

Then, suddenly, without warning, someone or something rocks our boat. 

A family member is taken from us by death. A misunderstanding or alteration causes a friend to abandon us. We are downsized from a job that is an important part of our identity. Children leave home to create their own family and their own legacies. 

Perhaps our mind or body begin to weaken. Sickness might incapacitate us and we have to leave the rowing of the boat to someone else. And while they may row in an appropriate way, they still are not doing it our way. 

It is time to raise the SOS flag. When it seems all footing is lost, we cry out and hear, “Come follow me.” The words sweep over us like a gentle breeze and our boat begins to right itself. Calmness slowly returns. 

Jesus does not ask us to leave the boat — he will work with us right where we are. He just asks that we always turn the boat in his direction. Then, we, like Zebedee, will find the strength to surrender all for the sake of Jesus and the Gospel, each evening falling into a restful sleep as we say, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on me.”

Zahorik is director for spiritual engagement at St. Mary Parish, Omro, and St. Mary Parish, Winneconne.

The readings for Sunday, Jan. 21, can be found at Third Sunday in Ordinary Time | USCCB

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