This week we hear Jonah being called and responding immediately in our first reading and in our Gospel we hear about Simon, Andrew, James and John responding immediately to Jesus’s call. The reason they responded immediately was that they understood the urgency of the call. For Jonah, the urgency was that God needed to send a warning to the people of Nineveh; that unless they repented, they and the city would be destroyed. For the two sets of brothers the urgency was that Jesus had a similar message, but this time not just for one city but for the whole world – “The time has come, and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent, and believe the Good News.”

If these readings and our second reading were read in isolation we could be forgiven for thinking that all of those called responded and understood the message immediately, but we know that Jonah had originally resisted God’s call and only responded after his encounter in the belly of the whale for three days (a precursor for Jesus’ three days in the tomb). We know that there was the occasional in fighting within the disciples and that they all ran away at the time of the crucifixion. We also know that St Paul, the author of the letter to the Corinthians was a persecutor of Christians and responded after an encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus.

The important thing is that they answered the call and between them they have saved millions of people throughout the centuries by the stories they were involved in, the preaching which they took from the mouth of Jesus, the formation they gave to those who followed them and in the documents they wrote; which have been used to teach Christians ever since.

Among the prayers I asked people to keep last week, was for a peaceful transition of power in the United States. The world watched with bated breath as the Presidency transferred from one man to another and from one party to another. Thankfully, it appears to have transferred peacefully so far and we need to continue to pray for peace in this part of the world and in all of the other places were discord has been sown.

I was very impressed by the young poet Amanda Gorman, regardless of one’s politics, it would be difficult not to be impressed by the performance of this young lady. This is a young lady who has overcome a speech impediment and delivered a message which has been heard by millions. In her poem The Hill We Climb1 she spoke of justice, she quoted Scriptures and she spoke for millions of young people. She pleaded for peace; recognising that what we do today has the potential to become a burden for our children to fix in the future. She asks us all to leave the world in a better way to how we have found it.

Part of the poem refers to our first reading when she says “we have braved the belly of the beast”, Jonah needed to brave the belly of the beast in order to help him recognise that he had to deliver God’s message to the people of Nineveh, no one else had been called to do it; it was his calling.

Amanda Gorman; who is a parishioner of St Brigid’s Catholic Church in Los Angeles; also quoted from the prophet Micah (4:4) when she said that “everyone will sit under their own vine and fig tree and no-one shall make them afraid”, the next line in that verse from Micah is “For the Lord Almighty has spoken.” I believe that everyone has a right to live in peace and it is what God has called us to; if you look earlier in the chapter from today’s second reading it tells us that “God has called us to live in peace.”(1Cor 7:15).

The message being given out at the transfer of power on Wednesday was not one of glorifying the election victory, there was a genuine attempt to try and bring people together in a country which in many ways is similar to our own. Political polarity; where two sides have very strong opposing views of the way things are; and both sides feel they have the moral high ground. It was pleasing to see that the new President attended Mass before his Inauguration and that he started his first full day in power with a Christian service with his Vice-President and closest advisers, this signifies that he is not going to try and govern under his own efforts, that he and they recognise there is a greater power than the most powerful man on the earth.

What is God calling us to do today? Do we take the time to listen? Are we ready to respond to that call, or do we attach conditions to our response? I encourage us all to think and pray about those questions and to consider our response.

In an advert for his forthcoming book “Learning to Pray”, Fr James Martin SJ says that Your desire to pray is a sign that God desires you. It’s an indication God is calling you. And that is perhaps the most important reason to pray.” I think this is something I need to take forward into my prayer life. God does not actually need me, He made everything, He needs nothing. God desires me and He desires you. God has a mission for every one of us; He expresses that calling by giving us a desire to get to know Him. God does not need me. I need God!

I spoke last weekend about the Sunday afternoon teas, which we have been hosting via Zoom for a few months now. During the call last week I was inspired by a parishioner to commit to doing a sponsored event to support CAFOD, with their Walk for Water campaign.

Being a new Grandad, I am very aware of how much work my son and his wife put in to bringing up their son; people in developing countries with young families have the same commitments but in addition many have to walk miles every day to bring back fresh water for cleaning and drinking. In this country we are fortunate that water is literally on tap, anything we can do to support our brothers and sisters in these countries needs to be done, especially as many charities are finding fund raising difficult due to the pandemic, with fewer events taking place and many of their supporters having lost or reduced their incomes. I hope to put details of how to support this campaign in next week’s Newsletter and have noticed that Fr Dominic is also committed to this cause in this week’s Newsletter.

Please keep in your prayers this week

  • All those who are sick, we pray for their recovery and that they do not give up hope.
  • For peace in our homes, in our country and in our world.
  • For all those affected by flooding in our country.
  • Our doctors, nurses, care workers and health workers who are under extreme pressure, we ask for their protection.
  • Those who are struggling with relationships.
  • For those suffering from Domestic abuse in our local area that they will have the strength and courage to seek support
  • For Christian Unity, that all those who believe in Jesus will recognise that we have more in common that should bring us together than the differences which keep us apart.
  • For those attending the Alpha Course on Monday and those attending the RCIA Course on Wednesday, may they have an experience which helps them to get to know Jesus and inspires a love of Holy Scriptures.

1 Amanda Gorman, The Hill We Climb, available from The Hill We Climb: the Amanda Gorman poem that stole the inauguration show | Biden inauguration | The Guardian accessed 22nd January 2021.