It’s NOT ‘business as usual’

The Christian tradition tries to maintain the sense of ‘something new has happened’ in the early weeks of each new year. The drama of Christmas soon fades as the decorations come down and people return to work.

It is ‘business as usual’ after the “break”. Yet the readings we have at this time of the year could not be further from the idea of ‘business as usual’.

Jonah, for instance, is interrupted in his normal life by a command, “Up! Go to Nineveh, the great city and preach to them.”

This was the last thing Jonah wanted to hear and he ran away. In the story he lands up in a watery grave so that when he is asked a second time he decides he should obey.

In the opening of Mark’s gospel it is Jesus himself who preaches repentance. He calls four disciples who, we are told, “at once” left their nets and followed him. The phrase “at once” occurs constantly in the first chapter of Mark, which is basically an account of one day, the first day, in the ministry of Jesus.

We are left with the clear impression that the writer wants us to share in the urgency Jesus feels. In a 2011 end of year reflection Pope Benedict talked of our generation as suffering from “faith fatigue”. He was referring to Europe more than to Africa where, in his visit to Benin, he found a “joyful passion for faith.”

But in Europe he finds a “gravitational pull” downwards that “tarnishes my soul” and he longed for people to discover the counterforce of the Creator that draws us upwards. He longs for people to make the effort to see the links between culture and faith.

To be a Christian today is to be restless in the face of this downward pull – in Africa as well as Europe. We do not know how our Christian faith is going to find a home in the new global culture we inhabit. We do know that it found its home in the cities and towns of the Roman empire in the time of the early church.

The disciples gathered in Jerusalem at Pentecost had no idea how their mission would work out. And we too have no idea about the next stage of the church’s journey. All we know is we have to welcome nemaoko maviri, with both arms, the developments in technology and resulting knowledge together with all the positive aspects of modern culture that we find we inhabit.

What is urgent is that we avoid regretting the changes that shake our world and set about seeing how they provide an environment for welcoming the Messiah.

Post published in: Opinions & Analysis

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