What Galvanized Jesus?

Third Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B

All the readings show pairs of galvanizing moments: Jonah’s choice to preach (preceded by a refusal); the Ninevites’ decision to turn to God (and amend their evil ways). Paul’s reversal to preach instead of persecute Jesus; the Corinthians’ challenge to reset their clocks from what they had assumed was the operative frame. Jesus’ fresh awareness that the time for his public ministry had come, surely resetting his life radically; his first disciples’ choice to drop those nets and walk away from those boats and fathers. The word "galvanize" comes from the world of electricity and suggests a jolt of current running through the "recipient." In that sense, it happens to us rather than being undertaken by our initiative.

It is often difficult for us to be galvanized (metaphorically speaking), I think, since our lives seem to us so enmeshed, snared in complexity. Of course big events like hurricanes, earthquakes, market collapses do not consult us but simply enact change. The moments in our readings seem clear and simple: irresistible. We, on the other hand, may sometimes long for some galvanization, but we don’t know where to stand to receive it! Or we prefer some options to others. Perhaps we are frozen and unable to respond. It helps me to add some imaginative detail to the lives of those in our readings to contemplate that galvanization will have been very difficult for them as well, and yet--invited by God’s projects, they responded. As I consider our pairs of callers/responders, it seems that we may have most in common with Jesus. After all, we can imagine what changed Jonah, the Ninevites, Paul, the Corinthians, and the first-called apostles. But what galvanized Jesus? My suggestion for us is that, standing with him, we select one challenge: violence, ecological crisis, the inequity of wealth--and allow its re-orienting possibilities to reshape our lives, in the company and with the support of Jonah’s God, Jesus’s summons, and the creativity of the Holy Spirit. One will be enough, since if we really allow the transformation available with such a "holy jolt," we are unlikely to run out of challenges.

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Barbara Green, O.P.

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