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Zebedee

January 21, 2018 Click on the left end of the black bar to play/pause

January 21, 2018
Mark 1: 14-20
Fr. George Smiga

Zebedee was a fisherman. Now, no one became wealthy catching fish in the Sea of Galilee, but Zebedee was proud of what he had accomplished. By skill and hard work, he had established a steady fishing business with a number of satisfied clients. He was particularly happy that his business would continue. His two sons, James and John, were fishermen themselves, and Zebedee was confident that they would carry on the family business after he was gone.

But today, Zebedee arrives home from work early. And from the minute he walks into the house, his wife knows something is wrong.

“Zeb,” she said, “What’s the matter? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

“You can’t believe what happened today,” Zebedee said. “You really won’t believe what happened.”  

“How can I believe,” his wife said, “unless you tell me. What happened?”

“The boys are gone.”

“What do you mean, the boys are gone?”

“ They got up and they left.”

“Left how? Left why?”

“We were all in the boat mending the nets and then this man walks by and says just a few words to them and they got up and followed him.”

“Followed him?” his wife said. “Without an explanation?”

“Without even a goodbye,” Zebedee said. “ They left me sitting in the boat, together with the hired men. I always thought I understood my sons but what they did today makes no sense to me.”

“Well,” his wife said, “are they coming back?”

“I don’t know,” said Zebedee.

“But what about our future? The business? Our grandchildren?

“I don’t know,” said Zebedee.

“Zeb, this is really a serious matter.”

“I agree,” said Zebedee. “It’s serious indeed.”

The character of Zebedee in today’s gospel is a reminder that people in our life sometimes fail to meet our expectations. People we love, people we trust will sometimes make decisions that confound us and disturb us.

Our daughter tells us that she has found someone to marry and presents us with a man that we believe is incompatible with her and perhaps manipulative. Our son announces his sexual orientation or tells us that he is about to adopt a lifestyle with which we cannot agree. A close friend who we have always admired for his business acumen convinces us to invest in a venture that he should have known would fall apart. Our spouse develops an interest or attitude that we could never anticipate and threatens the unity between us. When people in our lives fail to meet our expectations, we, like Zebedee, find ourselves with more questions than answers and a profound disappointment that the people we love are not the people we thought them to be. In that disappointment, we are tempted to react with anger and announce that our relationships have come to an end.

The scriptures never tell us how Zebedee reacted to the departure of his two sons. But the very lack of information suggests to us that his response was a moderate and patient one—choosing to wait in his confusion and in his disappointment, choosing to wait until the future made things clear. We know from history that James and John never returned to the family fishing business. From the time that day when they set out after Jesus, they were his ‘til the end.

But perhaps a day came when Zebedee could look at the decision of his two boys and recognize that their choice was not at foolish as it first appeared to him.

The experience of Zebedee calls us to wait and be patient when people we love make decisions that we do not understand. Time will tell. Perhaps time will show that the choices they made were as senseless and as destructive as we had feared. But time may also reveal that what they chose to do was deeper and richer than we imagined. And perhaps, if we’re very lucky, we may come to understand that the choices others made, which seemed foolish to us at the time, were in fact a response to a call from God.

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