This weekend I had the privilege of hearing two different homilies. You see, because I am a lector and music minister, I will sometimes get scheduled for two masses in one weekend. Most of the time, our parish has the same homilist at each mass. This week, however, Fr. Steve was back for the 11:15 mass. Deacon Ries had the other masses. I love when Deacon Ries speaks. He always seems to speak straight to me. Before we get to the homilies, lets recap the readings.
The first reading was from Isaiah 8:23 – 9:3:
23 For is not everything dark as night for a country in distress? As the past humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, so the future will glorify the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan, the territory of the nations.
1 The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; on the inhabitants of a country in shadow dark as death light has blazed forth.
2 You have enlarged the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at harvest time, as they exult when they are dividing the spoils.
3 For the yoke that weighed on it, the bar across its shoulders, the rod of its oppressor, these you have broken as on the day of Midian.
The second reading was from I Corinthians 1:10-13, 17:
10 Brothers, I urge you, in the name of our LordJesus Christ, not to have factions among yourselves but all to be in agreement in what you profess; so that you are perfectly united in your beliefs and judgements.
11 From what Chloe’s people have been telling me about you, brothers, it is clear that there are serious differences among you.
12 What I mean is this: every one of you is declaring, ‘I belong to Paul,’ or ‘I belong to Apollos,’ or ‘I belong to Cephas,’ or ‘I belong to Christ.’
13 Has Christ been split up? Was it Paul that was crucified for you, or was it in Paul’s name that you were baptised?
The Gospel reading was Matthew 4:12-23:
12 Hearing that John had been arrested he withdrew to Galilee,
13 and leaving Nazara he went and settled in Capernaum, beside the lake, on the borders of Zebulun and Naphtali.
14 This was to fulfil what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah:
15 Land of Zebulun! Land of Naphtali! Way of the sea beyond Jordan. Galilee of the nations!
16 The people that lived in darkness have seen a great light; on those who lived in a country of shadow dark as death a light has dawned.
18 As he was walking by the Lake of Galilee he saw two brothers, Simon, who was called Peter, and his brother Andrew; they were making a cast into the lake with their net, for they were fishermen.
19 And he said to them, ‘Come after me and I will make you fishers of people.’
20 And at once they left their nets and followed him.
21 Going on from there he saw another pair of brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John; they were in their boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them.
22 And at once, leaving the boat and their father, they followed him.
Deacon Ries started his homily by pointing out that the gospel reading begins with announcing the end of John the Baptist’s ministry and the beginning of Jesus’ mission. The gospel directly points to the first reading (the Old Testament). Jesus went to the land of Galilee, the land of the Gentiles, to fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy. Jesus continued John’s message of “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” but he added the message of “Follow Me!” Matthew’s gospel describes how Jesus asked the disciples to throw down their nets and become “Fishers of men.” They must have seen something really special in him to just drop everything and do just that. This simple invitation is still extended to each of us today.
The thing is, it isn’t always the easiest thing for us, 2000 years down the road, to follow where He leads. We worry about the consequences of walking His path in our current culture. We suffer ridicule for our faith. We sometimes doubt. The disciples had all those same feelings and some even died because of their choice to follow Jesus. It is easy to find reasons to avoid His call. It is easier to stay in the security of the life we know rather than take a step onto the path of faith and not know where it may lead. As Deacon Ries said, “Knowing the message of Jesus is one thing. Living it is quite another thing.” A prime example of someone taking a step on that path of faith is singer, Natalie Grant. She took a stand for her faith when she walked out of the Grammy’s Monday night. We must make the choice every day to be “unwavering in our Christian virtues and our morals.” We must maintain integrity in our faith. If everyone around us is doing something immoral, we must have the fortitude to do what is right. Remember what your mom said, “If everyone were jumping off a cliff….”
Not only are we called to follow Jesus and walk His path, we are called to “be a light in the darkness” and “fishers of men.” We are called to spread His word. This doesn’t always mean that we need to preach to others. Sometimes a small gesture, a kind word or a silent prayer can change someone’s day. Maybe it’s just that you lend an ear or a shoulder to cry on. This is where Fr. Steve’s homily took me. Fr. Steve told us about a boy in one of his classes that has taught him more about evangelizing than he has learned in his 30 years as a priest! This boy, you see, loves fishing. He knows everything there is to know about fishing…lures, rods, etc. While talking to this boy, Fr. Steve has drawn a parallel between fishing for fish and fishing for men. He said that it was no coincidence that Jesus chose fisherman as disciples.
Fr. Steve said that there are 5 basic rules for fishing. Rule #1: You must go where the fish are. Well, that’s kind of a no brainer, right? You can’t catch anything if there isn’t anything there. Go where there are people in need: the hungry, poor, defenseless…that is a good place to start. Rule #2: Use the right equipment. In fishing for fish, that means the right type of rod and reel, the right lure, etc. In fishing for men, we have been given the perfect equipment…The Gospel. Rule #3: Use the right bait. What better bait than our faith shining forth in our actions? Our faith makes us attractive all on it’s own. There is no need to browbeat someone into believing. Rule #4 is the hardest…Be patient! You can’t change someone. Only they can choose to change. Each of us makes our own choice to follow. Rule #5: If all else fails, return to rule #1.
Jesus asks us to “Repent, change your lives, and come, follow me. Be my light in the darkness.”
Are you ready to heed the call?
**Remember, I do not pretend to know everything. These Sunday Messages are just my take on what I heard in mass this past Sunday. We are all on a journey. Some of you may be on a different journey than mine. I will respect your point of view as long as you respect mine.**