Deacon Gary – Homily 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
This Sunday is the Third Sunday of Ordinary time which is when the Church celebrates the “Sunday of the Word of God”. How appropriate that the readings today focus on Christ calling us to discipleship, the call for us to be a living example of Christ’s teachings, a living example of the Word of God in action. We are empowered by the Holy Spirit through the Sacrament of Baptism to be like Christ in the world.
How humbling that is, that we, sinners, are called by God to help lead other sinners home to Him. Sometimes the best advocates of something are those that have experienced firsthand the effects of their actions. In this case the effects of sin, the effects of repentance, the effects of forgiveness, and the effects of redemptive action.
The question is, do we hear the call of Christ and are we ready to respond? To hear the call we must listen to the Word of God proclaimed at Mass and when we read and mediate on the scriptures. That is one of the reasons you are here today. To hear the Word of God. The call is being made, now is the time to listen for it.
The next question is if we are waiting to respond to the call, if so, what are we waiting for? How we answer that call can be different at various points in our life, from childhood, to adulthood, to parenting, to working, to retiring. The point is the call is always now. There is nothing to wait for, only how we serve may differ at various stages of our lives.
Jesus was called to live the first 30 years of his life like us. He helped support his family as a carpenter. This was very hard work. He didn’t have power tools or a lumber yard to go to. He had to form the wood out of trees by hand. Eventually his call changed to his ministry we hear about in the Gospels.
The Gospel today tells us that when Jesus heard John the Baptist was arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. This was the triggering point of Jesus taking his ministry on the road. This brings to mind what John the Baptist said in John 3:30: “He must increase; I must decrease.” The Gospel goes on to say that Jesus left Nazareth and went to Capernaum in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali.
You might be wondering why there? The region of Zebulun and Naphtali was plagued with invasion and exile, gloom and oppression. Jesus went there in fulfillment of the prophet Isaiah as expressed in the First Reading and also referenced in the Gospel that said the people of that region dwell in a land overshadowed by death, they are a people who sit in darkness, and that a great light has arisen. What better place to begin his ministry then with those in the most desperate circumstances.
When Jesus first arrived, he picked up where John the Baptist had left off and began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.” Jesus entered into this dark place to bring his light. He brought physical and spiritual healing through his power to forgive sins into a place in desperate need of forgiveness.
Now we get to the core of the Gospel today. Jesus needed help to expand his ministry. He began walking along the Sea of Galilee selecting fisherman as disciples to help him. He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” This of course we know as the call to discipleship.
Today we also hear that same call of Jesus: “Come after me.” But let’s look closely at how he is calling us. He didn’t just say “Follow me,” which we could interpret in a passive way. With “Come after me” he is actually saying (Conform your life to me.) You get the sense of urgency and determination when you hear “Come after me.” A good leader would not ask his team to do something they were not willing to do themselves. Jesus was not just words, he was the master of soul saving action.
We are not being called to just tag along with him, we are being called to become Christ like, to be driven by the Spirit of God to achieve something great, which is, to die to oneself where all our love is outward focused. A life not about our personal gain, but in service to others. Galatians 2:19-20 states: “… I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; …” This is confirmed when Jesus said; “… I will make you fishers of men.” We do not become fishers of men on our own, as it requires us to be formed by Christ. Christ lives within us, making us like himself, fueled by the Holy Spirit.
Jesus, God Himself is watching us. He wants to walk with us. He comes out seeking us. He wants us to seek Him. We are not like puppies just following him, we are apprentices learning from our master. The heart of the spiritual life is not so much finding God as allowing ourselves to be found. We are the lost sheep he is looking for. Let yourself be found and formed by God to be fishers of mankind, fishers of misguided souls.
Like Jesus going to the region of Zebulun and Naphtali, we are called to enter into the darkness to bring his light. We don’t have to move to Capernaum, we don’t have to move into a town with a high crime rate; darkness and sin abounds all around us. But we are called to bring Jesus into all aspects of our lives.
To be the light of Christ in the world means living our lives by the teachings of Christ. Not just words, but actions. That can be difficult and make us stand out in uncomfortable ways in a world misguided by sin. But we are not alone, our master walks with us. We are fed by him through His Word, the Eucharist, and through our Baptism the Holy Spirit dwells within us.
Bishop Robert Barron has stated:
“Your goal in life is not so much to perfect yourself in splendid isolation but rather to find your perfection in seeking out those who are lost. Your spiritual joy and your perfection will be found in the measure that you seek out those who are lost and bring them into the communion of God’s life.”
Do you hear Jesus calling you? In the Gospel it stated: “He called them, and immediately they left …” He has been reaching out to you, all of your life. If you have been waiting for the right time, the time is now, it has always been now. The next step is up to you.