theunfamiliarname

Homily for 3A after Epiphany

In Uncategorized on January 23, 2011 at 10:21 pm

Every time I drive past Lake Benmore,
I try and pick the spot.
The bank where I had my greatest, my only,
fishing moment.
My first, and second – though not actually landed – trout.
Somewhere on Lake Benmore, I’m told,
the abandoned movie set for Kingdom Come
has Benmore re-imagined as Galilee.
Coincidence?  I’ll let you be the judge…

Fishing is a very apt New Testament analogy:
Jesus famously says this morning:
I will make you ”fishers of men”.
The word play of “fishermen” and “fishers of men”
brings us closer to the original,
than other, less gender-specific renderings.

The gospel we’ve just heard, like last week,
features a story about the two brothers,
Simon Peter and Andrew.
It features two other brothers, James and John.
All of them fishermen.
All of them called to follow Jesus.
Let’s remember these are not men of leisure.
They may be fishing on a lake, but they’re day to day
fishermen, workers who relied on the catch to eat and sell.
Fishing for them was not an optional extra

These were ordinary working people who saw something, heard something in this Jesus
that turned their lives upside down.

In a moment, these first disciples make a choice
about responding to an encounter with God.
And they leave everything behind.

And yet, not everything, for Jesus says to them,
“Follow me, and I will make you fish for people”,
“fishers of men”.
As if saying that all they have known, all their lives,
will be inherently part
of their sharing in the work of the Kingdom.
As if their lives will be a part of the preaching.

These people, these first disciples, are not called alone
and they are not called to hold their faith tightly,
rather they are to throw it about the place,
like fishermen casting a net.
Who knows what you’ll haul in
with that kind of recklessness?

The call to be fishers of people is a call to evangelism,
to sharing our faith.

We are not talking about recreational fishing here,
long lazy hours as a weekend retreat,
or a summer idyll.
We need to share our faith.
Evangelism is not an optional extra.

What we define as evangelism, might be the issue.
Not many are reached in this age and culture
by preaching on street corners.
By knocking door to door.
Maybe some of us have found our way back to Church
after bad experiences with evangelism.

Jesus told these fishermen
that they would be “fishers of men”.  Fishermen.
As if their lives, their livelihoods, their whole identity
might be the most effective way
of sharing the faith they would discover.
What else do we have?
Ultimately, if you don’t have a pulpit,
most of us have to let our lives do the preaching.
In our daily living and working,
our fishing or visiting or building or interacting.
We’re called to be whole people,
not fillets of faith.

To act and speak and relate to those around us
as our faith would have us act and speak and relate.
In love, in compassion,
in justice, in generosity, in patience.

To preach with our lives.
To claim our faith with integrity,
and from that place, to share it with others.

Such living evangelism,
is seen in a figure of the recent past,
a surprising saintly figure:
Archbishop Oscar Romero,
assassinated by right-wing forces
in a troubled El Salvador almost 31 years ago.

For nearly all his career in the Church,
Romero was a church functionary,
did not raise his voice
or cause problems for the wealthy and the powerful
who had sanctioned his rise.

It was only when one of his Priests was killed,
together with an old man and a little boy,
that a spark was kindled in Archbishop Romero.

That was what in the Greek of the New Testament
is called “metanoia”, a turning around.
What is often translated, as in this morning’s gospel,
as “repentance”.  Turning around.

And it is never too late,
and we are never too “holy”, or too highly placed,
for that.
A new way of seeing, a new way of living.
Almost overnight, Romero realised how his faith
and the place of the Church needed to be reinvigorated,
and to be held continually beside
what would constitute ‘good news’
for the poorest and most vulnerable.
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness
—  on them light has shined.

It was a foolhardy, a dangerous thing to do,
to live in tune with the call of the gospel, and to preach it.
Romero knew it would cost him his life.
But he realised that the most powerful thing he could do
as a Christian, was to preach with his own life.

He wrote,
A Christian community is evangelised  in order to evangelize.
A light is lit in order to give light.
A candle is not lit to be put under a bushel, said Christ.
It is lit and put up high in order to give light.
That is what a true community is like.
A community is a group of men and women
who have found the truth in Christ and in his gospel,
and who follow the truth
and join together to follow it more strongly.

The preacher no longer needs to preach,
for there are Christians who preach by their own lives.

Not very many of us, God willing,
are called to give our lives.
And yet, our very lives are what we’re called to give.

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