Sunday, January 22, 2017

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time: Fishing In Darkness

Today's readings tell us about Christ who is the light and salvation of the world.  Christ prepares us by calling us to holiness and to help others reach holiness. He calls us to be fishermen and to leave behind whatever lives we had.

In the first reading, we read of how God dispels the darkness.  The people walked in darkness and have seen a great light. We read of this light on Christmas Eve. Christ is this light that shines in the land of gloom.  The Lord is our light and our salvation, the responsorial Psalm tells us.  Who should we be afraid of?  If God is with us, who can be against us (Romans 8:31)? Who can defeat us?  God is our refuge and our protector (Psalm 46:1). Our newly sworn-in president, Donald J. Trump mentioned this in his speech. He said God is our protector (see: Trump is correct!  God is our life and our salvation; our strength and protector. We should fear no one.  This is why the martyrs faced all kinds of hardships because they knew God was with them and God was all that mattered.  We must desire to live in the house of the Lord. This can only be done by living a life of grace, free from sin. We must be free of discord and division, as the second reading tells us. Today, we see so many divisions in the Catholic Church due to Pope Francis' take on mercy and how to present it to others. Some see it as good while others see it as borderline heresy. We must not be divided and must be of the same mind and purpose.  As St Paul asks, "Is Christ divided?"  It is okay to raise concerns as the cardinals who raised a dubia did. However, we must not get personal nor place judgments on others, especially our Holy Father. We must let the Holy Spirit be the one to guide the Church and clarify our hierarchy when they lose their focus, so to speak (John 16:13).

Finally, in the Gospel, we read of the arrest of John the Baptist.  The prophecy we read of in the first reading is fulfilled.  Jesus begins to preach. John decreased while Christ began to increase.  The light is beginning to shine beyond the Jordan.  Jesus sees Simon and Andrew doing their work as fishermen.  He calls out to them and tells them to come after Him because He will make them fishers of men.  Immediately, they left their nets and went after Him.  Then Jesus saw two other brothers, James and John.  Those too Christ called and they left their boat and father to follow Jesus.  Here we see the ministry of Jesus flourishing and taking hold. Today's Gospel should remind us that Christ calls us as well to be fishers of men.  Men here of course means all people, not just males. We must evangelize with our lives and words.  Our lives must match the Gospel or evangelization will not be productive. This week, I admonished a fellow Catholic on Twitter (Maxkolbegroup). He was on my broadcast a few times and seemed interested in reaching out to atheists. However, I noticed that his account was tweeting uncharitable, vulgar and harassing tweets against atheists. I messaged him privately on it and he insisted that God told him to be rude and nasty to atheists. Needless to say, he got upset with me for correcting him on how to evangelize and insulted and blocked me on Twitter. Christ calls us to fish men, not dump poison in their waters and kill or scare them away. Unfortunately, "Maxkolbegroup" is hurting our faith by presenting atheists a negative portrayal of our religion.  We must be examples, not warnings labels.  We must be fishers of men in this darkness we call reality.  Our world is in so much darkness.  As Catholics, we must not add to that darkness.  Christ is the light that dispels the darkness. We must unite to Christ and shine His light to others. May Jesus Christ be praised!


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Here are some reflections by holy writers:

The "great light" is Christ our Lord and the brightness of the gospel preaching. It is not, in fact, the law, which was likened to a lamp. For this reason a lamp always burned in the tabernacle, on account of the shortness of the law's rays, which had strength to extend their light only within the confines of the Jewish territories. Therefore the Gentiles were "in darkness," not having this lamplight.
— St. Cyril of Alexandria
(375 - 444)

Source: "Fragment 34," quoted in Manlio Simonetti, ed., Matthew 1–13, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 67.

Someone may wonder: At the Lord's beckoning, what or how much did these two fishermen, who scarcely had anything, leave behind? On this, my beloved, we should attend to one's intention rather than one's wealth.
That person has left behind a lot who keeps nothing for himself, who, though he has little, gives up everything. We tend to be attached to those things we own, and those things we scarcely own, we carefully hold on to. Therefore Peter and Andrew left much behind when they left behind covetousness and the very desire to own.
That person has left much behind who renounces with the thing owned the very coveting of that thing. Therefore those poor who followed Jesus left behind just as much as those less poor who did not follow him but were able to covet.
So when you notice that some have left a great deal behind, you need not say to yourself, I want to imitate those who disdain this world, but sorry, I have nothing to leave behind. You will leave much behind, my brothers, if you renounce earthly desires. External things, however small they may be, are sufficient for the Lord, since he looks at the heart and not at our material goods. Nor does he judge by how much is involved in our sacrifice but from how much it is made. For if we judge by external goods, our holy merchants traded in their nets and vessels for the perpetual life of the angels.
— Pope St. Gregory the Great
(540 - 604)

Source: "Forty Gospel Homilies, 5.2," quoted in Manlio Simonetti, ed., Matthew 1–13, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 70. 

But note both their faith and their obedience. For though they were in the midst of their work (and you know how time-consuming a chore fishing is), when they heard his command they did not delay or procrastinate. They did not say, "Let us return home, and talk things over with our family."
Instead, "they left everything behind and followed," even as Elisha did when he followed Elijah. For Christ seeks this kind of obedience from us, such that we delay not even for a moment, though something absolutely most necessary should vehemently press in on us.
— St. John Chrysostom
(347 - 407)

Source: "The Gospel of Matthew, Homily 14.2," quoted in Manlio Simonetti, ed., Matthew 1–13, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 72–73. 

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