Third Sunday in Ordinary Time A

Hearing the story of the call of Peter and Andrew is a true inspiration and model of Christian life.  They leave everything to follow Jesus unreservedly.  But the call is more than to simply follow.  There is a mission inherent in the call that is shared by all who would be disciples, for they leave their nets behind for the challenge of Jesus, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

This is critical in our understanding of Christ and the Christian mission.  From the very moment Jesus gathers people, he tells them they will be gathering even more people.  What Jesus has to say is not a secret knowledge, but his Gospel, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” is meant for everyone.  If we are to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, we must invite others to walk in our footsteps in following Christ.  Disciples leading disciples. It is in the very DNA of a Christian that we share the gift, the peace and the hope of the Good News.

When people hear of this “New Evangelization” it often smacks of desperation.  Suddenly, the Catholics noticed there were empty pews in the churches and empty desks in their schools. Churches and schools are closing at a rapid pace so now we must try something new. Bur the truth is the Church has always had a plan for evangelization.  The problem is that for hundreds of years, it was simply this. (I open a door of the Church)  We just had to open doors and our masses, schools, halls and CYO dances were all full.  We just had to construct more and more buildings to keep up with it all.

Now, it is not those times. We must be a people that asks, invites and desires others to join us.  We have not had to use those muscles in a long time and they may be out of shape, but that is what Jesus asked us to do. After all, he called us to be fishers of men and women, not people who sit around on the beach and wait for the fish to jump into their laps.

After all, the world has changed. (Holds up mixing bowl upside right)  We use to think of the world as concave (I double checked this since I always got this wrong in school).  We were in the middle and naturally everything would fall to us.  (Turn bowl upside down) But indeed, the world has turned upside down. It is convex. We are on the top and it will take some work for us to gather.  And it is a lot harder to climb uphill then down.  That is why Pope Francis keeps insisting that we go to the margins that we go out and not wait on top.

James Joyce in the Dubliners famously defined Catholicism as “Here comes everybody.”  Isn’t that great?  But if we are to own that definition, we must be a people of evangelization.  We cannot only take care of who is here, but we must do the far more challenging thing – we must ask, “Who is not here?”  Who does not know that they are invited, desired and indeed needed here for us to truly be the body of Christ in all its glory?  We need to reach out to those who feel they are rejected.  We need to tell our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters that they are wanted, desired and needed.  We are not whole without them.  We need to invite those who feel the Church does not want them. We need to tell our divorced brothers and sisters that they are wanted, desired and needed.  We are not whole without them.  We need to tell those who have been hurt by the Church, those who feel they have somehow landed in a place beyond the pale, that they are wanted, desired and needed because this is a place of healing; this is a place of forgiveness.* 

If we cannot make the saving word of God a reality for everyone, what are doing anyway?  We must each find a way to share Jesus.  For my part, I feel like I can become more available to others.  Perhaps we could all find a way to be better fishers of men and women.

In ancient Israel, they had sanctuary cities.  If you were being pursued, if you reached that city, you could not be harmed. It was kind of like home base in tag.   Our Church must be a sanctuary city for those who are poor, for those who are broken. We must be a place of sanctuary regardless of how you believe or how you live.  But you can never be a sanctuary city if you close the gates.  

Our Church must be open. In the second reading Paul complained of divisions with some belonging to Cephas, others to Apollos and others to Paul.  But Christ is not divided.  Here we all belong to Christ no matter how you get here.  Here all can find peace.  Here all will know consolation.  Here will be a beacon of hope.   Here the merciful love of God reigns.  Here comes everybody.


*This was inserted at the Catholic Schools mass:

Our school is such a place.  St. Kateri School is a place that screams, “Here comes everybody.”   We make an effort never to say no. We want to make it possible for every one of our children to receive the best education possible. We want them to hear and celebrate the word of God.  We want to love them as Christ loved them.  And we feel we have no right to refuse them all of that.  How can you say no to a child being closer to God? 

And we could not do it without you.  For our parish is the reason we are able to say yes to these young people.  Your support, your prayers, your generosity has allowed us to grow and change innumerable lives.  You have made the impossible possible.  So it is with the people of Christ.