3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time A

I have always found something mysterious in this reading.  As Jesus walks along the Galilean seashore, he calls his first disciples.  This is not an altar call where he asks anyone willing to follow him to come on down.  He specifically asks four of the fishermen.  They hear him and they leave everything –their nets, their business, their family and everything they had known to follow Jesus into the unknown.

Had Jesus been recruiting them over a period of time and now was the time of decision? Had they heard Jesus speak a number of times and had indicated a willingness to follow?  Or maybe they had never heard Christ before and the voice resonated like destiny in their souls. The Bible gives us no evidence.  All we know that the call had an irreversibly profound determination in their life.

Our own Kris Rooney emailed me on what she called a morning of philosophical musing to suggest that our job is not to bring the light but to jump into the water and everyone know they already possess the light. And surely, she is right (and really smart.)  The light of God shines in all those whom God created.  We need to point to that light so that everyone might know they are already blessed and chosen.

When I thought of this light, the image that came to me was that of a pilot light.  The choice of image surprised me because I am the least mechanically inclined person I know.  Even after I thought of it, I had to look up the definition of a pilot light.  It is that small light without which nothing else can grow from, nothing could get warmer; the larger machine never engages.  Within everyone is a light of God to be nurtured into a living fire.

But Christ’s invitation to the first of his followers reminds me of something else as well.  The light needs tending.  He does not invite the fishermen by saying, “Follow me and your light will grow stronger.”  Instead he says, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men [and women].”  It seems that a light isolated and untended may be extinguished.  The fire grows only by sharing.  Jesus invites those who carry his light to engage the light of others.  To let it spread.  To come and see.

When I was a newly ordained priest, I would hesitate at moments of heartbreak and loss to ask the first question on everyone’s mind, “What happened?” It felt intrusive.  But as I learned to ask, and perhaps it is a privilege of the priesthood, I found that people were eager to tell me.  Tell me every detail.  They were entrusting their light to me when it was most vulnerable to see if it could grow brighter with the gift of understanding and compassion.  This light will only grow stronger when it is shared and met by mercy and love.

So as we say this year, “Come and see” as Jesus did to those fishermen, we hope that you share your light, your story and your faith.  We know when we do this in the name and compassion of Jesus, the light grows stronger, we become the people God sees us as, we are on fire for love. When we share our story we become fishers of men and women as we let them know how transforming and peace filled it is to be loved and chosen by Jesus Christ.  And we give them the space to share their story with us.

This weekend, we could take a full measure of the discord and polarization so many feel in our country.  But as Saint Paul reminds us, “Christ is not divided.”  Our greatest hope is to entrust our stories and our faith to another, to bridge the gaps that separate us and to recognize Christ and his peace is always among us.

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