CALLED TO BE FISHERS OF MEN
Very often when we look at our lives, we may observe that we are often weighed down by the burden of an unhappy and wayward life. Often we seem to be like a people in a wrong bus, heading for the wrong destination. Quite surprising is the fact that we tend to cling to our old unhappy way of life. We are so entangled in our marriage to the world and to the glittering things the world offers. Sometimes we get too lazy to disengage ourselves from our sinful way of life; we tend to lack the strength of character and the responsibility to do so, and we put forward our decision to live for God. We prefer to delay the adoption of new, happier, deeper and authentic way of life that the Gospel message offers us. God’s call to discipleship, with the response of repentance, conversion and renewal of life expected from us, is the main theme of today’s readings.
In the first reading, Jonah preached to the people of Nineveh and gave them an ultimatum, a time frame to repent. He said, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” (Jonah 3:4). The people of Nineveh did not fall prey to procrastination, but with a sense of urgency they turned from their evil ways.
Nineveh was the oldest and most populous city of the ancient Assyrian Empire. Its ruins are located on the east bank of the Tigris River opposite the modern city of Mosul in Iraq. The Ninevites were a great empire known for their ruthlessness. They were the sworn enemies of the Jews. Each despised the other and yet Jonah, a Jew, was sent by God to them. The Ninevites were going to end the Israelite civilization in a few years but it was to them that God sent Jonah.
A period of forty days is a time fix often mentioned in the Bible. In many places where it was used, we often discover a period of testing, trial, probation, or chastisement. The ending of such period of time as we see their accounts in the bible often differs, depending on the response given by the person/s for whom it has been intended. Thus, these forty days period is capable of being either a stepping stone or a stumbling block. A careful and obedient heed to the voice of “only forty days more” leads to life. But a careless negligence of the warning of “only forty days more” leads to a total ruin.
Jonah definitely did not want to go to them but God made sure that he did in spite of Jonah’s efforts to avoid the task to which God had called him. After the episode with the whale Jonah finally ended up on their shore. He went to them and they repented of their evil ways. They acted immediately on God’s word. Jonah was there only one day in what was to be a three day journey. That’s the key idea. On hearing God’s word proclaimed to them by Jonah they acted immediately and changed their ways. (Jonah 3:10) We too should endeavour to turn away from a life of sin and hearken to the voice of the Jonahs in our midst. More than ever before we need to live in righteous; who knows if God will have mercy on us and save this country?
The second reading is from the First Letter to the Corinthians. We are told in this small section that the world is passing away and that our actions must change. We must put all of our energy into seeking God and the ways of God. St. Paul proclaiming a similar message of renewal and urgency says, I tell you, brothers and sisters, the time is running out. From now on, let those having wives act as not having them, those weeping as not weeping, those rejoicing as not rejoicing ,those buying as not owning, those using the world as not using it fully. For the world in its present form is passing away. Like Jonah we have a propensity to procrastinate, to put things off with the idea we will tend to them another day.
The Gospel reading invites us to Repent. The beginning of the ministry of Jesus Christ begins with Jesus calling His followers to repent. Repent in this context means to change the direction of one’s life. And we see with clarity where Jesus is pointing us: Believe in the Gospel! Jesus preached with a loud voice saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel” (Mark 1:15).
How do we enter the kingdom of God? In announcing the good news, Jesus gave two explicit things each of us must do to in order to receive the kingdom of God: repent and believe. When we submit to Christ's rule in our lives and believe the gospel message the Lord Jesus gives us the grace and power to live a new way of life as citizens of his kingdom. He gives us grace to renounce the kingdom of darkness ruled by sin and Satan, the father of lies (John 8:44) and the ruler of this present world (John 12:31). That is why repentance is the first step.
Repentance means to change - to change my way of thinking, my attitude, disposition, and life choices so that Christ can be the Lord and Master of my heart rather than sin, selfishness, and greed. If we are only sorry for the consequences of our sins, we will very likely keep repeating the sin that is mastering us. True repentance requires a contrite heart (Psalm 51:17) and sorrow for sin and a firm resolution to avoid it in the future. The Lord Jesus gives us grace to see sin for what it really is - a rejection of his love and wisdom for our lives and a refusal to do what is good and in accord with his will. His grace brings pardon and help for turning away from everything that would keep us from his love and truth.
To believe is to take Jesus at his word and to recognize that God loved us so much that he sent his only begotten Son to free us from bondage to sin and harmful desires. God made the supreme sacrifice of his Son on the cross to bring us back to a relationship of peace and friendship with himself. He is our Father and he wants us to live as his sons and daughters. God loved us first and he invites us in love to surrender our lives to him. Do you believe that the gospel -the good news of Jesus - has power to free you from bondage to sin and fear?
Like fishermen - we are called to gather in people for the kingdom of Christ. When Jesus preached the gospel message he called others to follow as his disciples and he gave them a mission - "to catch people for the kingdom of God." What kind of disciples did he choose? Smelly fishermen! In the choice of the first apostles we see a characteristic feature of Jesus' work: he chose very ordinary people. They were non-professionals, had no wealth or position. They were chosen from the common people who did ordinary things, had no special education, and no social advantages. Jesus wanted ordinary people who could take an assignment and do it extraordinarily well. He chose these individuals, not for what they were, but for what they would be capable of becoming under his direction and power. The Lord does not call the qualified, but He qualifies those He calls.
First, He called Simon and Andrew fishermen when they were casting a net in the sea. “And immediately, they left their nets and followed Him” These fishermen did not procrastinate, but saw the urgency of His message. They followed Him with instinctive alacrity. When the Lord calls us to serve, we must not think we have nothing to offer. The Lord takes what ordinary people, like us, can offer and uses it for greatness in his kingdom. Do you believe that God wants to work in and through you for his glory? We must be ready to leave whatever we think is important to us – fame, wealth, relationship, ideology, and follow the one who has called us faithfully. Let nothing hinder our followership of God.
The Kingdom of God is the theme of Jesus’ preaching. This Kingdom is any society where God’s will is done as it is done in Heaven. Hence, a person who does the will of God perfectly is already in the Kingdom of God. In telling us that the Kingdom has come near, Jesus is telling us that we can dwell in this Kingdom now, provided we repent or turn away from the idols that crowd our lives and do the will of God as it is done in Heaven, thus allowing God to reign in our lives.
“Fishing for people” meant bringing them to justice by dragging them out of their hiding places and setting them before the judge. And “fishing” was also used of teaching people, of the process of leading them from ignorance to wisdom. Both cases involve a radical change of environment, a break with a former way of life and entrance upon a new way of life.
The call of Jesus to twelve individuals, the call we just heard about in today Gospel account, is not a call issued only to twelve Jewish men over 2,000 years ago. It is an insistent call, and urgent call, a demanding call that comes down to us through 2,000 years in this Church of ours to you, to you here and now, to you today, who have been called by God to receive the Bread of Life from this altar and then to leave this church building on a mission. We are to leave here as those who are sent, sent with the twelve apostles to change the world by first changing our own lives.
We are called individually to a way of life or vocation: – a religious commitment (priest, deacon, missionary, religious Sister or Brother, marriage partner or single person), plus a particular occupation rising from our talents (medicine, law, teaching, healing, writing, art, music, building and carpentry, home-making, parenting ….). Our own unique vocation should enable us to become what God wants us to be. As St. Francis Sales puts it, we are expected to bloom where we are planted.
Prayer – Help us Lord to be truly repentant and converted so that we can authentically be carry out the mission of being fishers of men! Amen!!!