Homily 01 22 2017
3rd Sunday OT A
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With Matthew as a bridge, we stand between Christmas and Lent. With Matthew as our guide from now until next November, teaching is more important than miracles.
We shall hear more of what Jesus says than what he does. The narrative of Christ's birth is closed now.
John the Baptist has
been killed, but his call to repentance has not been silenced. No
sooner than Matthew announces his death, than he has Jesus take up the
Matthew puts Jesus in Zebulun and Naphtali:
Capernaum, because that's where the prophet said the Good News would
first be heard.
It's a place like Buckley or Wilkeson WA.
The message is clear: No place is too far for the Lord, and no one is too little or of no value.
This is a culture of tight family identity. Kinship matters and without it, one is lost.
Matthew moves Jesus out of his family, away from "their town" and puts him in a new place where he begins today to form a new family. And so to a group of fishermen he comes.
Fishermen: people who work hard. They were not men who had power, influence, or prestige. They were unschooled, tough, and they probably smelled like dead fish. They wait - have been waiting for a long time. They wait for the fish: but more than that, they wait for the messiah.
They were synagogue and prophet-schooled to look, expect, and wait for that messiah who will lead them from gloom and darkness to rejoicing and an abundant harvest. They wait for someone to lift the burden and smash the rod of the taskmaster.
And so when he comes along with what power or mysterious appeal we know not, they follow. Where he takes them however is not where they expect to go. As he puts out his map for the journey into the reign of God next week, we too are invited into the mystery of what it means and where it will lead.
We are waiting too, just like the fishermen. We work, we know darkness and gloom, and we are no strangers to oppression terror and anguish.
There is a miracle here, but it takes some faith and some thought to see it. The miracle is that, no matter how many times they had gone after another: no matter how often they tried something or someone else, those fishermen got it right that day.
They found the one who would take them, the one who would fulfill their dreams and their hopes.
It is a miracle that this can be repeated for us.
Most of us have tried everything there is, everything we could imagine, think of, find, or create. Some have tried drugs, sex, fashion, and money. Some will try power, oppression, violence, and we try war and we try to soften by calling it preemptive. That we are being defensive.
None of those things can ever or will ever bring us peace or joy. They will not bring us security or fulfill our dreams. We look to politicians for the things that can only come from the Messiah. Governments and ideologies do not make peace.
Economic systems, materialism, and consumerism do not make us secure, justice does. It is love not legal systems that brings peace. The one who says: "Come, follow me." offers us the way to find what we have dreamed of since we awakened to sin.
We can chase after all kinds of phony plans and systems, ideologies and "leaders", but only one can take us where we long to be. This broken, violent, hungry, and homeless world remains so not because the plan of Jesus has been found inadequate or wanting, but because it has not been given a chance and put to use by people willing to put down everything and every old way and follow Him.
Perhaps the miracle can happen again, and happen especially among us, and we shall repent and turn from those old failed ways and go with Jesus.
The way may not be exactly as we imagined, and it may not be easy. The presence of God's reign is so radical and powerful that it calls men and women from the safety and security of everyday routines to a life of unheard-of-newness.
For Peter, Andrew, James, and John, it required a break with fishing and family to join Jesus in "fishing for others." Following Jesus is not for the tentative and indecisive, maybe that's why there are so few who take Him seriously.
How it shall be for us remains to be seen and we seek God’s help to answer this call.
I realize that we are challenged in our parish but I’m proud of the number of people attending Mass each weekend; there is a shortage of priests and ministers; some division between conservatives and progressives, loss of exposure and influence and leadership, and the rise of Islam and Buddhism in our cities.
All of these need to be
addressed. The Church in Corinth is emblematic of problems in all
communities and Christians were a small minority, and yet Paul made a
very strong appeal to them to regroup behind the gospel and to abide by
The gospel has no easy made answers yet the life of Jesus and his message do not compromise when it comes to justice. We are recalled to Isaiah’s joy which was picked up by Matthew. We are reminded too that Christ is calling each of us again and again, COME FOLLOW ME!
Matthew presents Jesus as the fulfillment of the Isaian prophecy, the one who will be a great light. And in the Gospel, Jesus calls Peter and Andrew and James and John to join him in this great work, this economic endeavor in which God communicates his life.
As Matthew puts it, “He went around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people” (Mt. 4:23).
“It is the economy…!” But not the one that we’re all buzzing about this week. It is the economy of salvation—whose ultimate end is the entry of God’s creatures (us) into the perfect communion of the Trinity. In the divine economy God communicates his life to us.
And no matter what the stock market may do, life with God is always a prosperous enterprise!
A final illustration to today’s Gospel: Mother Teresa gives us a beautiful example of a man who was brought out of darkness into the light. One day in Australia, she visited a poor man whom nobody knew existed. The room in which he was living was in a terrible state of untidiness and neglect.
There was no light in the room. The man hardly ever opened the blinds. He hadn't had a friend in the world. She started to clean and tidy the room. At first he protested, saying, "Leave it alone. It's all right as it is." But she went ahead anyway.
Under a pile of rubbish she found a beautiful oil lamp but it was covered with dirt. She cleaned and polished it. Then she asked him, "How come you never light the lamp?" "Why should I light it?" he replied. "No one ever comes to see me. I never see anybody." "Will you promise to light it if one of my sisters comes to see you?" "Yes," he replied. "If I hear a human voice I'll light the lamp."
Two of Mother Teresa's nuns began to visit him on a regular basis. Things gradually improved for him. Then one day he said to the nuns, "Sisters, I'll be able to manage on my own from now on. But do me a favor. Tell that first Sister, who came to see me, that the light she lit in my life is still burning." --Flor McCarthy in New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies ; quoted by Fr. Botelho