3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
3rd Sunday / Ordinary / A
January 21-22, 2017
St. Thomas Aquinas, Ames, Iowa
Fr. Jon Seda
This past Sunday, Archbishop Jackels joined us at my other parish, Saints Peter and Paul out in the country. We are a growing parish, and he came to dedicate our new expansion, which is awesome. In his homily, he spoke of a crisis of vocation in our church today. The temporary shortage of priests is a symptom of a deeper crisis, the vocation to mission of all the baptized.
The Archbishop made a distinction between a church and a parish. A church is simply a building where services are rendered and religion is consumed. The focus is maintaining the status quo. A parish, on the other hand, is full of people engaged in mission. The laity go out into the world, into neighborhoods, into workplaces, on to the campus, and they bring Jesus to people, and people to Jesus. Archbishop Jackels concluded that in our archdiocese, parishes will not close, but some churches may have to.
In today's Gospel, we hear of the beginning of Jesus' public mission. Note how he begins his mission not with large crowds like most of us would do. He begins with four common, ordinary, uneducated fishermen, and he invests himself in them. He tells Peter, Andrew, James and John to "Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men and women." This was not a call to ordination. It was a call to discipleship.
In our 2000 year tradition, a few have been called by Jesus out of the world. But the large majority of us are called to go into the world. All the baptized are called to both discipleship and mission, or as Pope Francis often says, to be missionary disciples.
The Gospels says that Peter, Andrew, James and John immediately leave their nets and follow him. This is stunning. They acted immediately. Sometime in the church today, we suffer from what is called the paralysis of analysis. What the Lord is asking us to do is really quite simple to understand. But we talk it to death, we form committees and have meetings, and we sometime avoid doing anything by talking about it.
Our lives are shaped by our decisions, not our discussions. Our decisions are made long before we are called upon to make them. Every day, each of us is growing a little closer to the Lord, or moving a little away from him. All of these small decisions are made manifest later when we are called upon to make big decisions. When we see someone who loses their life to save the life of another, when parents lose lots of sleep caring for a child, when spouses care for each other in times of declining health, these decisions are made long before we are called upon to make them.
These decisions reflect core values and core commitments that are solidified in our daily life and daily prayer. These decisions reflect what has been going on inside of us for a long time. These decisions are made long before we are called upon to make them.
This is why I am baffled as to how these four fishermen could make the decision for Jesus so immediately. They were good Jews and would have been people of prayer. But I can't explain how they were able to do this without God's grace. They left behind their boats, family and nets to follow Jesus. I like the image of the nets, which are entanglements that keep us from being truly free. The nets may be unhealthy and immoral relationships, or attachments or addictions, or even our big egos and infallible opinions.
We have to leave behind our nets to follow Jesus. I often say I have come to learn that the Christian life is more a matter of subtraction than addition. Often we think of adding things to our lives. But as our life with Christ matures, it is usually a matter of letting go, a matter of subtraction more than additions.
Notice also how Jesus' very first word in his mission is "repent." This involves a radical change in our lives, not a tweaking of the edges. It is to make Jesus the Lord of our lives. To say Jesus is our Lord is to say that he shapes our lives more than our culture, he shapes our lives more than any political party, and he shapes our lives more than our country of origin. Jesus seeks to be the Lord of our whole life. This is what God asks of us, nothing less than the totality of our life.
Today Jesus begins his public mission not be gathering crowds, but by investing himself in four common people. In a freedom that is astounding, they immediately left behind their nets, and they made a decision. They did not discuss it to death, they acted. They made a definitive, lifelong, and life shaping decision for Jesus. May the Eucharist we are about to celebrate give each and all of us that same radical freedom.