My friends, this 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time continues to call us, due to our baptisms, to follow our brother, Jesus. The call comes, down through history, even before Jesus’ time among us through the words and actions of the prophet, Isaiah. Isaiah, like us at times, doesn’t feel up to the task, but through encouragement; he answers God’s call, “Here I am, send me!”
Paul is fully aware of his background, of how he tortured the Church of his brother, Jesus, yet Jesus chose him anyway, calling him to be his best. “By God’s favor, I am what I am,” Paul explains.
And if we needed anymore assurance that we are called and that Jesus will walk alongside us, it is our brother who confirms with words that encourage, “Do not be afraid!” In today’s gospel, it is mere fish that are caught, but this is only the beginning for Jesus as he lets these fishers know that now they will “fish for people.”
And again, we should see that this is not just a story telling of a great catch, once in time, but a story showing us the way. Jesus came into humanity for more than fish! He came for each of us! He came to make our human experience here not only good for us, but good for all humanity through us.
Lately, many of us have felt discouraged and appalled even, by actions of those with the responsibility to serve, both in State and in Church and we wonder if there is even anything to be done because there seems to be one standard for us to follow and when it comes to those with responsibility to serve, there is a whole different standard, if any at all.
But it is this kind of thinking that we absolutely must not let ourselves fall into—we must continue to hope and give those around us reason to hope as well. We should not take our lead from those who have abused their power through self-serving actions aimed at power and control, but listen with our hearts to the needs of those around us.
One story of this past week that gave me hope that some change might be on the horizon within our Church was part of a series that the National Catholic Reporter is doing on seminaries in this country.
We know that Pope Francis has spoken against clericalism—that affliction that allows priests, bishops, cardinals and even popes to see themselves as a step above the people they purport to serve instead of as servants among the people, who are only there, as Paul says, “by God’s favor.”
As we might imagine, NCR’s coverage of seminaries has uncovered those who are against Francis and any change to the way things are; but in the 4th part of their series, a seminary in Oregon, at St. Benedict, Mount Angel Seminary is combating the tendency toward “clericalism” through “screening, service and reflection.” Instructors, as well as students there, say that they see little, or none of it. Being aware of it and having tools in place to curb this tendency, seems to make all the difference.
Another example from this past week came on the PBS News Hour’s regular segment, Brief, But Spectacular. This particular segment addressed a young woman’s “Brief, but Spectacular Take on Being Deaf.” She told of how her mother didn’t teach her sign language when it was discovered that she was born deaf because her mother wanted her to learn to speak. She relayed how her mother practiced and practiced with her to get her to say the word, “up,” by picking her up, getting her to go upstairs, saying after each action, “up.” She even took the little girl’s fingers and pressed them against her own throat so that she could feel, “up” even if she couldn’t hear it. She said, she will always remember the day when she was finally able to say, “up,” and her mother cried tears of joy! It was then that her mother knew that one day, her daughter would truly speak!
And the story takes another twist that makes it even better. The little girl grew up, became a speaking adult, telling of all the struggles along the way, from those she encountered who weren’t deaf. When someone can’t hear, their learned speech is always going to sound different from those who can hear, thus comes the ridicule from those who don’t know better.
One day, another deaf person came up to her and began signing as a way to communicate. She told of how she was then embarrassed because she didn’t know how to communicate.
The gospel today telling of the great catch of fish lets us know that the only way that all the fish could be brought in was if they all worked together, sharing their boats, their strength and their expertise. None of us manages in this life trying to go it alone. We need each other for hope, for mutual support, for added strength when ours runs low, as in both the stories that I related today.
There are many ways to bring “the fish” home and that is why we are all so wonderfully, but differently made. It is simply ignorance to say that Jesus cannot be made manifest in a woman as well as in a man. And it is simply cruel to say that couples who are of the same sex cannot have as committed and meaningful a relationship as those who are of different sexes.
And when so-called, “men of God” have been allowed for so long to live clerical, dishonest, power-over lives, more about themselves than those that they are called to serve, it is time to say to them, “Enough!”
Jesus’ love incarnate was always about seeing the whole, big picture of how really big our God’s love is, for each of us, in all our diversity, called to serve and to bring each other home. Amen? Amen!