Monday, January 27, 2014

I will make you fishers of men

In the sixteenth century, Francis de Sales, whose feast day was Friday, was sent to minister in the Chablis province of France.  Francis had only been a priest for two years.  He found himself in an area where the Catholic faith was almost non-existent with only about one hundred Catholics in a population of 25,000.  There were hundreds of desecrated Catholic churches and the area was under the influence of Calvinism. 
Even Francis’ father didn’t support his efforts to convert the people of Chablis.  But, Francis, with his cousin, walked ten miles each morning to the capital city.  They brought the sacraments to the few Catholics there and put tracts explaining the faith under the doors of non-Catholics.  At night, they headed home for their lives would have been in danger if they stayed overnight.  They survived assassination attempts, attacks by wolves, and harsh winters.
After two years, their efforts were apparently failing. Typically, Francis was preaching to only four or five people.  But, he didn’t give up.   He was planting seeds.
After four years, the converts began to come.  First there were one or two, then ten or twenty.  Eventually thousands came back to the church.  This story of the faith and perseverance of Francis De Sales wasn’t the result of legislation or government action.  It is a story of the apostolic work of one man who was driven by the love of God.  He went into the deep with joy and the people responded.   
            In today’s Gospel, four fishermen, James, John, Andrew and Simon, who is later called Peter, meet Jesus.  Jesus said to them: “Come after me and I will make you fishers of men.” Their response is immediate; they left their nets and followed Jesus.  These fishermen trusted the one extending the invitation enough to put their lives entirely in his hands without hesitating.
          When Peter, Andrew, James and John, got up that day to go fishing, as they always did, it may have felt like an “ordinary day.” But on this day Jesus broke their routine and offered them an invitation that would change their lives and reach all the way down to ours.
Jesus asks them to leave everything and follow him.  They answered the call and became fishers of men.  This wasn’t easy for them.  Andrew, James, and Peter ran away when they saw Jesus arrested.  Peter denied him three times. Clearly, it was difficult for them to see Jesus arrested and later crucified.  But, after the Holy Spirit descended upon them at Pentecost, all four followed their call.  Peter became head of Christ’s kingdom on earth, His Church.  He healed the sick and converted thousands.  Three of the four eventually were martyred for their faith. 
How does this apply to us?  Surely, we cannot be expected to convert thousands like Francis de Sales or to heal the sick like Peter did.  If the Lord asked us to drop everything, we might have some questions: “How will we follow you? Where are we going? How long will it take? How will we support ourselves?” So, what is the Lord asking us to do?
Most of us are to bloom where we are planted.  We are to minister to our families, our friends, and our co-workers.  In fact, we might be the only Christian witness that some of them ever hear.  And because they know us, they are likely to listen to us if they can see the impact of Christ in our lives.
We have so much to do as the body of Christ. Like in the time of Francis de Sales, our world is confused and many have drifted away from Christ.  Change is needed to transform our culture, but this change will not begin with government action.  Instead, the change will begin in the family, and then in the local communities with men and women living Christ-like lives.  Christ wants us to show our family and our community the joy of someone driven by the love of God.  Christ wants us to model compassion, forgiveness and a passion for righting the world’s wrongs. 
Christ is calling each of us to follow him, just like he called Peter, Andrew, James, John, Francis de Sales, and countless others through the centuries.  The Creator of the universe asks us to give him a hand in building his everlasting Kingdom.
Each one of us is responsible for keeping the light of Christ burning brightly so that we can be a light to those we meet.  Our light provides needed hope to a world which has been darkened by sin.  Let your light burn brightly for all to see.  It only takes a small amount of light to brighten a darkened room.  So, your light, small as it may be, is critical for our fallen world. 
What is holding me back from being the disciple God created me to be?  Am I trying to hang on to my boat, my nets, or my father?  God is my Creator and deserves my complete obedience. 

Someone has said that there is a thin line between fishing and standing on the shore looking like an idiot. Maybe it’s time we risk looking like an idiot for Christ’s sake. Let’s get on with our primary task—humbly reaching out and ministering to those in need.  Make a friend, be a friend, bring a friend to Christ.