Follow me and I will make you fishers of men! Welcome my brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus to today's celebration of the Holy Mass. It is always a joy to be united with you in this great Feast which we are about to partake in.
During today's First Reading from the Book of Jonah, [Jon. 31-5, 10] we heard how Jonah answered God's calling. Jonah was called by God and told to get up and to go to Nineveh, that great city, where he was to proclaim the message of the Lord.
In obedience to the Lord God, Jonah set out and went to Nineveh. He proclaimed the Divine Word of God, advising the sinful people that unless they repent of their sins, in forty days, their city would be overthrown. Fearing the wrath of God, the people realized that they had sinned against Him. Immediately, they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, from the greatest to the least important, put on sackcloths. A sackcloth is a coarse cloth worn as a symbol of mourning or penitence. It is not something very comfortable to wear. But, it serves its purpose of making a sacrifice for the grace of God to be dispensed upon the sincere heart that applies this method of repentance alongside with a fast.
As we all heard, the people turned away from their evil ways. Consequently, God changed His mind about the calamity that He was about to send to Nineveh. Through Jonah, the faithful servant of the Lord, the people were once more united in the righteous ways of the Lord God.
Reviewing the Second Reading from the First Letters to the Corinthians, [1 Cor. 7:29-31] to some, this Reading may have been rather difficult to understand. Paul told those who have wives to act as if they have none, those who mourn as though they were not mourning, those who rejoice as if they were not rejoicing, those who buy as though they had no possessions, and those who deal with the world, as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world was passing away.
To understand this passage that refers to one's calling to live a spiritual life, it is necessary to review other parts of the First Letter to the Corinthians. It is necessary to ask ourselves, what was Paul talking about? We find that answer in 1 Corinthians 10:11 where Paul told the Corinthians that Christians are already living in the last days, on whom the ends of the ages had come. There are no other coming ages.
Contrary to what some of our separated brothers and sisters believe and preach, there is no coming of a glorious age. There is no coming of a worldly Kingdom of God or a thousand years of peace when Jesus will reign on earth as King in a physical body. The Kingdom of God is a spiritual Kingdom. It is invisible and it is already among us today.
The final age began with the glorious resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Through the Sacrament of Baptism, believers are united into the Risen Lord. [Rom. 6:3-4; Col. 2:12-3] Through one's living faith in the hope of things to come, believers are already in the future. They have passed beyond the desires of fame, pleasures and wealth, having fixed their eyes on Jesus in Heaven. They patiently awaiting the glorious moment when their own bodies will be resurrected in the glory of the Lord Jesus. [Gal. 1:20; Rom. 8:9-11, 23; Eph. 1:19]
When we received the precious gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit during the Sacrament of Baptism, we received our "first instalment" towards the guarantee of the full inheritance that awaits the faithful Christians. [Eph. 1:13-4; 2 Cor. 1:22, 5:5]
When the glorious resurrection of the bodies is fulfilled, there will be no more competition, no more worldly needs, no fame, no desires, no wealth. We will all find the fullness of our happiness in the love of Christ.
Those who are detached from the world, they already have a foot in Heaven. While they are in this world, they are not of this world. The religious who consecrate their lives to the Lord, through their virginity, they join the baptized who are part of the life to come in the resurrection of the saints. Their virginity places them in the future to come.
Those who are married, because of the responsibilities that come with the married life, both spouses being placed in the affairs of the world which is passing away, those responsibilities become an obstacle to their precious spiritual growth and communion with the Lord.
The celibate person, the virgin, they are free of family responsibilities. Through their intended perfect consecration to God in body and spirit, they have the opportunity to immediately taste the life of glory that all Christians anticipates. [1 Cor. 7:32-4]
During today's Reading of the Gospel of Mark, [Mk. 1:14-20] we heard Jesus calling the Apostles to be, Simon, Andrew, James, the son of Zebedee and his brother John. Each and everyone of them left what they were doing to answer the calling of Jesus to a life of self-denial and ongoing sacrifices. By answering their calling, they became faithful servants of the Lord, their names going down in history so we may remember and model after their example, their living faith in Christ.
Jesus said, "Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men." Fishers of men are ambassadors of Christ. They represent Christ. Christians, through their Baptism, they are called to be lights in the world. They are those who are called to go forward and to evangelize to the world as Jonah obeyed, as Paul obeyed, as all the disciples of the Lord Jesus obeyed, some even to death. They are called to evangelize, first to their family members, then their friends, their co-workers, the strangers, all of those with who they come in contact during their lives, all for the glory of God.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, we all have a calling to answer. Some are called to the Sacrament of Holy Orders or or religious life. Some are called to the Sacrament of Marriage. Some are called to live a life of celibacy. Even the teenagers and children have a calling in their youthful days. While the calling of each may vary according to their status in life, the needs to serve the Holy Church are many. Jesus calls some to preach, some to be lectors, Eucharistic ministers, ushers, altar servers, choir members, members of parish committees, members of the Catholic Woman's League or the Knights of Columbus, ministers to the home bound, and the list goes on and on. There is a place for everybody in the Body of Christ.
Each members of the Body of Christ is as a living stone that belongs to a great Temple, the House of God. If we remove some of the stones from the structure, it will begin to fall. Equally, if all the members of the Body of Christ, of the Parish, do not become actively involved in the ministry of the Church, the Parish will suffer. The Church cannot flourish by itself. It needs people! It needs you!
To lead His Church by the grace of the Heavenly Father and the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus chose men and women who are weak human beings. He did not choose angels. Had He done so, we would have angels ministering to us. Having chosen weak human beings, it is to be expected that no one is perfect in their calling. All have to learn as they grow in Christ. Remember Peter, did he not deny knowing Jesus three times when his life was threatened? Where were the disciples of Jesus when He was arrested? They all ran away! But that is the kind of people that Jesus chose in His Divine Wisdom.
Knowing this, there is a necessity for the members of the Church to pray for each other that all may be receptive to the guidance of the Holy Spirit in His ministry to promote the growth of the Church from generation after generation. As your Bishop and priests need prayers so they may be good leaders, so do your brothers and sisters in Christ. Prayer is not a one way thing. Jesus wants us all to be united as one in His Body. We must pray for one another if we sincerely desire to overcome the power of Satan that always seeks to destroy the Church by destroying its members.
As we continue with the celebration of the Holy Mass, preparing ourselves to participate in the great Feast of the Holy Eucharist in the Presence of the Lord Jesus, let each and everyone of us ask the Lord Jesus to bless our Parish with an abundance of active holy members to do His holy work. Let us ask Jesus to strengthen us in our works so that we may shine as true lights in the world, showing patience where it is needed, love where there is hatred, kindness where it is the least expected. And finally, let each and everyone of us pray for those who have fallen to sin, that they may once more rise and take their place as fruitful and obedient servants of the Lord Jesus in the Body of Christ.