Homily for 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2007
It can be very frustrating when the answering machine does not work. You miss calls and people get anxious. Then the computer can die on you right in the middle of some work. But all these vagaries of machinery are not the real problems of life as we know. Whenever priests gather talking about their parishes or the ministers of other churches talking about their congregations they do not usually talk about their computer failures. They all talk about the same things. Our real problems are the same. They are always about how people relate and use their gifts within the Church.
It can be our mistakes that upset things. Or it can be misunderstandings or impatience, stubborness or jealousy or pride by any one of us that cause conflict and divisions. Sometimes it can injure or destroy communities which takes a long time to rebuild.
Over the last couple of Sundays we have read from St Paul's first letter to the Corinthians speaking about the Body of Christ. He described that image in great detail a couple of weeks ago. He talked about the many different parts of a body and how they depend on one another. Then last Sunday he continued speaking about the variety of gifts in the Body of Christ and how they matter little if there is not love.
Now in the reading today he turns to another source of division in the Corinthian church: the resurrection of the dead. Maybe they inherited the differences from their Jewish past in which some believed in a resurrection and some didn't. He reminds them of what he handed on to them and how central it is to their faith in Jesus Christ.
That faith began on the shores of Lake Galilee.
Simon and his companion's nets were empty after fishing all night. Night is the best time for fishing. Why would they imagine that to try again in daylight would be any better? Their response to Jesus suggestion was not out of the blue. They obviously had been listening to Jesus as he sat in their boat and preached to the people on the shore. They recognised a rabbi when they heard one. So they could call Jesus "Master." As a result they were open to hear his request to set out into deep water and put out their nets again. They did and there was an amazing catch of fish.
This becomes a point of a parable for Jesus and he calls them. Their nets were empty but when Jesus sends a disciple on a mission the disciple is guaranteed a full net of fish. Just as Simon was well caught in Jesus' net so he in turn will be a fisher of people. Now Simon is called "Simon Peter". A new name for a new vocation. And Peter can address Jesus as "Lord".
There is no call without a mission. We do not just receive the grace of faith for ourselves. It is immediately directed beyond ourselves to other people. It cannot survive bottled up inside us. It is like the talent that if it is buried helps no one.
Our faith in the crucified and risen Lord is what Paul preached. It is what the Church continues to preach. In our reading from Paul today we have the beginnings of what would eventually become the Apostles Creed: Paul's simple statement that Jesus was crucified and died and was raised. But this is not just a statement to be beleived. Rather, it is about a person to listen to, to follow and be sent. Anythings short of that is an impoverished faith.
There is an emphasis in the Chuch these days on community, liturgy as a work for the whole community, prayer and sharing of faith together, Sacramental Preparation in groups, ecumenism and many other things. This trend finds its origin in the conscious decision taken by the Church over the last few decades to make discipleship and mission the very definition of what the Church is. That we have not always succeeded does not mean it is a wrong direction. It is an insight that has given enormous energy to the Church and continues to do so.
Christ died for us and for all people that we might have life. He did not do it for his own self-agrandisement. We are called to follow and live the same way.