Sunday, February 7, 2010

Prayers today: Come, let us worship the Lord. Let us bow down in the presence of our maker, for he is the Lord our God (Ps.94).

Father, watch over your family and keep us safe in your care, for all our hope is in you. We ask this through Christ our Lord.

St. Colette (1381-1447)

Colette did not seek the limelight, but in doing God’s will she certainly attracted a lot of attention. Colette was born in Corbie, France. At 21 she began to follow the Third Order Rule and became an anchoress, a woman walled into a room whose only opening was a window into a church. After four years of prayer and penance in this cell, she left it. With the approval and encouragement of the pope, she joined the Poor Clares and reintroduced the primitive Rule of St. Clare in the 17 monasteries she established. Her sisters were known for their poverty—they rejected any fixed income—and for their perpetual fast. Colette’s reform movement spread to other countries and is still thriving today. Colette was canonized in 1807.

Colette began her reform during the time of the Great Western Schism (1378-1417) when three men claimed to be pope and thus divided Western Christianity. The 15th century in general was a very difficult one for the Western Church. Abuses long neglected cost the Church dearly in the following century; the prayers of Colette and her followers may have lessened the Church’s troubles in the 16th century. In any case, Colette’s reform indicated the entire Church’s need to follow Christ more closely. In her spiritual testament, Colette told her sisters: "We must faithfully keep what we have promised. If through human weakness we fail, we must always without delay arise again by means of holy penance, and give our attention to leading a good life and to dying a holy death. May the Father of all mercy, the Son by his holy passion, and the Holy Spirit, source of peace, sweetness and love, fill us with their consolation. Amen."

The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke (5:1-11)

One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the people crowding round Him and listening to the word of God, He saw at the water's edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then He sat down and taught the people from the boat. When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, "Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch." Simon answered, "Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets." When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signalled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus' knees and said, "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!" For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon's partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, "Don't be afraid; from now on you will catch men." So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.

Heaven on earth
(Homily be Fr. E. J. Tyler)

As is the case with every scene of the Gospels, Jesus Christ is the object of attention in our Gospel passage today. It is the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The people were all crowding around him to hear the word of God and he got into Simon Peter’s boat and, seated as a Teacher, spoke to the people from there. This image of Christ teaching from the boat of Simon is full of significance. From within this boat Simon observed our Lord at his ministry and the need of the crowds for him. Jesus then directed Simon to take the boat out to deeper water and to let the nets down for a catch. In the line of the prophets, our Lord was about to give a sign. Simon, despite having been fishing all night without success, obeyed the word of Christ and immediately a huge catch was made. It was an obvious and unmistakable act of divine power effortlessly effected by the Man before him. Let us notice, though, the response of Simon Peter — a man of admirable religious instincts. His response is the true and proper response to the power displayed by Jesus Christ. It was not just wonder and awe at great power, but a sin-stricken recognition of holiness. In his famous work on The Idea of the Holy (Das Heilige, 1917), Rudolf Otto describes the experience of the divine (the numinous) as that of a mysterium tremendum et fascinans. The Holy is a terrifying and fascinating mystery. While in Otto’s account the distance of God from sin is an important element, in the response of Simon Peter to Christ’s act of power it is absolutely at the forefront. Simon sees in the Christ’s miracle a revelation of divine holiness. It is as if heaven is open before sinful man and the distance from him is made manifest. Jesus is revealed as utterly other, not merely in the degree of his power but in his distance from sin. His power reveals a holiness that in some way cannot be near to sin. All Simon can do at the sight of the catch is prostrate himself before Christ and ask that he leave him, for he is a sinner.

It must also be said that inasmuch as our Lord would say to his disciples that in seeing him they saw the Father, Christ’s power also shows the holiness of the Father. It is a revelation of heaven, erupting on the scene before Simon Peter. The All-holy Father who is in heaven is brought close to sinful man by the powerful deeds of Christ. Simon, full of a sense of his own sinfulness and moral poverty, can scarcely bear it. In this sense, Christ himself is the mysterium tremendum, all-powerful and ominous before sin. The devils cannot bear him. And yet Simon loves him dearly. In Jesus Christ, heaven is revealed and is at hand. It is close, and not far away. It is winning and irresistibly attractive, because this revelation of power is simultaneously a revelation of mercy for the one who wishes to repent. The power of Christ is holy before sin, and merciful towards the needy and repentant. Blessings and gifts come to man when Christ acts in power — and so it was that Simon’s boat was suddenly full to the brim, with the nets beginning to break up. Christ is man’s dearest Friend, the Friend who wishes man to be his friend, and not just one who is cowering with guilt before him. He is immensely fascinans, attractive to man who by nature longs for the divine. Man longs for heaven. It draws him from the depths of his soul, and here in Jesus Christ is heaven revealed as the object of the heart’s longing. And so the appeal comes from the lips of Christ to Simon who is prostrate before the Holy One. “Do not be afraid; from now on you will catch men.” Simon is called to be the friend of Jesus and his direct associate in the work of heaven: the saving of souls. And what is it to be saved? It is nothing other than to be the friend of Jesus Christ. This is the Kingdom of heaven, now and forever. The God of heaven is majesty, power and holiness — and he hates sin. Most true. But in his acts of power and holiness he is revealed as very near in his love and mercy. He does not expel. He calls to friendship.

When we address our Father who is in heaven, we are addressing the God who transcends all. He is majesty, power, utter holiness and as such is above and beyond the world and its sin. But the joy of the Gospel is that in Jesus Christ, heaven has come down to earth and is with us now. Jesus Christ is God-with-us, Emmanuel, and he dwells with the Father and the Holy Spirit in the hearts of the just. Heaven is our true homeland towards which we are moving in hope while here on earth. At the same time, hidden with Christ in God, we live by love already in this homeland.

A second reflection on today’s Gospel:

"'Master,' Simon replied 'we worked hard all night long and caught nothing, but if you say so, I will pay out the nets.' And when they had done this they netted such a huge number of fish.." (Luke 5:1-11)

By God's power
(Homily by Fr. E. J. Tyler)

Man has throughout his history been very aware of his weakness and need. He gets sick and hungry, his work often lacks success, his life is beset with many uncertainties, disappointments and tragedies. And there is often little he can do about it. So he characteristically looks to God for the power to attain his goals. In today’s Gospel, Simon tells our Lord that he and his companions had caught nothing. It is a picture of the man of history. But at the word of Jesus, Simon cast out the nets once again. This time the result of his action was totally different. Simon was given a display of the power of God. The rest of his life would be lived relying on this divine power for the fulfilment of his life’s work, which was to fish for men.

All too often we forget that it is only by God’s power that we can do anything, and it is to his power that we had best appeal. In giving this sign to Simon who would be the head of his Church, Christ wished to give to him and to all of us who are members of his Church a great lesson: look to the power of God for good results in the work God wants us to do. Look to God, while doing our very best. It will be good work if we allow Christ to act in and through our own hard work. Notice this: our Lord did not himself throw out Simon’s net: Simon did that. So Simon played his part in the action, but its good effect was due to the power of Christ. “Unless the Lord build the house they labour in vain who build it” (Psalm 127:1).

There is a further point. We read in the gospel how our Lord got into Simon’s boat and taught from there. Surely this may be taken as a symbol of the presence of Christ in the barque of Peter, and that barque is the Church founded by Christ on Peter. You are Peter, he would say to Simon, on this rock I will built my Church. Peter is the representative of the invisible Shepherd who is Christ. In shaping our whole life according to the Church’s teachings coming to us in the teachings of the Pope and bishops united to him, we are being guided by Christ who teaches, seated unseen, in the barque of Simon. It is there that we have constant access to the power and the grace of God which will help us make the catch in life God means us to make. The power of God that we need for our life’s work for Christ is available in the Church of which Peter is head. Let us always listen to the Pope, the successor of Peter, who speaks on Christ’s behalf. He has been granted the power to bind and loose, and he holds in his hand the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.

A third reflection on the Gospel

"But Jesus said to Simon, 'Do not be afraid; from now on it is men you will catch.' Then bringing their boats back to land, they left everything and followed him." (Luke 5:1-11)

One’s calling
(Homily by Fr. E. J. Tyler)

Every human being feels or should feel the call to do good and to be good, arising from his natural conscience. This call of the conscience is naturally interpreted as a call to do what God wants, because God is instinctively sensed as speaking in the voice of conscience. The Christian will understand this as the call and voice of Christ. Now, Christ’s call is radical and is addressed to all who wish to come after him: ‘Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.’ This general call is to be lived out in different ways by different members of His Church. We should all be listening for that same call in our hearts. We know how to listen in to a television set, but do we know how to tune in to God’s call? Are there any guidelines to keep us from following something unreal? Yes, there are. Firstly, there are examples of genuine calls from God by those who have had them, such as those in Scripture, like the prophet Isaiah and especially the example of Simon Peter in today’s Gospel. There are also the calls received by the saints in the Church’s history. A familiarity with the calls of God to those who have responded to them will help us recognize and respond to our own calls from God.

Then there are principles to guide us in hearing our own call and making a right decision. One can sense a call to the priesthood or the religious life, or to marriage, or to the single life as being an opportunity to serve God and man in a special way. Whatever be the call we receive from God, when we find our call or find ourselves in the service of God in a particular vocation, we have arrived at our life’s journey. Simon Peter, in hearing the call of Christ to follow him and be a fisher of men, and then in accepting it, had arrived at his life’s journey. There are different ways this call is heard. It can draw a person like a magnet, as when Jesus said to Matthew, “Follow me.” Matthew got right up, left all, and followed Jesus. Another way is when a person is torn by different attractions, requiring that the issue be settled by prayer and a good life. Again, another is when a person sits down calmly and prayerfully and reasons out the meaning of his life, what he should do with it, what he thinks would please God, and then makes a decision which is in accord with his best lights. When he comes to what he thinks is the right decision, he offers it to God, and if he finds a lasting sweetness and peace of heart in this decision, he has reason to hope that it pleases God and that he has “come home”, as it were. If not, he keeps searching. He may ask himself, What would our Lady do if she were in my shoes? When I am lying on my deathbed, about to go home to God, what will I wish I had decided at this moment?

Each of us, then, has this question to answer: To what am I called? If we are already in a permanent state of life, whether of marriage or the religious life or the priesthood, the answer is that we are to offer to God our total service within that vocation we have. Holiness is found in being faithful to the duties of the state of life we have chosen, since that is what pleases God. Christ and the church need the vocations of all: priests and religious and the enormous potential of the laity, involving the whole people of God in the work of God. Christ’s lay faithful bear witness to the Gospel through their life of service in the spirit and manner of Christ. In their everyday life at home and at work, wherever, by means of their Christ-like service they are called to make the world more what God wants it to be. So then, what have I done for Christ? What am I doing for Christ? What shall I do for Christ? Can I do anything to see that people have jobs and housing, or to stop the spread of abortion, or to bring people together in friendship in my home, workplace or parish, or to influence the political process for family-oriented legislation? What can I do to teach Christian doctrine, or to improve my parish spiritually by building up this or that element in its life and making it a Eucharistic community in which Christ reigns?

Let us ponder the call of Simon Peter and appreciate that this call is addressed by Christ to each one of us. What, then, have I done for Christ to this point? What am I doing for him now? What shall I do for him in the future?

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