Recruiting workers for the Kingdom

Recruiting workers for the Kingdom

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A, (Matt 4:12-23)
January 22, 2017

By Fr. Sal Putzu, SDB

THERE are moments in life when something unexpected happens which makes all the difference. It happens to us. It happens in us. These are events which change the course of our life, often in a radical manner.

Such was the case of the four fishermen: Simon and Andrew, James and John, the borders of whose world coincided with the area of the Lake of Galilee, until the day they met Jesus.

“Come after me!” said he. And immediately they abandoned their boats, their nets, their crew, their relatives . . . and became his followers – the first recruits of a peaceful army tasked to conquer the world.

An unexpected invitation, a prompt response, an immediate departure for an unknown destination. Four hearts were set aflame. Four lives would never be the same again.

Something similar had happened to Abram and Elisha many centuries earlier. (See Gn 12:1-4 and 1 Kgs 19:19-21.) What impelled Simon, Andrew, James, and John to leave everything behind and follow Jesus? There was his promise, of course, that he would make them “fishers of men” (Mk 1:17). An intriguing prospect, whatever those words could mean. But what moved those four fishermen to be so radical in their response was the fascinating personality of the Caller: JESUS. They saw him, they heard him, they made up their minds. Their hearts had been conquered by him.

It was like falling in love, when everybody else in the world seems to vanish from sight or become unattractive, and all that remains and counts is just “the beloved one.”

Ever since the days of Jesus, the world has become like a vast Sea of Galilee, teeming with numberless people busy with so many things. You and I are part of the crowd. Jesus passes by, a man among men, but with a heart trained to love the way God does. He may chance upon you and me and pronounce our names the way no mere man can do. He may even make promises that sound like riddles. When that happens, we should remember the four fishermen from Galilee and how they answered Jesus’ invitation.

This “call” may not necessarily imply an invitation to forsake one’s profession and become a member of a religious congregation or of the diocesan clergy. The essential meaning of Jesus’ invitation is to become his “disciples” – people who ponder on his teaching and become his “followers” by sharing the Master’s fundamental choices, his values and priorities.

This clarification is especially relevant this year as we observe the “Year of the Parish,” the smallest actualization of the “local Church.” This is the year when all Catholic Lay faithful are invited to discover (or deepen their awareness of) their role in the life and mission of both universal and local the Church. The call to active membership and sharing in the mission of the Church is addressed to all, because all the baptized are members of the mystical body of Christ. As such they share in the Head’s role as Priest, Prophet and Servant/King.

The laity are neither “honorary members” of the Church nor a docile mass of followers. Together with, and under the leadership of the bishop in the diocese and the parish priest in the parish, they form the “community of disciples.” They are “shareholders”—people who have and should show a practical interest in the life of the great family of believers to which they belong. They, too, together with the clergy and the religious, ARE the Church.