Lectio Divina for 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, January 24, 2021
After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen. Jesus said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Then they abandoned their nets and followed him. He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets. Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him.
“This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand.”
We can wait for some worldly fulfillment of Jesus’ words here, or we can acknowledge that the kingdom of heaven begins in our hearts. The greatest change we can bring about is the change we can make in our own lives. God reveals truths to us as we continue to walk with him, and we start to see the world with the eyes of faith, hope and love. Events that may have caused us to despair in the past become plot points in God’s vast plan. All he needs to truly bring about his kingdom is for us to genuinely follow him and be faithful. If more of us would simply allow the kingdom of God to flourish in our hearts, that kingdom would become more realized in the world we live in. It starts, however, with our own conversion.
“Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
The time of fulfillment and the kingdom of God come about with our own repentance. God cannot work with us if we want to hold onto our past lives. This conversion is ongoing, and we are truly blessed if we come to the end of our lives having remained on this journey, so that Christ could say to us in the end, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Like the pilgrim in Pilgrim’s Progress, we will receive glimpses of the joy God has in store for us along the way, like beautiful vistas of valleys along our path. Remain faithful, ask God for a consistent heart of humble contrition, and make your life a constant testimony of faith in the gospel, and the kingdom of heaven truly will become evident in your life. This testimony will then influence the lives around you and inspire them to begin their own journey, and continue on it if it has already begun. Never tire of living the gospel, for there will always be someone who will benefit, even if that someone is simply you.
“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Why does Jesus use such strange phraseology here? We can explain the use of the word “men” in simple terms, acknowledging that that’s simply how Scripture refers to all people in generic terms. But “fishers of men”? So the disciples are supposed to snatch people out of their natural habitat and have them for supper? The analogy just doesn’t sit right at first, especially when we consider that early Christians were considered by Romans to be cannibals because they ate and drank the body and blood of Christ. In fact, even the ancient ixthus, the image of a fish that symbolizes Christ, seems to carry on this notion. Perhaps we should just avoid Christ’s word choices here, and look for a more clever way to allude to the evangelization to which disciples are called. Or perhaps not. No word is wasted in Scripture. No word is out of place. Christ calls us to himself. He wants us to become one body. He wants to abide in us, and for us to abide in him. He gave us physical bodies to better understand the spiritual reality. The one who eats his Flesh and drinks his Blood becomes what he consumes, becomes Christ. In the Christian life, we are called to die to ourselves and become part of Christ’s body. Jesus caught Simon, Andrew, James, and John and brought them into his body, the Church. Many people do fight being lured in by God’s fishermen, his disciples, just as a fish would fight on a hook and line. Being drawn in by God means letting go of our old life and making our lives about something other than ourselves. It requires being consumed by love. We see throughout nature how something has to die in order to become something greater. Unless a seed falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a seed, Christ says. Christ calls us to complete conversion so he can offer us a much fuller life. This conversion requires repentance, an abandonment of our old selves and acceptance of a new life in Christ. In our culture, we are conditioned to interpret things in tangible and physical terms. Don’t shy away from this ‘fishers of men” analogy, but look at it in spiritual terms, which is the way Christ means for us to see it.
“So they left their father … and followed him”
“Their father” can symbolize many different kinds of attachments to this world, but here let’s explore excessive attachment to family. James and John probably received security from their father; a job, a roof over their head. Christ is not calling them to renounce the whole idea of family when he calls them. Instead, he is starting a new kingdom where his followers put God first, even before family. Even today, we see how putting God first will then bring greater peace, joy, and harmony in our family lives. In fact, putting family before God can easily harm our relationships with both. As Fr. Patrick Peyton, the “Rosary Priest”, said, “The family that prays together stays together.” To have a kingdom that truly puts God first though, Christ knew he needed disciples who were willing to abandon even family relationships in order to pursue that kingdom. Oftentimes, we see young men and women go off to be formed in a seminary, monastery, friary, or convent, and then they come back to visit family as a changed man or woman. They become a blessing to their family, and their family sees that--even if they fought the notion of their son or daughter becoming a priest, monk, brother, or nun--they came to see the wisdom in it. Christ is calling us all to a higher existence, a better life.
Lord, we are your servants and willingly offer everything to you. Draw us in toward you as you drew in your first disciples, so we may become part of your body, the Church. Following you is a daily decision and commitment. Give us the grace to never falter, to never fear making that decision and take that leap of faith every day. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.
No matter how many times we read Scripture, God can always reveal something new to us. It is a vast mystery that we could explore for all of eternity, and always discover new truths within. Listen to what God is saying to you in this Sunday’s Gospel. How is he calling you at this time in your life? What is he telling you to leave behind in order to obtain a closer walk with him? Perhaps he is inviting you to examine where you are in your walk with him. Are you in the desert? Are you on the road to Calvary? Are you on the Road to Emmaus? Wherever you are, God has something new to reveal to you.
David Kilby is a freelance writer from New Jersey and editor of Catholic World Report.
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