Last Sunday Archbishop Brunett celebrated a “kick-off Mass” for our Capital Campaign. He told a humorous story which bears repeating because it helps bring out a point in today’s Gospel.
There was a man who had a reputation for being the best fisherman on a certain large lake. No one knew how he did it. The others caught maybe one or two fish while he always brought back his limit of large fish. The person who most wanted to find out his secret was the game warden. Without telling him who he was, he got the man to take him with him. Very early in the morning they crossed the lake in the fog. The warden noticed that he no fishing tackle. Well, they finally arrived at a secluded cove and the man opened up a box and pulled out a stick of dynamite. He lit it and threw it in the water. It exploded and a bunch of fish floated to the surface. The warden then told the man who he was and that he was in a lot of trouble. The man started to think, then reached into the box and pulled out another stick of dynamite. He lit it and handed to the warden saying, “Are you going to just sit there or are you going to fish?”
Well, in a sense Jesus asks us this Sunday what we are going to do. Today we hear the opening sentence of his public ministry. His very first word is “repent.” Change your mind. Acquire a new heart. Make a choice.
To follow Jesus involves getting back to the basics – and nothing is more basic than repentance, recognizing that one needs to change. I remember when I was learning Spanish. I had spent several years studying on my own, talking to Hispanics and listening to them. Then I got an opportunity to take a six week course with an individual tutor. He evaluated my Spanish and told me what I needed to do was to concentrate on some basics of pronunciation and grammar. It was a bit humbling and a lot of work, but it paid off.
At times we all need to return to the basics in our studies, our jobs and above all in what matters the most: our relations with others and with God. In that area no one can rest on their laurels. We have to make a fresh start each day; otherwise things will start going downhill.
Jesus tells us to repent, acquire a new heart, make a decision. One of the hardest things for people today is to make a firm decision. We have so many options and people want to keep their options open. That is fine if you are shopping for a new car, but disastrous in ones relationship with God. In that most vital area we have to make a decision. Like the guy in the boat – are you going to sit there or are you going to fish?
Jesus is very upfront with us. He tells the reason we need to repent now: because the kingdom of heaven is at hand. The kingdom is like a treasure buried in the field which a man discovers, then sells everything he has in order to buy the field. A lot of people wish that twenty years ago they would have sold everything to buy shares in Microsoft. People keep looking for a stock which will double or triple in value. Well, the kingdom of heaven is the one sure thing – but you have to invest everything you’ve got.
What is the Kingdom of God? This Sunday I am going to tell you direct. It is the Catholic Church. Quoting the Second Vatican Council, the Catechism states, “The Church 'is the Reign of Christ already present in mystery.'” (#763) As we see in today's Gospel, after he proclaimed the Kingdom, Jesus immediate selected the first apostles. They would become the first bishops. Jesus founded the Church to be his presence in time and space. It has his full presence in the sacraments and her teaching. I realize the Church is composed of human beings with many defects and sins. I know because I am one of them. But Jesus uses that Church as his presence in the world.
St. Paul wrote profoundly about the Church as Christ’s Body. For that reason, as we hear in today’s second reading, he was deeply grieved by her divisions. One faction stood behind Apollos, another Cephas and a third Paul himself. But Paul did not want to form “Paulites” but Christians. He sought to form followers of Christ, no himself. To use a contemporary example, one of the great preachers in our country today is Fr. John Corapi. He will be coming to Holy Family Parish in four weeks. In recent years seven to eight hundred have attended his retreat. Fr. Corapi does not seek personal followers, but to form people who will live the full teaching of Jesus – as we see it in the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.
Jesus says the kingdom of heaven is at hand. It is present in the Eucharist we celebrate at this Mass, in our Adoration Chapel, in the different ways we come to know his teaching: religious education classes, Bible study groups, Sacred Heart Radio, even something as humble as our parish bulletin.
The kingdom of God is not something up in the skies, but down here on earth. As Jesus tells us, “Repent,” acquire a new heart, “for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
From Archives (Third Ordinary Sunday, Year A):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Bulletin (Archbishop's Mass & Surprise Birthday Party, Brother Simon, March for Life)
Pictures from 2005 March for Life