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  • Writer's pictureRev. Fr. Anuraj R.L.

The swaying Church

The gospel for today is very rich with so many symbols which reveals God's plan for the kingdom of God.

The gospel begins like this: “the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God”. We know the word of God is spirit and life. Wherever it is honestly proclaimed, people will throng. It gives me the conviction that how much more should I have to improve to become another Christ to proclaim His words with His love and zeal.

Now look at the way Jesus choose to teach the crowd. He gets into a boat that is near the shore, and then ask the boat to move a little farther from the shore. What a foolish thing to do! How much easier it is to sit in a boat on a shore and teach than it is to teach on a floating boat! So, there is something more to teach us than Jesus' convenience for teaching. That is to say, Peter's boat, which he was told to put out a little from the land, is a symbol of the Church that is entrusted to Peter and his successors. It is from there Christ teaches. Note it well, he is not telling any stories or giving eloquent sermons, rather he teaches. Ultimately, as human beings, what we must have, is the desire to hear and study the word of God. Study it from the heart of the Church, from the boat of Peter, not from somewhere else. That boat may be swaying in the wind, and the waves may be striking forcefully. But it is there Christ sits and teaches.

Last week we saw Jesus was rejected by his own people. But on the other hand, today we see a community thirsting for hearing His Words. A man more than 30 years of old has not been married and roams around preaching the kingdom of God is not only different but is insane in the Jewish society. But it is important to note that people flock to hear His words even when those who know him very well rejected him.

Jesus' words may seem foolish at first glance. But we need to imitate Peter, a professional fisherman, who has been fishing from time to time, who knows where to cast his net and when to fish simply obeys the instructions of a carpenter.

Look at the conditions. The primetime of fishing is night and during the day cleaning net for the next catch. Peter himself says that they toiled all night but received nothing. So, Jesus is asking to those who are tired and frustrated after a night of failed work. Peter would have despised Jesus' command. Because all conditions are against fishing: they are tired, daytime- not a good time to fish, the heat of the sun, the half-cleaned net and even the noise of the crowd to scare the fish away.

But they believe Jesus' word completely and cast the net. It made them witness the miracle. Here is another thing to note. Although we see only Peter expressing faith, the fact is that his companions also stayed with him. All those who were with Peter could have opposed him by stating all the conditions of fishing. But they did not. If they had opposed him fishing would not have been possible. Because fishing is not something that can be done alone. So, it is undeniable that the consent, obedience and faith of all of them were there with Peter.

Dear friends, this is the Church. It is through faith, obedience, and communion that each mission succeeds, and being able to witness miracles. This is what should really be in our family in our parishes and in our dioceses. It is said of the early Christian community that “the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul” (Acts 4:32). Hence, the greatest miracle is not that of abundant fishing but the faith that Peter and his company expressed by blindly believing in a carpenter, Jesus, and obeyed him. Often, we think that faith comes when we see miracles. But it is just the opposite. Miracles come from faith.

If we look at this incident from another point of view, it was Peter's failed attempt at the night that led him to meet Jesus. So, failure is the door to some unexpected commencement. When it comes to frustrations, difficulties, or unexpected fates in our lives, we can react in two ways. Either go to alcoholism, bad habits or bad associations by blaspheming God, or listen to the words of Christ. The first destroys us and the second changes our lives as happened to Peter.

Moreover, in Peter we see a complete surrender, a sacrifice. Peter despite his exhaustion decided to work again. We believe that those who go to church because they are healthy and capable and pray because they have time to pray or to read the word of God, make a sacrifice, but anyone can do it. If someone finds time to pray and to read Word of God or to go to church even though he doesn't have the time, or even if he isn't healthy, that is a real sacrifice. It is at the end of such a sacrifice that we witness miracle, we experience God. Only then do we realize our unworthiness. Peter's insight, and acclamation Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” came at the end of such a submission.But it is clear from Christ's reply to Peter that the word of God is not the word of slavery that plunges us into live in a sense of sin. Rather, it encourages and empowers us to live a better life.

Today's first reading also makes it clear. Although Isaiah's experience of God made him know his unworthiness, God strengthens him by placing apiece of fire from the altar at his lips. How beautiful, how merciful our God is. If this was just a vision of God for Isaiah, it is a reality that happens to you and me every day. For in every Holy Mass a coal is poured into our lips from the altar, as is done for Isaiah. That coal is the Holy Eucharist, the fire of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It removes our venial sins. It strengthens us. So our God has invited us to such great things.

Then everyone who receives it is also sent as Isaiah. Only then our experience of God will be complete. At the end of the Holy mass priest says in Latin Ite Missa est which literally means to go forth you are sent. Whence to where? From heaven to earth. Yes, no doubt. We are in heaven in the Holy Mass. In the first reading the heavenly vision of Isaiah we see a smoky temple and angels acclaiming Holy, Holy, Holy. Notice what happens in the Mass. After the prayer over the gifts priest begins the preface by saying: lift up your hearts. Then people of God respond, “we lift them up to the Lord”. Those are not some figurative words. Instead, from that moment onwards we enter heaven. As soon as the preface ends by saying: “in company with the choirs of Angels, we praise you, and with joy we proclaim” we begin to sing Holy, Holy, Holy. Usually at that time the boy with the incense comes Infront of the altar.

So dear ones, heaven is not something to be realised. It is already present. It is the kingdom of God spoken of by Christ. But it reaches its fullness only on the last day. That reality of heaven that we experience here in this world in the Church. When priest say go forth, it means to go from this experience of heaven and build our daily lives accordingly, and to share the experience of that kingdom of God with others.

In a sense, it is with today's gospel that the kingdom of God is established and the apostles who are to lead it begin to be trained. This training camp of the apostles ends with another miraculous fishing that took place after the resurrection of Jesus. There we find Jesus sitting with a loaf of bread and charcoal fire (John 21). The fire was put by Christ for nothing but to serve the breakfast. That breakfast is nothing but the holy communion. At the end of it Jesus asks Peter to feed his lambs.

Dear friends, therefore, the One, Holy and catholic Church entrusted to Peter is not one instituted by men but God himself. It was Christ who trained and his vicars. He is the One who put the boat to float on the waters. May His Word give us courage and strength to keep faith in Christ, to bear witness to the kingdom of God. May the fire of Christ's love burn in our hearts.


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