3 Sunday A - Be a Light for Those in Darkness

From The Connections:
‘My Monastery Is a Minivan’

When asked our religion, most of us would describe ourselves as “Catholic” or “Christian.”  But we would tend to back away from daring to call ourselves “disciple” or “follower.”  That description rightly belongs to the great heroes of our faith: the apostles and holy men and women of the Gospel, the saints and martyrs, the Francises of Assisi, the Mother Teresas, the Thomas Mertons, the Dorothy Days, the Albert Schweitzers.  Our lives are too ordinary, our professions too worldly to dare imagine that we are doing the work of the Gospel Jesus.
But Denise Roy has found that in her life as a wife and mother she has been doing exactly what Jesus did.  She writes in her book My Monastery Is a Minivan: Where the Daily is Divine and the Routine Becomes Prayer: 

“For two decades, I have broken bread, poured grape juice, preached, prayed, told stories, bestowed blessings, taken care of the sick, heard confessions.  I have been a parent.  These have been the sacraments of my daily life and, I suspect, of yours.  These are simple, sacred acts.  These are how we mediate love, as we minister to our own little congregations -- children, spouse, family, and friends.”
At one time in her life, Mrs. Roy, who is also a psychotherapist and spiritual director, wanted to be a contemplative nun, but she has found her family’s minivan to be her “monastery” where she prays and meditates and transports angels from one location to another.
“If we pay attention, any moment or any place or any person might be a bearer of wisdom,” she observes.  “Nothing is off-limits as a potential source of wisdom, as the dwelling place for divinity.”
Jesus’ invitation in the Gospel to fishermen, tax collectors, farmers, laborers and peasants to be his followers is extended to us, as well.  Jesus’ call to discipleship transcends that moment on the shores of the Sea of Galilee; he calls to us here and now, in our own time and place.  Our baptisms were our acceptances of that invitation to take on the work of discipleship in the homes and classrooms and workplaces and “minivans” where we live our lives.  Christ invites us to follow him and to take on his work, the same work Peter and his brother and fellow fishermen leave their nets to take on: to bring others to God through the Gospel of peace, reconciliation and love.
Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
St. Agnes and the Victory of Christ’s Peace
I want to begin by telling you about a little girl, most likely 12, possibly 13 years old,  who took on a mighty empire and won.  The little girl was named Agnes.  At least that is the name she is remembered by.  Agnes means lamb.  She was like a little lamb. Agnes was a child of a noble family in ancient Rome, and lived around the year 300 AD.  She was a Christian in the  last decades of Rome’s persecution of the Christians. At that time, more and more members of the empire were becoming Christian including the noble families and even members of the royal household.  The Emperor Diocletian decided to put an end to these Christians once and for all with one of the worst of all the persecutions of Christianity.  Anyone caught being a Christian would lose all their possessions and be given the option of renouncing Christ or being put to death.

Although a little girl, Agnes was not about to give up Jesus Christ. To complicate matters further, Agnes had caught the eye of the son of the Prefect Sempronius. The prefect agreed that when Agnes grew up she would make a fine wife for his son.  So he called Agnes to his court and offered her gifts if she would give up Christ and marry his son.  Agnes refused saying that she was a Christian and would not marry a pagan.  For this, she was condemned to death, but Roman law  said that a virgin could not be killed.  Sempronius thought he  could solve this dilemma by forcing Agnes to work in a place of sin.  She was taken there in a public display of Roman terror and pagan lust.  But somehow, through God, Agnes was protected from the brutes who attempted to attack her.  She continued to refuse to give up Jesus Christ; so the Romans ignored their own laws and killed her.

Agnes is a witness and a martyr to Jesus Christ both by sacrificing her life for the Lord and by defending her own virginity.  Her death sickened many throughout Rome and ended up being one of the final blows to the pagan empire.  Others would die after her, but within 20 years of her death, Christianity would first be allowed in the empire, and then become the religion of the empire.  Agnes won.  Diocletian lost.  The twelve year old won.  The burly soldiers lost.  Jesus won.  The devil lost.  St. Agnes is so loved in Rome that there are two major Churches dedicated to her–St. Agnes Outside the Walls over the catacombs where she was buried and St. Agnes in Agony located on the Piazza Navona at the place where she died.  Most visitors to Rome have seen this Church located right across from Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers.  Last Tuesday the universal Church celebrated the Feast of St. Agnes.  Her name is also mentioned in the First Eucharistic Prayer.  Not bad notoriety for a twelve year old who lived seventeen hundred years ago.
The story of Agnes’ brief life on earth but continual life in heaven reminds us that God delivers us from the forces of sin. The forces of darkness tried to destroy Agnes.  She must have been terrified at the ways that evil plotted to attack her.  But she trusted in God and  God sent her joy.  He sent her His Son. In the first reading from the prophet Isaiah we heard that the lands of Zebulun and Naphtali had suffered the results of their sins.  But God made it all right. He brought light to their darkness.  He gave them joy and rejoicing.  He sent them, He sent us, His Son.

Our hope, our joy, and our peace are all in Jesus Christ.  Our rest is in the Lord.  Other people might attempt to attack our peace.  We might be threatened with exclusion from the community if we don’t join its immorality, as every middle school, high school and college student, and every adult Christian is threatened.  But our peace is grounded in the Lord, not in being part of the crowd.  We ask ourselves, “Is it really important what they say about me, think about me?  No, if I have to choose, I’d rather choose to live with the Lord than have the approval of those whose actions are in fact rejecting Him, even if they claim to be Christians themselves.” We might be challenged with difficult situations in our family as those we love reject us for taking our faith so seriously. Our homes should be places of peace, but sometimes others in our family are in turmoil and spread this turmoil throughout the house.  We can calm the chaos by increasing our prayer life, by intensifying our adherence to the Lord and thus strengthening His Presence in our homes.  We might suffer the challenges of bad health.  We all know that every one of us will die, but in reality it boggles our minds when we realize that our loved ones or we ourselves will die.  Yet, I have had the blessing of witnessing so many people die in peace, united to Christ, simply taking a step from this world to the next. There are many ways that our peace is threatened, but nothing can remove this peace from our lives  No one can take Jesus from us.  In fact for us determined, committed Christians, the more difficult the challenge in life, the stronger our faith can become.  We trust in our Lord to be with us forever.
Anguish has taken wing.  The darkness is dispelled.  And the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.  And Jesus preaches to us, and teaches us and tells us the reason for our joy, “The Kingdom of God is at hand.”

Jesus preachingAnd Peter and Andrew and James and John are called to proclaim the Gospel to us, the Good News of Jesus Christ.  And we are called to proclaim to Good News to those who are still in darkness.  We tell them that no matter what the world throws at us, life is beautiful when it is Christ’s life.  Like little Agnes, we can conquer all that attacks us, we can remain in peace despite what is happening around us or within us.  Like St. Agnes we can, we must give witness to Jesus Christ.  And like little Agnes, we will live in His Peace.
Michel de Verteuil
General notes
This Sunday we begin the series of readings for the liturgical time called in our tradition  “Ordinary Time”. Ordinary Time actually began last week, but the church spends an extra Sunday celebrating the spirit of Christmas.
Today’s passage then belongs to the beginnings of Jesus’ ministry. It is a very significant time. John has been arrested and Jesus decides he must make his move. He is self-confident, determined; he knows what he is about – a role model for us all in our different vocations and also for the church in the world today.

Textual comments
– Verse 12: St Matthew makes a clear link  between John the Baptist’s arrest and Jesus’ decision to begin his ministry. The end of one time of hope becomes the beginning of a new and more glorious time.
– Verses 12 to 16: Jesus was entering into a prophetic tradition. He was different – indeed, he was unique – but not totally new. We too, as individuals and as a community, are  both unique and rooted in a tradition.
St Matthew also stresses the significance of Jesus’s choice to start in Galilee. Galilee was situated at the extremes of the Holy Land; it was therefore a symbol of Jesus’s vocation to bring God “to the ends of the earth.”
– Verse 17 is the formula used in all the synoptic gospels to summarise the content of Jesus’ teaching. It comprises three statements, and it is best to start with the third.
– “It is close at hand”. Je sus is aware that this is a moment of ggrace. When we enter into God’s work we always have the sense that we are “called”, part of a movement that is greater than us, and that we are merely God’s instruments. As we saw recently, Joh the Baptist experienced a similar awe when he began to preach.
– “The kingdom of heaven” is St Matthew’s version of the more common “kingdom of God”, reminding us that the Jews were reluctant to use the name of God. This biblical expression means God’s plan for the world – “the world as it would be if God were in charge.” The Old Testament spelled out God’s plan in detail, for example in the Genesis description of creation before the fall; in Isaiah 11:6-9 and 65:19-25; in Amos 9:11-15. God’s kingdom has two characteristics: harmony and abundance.
– “Repent”. Jesus knows he is calling for a revolution in thinking. The sure sign that we understand God’s kingdom is that we are – and encourage others to be –  dissatisfied with the status quo.
We celebrate people who “begin their preaching with this message.” Nowadays many of them are not members of our church and do not even share our Christian faith, but they challenge us, both as individuals and as a church.
Scripture prayer
human rights“Without a revolution of the spirit, the forces which produced the iniquities of the old order will continue to be operative, posing a constant threat to the process of reform and regeneration.”  Aung San Sun Kyi, Myanmar, leader
Lord, we remember with gratitude the great liberation movements
which have been your blessing for our time:
– the declaration of human rights,
– the affirmation of women’s dignity and right to equal treatment,
– the struggle for independence in former colonies,
– sharing of gifts between different churches, religions and faiths,
– the breakdown of all forms of racial discrimination,
– the recognition of the rights of children.
All these movements arose at a time when their leaders were imprisoned
in one way or another, but new life emerged in unexpected places.
It was like when John the Baptist was arrested and Jesus returned to Galilee
and began preaching that a new era of grace was at hand.
Lord, we remember turning points in our lives
– we started working with the poor;
– we joined a religious community;
turning point– we entered public life.
A path we had followed previously was leading nowhere,
and we knew we had to move to a new place,
not to Nazareth, the place where we were comfortable,
but to a border country,
so that people who lived in darkness would see a great light,
and on those who dwelt in the land and shadow of death
light would dawn.
“Inter-religious dialogue has taken on new and immediate urgency in the present historical circumstances.”     Pope John Paul II
Lord, we thank you that the church today has decided, like Jesus,
to go and settle in the border country,
between races and religions, on the far side of the Jordan,
where the nations meet.
Lord, we pray today for those who are feeling lost
– rejected by family and friends,
– overwhelmed by remorse,
– having failed an important examination.
We pray that some Jesus may go and sit with them,
so that the prophecy of Isaiah may be fulfilled,
and they who now live in darkness will see a great light,
and on them who dwell in the land and shadow of death a light will dawn.
“By sharing in the cross of the Salvadoreans, the church becomes Salvadorean and credible.”    Jon Sobrino
Lord, we thank you that, in many countries,
the church, like Jesus, has left centre-stage and gone back to the margins,
settling where people live in darkness and in the shadow of death.
“I have to teach my people that together we can build the people’s church, a true church.
Not just a hierarchy or a building, but a real change inside people.”   
Lord, we thank you that Jesus is still preaching his message
that your kingdom is within our grasp
and we must change our values.
Thomas O’Loughlin
Introduction to the Celebration
pople of GodGathering around the Lord’s table each week we celebrate the fact that we are the People of God, his chosen ones, those whom he has called to be his hands and voice within the creation. To help us live this life we listen each week to the Word of God giving us a glimpse of the world God intends for us, and challenging us to live up to our calling, and each week we are strengthened with the food of life to enable us to be disciples. Today we hear the story of the beginning of Jesus’s ministry: he came proclaiming the good news; he came healing the sick; he came and called people by name to be his followers. If we wanted to think of the life of Jesus in a sound-bite, it would be these tasks: proclaiming, healing, calling.
Now, let us reflect in silence on who we are, why we have gathered, and ask pardon for our failures as children of God.
Homily notes
1. The gospel passage presents us with picture of Jesus continu­ously engaged in three activities: Proclaiming, Healing, Gathering. We can look at it as a snapshot of the work of Jesus, and of his identity as the Messiah (‘the anointed one’ / ‘the Christ).
Jesus empowers us2. Jesus is the one who announces the gospel in the town of Capernaum, in the countryside, in the synagogues, all through Galilee. His call is for people to change, change ways of living with one another, change the way we think about the world, others, self. And know that God is close to us, lov­ing and caring: ‘The kingdom is at hand.’
3. The corning of Jesus brings forgiveness, healing, renewal, and wholeness. He calls on us to change lives and minds, and he brings us God’s pardon. He invites us to a new life and he empowers us to set out to live that new life. The God who is close is the God who is gentle and forgiving.
4.  He gathers around him, calling each person by name, a peo­ple. We are no longer isolated individuals but part of his new people. We change, start over, and seek to follow him as part of the community who has heard his call and received for­giveness through him.
5.  We often forget how these gospel pictures can show us the essential dynamics of being a Christian in clear, strong images – and such is the case today – so let the images speak clearly and do not cloud them with many words.
John Litteton
Gospel Reflection
Jesus darkness to lightJesus devoted his public ministry to preaching about the nearness of the kingdom of heaven and to inviting people to become his disciples. His lifestyle was guided completely by God’s will and he challenged his listeners to accept God’s will in their lives by rejecting sin and being faithful to his teaching.
As we reflect on Jesus’ preaching, his most important message is repentance for our sins. In other words, Jesus challenges us to turn away from the darkness of sin so that we can live in the light of God’s loving presence. Sin alienates us from the kingdom of heaven. Repentance demands humility and a fundamental change of heart. Otherwise we cannot truly be Jesus’ disciples.
Central to repentance is genuine sorrow for our sins. Authentic sorrow is an outward manifestation of the inner journey of conversion. Unfortunately, however, we use the word ‘sorry’ so often and so carelessly that our sincerity is questionable. What, then, does it really mean to say ‘I am sorry’?
To be sorry means to be sorrowful or saddened. Saying that we are sorry for having caused offence and hurt acknowledges that we are saddened because of the wrong that we have done and the hurt that we have caused.
Significantly, we are saddened not only because we have offended God or hurt another person but also because we have diminished our own dignity as people made in the image and likeness of God.
Walking with JesusIf we have no sense of the harm that we have caused when we say that we are sorry, or if we have no intention of changing our behaviour in the future, then our sorrow is insincere because it is incomplete. We cannot claim to be motivated and guided by God’s will if we are not repentant disciples.
When we celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation sincerely, by confessing our sins and being sorry for them, we demonstrate that we are humble and repentant. We express sorrow for Our sins, knowing that God forgives us as we are absolved from Our sins. God also gives us the grace and strength to resist temptation and avoid sin. Then our sorrow turns into joy.
Are there any occasions when we are saddened by what we have said or done to another person? Is it easy for us to say ‘Sorry’, or is it difficult for us to do? Valuing and appreciating forgiveness requires sorrow. We have the opportunity of celebrating God’s forgiveness sacramentally by going to confession and acknowledging our sorrow.
Repentance is central to our lives as Jesus’ disciples. Therefore, let our prayer be: Lord God, teach us to be repentant. Encourage us to change our minds and to soften our hardened hearts whenever we offend you and hurt other people. May we realise that, in doing so, we also diminish our own dignity. Help us always, through repentance, to return to your love by changing the direction of our lives and being faithful to your Son’s teaching.
For meditation
Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand. (Mt 4:17)
Donal Neary SJ:  Love and call
We notice a big change of Life for the disciples – they leave the past to follow the Lord, leaving behind their old jobs and roles but also what might block them from living fully. To follow the Lord joyfully we need to believe in ourselves as valued in the sight of God. We pick up messages about ourselves from significant people and we have to let them go. A child whose parents separate often feels unloved and needs the care and love that shows they are okay, Many addicted people have, deep down, a sense of not being loved. Every child coming into the world deserves to know that he or she is loved. We believe that the first gift of our faith is the love of God, the humble God who became one of us in love. In religion we need to touch into the love and the call of God, by gradually letting go of the things in the world that prevent from knowing God’s love. The first of the apostles had something new. Each of us, week by week can get this new thing, the love of God. Everything else flows from that. To know the love of God is a huge gift, and to know the love and acceptance of another or a few others in life is also a huge gift. Both are one, in every love and friendship we have.
From the Connections:

Galilee is the centerpiece of today’s readings.
In Jesus’ time, Galilee was the most populated and productive region of Palestine.  The great roads of the world passed through Galilee, making it a strategic target for invasion.  White-sailed ships crept up the Mediterranean coast from Alexandria and caravans traveled through the region from Mesopotamia and Egypt.
Galilee, unlike the rest of Palestine, had an international perspective, in touch with many non-Jewish ideas and influences.  Josephus, the Roman historian, wrote of the people of Galilee:  “They were fond of innovation and, by nature, disposed to change and delighted in sedition . . . The Galileans were never destitute of courage . . . They were ever more anxious for honor than for gain.”
In a few lines, Matthew sketches a new beginning in human history: the arrest of John and the end of the First Testament; the beginning of a New Testament in the teaching and healing ministry of Jesus in Galilee and the call of the first disciples from their fishing nets along the Sea of Galilee.  Jesus’ beginning his public ministry in Galilee is, for Matthew, the fulfillment of an ancient oracle concerning the Messiah: that, through the darkness of Galilee’s Assyrian captivity, the “great light” of their deliverance will appear (Reading 1).

Like Peter, James and John, we are asked by Jesus to take on the work of discipleship; we are asked to leave our “fishing nets” – our own needs and wants – to follow the example of love and servanthood given to us by Jesus; we are asked to rebuild our lives, homes and cities in the justice and peace that Jesus proclaims.
Jesus calls his disciples of every time and place to be “fishers” of men and women, to use whatever “nets” we possess, in whatever oceans and seas we find ourselves, to catch the falling, rescue the endangered, gather in the lost and forgotten.  
Christ is the light that illuminates our minds and souls with a new vision of the human condition: in the light of Christ, we are able to recognize one another as brothers and sisters, children of the same God; in the light of Christ, we realize our own need for healing and forgiveness and are then able to bring such transformation into our lives and the lives of others.

Staying power
A minister was called to the hospital.  Caroline, a beautiful baby girl the minister had recently baptized, had been diagnosed with a malignant tumor intertwined with her spinal cord at the base of her brain.  Caroline’s young parents were stunned with hurt and grief.  The minister stayed with the couple throughout the night.  But he did not know what to say.  Say something! he kept telling himself.  A prayer, a verse from Scripture, anything!  But all he could do was cry with the couple. 
After some time, a pediatric oncologist came in and outlined a plan to treat the child.  The minister was relieved, of course — but he realized that he had nothing to give this family that mattered.  Feeling useless, he decided then and there to leave the ministry and do something more important with his life.
Later that night, her parents asked the minister for a favor.  “We’re exhausted.  Caroline won’t stop crying.  Could you hold her for a little while so we can step out and take a break?” 
The minister took Caroline in his arms and rocked her.  She cried, and the minister cried, and then having expended all her energy, she drifted off to sleep.  The minister kept rocking little Caroline until her parents returned, relieved to see their child at peace.  They placed Caroline gently in her crib, and the minister said his goodbyes.
As he stepped into the cold night air, he realized that he would not leave the ministry after all, that all his preparing for ordination and ministry was for this very night: to rock a very sick child to sleep, to offer her and her family whatever little hope he had, to simply love this family in God’s name.
[From “Staying power” by James Howell, The Christian Century, October 30, 2007.  Copyright 2007 by The Christian Century.  Reprinted with permission.  Subscriptions:  $49 per year from The Christian Century, Post Office Box 1941, Marion OH 43306, 800/208-4097.]
Christ calls each one of us to be “fishers of men” using whatever nets we possess, in whatever oceans and seas we find ourselves.  In our own poverty, Christ calls us to “fish” for those who are in need; in our own pain, Christ calls us to “fish” for those who suffer; in our own despair, Christ calls us to “fish” for those who have lost all hope.  The minister discovers one night that his own small net of faith and hope, despite his own doubts about his ability to haul in anything that matters, “catches” a hurting family in the love of God.  May we find within ourselves and within our means our own “nets” to bring the grace and peace of God to those in our boats.  

From Fr. Jude Botelho:

This passage from Isaiah was written to give hope to the Israelites in spite of the depressing situation that confronted them. The people were in bondage and Isaiah speaks of their release from bondage and the troubles that don’t seem to end. The surrounding kingdoms oppressed them but Isaiah assures them that deliverance is at hand.  They can rest assured of God’s help: the darkness in their lives will give way to light; pain to joy; and yokes and rods of slavery will be done away with.

Lead Kindly Light
A young man who later became a Cardinal was returning by sea from Italy to his native England. While the boat was detained in Sicily, young Newman fell ill and nearly died. During his convalescence, he wrote these words: “Lead kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom,” because he believed that the prophecy of Isaiah had come true: “The people who walked in the darkness have seen a great light.” We too have our hours of darkness. The death of a lifelong spouse, an unexpected rejection by a loved one, a smashed dream of business success or the loss of good health can throw us into temporary darkness. But in these tragic moments true believers have in the past seen the light of Christ, a light that illumines the shadows of our hearts with the radiance of his splendour, guiding us to travel safely over the tempestuous sea of life.
Vima Dasan in ‘His Word Lives’

In today’s gospel Matthew begins the mission of Jesus Christ to show that Jesus took over the preaching of John the Baptist after he had been arrested and preached the call to repentance, because the Kingdom of God was close at hand.  Jesus showed by his preaching and by his deeds that he brought healing, pardon and freedom to those who were in bondage. The call to repentance is not so much about doing penance but turning towards God, so that we might see His goodness and experience his mercy. Normally light is something that we welcome, but sometimes we are afraid of what the light might reveal. The latter part of today’s gospel speaks of Jesus calling disciples to follow him. He saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets and he said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” Later he saw another pair of brothers, James and John sons of Zebedee who were in their boat and he called them and leaving their boat they followed him. Jesus has not stopped calling people. Jesus went about preaching and healing people and we are called to do the same. We will accomplish this mission in the measure that we let the light of Christ shine brightly in our lives.

The Light in the Darkness
A woman invited a priest to bless her house. As he performed the blessing, she escorted him around the house. He noticed that everything was immaculate, banisters polished, beds neatly made, not a thing out of place, not a cobweb or speck of dust in sight. He sprinkled every room with holy water, and they prayed as they went along. Even the two fat cats asleep on the sofa were not spared. He splashed them with water, and one of them jumped up. So the blessing disturbed something in this neat and orderly house. They blessed the living room, the ‘den’, the kitchen, the laundry room, the bath room, the bedrooms. As it happened they finished up at the top of the stairs that led down into the basement. Seeing the priest hesitate there the woman said, “Oh you wouldn’t want to go down there.” So they left it at that. But afterwards he wondered why she had refused to take him to that part of the house that most needed a blessing. Was it that she didn’t want to embarrass him by taking him down there? Or was it that she didn’t want to embarrass herself by letting him see all the junk piled down there? -How typical this is. The parts of ourselves and of our society which most need to be redeemed are the parts we tend to hide. For this reason, we don’t want the light to shine into the dark areas of our lives and of our society. Instead we try to cover them up and hide them away. Yet the dark areas are the ones that have most need of the light.
Flor McCarthy in New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies

“The Light she lit is still burning!”
Mother Teresa gives us a beautiful example of a man who was brought out of darkness into the light. One day in Melbourne, Australia, she visited a poor man whom nobody knew existed. The room in which he was living was in a terrible state of untidiness and neglect. There was no light in the room. The man hardly ever opened the blinds He hadn’t had a friend in the world. She started to clean and tidy the room. At first he protested, saying, “Leave it alone. It’s all right as it is.” But she went ahead anyway. Under a pile of rubbish, she found a beautiful oil lamp but it was covered with dirt. She cleaned and polished it. Then she asked him, “How come you never light the lamp?” “Why should I light it?” he replied. “No one ever comes to see me. I never see anybody.” “Will you promise to light it if one of my sisters comes to see you?” “Yes,” he replied. “If I hear a human voice I’ll light the lamp.” Two of Mother Teresa’s nuns began to visit him on a regular basis. Things gradually improved for him. Then one day he said to the nuns, “Sisters, I’ll be able to manage on my own from now on. But do me a favour. Tell that first sister, who came to see me, that the light she lit in my life is still burning.”
Flor McCarthy in New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies

The Arrival of the Light
Some Alpine valleys are so deep that the rays of the sun do not reach them at all for days or even weeks in the middle of winter. A priest who ministered in one of these valleys tells the following story. One day in the depths of winter he was in the classroom of the local school chatting with the children, who hadn’t seen the sun for nine days. Then all of a sudden a ray of sunshine shone into the classroom. On seeing it the children climbed and cheered and shouted for sheer joy. It showed that even though the sun may not touch the skin it can still warm the soul. This little incident shows how light is the source of great joy. For sick people the night is usually the hardest time of all. Matthew compares the arrival of Jesus on the scene to the coming of a great light to the people who had been living in deep darkness. Jesus described his mission in simple terms when he said: “I am the light of the world!” We still walk in the bright light Jesus brought into the world. By living in it, we become a source of light to others, a lamp for our steps and a light for their paths.
Flor McCarthy in ‘New Sunday & Holy Day Liturgies’

The Heart of the Enlightened
The devotee knelt to be initiated into discipleship. The guru whispered the sacred mantra into his ear, warning him not to reveal it to anyone. “What will happen if I do?” asked the devotee. Said the guru, “Anyone you reveal the mantra to will be liberated from the bondage of ignorance and suffering, but you yourself will be excluded from discipleship and suffer damnation.”  No sooner had he heard those words, the devotee rushed to the market place, collected a large crowd around him, and whispered the sacred mantra for all to hear.  The disciples later reported this to the guru and demanded that the man be expelled from the monastery for his disobedience. The guru smiled and said, “He has no need of anything I can teach. His action has shown him to be a guru in his own right.”
Anthony De mellow in ‘The Heart of the Enlightened’

In one of the finest films ever made, The Old Man and the Sea, Spencer Tracy plays the lead role of an aging fisherman. Based on Ernest Hemingway’s novel the movie depicts man’s struggle against insurmountable odds. As the Old Man, Spencer Tracy battles for hours to catch a great fish, only to have it attacked by sharks as he tows it towards shore. He says: “Man is not made for defeat. Man can be destroyed, but not defeated.” Today’s gospel begins with the story of some other fishermen. The fishermen are Simon Peter and his brother Andrew, and two other brothers, James and John. Walking along the shore, Jesus calls them to leave their fishing nets. They immediately abandon their nets and follow him. Why should Jesus choose fishermen as his disciples? It certainly wasn’t for their educational background or their training in Scripture. No, the disciples were probably chosen because they were like the Old Man in Hemingway’s story. Not pious, but good men deep down. Not easily discouraged, but patient and persevering. Not self-indulgent, but hard working.  And like the Old Man, they would come to know that through their experience with Jesus, that “man can be destroyed, but not defeated.” Although we may not be fishermen like the first disciples. We too are called by Jesus to live for him, not just earn a livelihood. We are invited to leave behind our old securities and launch out with him onto a larger sea in life. To be fishers of men and women is more than a metaphor. It is a mission from, through and in Christ.
Albert Cylwicki in ‘His Word Resounds’
I am a collector of lists. I want to share with you this morning my favorite list of all time. It's a list of answers given by English school children on their religion exams.
Noah's wife was called Joan of the Ark.
A myth is a female moth.
Sometimes it is difficult to hear in church because the agnostics are so terrible.
The Pope lives in a vacuum.
The Fifth Commandment is "Humor your father and mother."

This is my favorite of all: 

Lot's wife was a pillar of salt by day and a ball of fire by night.

The point is: right answers are important, but have you thought about this - so are right questions! So the right question I want to raise with you today is this: How long has it been since you had a powerful moment that changed your life forever?

The New Testament was written originally in common Greek and the Greeks had several different words for our one word love.

Agape = unconditional love
 Eros = erotic... bargaining love (I'll do this for you if you do that for me, which, if you think about it, is not really love at all)
Phileo = philanthropic, brotherly, sisterly, or humanitarian love
Storge = family love.

New Testament Greek also had two words for time - chronos and kairos. Chronos, which give us our word chronology, is tick-tock time. Each second is exactly like the one that preceded and the one that follows it. It is boring time, humdrum time, drudgery time, meaningless time, empty time. Let me paint the picture of chronos time.

Imagine a convict in a prison cell; a lawyer with insomnia, who hears the unrelenting incessant ticking of a clock; an office worker who hates his job and can't wait for 5:00 to come so he can get out of there; a college student in a 3-hour biology lab (right after lunch) all experience chronos time. Chronos time is empty time; it is a void that must be filled. It is time we must "put in" or endure. It's what we are talking about when, of all things, we talk about "killing" time. So, chronos equals tick-tock time, humdrum time, boring time, and routine time. 

Thank God, there is another kind of time. It is called kairos.  Kairos time is full time, vital time, crucial time, decisive time, God’s time.  Kairos moments are those powerful, extra-special moments that are packed with meaning.  While chronos is tick-tock time, kairos is when time stands still. How long has it been since you a moment so powerful that time stood still?

Kairos is when God breaks into the routine and speaks loud and clear and you are touched so powerfully deep in your soul that you can never be the same again.  A cartoonist depicts an idea with a light bulb flashing.  It is a Voila! moment, an “ah ha” experience.  Theologians call it the moment of revelation.

 Kairos is a key word in the New Testament.  When Jesus started his ministry he came into Galilee preaching and saying, “The time is fulfilled.  The Kingdom is at hand.  Repent and believe in the gospel.  And the word for time there in Mark was not chronos, it was kairos.  This was crucial time, decisive time, God’s time.

Jesus’ life was packed with kairos moments: 

Zacchaeus as he saw him in that sycamore tree.  They connected and that was a kairos moment. Blind Bartimaeus nobody else was paying attention to him but Jesus heard
his cries, connected with him, and it was a kairos moment.

The hemorrhaging woman came up behind Jesus, touched his robe, and he connected with her, and it was a kairos moment.

Jesus had so many of those moments. We read one this morning: The kairos is fulfilled. And what did Jesus do right at that kairos moment? He called his disciples. It was a meaningful moment for them. It wasn’t just another tick

of the clock. How long has it been since you had a powerful moment like that, that changed your life forever?  How long has it been since you had a kairos moment in a chronos world?  Kairos moments are all around us if we have the eyes to see them, the ears to hear them, and the hearts to feel them. Now, this morning I want to share with you three kairos moments that I have experienced that changed my life.  I am going to be very personal because kairos moments are very personal. 

I. The Kairos Moment of Encouragement
II. The Kairos Moment of Love
III. The Kairos Moment of Inspiration
The Lifesaver App - 1 Corinthians 1:10-18 

 As children we all had to study for and take "vocabulary tests" - learning a new list of words, their spelling and definitions, every week. As we continued on in school, read more books and studied more subjects, our vocabulary naturally expanded. Then to get into college, we took SATs (Scholastic Aptitude Tests), some of the most important of which are called "Vocab Tests."

Building up our word bank is a never completed project. Best-selling author Bill O'Reilly even has a vocab test every night on his #1 Cable News show, "The O'Reilly Factor." The great thing about a truly "living language", like English, is that it is always changing, adopting, adapting, and adding new words, new concepts, new elements.   

How many words do you use in everyday discussions in 2014 that a few years ago would have had no meaning whatsoever? When did you first learn to speak "coffee," so that you could communicate your beverage choice with the barista. Phrases such as "Venti, black-eye, half-cap, mocha frappuchino" that would have been complete gibberish a couple decades ago now come tripping off the tongue without need for an interpreter.  

In 1998 a new Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan movie made a big deal of an emerging concept. "You've Got Mail" highlighted the strange new world of "e-mail" created by the expansion of the Internet. In 2006 another snazzy word was reconfigured when "Twitter" was born. By 2012 there were over 34 million "tweets" sent per day. Technospeak is a language that continues to expand exponentially. We used to increase our vocabulary by reading "the classics." Now we can only increase our new and necessary vocabulary for living in the twenty-first century by reading our "emails" "tweets," and "blogs." It seems we will all need to pass weekly vocab tests throughout our lives.  

Yet for all the words we add, we always lose a few to the historical dustbin. There are now thousands of "apps" we can download onto our smartphones and tablets. But try asking anyone under the age of 25 what "app" stands for and you will probably get a blank look. After all, an "app" is . . . an "app."  

But an "app" is really shorthand for "application" - that is, "a use to which something is put." An "app" isn't a "thing." An "app" is an activity. An "app" is not a noun. An "app" is a verb. As we struggle to keep up with a language and lifestyle that is ever changing, we should keep in mind this original definition of "app" - because application makes a world of difference between the "real" and the "hypothetical."

Disciples of Jesus are called to give application to, that is, to actually "apply," our faith to our life and our lifestyles...
 Trying Something New  

After falling twice in the 1988 Olympic speed-skating races Dan Jansen sought out sports psychologist Dr. Jim Loehr, who helped him find a new balance between his sport and his life. He also helped Jansen learn to focus on the mental aspects of skating Peter Mueller became his coach, putting him through workouts that Dan has since described as the "toughest I have ever known." By the time the 1994 Olympics arrived, Jansen had more confidence than ever. He had set a five-hundred-meter world record just two months earlier. The Olympic title in that event seemed to belong to him.

Unfortunately, Jansen fell during the five-hundred-meter race. He was disappointed and shaken. But, Dr. Loeher immediately advised him to start preparing for the one-thousand-meter race. He said, the five-hundred-meter race is gone. Put it behind you." However the thousand-meter race was Jansen's weakest event. But, there was no other chance for him to receive a medal. Jansen won the one-thousand-meter race and did it in record time. Since Jansen had followed the wisdom of his coach, he had put his failure behind him and tried something new.

We can play it safe and remain secure in what we know. Like the fishermen, our lives will remain in the darkness until we are willing to follow and move in a new direction. Jesus called the disciples to something that would not only give purpose and meaning to their lives, he called them to a vocation that would change the world. They followed, and from then on their lives would never be the same.

Keith Wagner, Ice Fishing, Anyone?
 Working for Christ 

Christianity began as a working man's religion. No, that is not the gospel according to Marx; it is the Gospel According to Matthew. Matthew tells us that immediately after Jesus began a public preaching ministry, he took four fishermen as his apprentices. He was walking by the Sea of Galilee and spied Andrew and Peter casting their nets. He called them to follow him, promising to make them fishers of men. In Matthew's Gospel, then, linked tightly together are Jesus' ringing pronouncement, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand," and his invitation to the fishermen, "Follow me."

You and I, who believe in Jesus Christ and count ourselves his disciples, are not to follow a trade or profession as though it were the Holy Grail. We are to follow Jesus. Work is to take a secondary role in our lives. If Christ is truly our Master, then work cannot be equally important. We may be engaged in work, but never married to it. And whenever we are pressed or tempted to make work supreme, we are to recall the story of the four fishermen. We are to remember how they left their nets and their boats to go and be with Jesus, to do what he would have them do. 

John C. Purdy, The Call to Adventure
Follow Me... 

"Follow me, and I will make you fishers," said Jesus. Fishing takes practice, preparation, discipline. One must learn how to best throw the net, how to make the mouth of the net come open too. I can throw the actual cast net a long way, but I can't always make the net come open so that it will actually form a circle around the fish. One must learn how to cast the line on a rod. Again, some folks can cast a long way, but their accuracy is awful. There may be fish on the right, but they know only how to cast the line to the left. There may be fish on the left, but they keep casting to the right. Casting, like discipleship, is an acquired habit. It rewards practice.

Fishing is noticing the weather, watching the wind and the clouds. Fishing, like the gospel, dear friends, like the gospel, fishing is always practiced in context. It does no good to sit at one lake and wish I was on some other lake. It does no good to stand at the ocean and wish the weather were different. On that day, in that place, I fish in context according to what the conditions are.

So it is with the proclamation and the living out of the Christian gospel. It does little good wishing that we were somewhere else, in a different time or in a different country perhaps. Our context is this time and this place. Know where the wind blows. Watch the clouds. 

Samuel G. Candler, Follow Me and I Will Make You Go Fishing
A Job vs. A Ministry

Someone has said there is a huge difference between having a job at church and having a ministry at church. 

... If you are doing it because no one else will, it's a job. If you are doing it to serve the Lord, it's a ministry.
... If you're doing it just well enough to get by, it's a job. If you're doing it to the best of your ability, it's a ministry.
... If you'll do it only so long as it doesn't interfere with other
activities, it's a job. If you're committed to staying with it even when it means letting go of other things, it's a ministry.
... It's hard to get excited about a job. It's almost impossible not to get excited about a ministry.

An average church is filled with people doing jobs. A great church is filled with people involved in ministry. 

Mickey Anders, The Beginning of Ministry
The Angle of Grace 

Being a Christian is about taking a particular angle towards life. It is the angle of grace. Each of us-every one of us-perceives reality and the world in a different way; yes, but Jesus teaches us to see the world from the angle of grace. Wouldn't our Christianity be richer if we accepted angles more easily? Wouldn't our Christianity be more beautiful if we bent toward the angle of grace?  

Samuel G. Candler, Follow Me, and I Will Make You Go Fishing
A Problem of Presentation

Jesus came preaching that "the kingdom of heaven is at hand." What was there about that kingdom that got these fishermen so excited? And why are we not just as excited? Maybe we don't understand what the kingdom is. Or maybe it just hasn't been presented very well.  

It reminds me of a woman who read somewhere that dogs were healthier if fed a tablespoon of cod liver oil each day. So each day she followed the same routine. She chased her dog until she caught it, wrestled it down, and managed to force the fishy remedy down the dog's throat.  

Until one day when, in the middle of this grueling medical effort, the bottle was kicked over. With a sigh, she loosed her grip on the dog so she could wipe up the mess. To her surprise the dog trotted over to the puddle and begin lapping up what had been spilled. THE DOG LOVED COD LIVER OIL. It was just the owner's method of application the dog objected to.  

Sometimes I think something like that has happened to the good news of the Kingdom of God. It has been so poorly presented to us that we have never been captured by its attractiveness and its power.  

King Duncan, Collected Sermons,
Essential Personnel 

Even if we live where it rarely snows, the phrase is a familiar one. When budget talks collapse and the government shuts down, this is the phrase that is trotted out. When the earth suddenly moves under the people of California, often a certain group of people are called out while the rest are told to stay at home. When tornadoes blow through the Southwest and disrupt everything in their course, only certain people should risk the dangers involved. These are maintenance people, road crews, ambulance drivers, fire fighters, electric and gas company workers, truck drivers, and a whole host of service people who are taken for granted when things are running smoothly. We call them "essential personnel." 

Think about that phrase. Think about what it means to be essential personnel. Then, if you want to be humbled, think about what it is like to be non-essential personnel. Consider the fact that the world can go on without some of us. The good news is that in the church we are all, or at least all can be, essential personnel. We are called to be a special group of people and to do some important things. 

William B. Kincaid, III, And Then Came The Angel, CSS Publishing Company, Inc.
Turning Toward the Light 

A little boy named Bobby entered his first science fair in second grade. Because his Mom has a green thumb, they decided to experiment with the growth of plants. He took two small green plants and placed one on a sunny windowsill and the other in a cardboard box. After a couple of weeks, Bobby checked on the two plants. The one on the windowsill had grown a couple of inches and had vibrant green leaves. The one in the box had actually grown a bit, but it had lost all of its green color, becoming almost white and its leaves drooping. Thinking that the plant might die, Bobby cut a hole in one side of the box, like this, and set the box, with the plant inside, by the windowsill ... with the hole facing toward the incoming light. Well you know what happened ... but Bobby was so excited by this discovery...
From Father Tony Kadavil's Collection:

1: Light and darkness: Terry Anderson, a journalist for the Associated Press, was seized and held hostage in Lebanon for seven years; blindfolded almost all of that time, Anderson described his experience in this way, “Deepest darkness, fumbling, uncertainties are frightening. More frightening is the darkness of the mind, when outside light makes no impression and inner lights go dim. . .” [Den of Lions, Crown Publishers, Inc. (New York: 1993).] In November of 1965, a power failure plunged seven northeastern U.S. states and Ontario, Canada, into a darkness which lasted for more than thirteen hours. About thirty million people living in eighty thousand square miles of territory were affected. In 1977, another, less severe, power failure darkened New York City for fifty-two minutes. Losses due to accidents and looting were in excess of one billion dollars. In the Holy Scriptures, light and darkness serve as symbols for good and evil. In today’s first reading and in the Gospel, Jesus is presented as the One sent to remove the darkness of sin from the world. Through Isaiah, God promises that His people will see an end to the darkness of oppression and separation. Today’s Gospel shows us how the prophecy of Isaiah was fulfilled in Jesus.

2: Remain in politics and exert a Christian influence there: Those of you who saw the remarkable film Amazing Grace ( the story of William Wilberforce. Wilberforce was a British politician who, after his conversion to Christianity, became England’s greatest anti-slavery advocate. It was through his tireless efforts that England eventually outlawed slavery, paving the way for the end of the slave-trade in the Western world. But William Wilberforce almost missed his calling. After his conversion, Wilberforce considered leaving politics for the ministry. He wasn’t sure how a Christian could live out his Faith in “the world.” Fortunately, Wilberforce turned to an Anglican clergyman, John Newton, for guidance. Newton, of course, was the author of the much-loved hymn, “Amazing Grace.” Newton, a former slave trader who had renounced the trade but only some years after his conversion, convinced Wilberforce that God had called him to remain in politics to exert a Christian influence there. It was John Newton who gave William Wilberforce the wake-up call that kept him championing the cause of freedom for Britain’s slaves. Four men, fishermen by trade, were toiling at the nets beside the Sea of Galilee when they received a wake-up call from Jesus. And their whole world was turned upside down.

3: Delivery Room suspense: Three men were pacing nervously outside the delivery room at a hospital when the head nurse came out beaming.  To the first she said, “Congratulations, sir, you are the father of twins.” “Terrific!” said the man, “I just signed a contract with the Minnesota Twins, and this’ll be great press.” To the second man the nurse said, “Congratulations to you too.  You are the father of healthy triplets!” “Fantastic!” he said.  “I’m the vice-president of 3-M Company. This’ll be great P.R.!” At that point the third man turned ashen and ran for the door. “What’s wrong, sir?  Where are you going?” called the nurse. As he jumped into his car, the man shouted, “I’m dashing to my office to resign.  I’m the president of 7-UP!”  (Msgr. Dennis Clarke). John the Baptist and Jesus surprised the self-righteous Jews by their call to repentance. Today’s Gospel, from the fourth chapter of Matthew, offers us Christians an equally surprising and shocking announcement by Jesus: “Repent; the Kingdom of God is near.”

4) Teaching ministry: A pastor told his congregation, “Next week I plan to preach about the sin of lying.  To help you understand my sermon, I want you all to read Mark 17.” The following Sunday, as he prepared to deliver his sermon, the minister asked for a show of hands.  He wanted to know how many had read Mark 17.  Every hand went up.  The minister smiled and said, “Mark has only 16 chapters. I will now proceed with my sermon on the sin of lying.”

5) God’s Chosen People absent in China? Two Jews Sid and Al were sitting in a Chinese restaurant. “Sid,” asked Al, “Are there any Jews in China?” “I don’t know,” Sid replied. “Why don’t we ask the waiter?” When the waiter came by, Al said, “Do you have any Chinese Jews?” “I don’t know sir, let me ask,” the waiter replied, and he went into the kitchen. He quickly returned and said, “No, sir. No Chinese Jews.” “Are you sure?” Al asked. “I will check with our manager, sir.” the waiter replied and went back to the kitchen. While he was still gone, Sid said, “I cannot believe there are no Jews in China. Our people are scattered everywhere.” When the waiter returned, he said, “Sir, no Chinese Jews.” “Are you really sure?” Al asked again. “I cannot believe you have no Chinese Jews.” “Sir, I asked everyone,” the waiter replied exasperated. “We have orange juice, prune juice, tomato juice and grape juice, but no one ever heard of Chinese juice!”

6) “Think about your face and cut the homily.” The story is told about a pastor that got up in the pulpit and apologized for the Band-Aid on his face. He said, “I was thinking about my homily while shaving and cut my face.” Afterward the trustee found a note in the collection plate, “Next time, think about your face and cut the homily.”

16- Additional anecdotes:
1) Be fishers of men: On Feb. 2, 2006, President George W. Bush hosted the 64th annual National Prayer Breakfast. The speaker that day was the rock star known as Bono, lead singer of the group U2. Here is something Bono had to say: “A number of years ago I met a wise man who changed my life. In countless ways, large and small, I was always seeking the Lord’s blessing. And this wise man said: ‘Stop asking God to bless what you’re doing. Get involved in what God is doing–because it’s already blessed. Get involved in what God is doing.’” What a radical idea. Don’t spend so much time asking God to bless what you are doing. Rather, ask God to show you what God is doing, and join in. Bono believes God is calling him to be an advocate for the poor. He said to the National Prayer Breakfast, “Well, God, as I said, is with the poor. That, I believe, is what God is doing. And that is what He’s calling us to do.” All Christians should be committed to helping the poor, but it may not be our chief emphasis. There are people in the medical field who feel called of God to help in the healing of bodies. Some in teaching believe their calling from God is to help grow little boys’ and girls’ minds. A plumber can be a Christian plumber, doing honest, helpful work and sharing a positive Christian witness to everyone he serves.

2) “O.K. boys, head ‘em up, and move ‘em out.” Clint Eastwood is an American film icon. Who can forget Dirty Harry and the huge 45 caliber Magnum he carried, more a cannon than a pistol, or the sneering invitation, “Make my day!”? But long before he was Dirty Harry, Eastwood was Rowdy Yates on the TV show Rawhide. There is an important hand gesture I remember from that boyhood drama. On horseback, the trail boss would lift his hand, index finger up, make a rapid circling motion in the air, then point ahead with these words, “O.K. boys, head ‘em up, and move ‘em out.” It was a call to a long, tough, trail ride with the promise of adventure along the way and a payout at the end. That is the gesture I see Jesus making in these call stories. “Simon, Andrew, James, John, head ‘em up, and move ‘em out.’ Follow me, and I will help you corral people for God,” or, in the case of their work, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

3) “Do you want the brainiest or do you want the holiest?” John McKay, the former coach of the University of Southern California Trojans once said that it is not the superstars who win most football games but average players giving their best. In the play, Green Pastures, God asks Gabriel to recruit a leader and Gabriel asks in return, “Do you want the brainiest or do you want the holiest?” God answers, “Get me the holiest. I’ll make him the brainiest.” In a little town in the Swiss Alps there is a monument with two figures on it. One is a cultured scientist, the author of many books. The other is a poor Swiss peasant, an Alpine guide. Together they had conquered a great mountain. The scientist’s name made all of the newspapers, but the monument contains both figures because the great scientist could never have made the ascent without the humble guide. Beginning with the crude manager of Bethlehem, no message is clearer in the New Testament than this one: Christian Faith is the celebration of ordinary people who come to possess a very extraordinary power. When you are asked to serve God in some capacity, don’t talk yourself out of a great opportunity by saying, “I’m too old,” or “I don’t have enough education,” or using some other personal putdown. God can give you the ability. What He can’t give you is willingness to say “yes” and act on it. That must come from our free choice. That is why God always prefers the holiest to the brainiest. The first disciples that Jesus called were ordinary fishermen.

4) Novel way of presenting the Kingdom of God: Jesus came preaching, “the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” What was there about that Kingdom that got these fishermen so excited? And why are we not just as excited? It reminds me of a woman who read somewhere that dogs were healthier if fed a tablespoon of cod liver oil each day. So, each day she followed the same routine: she chased her dog until she caught it, wrestled it down, and managed to force the fishy remedy down the dog’s throat. One day, in the middle of this grueling medical effort, the bottle was kicked over. With a sigh, she loosened her grip on the dog so she could wipe up the mess. To her surprise the dog trotted over to the puddle and began lapping up what had been spilled. The dog loved cod liver oil. It was just the owner’s method of application the dog objected to. (Bill McNabb and Steven Mabry, Awaken Your Students to Scripture). Sometimes, I think something like that has happened to the Good News of the Kingdom of God. It has been so poorly presented to us that we have never been captured by its attractiveness and its power.

5) They kept the stock in Apple Computer for themselves: Jim Egan worked at the West Coast Computer Fair in 1977. His job was to help customers decorate their booths. Industry shows are the cheapest way to reach customers within the trade, but some undercapitalized entrepreneurs hardly have enough to rent a booth, let alone pay for the decorations. Egan was approached by a couple of long-haired kids who wanted some chrome displays to make their booth “look flashy.” Egan said he had the displays, but they were for rent. The kids said they were short of cash, but perhaps Egan might like some stock in their new company. Egan, who had seen them come and go in his twenty years in the business, said he would accept only hard cash. So, Steve Wozniak and Steven Jobs did without the chrome, fixed up their booth, and kept the stock in Apple Computer for themselves. Presumably, Jim Egan is still decorating booths for hard cash. (Peter Hay, The Book of Business Anecdotes, p. 212). Sometimes it is a good thing to catch fire from someone else. The story of the New Testament is the story of men and women who got close enough to Jesus to catch fire from Him. Doesn’t it amaze you to see how quickly the disciples left their fishing nets to follow Jesus?

6) “Please know that the management forgives you.” J. Edwin Orr, a former professor of Church History, described the great outpouring of the Holy Spirit during the Welsh Revivals of the nineteenth century. As people sought the infilling of the Spirit, they did all they could to confess wrongdoings and to make restitution. This unexpectedly created severe problems for the shipyards along the coast of Wales. Over the years, workers had pilfered all kinds of things. Everything from wheelbarrows to hammers had been stolen. However, as people sought to be right with God, they started to return what they had taken, with the result that soon the shipyards of Wales were overwhelmed with returned property. There were such huge piles of returned tools that several of the yards had to put up signs that read, IF YOU HAVE BEEN LED BY GOD TO RETURN WHAT YOU HAVE STOLEN, PLEASE KNOW THAT THE MANAGEMENT FORGIVES YOU AND WISHES YOU TO KEEP WHAT YOU HAVE TAKEN. (Tony Campolo, How to Be Pentecostal (Dallas: Word, 1991), pp. 92-93.) Wouldn’t you love to see that kind of revival sweep this nation? Couldn’t you get excited about a world in which people began making restitution for their wrongs? Couldn’t you get excited about a world in which you could always trust people to do the right thing because God lived in their hearts? Couldn’t you get excited about a world without child-abuse, without murder, without broken families, or drug addiction? In order to enter this Kingdom of God, Jesus challenges us in today’s Gospel to repent and renew our lives.

7) “Lead kindly light…” In 1833, there was a young theologian and Anglican vicar, John Henry Newman (1801-90; he was converted to the Roman Catholic Church, ordained a priest, made a Cardinal. In 2019 he was canonized by Pope Francis). He was traveling in the Mediterranean when he was struck down by a fever that nearly killed him. “My servant thought I was dying and begged for my last directions,” he recalled in his autobiography. ”I gave them as he wished, but I said, ‘I shall not die, for I have not sinned against light.”‘ Newman recovered slowly but felt desperately homesick. On the way back to England, he took an orange boat sailing from Palermo to Marseilles; the boat was becalmed in the Straits of Bonifacio. Thus stranded, in an exhausted and emotional state, Newman was impelled to write this verse as a meditative poem called “The Pillar of the Cloud,” expressive of his longing for consoling Christian certainties in an age of mounting doubt (The Telegraph, 22 Sept, 2007). Newman probably had in mind the prophecy of Isaiah given in today’s first reading “The people who walked in the darkness have seen a great light.” We too have our moments of darkness. The death of a lifelong spouse, an unexpected rejection by a loved one, a smashed dream of business success or the loss of good health can throw us into temporary darkness. But in these tragic moments true believers have in the past seen the light of Christ, a light that illumines the shadows of our hearts with the radiance of his splendor, guiding us to travel safely over the tempestuous sea of life. (Vima Dasan in His Word Lives; quoted by Fr. Botelho)

8) The Light she lit is still burning. Mother Teresa gives us a beautiful example of a man who was brought out of darkness into the light. One day in Melbourne, Australia, she visited a poor man whom nobody knew existed. The room in which he was living was in a terrible state of untidiness and neglect. There was no light in the room. The man hardly ever opened the blinds. He hadn’t had a friend in the world. She started to clean and tidy the room. At first, he protested, saying, “Leave it alone. It’s all right as it is.” But she went ahead anyway. Under a pile of rubbish, she found a beautiful oil lamp, but it was covered with dirt. She cleaned and polished it. Then she asked him, “How come you never light the lamp?” “Why should I light it?” he replied. “No one ever comes to see me. I never see anybody.” “Will you promise to light it if one of my sisters comes to see you?” “Yes,” he replied. “If I hear a human voice, I’ll light the lamp.” Two of Mother Teresa’s nuns began to visit him on a regular basis. Things gradually improved for him. Then one day he said to the nuns, “Sisters, I’ll be able to manage on my own from now on. But do me a favour. Tell that first Sister, who came to see me, that the light she lit in my life is still burning.” (Flor McCarthy in New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies; quoted by Fr. Botelho)

9) Copper kettle Christian: A woman who was studying the Bible, went to her basement and made an interesting discovery. Some potatoes had sprouted in the darkest corner of the room. At first, she couldn’t figure out how they had received enough light to grow. Then she noticed that she had hung a copper kettle from a rafter near a cellar window. She kept it so brightly polished that it reflected the rays of the sun onto the potatoes. She said, “When I saw that reflection, I thought, ‘I may not be a preacher or a teacher with the ability to expound upon Scripture, but at least I can be a copper kettle Christian, catching the rays of Christ and reflecting His light to someone in a dark corner.’” Today’s Scripture lesson tells us that Christ came as a Light and brought us into the Light by calling us to repentance and to the Kingdom of God. (Fr. Chirakkal).

10) Their faces said it all: A historian tells us that many, many years ago, a group of prospectors set out from Bannock, Montana, in search of gold. For days together they had to endure many hardships and cope with severe weather changes, so that some of them, unable to cope, actually perished. Undeterred, the rest persisted until one day they ran into a gang of ruthless Indians, who seized their horses and belongings and left them with a few limping ponies. Releasing them, the Red Indians warned them never to return for, the next time, their lives would be at risk. The crestfallen group began their return journey very disappointed. At night they decided to stop by a stream and camp. One of the men entered the stream and noticed something unusual about one stone. So he lifted it up and cracked it open and realized that they had struck gold right there. And so his companions joined and they made a reasonable haul. The next day they discovered even more and were absolutely ecstatic. The following day they returned to Bannock, in order to bring all the equipment and horses necessary to collect their treasure. And they vowed that they would not tell anyone of their extraordinary discovery. When they decided to set out, they found themselves surrounded by 300 equally excited gold prospectors. Somebody seemed to have spilled the beans! The fact of the matter is that no one had let out their secret. But the others saw their ecstatic joy on their faces and sensed there certainly was a very good reason. So, they decided to join, fully assured that soon they too would be as jubilantly happy as the others. The successful prospectors’ beaming faces had literally betrayed their secret! – Do our faces reveal that we have found the greatest treasure -Jesus Christ? (James Valladares in Your Words, O Lord, Are Spirit, and They Are Life; quoted by Fr. Botelho).

11) Ready to follow, no matter what the cost? Have you heard the story of Pizarro, the conqueror of Peru? The Spaniards came to know that the rivers of Peru were flowing with gold and people could just pick up gold from these rivers. Pizarro got together a band of men who were fond of adventure and eager to get gold. They crossed the Atlantic and crossed the Isthmus of Panama. The travel was not easy, and they had troubled times. On the sea there were storms and over land poisonous snakes and wild animals. There was no food, and the band of men had to face many difficulties and therefore decided to return to Spain. Pizarro drew out his sword and drew a line on the sand with his sword that separated north and south. Then he said to his band of soldiers, “Comrades, on the south of this line there lie famine, perils, nakedness, trials, and death, while on the north there lie pleasure, ease, and comfort. As for me I go south,” and he stepped over the line on the south. Seven men followed him not for love of the gold but because they loved him and trusted him and wanted to sacrifice everything. That is why we remember them as the seven immortals of Peru.
(Elias Dias in Divine Stories for Families; quoted by Fr. Botelho).

12) The Arrival of the Light: Some Alpine valleys are so deep that the rays of the sun do not reach them for days or even weeks in the middle of winter. These days can be very depressing ones for the people who live in the valleys. It is almost as if life were one long night. A priest who ministered in one of those valleys tells the following story. One day in the depths of winter he was in the classroom chatting with the children, who hadn’t seen the sun for nine days. Then all of a sudden, a ray of sunshine shone into the classroom. On seeing it the children climbed on to their desks and cheered for sheer joy. It shows that even though the sun may not touch the skin it can warm the soul. The little incident shows how light is a source of great joy. For sick people the night is the hardest of all times. How they welcome those first rays of light which signal the end of the night and the dawning of the day. The coming of electricity to rural Ireland transformed life for those living in the country. (Flor McCarthy in New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies; quoted by Fr. Botelho).

13) Film: Finding Private Ryan (Embracing your mission in life). It is June 6, 1944, D-Day. The Allied troops land on Omaha Beach in Normandy. Captain Miller is a squadron leader. After the deadly and horror-filled landing, he is asked to lead his men on a special mission of dubious merit to find a Private James Ryan. Ryan is one of four sons in the U.S. military and, when the other three are killed, top military officials in Washington want the surviving son returned home to his mother. Miller and six men take on the mission. In an American-occupied town, they find the wrong Private Ryan. They continue on and encounter a German guard-post where a sniper kills one of the men. The translator, Corporal Upham, persuades Miller not to kill the sniper, and they let him go. They eventually find the right Ryan in a squad defending a bridge, but he refuses to leave. During an attack, Upham cowers in fear while the sniper they had released shoots one of the team. Miller is also killed, but U.S. planes save the troops and the bridge is held. Upham confronts the sniper and kills him. Private Ryan is saved. Decades later, Ryan and his family visit Miller’s grave in France. Each one of us has a mission. We have to discover our mission and fulfill that mission to find fulfillment in life. (Peter Malone in Lights Camera…. Faith!; quoted by Fr. Botelho).

14) Repent and Believe the Good News: In November of 1984 on one of his PBS Late Night America Shows, Dennis Wholey confessed that he was an alcoholic. He went on to describe a book he had put together entitled The Courage to Change: Personal Conversations about Alcoholism with Dennis Wholey. The book contains frank and revealing conversations with a wide variety of celebrity alcoholics such as rock singer Grace Slick, baseball player Bob Welch, actor Jason Robards, comedian Shecky Greene and Catholic priest Vaughan Quinn. Also, there are heartfelt conversations with Rod Steiger and Jerry Falwell, who are children of alcoholics; and Sybil Carter, whose husband Billy is an alcoholic. Four years earlier, Dennis Wholey confronted his own problem with alcohol and now is on a mission with his book to help other victims of what is sometimes called “the most treatable untreated disease in this country.” Dennis Wholey’s message in The Courage to Change matches our Lord’s message in Mark’s Gospel: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe the good news.” (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds; quoted by Fr. Botelho).

15Let There Be No Factions: In today’s second reading, St. Paul warns the Corinthians – and all Christians – against factions: “Be united in mind and judgment.” It should be unnecessary to tell those joined by Baptism into Christ’s mystical body to avoid fighting each other! Unfortunately, we, and all human beings, are prone to quarreling. In some tragic cases, throughout the history of the church, Catholics have not only quarreled, but let their quarrels end up in schism. Schism means withdrawal from, and denial of the authority Christ gave to his Church and its Shepherds. Some schisms have been large and have remained unhealed even after centuries. Others have been small, sometimes, permanent, sometimes (thank God) brief. All have involved unchristian bitterness.
In the 1850’s there was a small schism in a parish in Rochester, New York. It serves as a good illustration. The issue debated was control by the laity of Church funds and of Pastoral appointments. From as early as 1785, people in some American Catholic parishes had been embattled with Catholic Church authorities over these matters of control. One cause of the trouble was that the state laws for parish incorporation were designed for Protestant parishes, in which, unlike Catholic parishes, laymen were allowed to manage funds and hire or fire pastors. Wherever Catholic laypeople interpreted the State law in a Catholic way, a “trustee” corporation could work out the interpretation. The trouble was that lay Catholic trustees so often abused their powers – even violently – that the American bishops had to forbid this type of lay participation entirely. Gradually, from 1829 to 1850, the bishops were able to put an end to most of these factional quarrels. But not to all. In the 1850’s, in a handful of American Catholic parishes, “trusteeists” decided to make a last stand. One was the German Catholic parish of St. Peter’s Rochester. Here the ringleaders were so bitter that they even worked hand-in-glove with the Know-nothings (an anti-Catholic political party) to get a state law passed demanding that Catholic parishes incorporate according to the Protestant form. When the bishop (John Timon of Buffalo) suspended Church services at St. Peter’s as a countermove, they replied by incorporating a new parish called “The Christ Catholic St. Stephen’s Congregation.” This was schism. Even though they used the adjective “Catholic,” they were no longer a part of the Catholic Church, and no Catholic could attend worship there in good conscience. Fortunately, the dissidents came to their senses eventually. By 1862 Bishop Timon had received all but one back into the Catholic fold. The Catholic parish was reincorporated under the name “Ss. Peter and Paul,” and as such it still functions. Even today, however, Catholics can be tempted to schism. Factions still arise and some Catholics even leave the Church to worship at other churches that may call themselves “Catholic” but are not in union with either the local Catholic bishop or through him, with the Pope. Schism has often been called “tearing apart of the seamless robe of Christ” – that is, splitting the people of God into parts. Christ prayed “that all may be one.” Those who foster disunion are therefore enemies of Christ’s prayer. (Fr. Robert F. McNamara). L/20