Saint Mary of the Angels homilies and reflections

Homily, February 10, 2013, " Take Jesus on Board", Fr. Grégoire Catta, SJ

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Sun Feb 10. / SMA / Isaiah 6:1-2a, 3-8; Ps 138; 1 Cor 15:1-11; Luke 5:1-11

When I was a teenager I participated in several Catholic Youth big gatherings. I enjoyed a lot those opportunities of being with other youths of my age, outside home for a couple of days, in a joyful atmosphere. In these type of events you have big masses and powerful prayers, more intimate faith- sharings, but also uplifting talks! Several times I came to listen to what they called “a great witness”: someone who told us his or her personal story of conversion and of their encounter with Jesus Christ in a kind of evangelical church way. Something like: during a large part of my life I had many problems with my parents, with school, with the society, I dealt drugs, I was a delinquent, and then one day I met this priest, or I heard this voice and my life changed: I encountered Jesus-Christ and now, I know what I have to do and what I want to do: helping others, working with refugees, spending my life in a monastery praising God etc. These were great stories and true stories. I’ve heard several of them, and with my friends we were energized in our faith by such stories. I’m sure it is the same for you: stories of conversion, stories of a very explicit experience of God in someone’s life having a great positive impact on us. But at one point I started to say to myself: those people are lucky. God talked to them. They had this incredible experience at one point of their life and that changed their life. But for me, I grew up pretty happily in a great family, I’m a believer since my young age thanks to my parents. Of course I’m not perfect, sometimes I’m good friend with Jesus sometimes I simply let him aside for a while, but I’m not a delinquent! So how am I going to have a great experience of God, like those people had? How am I going to discover what I have to do? Is God going to talk to me in very clear terms like it seems it happened for those “great witnesses”? Finally, after some years, thanks to very good mentors that I encounter, I came to realize that I had already experienced the love of God in many ways, throughout my whole life, and that God was constantly talking to me through what I was living. And that’s how I ended up, after a bit of time and discernment, entering the Jesuit life at 26 years old.

If I’m telling you this today, it’s because, reading the passages of the Scripture offered to us, you might have the same reaction I once had. Those passages are great stories but how is that going to happen to me. You might say: I’m too old and I am already a good Christian (or at least I try to be). Or, is it possible to have a vision like Isaiah? “I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, with the train of his garment filling the temple. Seraphim were stationed above.” And then realizing that he is not worthy, Isaiah is granted a rather radical purification rite: An angel touches his mouth with fire! Not that common of an experience, is it? Isaiah then has this wonderful declaration of availability: “whom shall I send?” “Here I am Lord!” That might echo the generosity and the enthusiasm of some of us. But legitimately, others might say: I’m not here yet! And looking at St Paul, he was persecuting the Christians and suddenly Christ appeared to him. Well, you might say: I’m not really persecuting the Christians, how is Christ going to appear to me? And the disciples who leave everything to follow Jesus… You probably think: “OK, Father, this part is for you, priests, nuns and the like, but not for most of us!”

You see the point: how those stories can be more than spectacular stories that we admire? What do they say that really concerns us, all of us? The key point is this: the experience of encountering the love of God, of encountering Jesus-Christ, is connected with the desire to share it with others, to spread the good news. The key point is this essential connection: the experience of God loving us in Jesus-Christ provokes necessarily the passion for evangelization, for spreading the Good News, for sharing it with others through our whole life. It is the case for all of us: young and old, married or not, priest, religious or lay people, Irish, Latinos or French or whatever else our origin is. Encountering God and fostering our relationship with God compels us to proclaim the Kingdom of God by our words and even more by our deeds.

Isaiah had this great vision and he made himself available. St Paul had this stunning experience on the road to Damascus and he ended up preaching, testifying, and simply living this one reality: “Christ died for our sins, he was buried, and he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” For the disciples, the experience is a bit different but the connection is the same. They encounter Jesus and they will go “fishing people” (let us not misunderstand the image here: it is not meant at reducing others as mere fishes and exercising power on them. No, it is really the idea of doing what Jesus did: reaching out to people and bringing them new life).

The experience of the disciples is probably closer to what we can live than the one of Paul or Isaiah.  We see Simon, and James, and John.  They’re doing their job: fishing in the Lake to earn their living.  Jesus comes to meet them in their very daily life.  And Jesus gets in Simon’s boat.  Simon takes him on board.  Think about it: don’t you want to take Jesus “on board” in your life? Whatever your life is, don’t you think that you can take Jesus on board? That Jesus is willing to come on board? And then, we see that Jesus takes part in the fishing. He encourages his friends to “put out into deep water” even if they have not taken anything during the night.  And the outcome is incredible.  The first experience of Jesus made by the disciples is the experience of having him taking part of their daily life, of their daily burden, of being “on-board” and of making their work fruitful. Old or young, whatever activity we have, whatever situation we are in, this is an experience we can have, the experience of taking Jesus on our board, letting him transform whatever we do to make it fruitful.

By doing so, let us be also convinced that we are all called to mission, to spread the Good News, to share the experience with others. In our own ways! Ways that are different for each one of us: talking with the grand children, helping a colleague at work, doing community services, making a friend at school with the one that is rejected, inviting someone to church, sharing what we have read in the Bible etc… In all that we do, our personal experience of encountering the love God can diffuse and spread and thus lead others to have their own experience of the love of God.

 We are all invited to take Jesus on board and to participate in the spreading of the Good News! To take Jesus on board and to put out into deep water.

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