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Diocese of Rockville Centre

Bishop's Homilies

All three Synoptic Gospels tell the story of Jesus’ calling his first disciples whom he will send as his apostles. But Luke puts a different spin on it. MT and MK have that play on words: You are fishermen; I will make you fishers OF men. Jesus in LK says, From now on you will be CATCHING MEN. Literally, you will be netting them. The image we have before us is these men in today’s Gospel doing exactly what Jesus asked them to do: put out into the deep and lower your nets for a catch. And what they could not accomplish by a full days’ work and struggle on their own, they more than succeed in doing because now Jesus is in the boat with them. And he is the one who calls them and shows them what He wants them to do.

Peter is awestruck. We again, see him from the beginning, taking the lead to express his fear and his wonderment. He calls Jesus his Lord. The just feels that before him is The Lord of all and he is a sinner. The response of Jesus is simple, direct: He calls them to be what he alone can make them become: Netters of others to faith in Jesus. And Luke closes with the simple but life giving fact that changes them and changes the world and you and me: They left everything and followed him!

Pope Francis today at the Angelus spoke of this Gospel and said, “Here Peter is convinced that Jesus is more than a great teacher whose word is true and powerful. He is the Lord and the very manifestation of God… To be netters, catching others for God is the logic that guides the mission of Jesus and the mission of the Church: to go out and search and net all men and women in order to restore to them their full dignity, their freedom by means of forgiveness of their sins. Here is the mission of our faith: to spread around the gratuitous and life giving love of God.”

And that, my friends, brings us to today. For this Sunday points to this Wednesday, Ash Wednesday, the beginning of our great and promising season of Lent. Some of us are probably groaning right now: Fridays as well as Ash Wednesday; with no meat; fasting, praying, giving alms; giving up something I like and on and on. Those my age may know that they no longer have to fast. But don’t get too excited: we still have to pray. We all still have to be charitable. We all have to be generous toward others our brothers and sisters in need.

So, in the spirit of the Jubilee of Mercy and looking toward the Holy Door here at St. Agnes, I would like to suggest two interconnected things; the one will feed the second. First that we make this Lent a time of renewal of our faith. Let’s re-affirm all the elements of the Nicene Creed that we will recite here in a few moments. And do so in the spirit of St. Paul’s letter to us today. I am reminding you of the Gospel I preached to you… Through it you are being saved if you hold fast to the word I preached to you. And here he gives us the earliest written act of faith. Listen to it again: I handed on to you as of first importance what I myself have received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures; that he was buried; that he was raised in the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. After that he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers…After that he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Then to me, the least and not fit to be what I am because I persecuted the Church!
My friends Paul is our example in faith. We know who we are because we know the one in whom we believe: Jesus Christ who brings us this Lent and every Lent the merciful and forgiving love of the Father. This is the very essence of why the Pope has given us the Jubilee of Mercy: to re-affirm our faith in the Savior of the world who opens up to us the flowing waters of God’s merciful love, forgiveness and acceptance.

But there is a second part of today’s call to Lent. And with his usual bluntness The Pope told us: Let’s not waste this Lent, so favorable a time for conversion. How do we do that? If we are the recipients of God’s love day after day and we are, then this Lent we can be givers of God’s mercy and love to others. Let our spouse, our familie,s our friends, our neighbors receive the same kind of forgiving and caring tender love that God gives to us through Jesus and with Mary. But don’t stop there. Jesus did not. He died as an act of love for all. So we too must share our love to those others beyond our comfort zones: the neighbor we don’t like, the person we have been shunning; the former friend who betrayed you; the one who insulted you or spread gossip about you. And can we ever forget the poor, the hungry; those here in Rockville Centre or those far away in Syria, Ukraine, Nigeria.

One last suggestion. Between today and Ash Wednesday take five minutes and write down or put on your computer, the list of the seven Corporal and the seven Spiritual Works of Mercy. Put the list on your fridge or your bathroom mirror or wherever you will see the list daily. And just do one of them a day, each day for all of Lent. That is called faith in action; Faith and New Works; Faith come alive; yours and mine .

What Jesus said to Peter He says to us: This Lent put out into the deep and renewing our faith in Him and using that faith as our guide, we will catch others by our acts of mercy and share with them the overflowing mercy of God’s tender and constant love. May Mary, the Mother of Mercy, accompany us on our Lenten journey of faith and merciful love