Sunday, January 25, 2015

Out of Water

   Third Sunday in Ordinary Time   B  

One fisherman noticed another
take a small mirror from his tackle box
and shine it on the surface of the water.
Being curious, he rowed over and asked, “What’s with the mirror?”
“That’s my secret way to catch fish,” came the reply.
“The fish notice the bright spot on the water and swim to the top.
Then I just net ’em and pull ’em into the boat.”
“Wow!” said the first fisherman.  “Does it really work?”
“You bet it does.”
“Would you be interested in selling that mirror?  
I’d give you $30 for it.”
“You’ve got a deal!”
After the money changed hands, the first fisherman asked,
“By the way, how many fish have you caught this week?”
“You’re number six,” he said.

Come after me,
and I will make you fishers of men.

When we hear this Sunday’s gospel passage,
we quite naturally focus on the fishermen.
But what about the fish?

What happens when a fish is caught
and then taken out of the water?
Whether you’ve snared it with a net,
reeled it into your boat,
or pulled it in on a line through a hole in the ice,
when you catch a fish and take it from the water,
it dies—plain and simple.

Taken out from the water, a fish dies.
And so it must be for us to enter the Kingdom of God.

Trying to live a truly Christian life
in a world that isn’t wholly Christian
(even in those areas which think that they are)
is like a fish trying to live on dry land.
What worked underwater just doesn’t work in fresh air.
Gills and fins become useless;
what you need are lungs, hands, and feet.
To live in this new environment,
a fish would need to be given an entirely new nature.
And before you can be given a new nature,
the old one must die.

There’s good reason the first sacrament we receive—
our entrance into new life in Christ
and membership in his Church—
is Baptism.
Baptism is, of course, a wet sacrament.
We’re pulled from the water.
And—depending on how much water has been used—
we can find ourselves gasping for air,
like a fish taken out of the sea.
A new life lies ahead of us:
one different from, even opposed to, 
that of the world around us.
Christ offers us a new nature, a redeemed nature:
one adapted to breathing the fresh air of the Holy Spirit.

Are you living this new life?
Have you fully embraced this new nature?
Or do you go back and forth between the water and dry land?
Do you sometimes have a hard time breathing
because you live in a sin-soaked world?
Do you flounder about a bit trying to lead a holy life,
or do you instead fit in perfectly
with everything and everyone around you?
Maybe you’re still floating around 
in the baptismal font.
Maybe you’re still swimming with a school of fish
which has so far avoided being caught.
Maybe you—your old self, your unconverted life—haven’t yet died.

Before Simon and Andrew, James and John,
could becomes fishers of men,
they had to be fish.
They had to be caught by Christ
before they could think of catching others.
They had to abandon not only their boats and their nets,
but everything about their life before Jesus.
They had to thoroughly repent
and wholeheartedly believe in the gospel.
They had to die.

And so do we.

The people of Nineveh repented at the preaching of Jonah,
and thus their city was saved.
Our world, St. Paul tells us, in its present form—
drenched as it is in godlessness—
is passing away.
The time is running out.
Today is the day to start living like a fish out of water!
Let your old self die—completely.
Learn how to walk about on the dry ground of the Promised Land
and never turn back.
Learn how to breath the fresh air of the Kingdom
and never be the same again.


Magumbo Mamma said...

This is great! Thank you!

Fr. Joe said...

You're welcome. Thanks to you for the feedback!