Last Saturday, in Summerville, SC, I spoke at St. Theresa Church’s first Eucharistic Conference. Over 200 people from around the area came to this parish which has a 24-7 Eucharistic Adoration chapel. On Sunday I preached at one of the Masses and the following is what I said:
According to today’s Gospel (Matthew 4: 12-23), Jesus called fishermen to be the first among his twelve apostles. He called ordinary people, not scholars or rabbis. He called them in their workplace, not in the synagogue. Jesus calls us too—ordinary people. He calls us in the midst of our daily work.
I’m not a fisherman, but I know enough about fishing to know that it’s a perfect occupation for those called to evangelize. What is it about fishing that can help us share the Gospel with others and reach out to those who have wandered away from the Church?
First, those who fish know that you have to have good timing. Not every hour is the best time to go fishing. In the same way, talking to people about our faith—especially to people who have left the Church and the practice of the faith—requires good timing. Our desires for them to return may lead us to choose the wrong time to approach them. God’s timing is not ours and so we should first approach God and ask for help in knowing the right time to approach others.
Secondly, and connected to timing, is patience. Those who fish know that you have to be patient. Getting impatient won’t bring the fish to you.
Thirdly, you have to be gentle and quiet. Yelling at the fish won’t get them into the net or the boat. Nagging at those whom we want to bring to Christ will only scare them off.
Lastly, and most importantly, you have to use the right bait. What’s the bait we use in fishing for souls? Ourselves. We are the bait that God uses to attract people to himself. As Pope Francis often says, joy is what attracts people. Our goodness, our peace and strength in the midst of adversity and trials—these will lead people to wonder what’s our secret? How can we, in the midst of troubles, maintain an attitude of serenity and strength, even joy? People will see our faith—expressed in our worship and our daily lives—and they will want what we have.
This is true for individual Christians and for the Church as a whole.
But there is one big problem. The Church is divided. This is not a new problem. In our second reading (1 Corinthians 1: 10-13, 17) St. Paul writes about the rivalries and divisions that he found at Corinth. He challenged the Church there to come together and be united not under one preacher or another but under Jesus Christ.
The world is in darkness (see the first reading, Isaiah 8: 23—9: 3) and looks for light. It wonders if peace is possible. It looks at the darkness of divided churches, of parish communities with cliques and divisions, of Christians who are not united but who, at times in history, have even killed one another, and it says: “If the followers of Jesus can’t be united and at peace, how can the world ever be?”
In fact, the Second Vatican Council even said that one of the causes of atheism is Christians. In “Gaudium et Spes” (The Church in the Modern World), we read: “Believers can have more than a little to do with the rise of atheism. To the extent that they are careless about their instruction in the faith, or present its teaching falsely, or even fail in their religious, moral, or social life, they must be said to conceal rather than to reveal the true nature of God and of religion” (#19).
Every year, from January 18-25 we have a period of special prayer, fasting, and activities to promote unity among Christians. We are called to pray and work together to make sure that as individuals and as a whole we “reveal the true nature of God and of religion.” We are called to be a light that reveals God rather than obscures God. For we must be Christian in deed and not just in name.
What gives us the power to do this? The Eucharist. As the grains of wheat come together to form the host, so we individual Christians are joined together into one in the Body of Christ. People who spend time in Eucharistic Adoration grow in an awareness of this. They bring their family and friends, their neighbors and enemies, their parish community, their city, their nation, and the world to Jesus present in the Blessed Sacrament. They bring their joys and sorrows, their challenges and trials, to Jesus and he gives them peace and strength to carry on.
The Eucharist is the source of our unity and our peace. Praise God for such a gift!