Pastoral Message – January 22, 2023
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
Today is Word of God Sunday. The Church asks us to focus particularly on the essential importance of God’s Word in our worship and in our everyday lives. There was a time when Non-Catholic Christians accused Catholics of not reading the Bible. To some extent, they may have had a point. However, the Second Vatican Council focused Catholic worship in a very clear and direct way on exposing Catholics to and educating Catholics about the Word. In fact, over a three year period those who attend mass each Sunday hear more than 90% of the Gospels and more than 70% of the New Testament. These passages are compiled in the Lectionary which is a four volume set of books that contain all of the readings for all of the masses that we celebrate each day throughout the entire world. At each of those Masses, the scripture passages are selected to complement one another and to share a particular aspect of God’s Word.
Today we live in a world in which members of the same parish squabble with one another, members of the same Church squabble with one another, and Christians throughout the world squabble with one another. Paul tells the Corinthians, “There [should] be no divisions among you…you should be united in the same mind and in the same purpose.” The sad truth is that we (like the Corinthians) are more focused on minor squabbles and points of personal pride than on the Word of God. That’s one reason why there are literally thousands of Christian denominations who spend as much energy fighting with each other as they do spreading the Word. How did we go from celebrating God’s Word to engaging in petty rivalries?
In the Gospel passage we are reminded of the very humble beginning of the Church. The first four disciples dropped everything to follow Jesus. They accepted his invitation without hesitation or question. Jesus spoke the Word to them in a very simple, direct way, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” They were so moved by the Word that they put their own hopes and dreams on hold, they left their jobs, they left their families, they put their egos away, swallowed their pride, and humbled themselves before Jesus. They truly had no idea what to expect. They didn’t do it for money, power, glory, status or recognition. They said, “Yes!” to Jesus because His Word moved their hearts.
At the beginning of His ministry and throughout His time on this earth Jesus (the Word) used simple words and simple stories to change lives forever. While it was likely that the first apostles may have met Jesus or at least knew of him before he approached them and said “Follow me,” they nonetheless gave up the work that supported them and their families and followed him. The passage shows that their hearts and minds were open to the Word and to respond with a firm YES. James, John, Simon and Andrew said YES to a life transforming relationship with Jesus. They would never be the same again.
At each mass we are invited to hear and to follow God’s Word. However, we cannot be open to God’s Word unless we put aside our pride, our egos, our greed, and our selfish priorities. While God does not call most of us to sell everything we have, give the money to the poor, and leave our homes to follow Him, He is calling us to make His Word a priority in our lives. He calls us to listen to His Word and to act in a manner that reflects that Word. He calls us to transform our lives so that His Word is an important part of all that we say and do.
Christians exist as the great light of encouragement in the midst of people who can all too easily become discouraged by darkness. We live in a world filled with violence, danger, immorality, and disappointment. Our lives as a people and a nation are threatened by the three-fold dangers: meaninglessness, hopelessness, and lovelessness. We each need to go deeper in our commitment to Jesus Christ to figure out what is the equivalent of leaving our nets and having our faith shape our lives.
Those of us that are here each week have already said “Yes” to our Lord. That’s a great start. But, we have to ask ourselves: How serious is that Yes? How committed are we to that Yes? If someone at work is trashing Christianity, do we respond or do we remain quiet? If someone is struggling, do we invite them into our faith for comfort and support? We exist to call people to faith in a God of love and purpose. Being here each Sunday is not enough. We must become involved, to share our time, special skills, and resources. In the Word of God, we hear our Lord’s invitation. We must be prepared to respond with faith and determination. God is calling. God is asking. It is time for us to say “YES” and to live His Word in our lives each and every day.