Sunday Homilies by Fr. Rudolf V. D’ Souza

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3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
January 25, 2009 Year: B
Jn 3:1-5, 10; 1 Cor 7:29-31; Mk 1:14-20
I will make you fishers of men


First Reading...
"The word of the Lord came to Jonah, saying, 'Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.' So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord.

Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days' walk across. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day's walk. And he cried out, 'Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!' And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth.

When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it." [Jon. 3:1-5, 10]

Second Reading...
"Brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short; from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no possessions, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away." [1 cor. 7:29-31]

Gospel Reading...
"After John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.

As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea - for they were fisherman. And Jesus said to them, 'Follow me and I will make you fishers of people.' And immediately they left their nets and followed him.

As Jesus went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him." [Mk. 1:14-20]

Discipleship is costly. Jesus’ call to follow him in turbulent times has been eloquently expressed by Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book Discipleship (Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Vol. 4). Karl Barth says of this book that it is “easily the best that has been written on this subject,” and that, “I cannot hope to say anything better on the subject than what is said here by a man who, having written on discipleship, was ready to achieve it in his own life, and did in his own way achieve it even to the point of death."

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran pastor and theologian during the turbulent years 1930-45. His book on discipleship was written during the years 1935-37 when he was leading the illegal Confessing Church’s seminary at Finkenwalde. Until the Gestapo closed it down in late 1937, Bonhoeffer trained young men to shepherd the church, to preach, to do good theological thinking. His life would end in the concentration camp of Flossenberg where he was executed in April, 1945.

For Bonhoeffer, there is a very concrete spirituality manifested in the life of discipleship. It is spirituality gained by passing through the fire. “When Christ calls a person, He bids them come and die.” “And if we answer the call to discipleship, where will it lead us? What decisions and partings will it demand? To answer this question we shall have to go to him, for only he knows the answer. Only Jesus Christ, who bids us to follow him, knows the journey’s end. But we do know that it will be a road of boundless mercy. Discipleship means joy.”

During this period of his life, it is important to note that Bonhoeffer eschewed violence. He could be considered a ‘pacifist.’ Of course his later turn about to participation in the murder plot on Hitler does signal a very real change in him. Walter Wink raises this question: “If counter-violence appears to be the only responsible choice, this still does not make violence right. Bonhoeffer is a much-misunderstood case in point. He joined the plot to assassinate Hitler. But he insisted his act was a sin, and threw himself on the mercy of God. Two generations of Christians have held back from full commitment to non-violence, citing Bonhoeffer’s example. Had he known, both that his attempt would fail, and that it would have the effect of justifying redemptive violence in the eyes of so many Christians, I wonder if he would have done it.”

It was not easy for Bonhoeffer to go back on his commitment to non-violence seen in his book on Discipleship. His later writings indicate that he had spent some considerable time reflecting on the implications of this change. Bonhoeffer’s life and his book on Discipleship are important resources when considering the possibilities of the redemption.

Today I would also want to emphasize that it is Jesus as the human model that is essential. That is, it is an aspect of Jesus’ priestly function: to model our spirituality for us, our relationship to God. Why? Because we are included in Him, Jesus is our corporate head, the Second Adam, the One who got it right.

I believe that Bonhoeffer was desperate, in the sense that, he was watching from the inside, the destruction of everything he held dear as a German, a Lutheran, a theologian, a Berliner. It must have been awful.

Luke 14:27: And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.

Denying ourselves means being willing to renounce any so-called right to plan or choose, and to recognize His Lordship in every area of life. To take up the cross means to deliberately choose the kind of life He lived. This involves:

  • Coping with opposition of loved ones.

  • Coping with reproach from the world

  • Forsaking all else for Him if need be, and the comforts of this life.

  • Complete dependence on God.

  • Obedience to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

  • Proclaiming an unpopular message.

  • Being alone.

  • Suffering for the sake of righteousness.

  • Enduring slander and shame.

  • Pouring out one’s life for others.

  • Death to self and to the world, denial of self.

It also involves laying hold of a brand new life, real life in Jesus! It means finding out the real reason for our existence. And it means eternal reward. We so often run away from a life of cross-bearing. Our minds are reluctant to believe that this could be God’s will for us. Yet the words of Christ “If anyone desires to come after Me” mean that this is the cost of discipleship for each of us, but consider the blessings to follow, and the joy that comes from living close to the Lord.

When we meet the Lord on that day to we want Him to say "Well done my good and faithful servant.” So it is all or nothing. What a change is wrought in our lives when we surrender our all to the Lord.

  1. Becoming a disciple of Jesus often involves sacrifice...

  • For Simon and Andrew, it meant leaving their business behind

  • For James and John, it also meant leaving their family behind

  • For all four, it meant lives of service that included hardship, ending in martyrdom or exile

  1. Becoming a disciple of Jesus means to seek the lost...

  • Jesus wants His disciples to become "fishers of men" - Mk 1:17

  • Just as He come to "seek and save the lost" - Lk 19:10

  1. As disciples of Christ today...

  • Are we willing to sacrifice for the Lord?

  • Are we willing to seek the lost?

  • If not, can we really claim to be disciples of Jesus Christ?

Jesus would have everyone become His disciple today (cf. Mt 28:19-20).

May "The Call Of Four Fishermen", and the service they rendered to the

Lord, inspire us to greater dedication as disciples...

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