FISHERS OF MEN

Rev. John Kha Tran

Last Sunday after the 9:00 O’clock Mass, a mother asked me, “Father have you heard what our children say?” I turned to one of her children and asked, “What do you want to tell me?”
“You are short today!” One of them said.
“What do you mean I am short today? I am always short. I have never been tall. I am only 5’4.”
They responded, “No! We mean the Mass is short today. It’s only 53 minutes.”
They actually watched their watches to time the Mass.
I asked them, “Do you like the Mass to be short like that?”
All four kids said together, “Yes! We like it.”

(Usually our Masses last at least one full hour or it might be 65 to 70 minutes. So because it was 7 minutes less than an hour last week, today I have to make up for that 7 minutes).

Once in a while, a person approaches me after Mass and asks, “Father, I was late for Mass today. I missed the readings and part of the homily; do I have to stay for another Mass to make up for it?” What would be your answer?

Some of you might remember growing up as a Catholic; we did not take time to deal with the deeper theological issues. We were concern more about fulfilling the obligation to avoid guilt of missing Mass. So we discussed on when exactly we had to be in church for Mass to fulfill the Sunday obligation. For the sake of legalism, some moral theologians had agreed that we had to be there at least at the beginning of the Gospel. Then someone might ask, “Is it OK to stand in the Narthex or outside of the church building, or do we have to physically be in the pews to count. It was all very interesting to try to figure out minimum and basic requirements.

The Call

Minimalism, however, does not reflect true spirit of Christian religion. Minimalism is not the kind of response that Jesus expects from his followers. As Christians we are called to be more than just to avoid being guilty. We are expected to be more than just fulfilling the minimum requirements. Christians are people who have seen the light, follow the light and walk with the light. True Christians are not content to seat in darkness. Christians live their lives in abundance of light, love, peace and joy. Christians have good news to share with the world.

In the first reading, Isaiah pictures Israel as a person walking around in darkness, starving, distressed and hopeless. God will bring forth new life where there had been abandonment. Light and rejoicing, freedom and relief are promised to those who have suffered. The light is coming to them. And the Gospel presents Jesus as the Light who comes to bring relief and life. He comes to preach, to teach and to cure. He invites others to join him.  

Matthew describes the scene realistically. Jesus is walking by the Sea of Galilee. He sees Peter and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea. They are fishermen. Peter and Andrew are real people. They are working people. Their profession is fishing. They fish for their living. They fish to feed their families. Jesus invites them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  The same thing happens to John and James. They are working with their father in a boat. Jesus calls them, “Follow me!” and they immediately leave their boat and their father and “follow Him.”

Jesus is also finding us at works and being with our families. He is seeing us struggling with temptations and crisis in life. He is seeing us doing our homework’s. He is seeing us debating and arguing. He is seeing us facing our challenges. And he is inviting us to follow him. He is inviting us to join him to preach the good news, to teach righteousness, and to bring healings to others. Jesus does not want us to be here only to make profits in the world. He also wants us to make profits for the Kingdom of God. And definitely Jesus does not want to see us making troubles and creating problems for others. How do we make our lives reflect what Jesus is intent on doing in the world?

Follow the Light and Walk with the Light

Michael L. Cobbler told a beautiful story, “The Trouble With 'Sin Stealers’
On an early spring day long ago, when my mother had made my favorite lunch for school. It was a small container of chocolate milk, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies.

I went off to School, but a block and a half away, eager for the morning to pass so I could sink my teeth into one of those delicious cookies, but as I turned from Stuyvesant Ave on to Quincy Street I was face to face with Junebug, the bully of the block.

"Gimmie that lunch, punk!" he said.
"But, Junebug, that's my lunch."
"You better gimmie that lunch!"
"But it's mine. My Mom made it for me, and she made me my favorite--."

Junebug's right uppercut sent me and the lunch to the ground. He picked up the lunch and said, "That's what you get for not listening to me!" and went off to school. I also went off to school with no lunch and lots of anger.

At home that late afternoon I was very silent. Mama, knowing something was up, said, "What happened at school today?"
"I'm gonna kill him!"
"What?"
"I'm gonna kill him!"
"And who do you plan to kill?"
"Junebug. He beat me up, he stole my lunch, and I'm gonna kill him!"

Mama thought for awhile and then said, "Here, have some food. Don't start your homework right away--there is something we need to do together, but you must do it as I say."

The next morning I saw Junebug in front of the school. He pointed to me and said, "Here is that punk who I stole cookies from yesterday!"
I walked up to him, handed him a bag and said, "Junebug, here are some cookies. They're for you. I and my mother made them."

"Whatta you mean, punk?-- Giving me cookies? I can take them from you anytime I want!"
"But we made them for you--take them."
"Are they poison?"
"No, they're okay--take them."

He took the bag from me and handed it to one of his buddies. "Hey, Bootsie, you try them."
"But they just may be poison," said Bootsie.
"Try them anyway, already! They just may be good!"
After one bite, and Bootsie still standing, Junebug passed out the cookies to his buddies, saying, "The punk has brought me, Junebug, some cookies! Isn't that great!"

The next day, I saw Junebug during recess. I walked up to him, gave him a bag and said, "Junebug, here are some more cookies. Take them, they're free."

"Are you messing with me, man? Are you messing with me? These are the ones that are poison! Yesterday was just to set me up!"
"Don't worry, Junebug. They're just fine."
He took the bag and backed away from me with a terrified look on his face.

The following day, I saw Junebug in the cafeteria. I said, "Junebug, here are some more cookies. Enjoy them!"

"How can I enjoy cookies if you keep on giving them to me! Now cut it out, man! I didn't even finish yesterday's cookies! No more cookies! (He took the bag anyway.)

On the next day, I saw Junebug at the end of school. I walked up to him and said, "Junebug, here are...." He took one look at that bag of cookies and turned running and screaming all the way down Quincy Street. I haven't even had the notion of taking someone's life ever since. Because Jesus is a sin stealer, my mom stole my intention to sin.*

This is what Jesus means to make “you the fishers of men.”