Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reading I Isaiah 8:23 - 9:3
Psalm 27:1, 4, 13-14
Reading II First Corinthians 1:10-13, 17
Gospel Matthew 4:12-23
Are you and I fans of Jesus, or are we followers of Jesus? The readings are spectacular this weekend. The first reading and the Gospel reading talk about “out of the darkness will come a light.” Then Jesus takes it from there and says, “For that light to come, I need to have someone follow me. I need someone who would like to preach.” Then he called by name.
You and I were called by name the day of our baptism. On the day we were baptized as an infant or adult, we were called to preach. You may think, “Oh, that’s Father’s job.” No. It’s the job of every single Christian in the world. In all five continents we are called to follow and to preach. As we have heard over and over again, actions speak louder than words.
So we have to wrestle with that. We live in a world of darkness. It’s very obvious. We have the poor and the rich. We have people with different colors of skin. We have everybody in an uproar, and that is darkness. Jesus says, “I want you to walk in the light and I want you to preach, and when you preach, others will follow. Fans just wave at you.”
If you are a baseball person, you might be for the Cardinals, you might be for the Cubs. But are you a fan of the Cardinals and the Cubs, or are you a follower of the Cardinals and the Cubs? I would be a fan. I get to a game once or twice a year. Followers are in the stadium every single day. They can tell you the position and player, they can give you the batting average, the history of the team.
So when it comes to our faith, are you and I fans? “Hi, Jesus. You’re doing a good job.” Or, to say, “I think you want me to follow you, but I don’t know where you’re going.”
Jesus says, “Don’t ask. It’s a stupid question. I am just asking, ‘Will you follow me?’ ”
There was a young girl at Christ The King Parish in Springfield I knew when I was first ordained a priest, and she was in the lower grades at the time. For some reason, she lost her family and another family in the parish, an aunt and uncle, adopted her. They took her into their home and raised her. When she got out of high school, she chose to be a Dominican sister. The other day I was going through my mail and reading. Many of the religious communities publish their newsletters, so I get them from different sources. And this newsletter was from the Dominican Sisters. I was flipping through it because I have worked with a lot of them. I got to the last page and there was Sister Barbara. She started off teaching, and then went beyond that. Now she is serving on an Indian reservation in South Dakota. In this article there is a photo of her standing with a gentleman who was 80 years old, and he was the head of the tribe of the Native Americans in South Dakota.
She is the Parish Life Coordinator. She and this 80-year-old man — Barb is now in her fifties — were standing there together. She was not wearing her beautiful black and white habit that she wore when she entered into her Order; she just stood there in clothes. She didn’t have a hundred-dollar hairdo, but she and that gentleman are brother and sister. And they are fighting now against the government. President Obama bypassed the oil people going through their land to take away their water. And now this is being reversed to take away the water and put in oil so a large company can make money. She stands there as a woman of faith. She is not a fan of Jesus. She preaches by example, she preaches by word, and in her heart she knows who Jesus is.
You and I are in different situations. So what is your situation in life? Where do you work? Who are in your circle of friends? Are you afraid to bring up Jesus in conversation? Are you afraid to challenge someone and ask, “Would you like to go to church with us next week?” Or if someone does not have a religion are you willing to say, “Would you be interested in looking at the Catholic faith?” If you are a fan of Jesus Christ, people don’t pay any attention to you. But if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, that person will say, “Now that you asked, I need to change my life. I need to pray more. I need to reach out to my neighbor. I haven’t spoken to that couple across the street because I can’t stand them. Maybe I should go over and say ‘hello.’ I ignore this one person at work all the time. They think they run the place.” Jesus says, “OK.”
Jesus would say to you and me, “Have you ever been baptized? Was the water ever poured over you? Were you ever anointed with the Spirit? Do you ever go to church and receive the body and blood of Christ? Do you really love your children?”
We would answer, “Yes.”
And Jesus would say, “You can’t be a fan of mine. You must be a follower.”
That’s humbling. It’s humbling to say that I should be preaching twenty-four seven with my life, not just standing up here for a few minutes on Sunday. I need to be in the mixture of the darkness. I need to be that light and you need to be that light. And we all need to support each other so we all become followers. And when Jesus says, “Come. Put your nets aside. Whatever you are doing is not that busy. I have something else planned for you. All I need is for you to say, ‘Yes.’ ” The Gospel that you and I live is not a Gospel to be a fan of. It is the Gospel to preach and to be a follower. And so today the readings just awaken us. We are going to go out of church in a few minutes into the land of darkness. But our light will shine. And we have to be humble just like Sister Barbara. She’s out there in South Dakota and never dreamt fifty years that is where she would be, but she was led there.
Where are you going to be led this week? Where am I going to be led this week? But Jesus says, “Don’t worry. Just drop your nets, and follow me.”
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Monsignor Michael Kuse is pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Quincy, Illinois.
(TASCAM DR 40 file Disc C 0015)