1Cor 3:18-23; Ps 24:1-6; Lk 5:1-11
Today we remember the witness and service of our pope Saint Gregory the Great. What makes a pope great? Some are calling our dear holy father John Paul II the great. What made him great? The Lord Jesus teaches us that greatness comes from service. A willingness to serve all who serve is what makes one a great pope, the Servant of the Servants of the LORD. Pope Saint Gregory is well known by the homilies he wrote and preached. In one of his homilies he wrote, “Perhaps it is not after all so difficult for a man to part with his possessions, but it is certainly most difficult for him to part with himself. To renounce what one has is a minor thing; but to renounce what one is, that is asking a lot”. Gregory the Great gave not only of all he had; he gave of his very self. This is the kind of shepherd’s heart the LORD fashioned in his servant Gregory. The Saint cooperated with the movement of grace in his heart and became a great man, monk, priest, and pope for the glory of God and the good of his people and all the world of his time. Pope Saint Gregory enabled the flock of Christ to recognize how blessed they were, and he continues to do so through his glorious ministry of heavenly intercession. With the Good Shepherd Christ he looks down upon the whole world, and he pleads with his LORD and ours.
The human race seeks the face of God, the God of Jacob. The God who has revealed his face to the human race is the God of Jacob; He has made a covenant with Jacob, Israel and his descendants forever. We seek his face because he has made us in his image and likeness. Although the entire earth belongs to the LORD, He has chosen to dwell with us, to pitch his tent among us. The sea itself is not deep enough to hold the mystery of God nor can the rivers contain the flow of his mighty power. Indeed, he walks on the sea, and he interrupts the flow of the rivers. The LORD is God, and there is no other. From ages past he beckons his chosen ones to ascend the mountain of the LORD. No one can climb this mighty mountain unless the LORD beckons. Who can climb the Lord’s mountain? Only those who are summoned by the LORD, “to come and come up higher.” We, who are summoned to stand in his holy place, must have clean hearts. We must have sinless hands. We must not desire what is vain. In our ascending the mountain, we shall receive the blessing for which we long, to see the face of the LORD. Saint Paul warns us that the only true wisdom in human life is bound to seem foolish in the eyes of the world. Saint Luke reveals the wisdom of the first disciples, “they left everything and followed him”. Such a decision still seems foolish to those who do not seek the face of the God of Jacob.
It is so easy to fool yourself. All too many of us are self-deceived. Even at the time of Saint Paul this was a problem for the Corinthians; some things change very slowly. The wisdom of this age would have us encourage scientists to do all that they can do simply because they can do it. That there should be no limitations on technical development or scientific experimentation seems to be the wisdom of the age. Just because some changes are desperately needed does not mean that every change suggested by politicians is for the common good. Sometimes things do not change; some things are always and everywhere true. There are universal values and universal truth. Such timeless values and truth provide an ethical framework for political decisions. Just because a child within the womb presents many challenges and even hardships for the mother does not mean that she has the right to destroy that new human life, but such is the wisdom of the age of liberation. Two principles that seem govern decision-making processes in our world are relativism and materialism. Context and not values seem to govern decisions. What one can get out of a particular decision seems more important than its inherent good or evil. These issues do not reflect the wisdom from on high. Such wisdom is foolishness in the eyes of God. Indeed, the LORD catches us in our own efforts at self-justification and self-righteousness. Indeed, the LORD knows well the thoughts of the wise, and sometimes their origins are vanity and pride. Everything of importance in this world from the time of Saint Paul to the present belongs to us or to our brothers and sisters, whether in the present or the future. However, what matters most is that we belong to Christ and Christ to God.
In this time of confusion and chaos, it is natural for us to feel afraid. Fear does arise in the hearts of those who see everything which they value and everything in which they believe being denied or cast aside. We need to be in that crowd pressing in on Jesus and listening attentively to the word of God. Perhaps we need to be in the fishing boat with Simon, James, and John. There we would be amazed at the humility of Simon who had been fishing all his life. We need to hear his response and let it become our own, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.” The Lord Jesus was not trained as a fisherman; his foster father was a carpenter. However, his Eternal Father sent him to reveal the wisdom of obedience. As Jesus was teaching the crowd from his boat, Simon must have heard something of the wisdom from on high, and such listening moved Simon to trust the Lord Jesus. Even disciples today, carpenters or fishermen, need to learn how to trust the Lord Jesus. Once we are obedient to him we find that our nets are tearing and our boats are in danger of sinking. The reward of obedience to the wisdom from the Father, through the Son and in the Holy Spirit, is abundant life. Such signs and wonders will nock us onto our knees pleading, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” Yet, it is at such moments of astonishment that we are ready to listen to the Lord Jesus say to us, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” From now on we will be catching the hearts and souls of those who have wandered in the deep darkness all their lives. In our nets we will raise them from the depths and bring them into the bright glory of the Light from Light. Such an encounter with the living wisdom of the Word Made Flesh is enough to make us leave everything and follow him. Then we will fear no more; whatever the confusion within or the chaos around us, we are not afraid.