Thursday, September 6, 2012

22nd Week 
Ordinary Time

Today's gospel presents one of the several versions of the first call of Jesus' disciples.  St. Luke offers a scene that is different from his evangelist colleagues.  Even geography seems to be a challenge to the memories of these writers:  for Luke the scene takes place on the shores of Lake Gennesaret; for the others related that the scene takes place at the Sea of Galilee.  Does it really matter?  Seemingly not.  What is important is that this an account of the beginning of what will eventually become the organization that was called The Twelve in the days before "Peter, on this rock I will build my Church."

What we might consider is this:  the symbolism in Jesus' actions.  Here at the seaside Jesus is actually starting the foundation of his Church.  In gospel teachings the boat is a symbol of the Church.  You may know the phrase, "the barque of Peter."  Jesus uses this moment to send Simon, a follower not yet called "Cephas" or "Peter", and his fishing buddies back out into the water to begin fishing again.  This time it will be different.  Where there had been no fish, there would now be abundance.  Some see Simon's response to Jesus as one of personal frustration:  we are fishermen, who is this man to tell us that we will now make a significant catch?  Jesus must have had a definite magnetism for this tired fishermen to push out from the shore and then to re-drop their nets.  Perhaps we might take this scene and Jesus' teaching as what is similar to experiences in our Church in the modern age.  The Church's teachings that put believers at odds with the various doctrines result in words similar to Simon's:  what does a body of celibates know about the various realities that impact the lives of husbands and wives?

At the same time, our Church, our contemporary "barque of Peter," sails in waters that are buffeted by the waves created by contemporary men and women who speak out from positions that are contrary to the teachings that have lasted for many centuries.  These voices of opposition are considered the calls of modern prophets, summoning the Church to think in different ways not different, perhaps, that the challenges put before us by Church's leadership as a result of the most recent Church Council, Vatican II.
Just a few days ago, God called home to himself a unique man of the Church, Cardinal Carlo Martini, SJ.  This Jesuit biblical scholar, when appointed to be the Archbishop of Milan, began an interesting and new mission for himself and the Church.  Cardinal Martini died several days ago.  His teachings did not end with his death.  He continued to challenge the Church's leadership from the grave.  He had prepared material for publication after his death.  It is truly a body of thinking that can be easily pushed aside as the work of an old, sickly man.  Or "last will and testament" to the Church might be a cause for serious thinking, considerations in very rough seas.  The man who weekly filled the Milan Cathedral every Friday during his tenure in Milan, called the Church leaders to examine again its positions, its teachings on genuine "hot button" issues such as homosexuality, divorce.  In short, it seems to me, that our Church is being called by a deeply spiritual man, a gifted scripture scholar, to examine issues that deeply impact the lives of so many men and women ... those standing on the shore facing today's Church.  This quiet man entered the last conclave with the support of a number of Cardinals.  However, he knew that there were health issues that would prevent his full attention to the work as Roman Pontiff.  He informed those present for the Conclave that he would not accept any effort that would lead to his election as Pope to succeed Pope John Paul II. (These "facts" about his actions at the Concalve are assumed to be true as they were shared post-election by the Cardinal himself.)