Gone fishin' - with the Lord!

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Homily for the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
(Scriptures for today's liturgy)

Audio for homily

Just as Jesus interrupted these four fishermen
in the middle of their day,
I need to interrupt you this morning,
and ask you to look up from your nets
and even to put them aside for a while.

In the gospel here,
Jesus begins his preaching at a difficult time in his own family:
his cousin, John the baptizer, has just been arrested,
arrested for doing just what Jesus is beginning to do:
preaching repentance and the mercy of God.

Times aren’t good, and the future is very uncertain,
but this doesn’t keep Jesus from his mission.
And straight away he begins to enlist others to join him.
His words were simple (Come… follow me)
so there must have been something very powerful in his voice,
powerful enough to draw these men away from their work,
their livelihood - even away from their father, Zebedee,
who depended on them for their muscle in the boats.

I doubt these men could have imagined that some 2,000 years later
their story might be told around the world on a Sunday morning
and a preacher might interrupt the lives of others, like you,
calling them from their nets, their work and their families,
to follow Jesus and go on a fishing trip with him.

Actually, there are two fishing stories for us to attend to this morning.

First, I’m going to ask you take very seriously
the Lord’s call for you to be “fishers of men and women,”
casting your own nets of faith
to catch those who have slipped through the many holes left unmended
in the Church’s nets in these very difficult times.

We can’t wait until all the troubles are over
before drawing back to our company those who have left us.

I ask you to take the nets of your own faith that brought you here today
and cast those nets among those you know who,
for any number of reasons, are no longer with us in prayer.

In the weeks ahead, I’ll be writing to you in the bulletin
with some ideas and suggestions for doing just that.

And although “fishing for others” is the most important thing
I’ll ask of you this morning, I need to ask you for more than that.
And here’s the second fishing story.

I need to ask, for the sake of our parish life,
for a greater share in the “catch” you bring home each week,
for a greater share in your household’s resources.

If you’re registered in the parish,
you received a letter from me this week
outlining the financial troubles our parish is facing.
In the past four years our weekly offertory collection has dropped
by more than 20%.

We are not alone in this: our situation is not unusual --
it mirrors that of most parishes in the Archdiocese of Boston.

If I believed that we were already receiving all you have to give,
I’d be forced to consider cutting staff and programming.
But that’s not the case.

I believe that many among us can be more generous
and I’m calling on you to give as sacrificially generously as you can.

Many parishioners might assume Holy Family has no financial concerns
and have been contributing accordingly.
As you can see, the drop in our offertory collection tells a different story.

And I also know that some households in the parish
face serious financial difficulties of their own
and I know that when times are better
you’ll respond as you might wish you could right now.

What I ask is for every household to consider my message carefully:
to prayerfully and seriously review your support of Holy Family
and, as you are able, to increase that support.

Only you and those I pray will come home to us through your nets
can help bring our active parish life
to the financial stability and spiritual vitality
I believe we can achieve.

My letter to you in this week’s mail
included information on a number of ways
for you to pledge and manage your parish support.

Annual pledging is vitally important
in that it helps you make a firm decision
and helps the parish to prepare and execute an informed budget.

Making and fulfilling a pledge
also guards against the “gaps in giving” we experience
when you are away for weekends on vacation or for business.
Your using our pledge form is the first step you can take
to help Holy Family secure a stronger, more stable financial base.

So, I have interrupted your prayer with some nitty-gritty parish business.

I hope there's no one here this morning who's been away for 20 years,
sitting here thinking, "They're still looking for money!"

This is the first time I’ve done something like this
in my 17 years as a pastor
and I wouldn’t be doing this were I not convinced of the need for it.

I do this out of the conviction that you love our parish
and want to see it grow and thrive, especially in difficult times.
Holy Family is your parish.
It’s the place where you worship, your house of prayer
where you hear the Lord’s Word and celebrate the sacraments.

When times are confusing and confounding, difficult and demanding
for us and for those who have left us,
I pray you find Christ’s peace and strength in our parish life --
enough to help you cast wide your own nets of faith
to invite back those who drifted away.

At the heart of our lives as Christians, as members of Holy Family,
we come to this Table, in the shadow of the Cross,
to remember, to celebrate and to receive that gift offered for us by Christ
who never counted the cost of giving all he had for us.

Pray that the love of Jesus will open our hearts generously
in our love and support for Holy Family Parish.


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