Third Sunday of Advent “Gaudete Sunday”:
“Let’s Take Up Fishing”
Msgr. Thomas Gervasio
Last Sunday, we found St. John the Baptist in the desert urging repentance. Today we find him in prison. And from his cell, this prophet who leaped in his mother’s womb at the sound of Mary’s voice and pointed out Jesus as the Lamb of God and who baptized him in the Jordan, poses this question for Jesus: “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to expect another?
Why would John ask this? Some scholars say that he was discourage and began to doubt his mission. Other scholars contend that his question arose from his humility. He had said, “I must decrease. He must increase” and so he was directing his disciples toward Jesus. In response, Jesus tells the disciples, “Go, tell John what you hear and see.” The blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised and the poor have the Gospel proclaimed to them. Jesus invites John and his disciples to “take in” the work of God and to realize the God’s kingdom is at hand. Share this good news with John.
This is a commission for us as well. Our faith is something to be shared. All the baptized share in the missionary work of the Church. We so often think of the missions being in far off countries. But don’t we have a mission among our family and friends? How many have sadly given up the practice of the faith. We have plenty of work in our backyards!
Yet, we struggle with this don’t we? Why? Largely because we have accepted the notion, so prevalent today that faith is to be relegated to the periphery of life. Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia observed that many Catholics have a misguided sense of good manners that results in the “self-censorship for fear of offending others. He reminds us that faith is always personal but never private. This is vital as we witness the slow, steady decline of participation in the Church’s life. It is a great challenge for a pastor. I once read: “Priests are better shepherds than fishermen.” That is to say, priests can remain content to care well for the people we know but struggle in casting a net to draw others to the Lord.
Imagine what our parish life would be if every one of us began to see ourselves as fishermen? Should we take a page out of the Mormon or Jehovah Witness books? That might be admirable but this evening (morning) let’s ponder a few questions.
- Do I convey the idea to others that my life would be impoverished, unfulfilled, or unhappy if I did not come to Mass each week?
- Do my conversations ever reveal that my Catholic faith gives me strength to face the stresses of life?
- Do I ever share with others my positive experience of Mass or Confession?
- Have I ever invited someone to come to Mass with me?
- On this Gaudete Sunday we might also add, “Do others notice the joy my faith gives me?”
Pope Francis said, “There are Christians whose lives seem like Lent without Easter. An evangelizer must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral.” He poses this Advent challenge: “Let us recover our enthusiasm, that joy of evangelizing, even when it is in tears that we must sow. And may the world, which is searching sometimes in anguish, sometimes in hope, be enabled to receive the good news, not from evangelizers who are dejected, discouraged, impatient, or anxious, but from those whose lives glow with fervor.”
The coming Christmas feast should encourage us to “go fishing” in the waters of our own families and friends…to evangelize. Shouldn’t we have a zeal for others? If we all caught one fish…imagine then the joy of Christmas!