June 25, 2017
Christ the King Catholic Church
Genesis 2:4b-9, 15
One time when I was a kid, I had the opportunity to go fishing with one of my favorite cousins. My cousin did not like to share his time fishing with anyone, which was one of the reasons I wanted to go with him. I wanted to go with him more than to go fishing. He finally relented and agreed to take me. On the way there early in the morning, I peppered him with questions and chatter. He ignored this. When we finally got to the boat and went out on the water, I became bored and didn’t pay attention to my pole, playing with it. I asked him, “Do you think that we will catch any fish?” He answered that it would be helpful if I put the pole in the water and did just as he was doing. I believed him to be an expert.
My cousin’s response makes a lot of sense. "Learn from the experts." So, one can imagine what went through Peter’s mind when Jesus, carpenter and teacher, dared to invite Himself into Peter’s business, fishing. Peter was an expert in fishing. Jesus was a carpenter and was not reputed to be a fisherman. Yet, what Peter learns is that even (and perhaps especially) in the business for which each of us has natural talents and knowledge, we must begin with inviting the Lord as the Source of those talents – not for the sake of success but for the sake of His mission of salvation that He shares with us, the baptized. In doing so, we become a part of His mission instead of trying to make Him a part of our own plans.
God chose to save us, to save every human being, by the humanity of Jesus. In Jesus Christ we see the perfect integration and harmony between the divine and human wills; we see perfect justice; we see perfect fortitude; we see perfect temperance; we see perfect prudence; and we receive perfect love. In our Baptism, our humanity is imbued with the character of Christ and we are given the capacity to manifest the character of Christ through these infused virtues. Most especially, we receive the capacity to love with the human and divine love of Jesus Christ, love through His Cross of Sacrifice.
In Jesus Christ, we see and experience harmony and right order of the human and divine – without blurring distinctions and without compartmentalizing either of them. We see that there is no double life in Jesus Christ. There is no gnostic separation of spirit and matter, of the divine and the human. We learn that this integration is offered to us who are baptized in Christ, and have a responsibility to live this reality through what is known as holiness. Holiness is not only our gift, it is also our mission. It is the mission of Jesus Christ that He shares sacramentally with us through each of the sacraments that are so very real – both spiritual and material.
Saint Josemaría Escrivá received and grasped this mission and reality; he prophetically accepted it before it was systematically presented by the Church at the Second Vatican Council. During an October 8, 1967 homily at the University of Navarre, the Saint said: "I often said to the university students and workers who were with me in the thirties that they know how to materialize their spiritual lives. I wanted to warn them of the temptation, so common then and now, to lead a double life: on the one hand, an inner life, a life related to God; and on the other, as something separate and distinct, their professional, social and family lives, made up of small earthly realities."
The bifurcation between the spiritual and the material is the bitter fruit of sin; it is the alienation of the human person from himself and from his environment. It leads to compartments and self-destruction – the goal of the enemy – to destroy the beauty of God’s work of creation, chiefly God’s most beautiful creation: the human person created in the image and likeness of God. This separation prompts us to have a cordial but distant relationship with God, one devoid of intimacy and marked by apathy. It compartmentalizes the work of holiness within the Church to the clergy and religious, and it subsequently voids also the holiness of the clergy by reducing clergy and religious life to a childish game of “dress up” marked by externals without any mark of reality.
For this "double life" to incubate it requires a cloak of darkness and obscurity; it requires the blurring of vision through the inebriation of self-will and half-truths; it eschews and recoils from the disinfecting sunlight of Jesus and the Gospel – for Whom even darkness is not dark and Who reveals fully all that the Father has to reveal.
This bifurcation of the spiritual from the material has harmed marriage and family life; it has isolated the conjugal and physical intimacy from the fruit of marital love and the gift of children. It has harmed holy orders by isolating priests in a clerical culture of entitlement restricting them to sacramental functionalism and obscuring the transparent and sacramental character of being ordained in the image of Christ as head and shepherd of His church – a vocation of integrity and love. It has harmed moral theology through systems that compartmentalize our moral actions from our moral intentions, that spiritualize morality to such an extent that it becomes impossible to live morally in reality; leading one to hold simplistically the Gospel as a meaningless and distant ideal.
The metaphor of fishing in the Gospels conveys the disciple’s responsibility towards mission. "To put out into the deep" means that we are first to trust Jesus and to do what He asks us to do, even beyond the scope of our own reasoning or expertise. Secondly, what Jesus asks us to do is to go to where the fish are – in the deep – not to stay shallow and safe and to expect the fish to come where the disciple is. These depths for fishing include reality, not the shallow level of superficiality; the depths of each being, of each soul, the depths of society’s structure and the common good.
Saint John Paul II spoke at Saint Josemaría Escrivá’s canonization regarding the saint’s vocation. Saint Josemaría Escrivá heard clearly this vocation at Mass on August 7, 1931. The Pope said, “Saint Josemaría Escrivá understood more clearly that the mission of the baptized consists in raising the Cross of Jesus above all human reality; he felt burning within him the impassioned vocation to evangelize every human setting. Duc in altum! Saint Josemaría Escrivá transmitted it to his entire spiritual family so that they might offer the Church a valid contribution of communion and apostolic service.”
The mission of Christ is the redemption of the human person. The mission of Christ is the reintegration of humanity’s relation of love with God and neighbor intended at creation but lost by the "happy fault" of Adam. The mission of Christ is completed by Christ through His Cross and Resurrection. This mission of Christ is shared with us at our baptism and confirmation; we are nourished in it through the Eucharist; we are particularly emboldened by and for it in the Sacraments of Holy Orders and Matrimony; we are healed in it through Penance and Anointing of the Sick. The mission of Christ is real. It is integral and not bifurcated. The mission of Christ is as real as each of the elements of matter used in the celebration of the sacraments. It is as real as our daily lives and the things that we foolishly think are too mundane or shameful over which to trouble God.
Saint Josemaría Escrivá conveyed this reality in the previously cited homily when he said: "No, my children! We cannot lead a double life. We cannot be like schizophrenics, if we want to be Christians. There is only one life, made of flesh and spirit. And it is that life which has to become, in both body and soul, holy and filled with God: we discover the invisible God in the most visible and material things."
For us to live this one life entirely we must return to its source, Jesus Christ who is true God and true man. We must decide to allow Him into our areas of expertise, to do things His way and not simply according to the tenets of our best thinking. Put out into the deep, the depths beyond our understanding.
Who was Saint Josemaría Escrivá:
A brief biography of Saint Josemaria Escriva,
the founder of Opus Dei.
the founder of Opus Dei.