The Third Sunday of Ordinary Time
Jonah 3:1-5, 10
1 Corinthians 7:29-31
My favorite childhood movie is The Three Amigos. In this comedy, three American cowboy-actors come to the realization that their movie career is dwindling and there’s not much waiting for them in America. They receive a curious telegraph from a small town in Mexico inviting them to put on a show. Soon after their arrival, they realize that this is not a movie they are in, but a real-life scenario of a villain who is harassing a tiny villa. Instead of leaving the town to its fate, they help the village in their plight against the menace, El Guapo. In a poignant scene before the final showdown, the villagers are asked, “What is it that this town really does well?” An elderly grandmother responds, “We can sew!” This is met initially by a quizzical look from our would-be heroes, but then the actors begin to brainstorm.
Maybe our four soon-to-be followers of Jesus in today’s Gospel are like the general population of Santo Poco. Faced with the prospect of helping Jesus build the Kingdom, all they have to offer is their trade. They are fishermen, which seems to be an unlikely asset to the project at hand. These men are not highly educated nor do they have notable social or political status. They are average businessmen working their nets to earn a living. So what can four fishermen from Galilee do to build the Kingdom of God in a tense Jewish culture that had endured Roman conquest?
This is where God’s ways are not man’s ways (c.f. Is 55:8; Ps 25:4). He often uses the unthinkable or unimaginable to do the impossible (c.f. 1 Cor 1:27). When Jesus showed up on the shores of Galilee that day, he did not offer a proposition to negotiate, nor did he look for an impressive curriculum vitae from his would be followers. He simply calls whom He would and empowers them just as they are to extend the boundaries of his Kingdom wherever they are sent. This calling did not cease that day either. When I had the chance to go to the Holy Land on pilgrimage last March, I found myself on those same shores of Galilee. While I did not meet Jesus in person, I did feel a renewed sense of calling and purpose to the monastic vocation I entered! At each holy site, I renewed my “yes” each time I sensed Jesus renewing his call for my life. In a myriad of ways, Jesus does indeed call all His baptized to share in His mission because the Kingdom has yet to be extended fully.
What about us who benefit from this legacy? What skills do we have that can help build the Kingdom right where we are? Some of us are religious and clerics, some of us are professionals (doctors, lawyers, professors, engineers, businessmen), others are service-minded (counselors, firemen, paramedics, social workers, policemen and women), and still others of us are baristas, cooks, gardeners, students, clerks, attendants, or secretaries.
Just as Jesus used the skills of these four fishermen to eventually change the course of human history, so too can Jesus use whatever human skills or endeavors we have developed in order to extend his Kingdom. These abilities can serve ourselves and our selfish gain or pleasurable comfort. The very same skills and endeavors can impart grace to others. When our skills and endeavors serve the needs of others – and when we serve with humility and generosity – we help extend the boundaries of His Kingdom to those places and to those people who have not encountered it before. When the boundaries extend, the legacy of Jesus continues. If sewing can defeat a villain, then [enter your skillset here] can extend the boundaries of God’s Kingdom. Let’s start today!
Br. John Marmion Villa, M. Div.