Bringing People Closer to God – Part 1
By Fr. Matthew Habiger, OSB | Fr. Matthew is a monk at St. Benedict’s Abbey in Atchison, KS. This is the first part of his homily for this past Sunday, the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time. You can read the second part here.
We naturally want to find the truth. We don’t want deceptions, or half-truths. We want to see things the way they really are. That is why we look to Jesus.
When we listen to Jesus, meditate upon his teachings in the Gospel, dialogue with him in prayer, then we see things from above. We see things from God’s perspective. Then we are in touch with reality. When we listen to human voices, then we see things from below, from the very limited perspective of a person who has limited experience, many biases, and only partial understandings of the world we live in.
That is why the Church continues to present to us selections from divine revelation for the Liturgy of the Word at each Mass. We can never exhaust these words. We must go beyond the superficial meaning of these words at the literal sense of the words, and penetrate more deeply into the spiritual senses of these words. When God gave us his revelation, his self-disclosure, He gave us a word that could be applied to every generation, to every culture, and to every human situation. Only God could do that. If we do not see this dimension in divine revelation, then we have missed the reality. We would be floundering in the dark.
In today’s Gospel passage, we see Jesus teaching the people on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. There are so many of them, he found it expedient to get into a boat belonging to Simon, and to use that as a podium for addressing the people. Then he began to teach/preach. What was he telling them?
If Jesus were here today, speaking to us, what would he say? Would he not be addressing the real spiritual hungers we have? Would he not be addressing our deepest concerns and questions? What is this life all about? How do you explain the reality of evil and suffering? What are we to accomplish during our brief lifetimes? What does it mean to be a human being? How do we deal with the fact that we are bodied persons, male and female, with a strong sex drive and the gift of fertility? How do we foster peaceful coexistence, learn how to live together peacefully, in a world where there are so many different and conflicting opinions? What is the difference between good and evil? How do we attain true happiness? How do you build a strong marriage, and healthy, happy families? We instinctively abhor the thought of death and annihilation, so what will satisfy our longing for unending life?
Who is God? Why did he create the universe, and then the human race, and place us upon this jewel of a planet? Are not these some the questions that really matter to us? And there are so many more. Where can we find satisfying answers, if not from the one who created us?
When the people listened to Jesus, they not only heard with their minds, but also with their hearts. The human mind wants the truth; the human heart wants the good and the loveable. We know when we are loved. Children know when they are loved by their parents. A woman knows when she is truly treasured by a man. When we reflect upon all that God has done for us, we begin to realize how much He loves us. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (Jn 3:16).
We can easily see why the people hung on every word of Jesus, and why they did not want him to leave them. But Jesus could not stay in any one village. He was sent on a mission to reach every man, woman and child.
Then Jesus turned his attention to his close disciples. He told Simon and Andrew to lower their nets for a catch of fish. The catch was so overwhelming and net-breaking that they had to call their associates to come and help them. Jesus performed this sign, this miracle, to indicate to them that they would become fishers of men.
The Gregorian Institute is Benedictine College’s initiative to promote Catholic identity in public life by equipping leaders (the Gregorian speech digest), training leaders (the Gregorian Fellows), defending the faith (the Memorare Army for Religious Freedom), and celebrating Catholic identity (the Catholic Hall of Fame).