16thThursday in Ordinary Time
Feast of Saint James, Apostle
2 Corinthians 4:7-15; Matthew 20:20-28
In the fourth chapter of his gospel, Matthew recounted how the two brothers, James and John, were sitting in their father’s boat mending their nets when Jesus first called them to follow Him (CF. Mat. 4:21). In today’s gospel reading the mother of these same hard-working men asks Jesus to have them seated on thrones of power at his right and left hand (CF. Mat.20:21). It seems that this good-intentioned mother missed an important element in the call of her sons. They were not to be rulers, but fishers of men (CF. Mat. 4:19). The conversation that follows is extremely important. The call to discipleship is not to sit on thrones of powers, but to sit in the Barque of Peter, tending the nets that gather in the members of the kingdom. Those who have been called to follow in the footsteps of the Master must be willing to sacrifice their vanity and ambition in order to exert their strength in bringing in the nets.
The Barque of Peter is not a luxury liner nor is it a leisure cruise ship. No, it is a fishing schooner. Each of us is called to lend our hands to mend the nets and to draw in the daily catch. The Lord who has called us will give us the grace we need to bend our strength to the building up of the Kingdom. Laboring through the night, we receive the blessing of seeing the rising of the sun of justice as it shines in the heart of each believer. As the light dawned at the beginning of creation, so the light of the Spirit is the first work in the recreated soul. The hymn writer Jane Borthwick put it quite beautifully in Come, labor on”
Come, labor on.
Cast off all gloomy doubt and faithless fear!
No arm so weak but may do service here.
Though feeble agents, may we all fulfill
God’s righteous will.
It is the disciple who is willing to serve the Lord in sweat and toil that gives glory to the Lord. In our weakness and humble labor, the Lord’s power and grace are made manifest. In us, his power is glorified and in our weakness, his strength is revealed. As the Father loved the Son who was most worthy, so does he love the disciples who man the oars and tend the nets. The disciple who labors most diligently, and suffers most patiently, seeking to do good to the brethren, and to promote the salvation of souls, most resembles Christ and will be most honored by him to all eternity. The disciple who labors for the heavenly catch is given an eternal treasure. This treasure, according to St. Paul is possessed in an earthen vessel. This treasure is the riches of our following Christ in serving God’s people. With Christ, we are called to care for, to tend and unite God’s people. Because we possess this treasure within the poverty of our humanity, we have nothing to boast about but his mercy and loving-kindness. If Christ has grasped us as His own, we must be willing to catch others. If we have been apprehended of him, we must bend our efforts to apprehend rebels for him. Let us ask him to give us the grace we need to go fishing, empowering us to cast our nets that we may make a great catch.