Tag Archives: Luke 5:1-11

Becoming Fire!

October 7 (O.S., September 24), 2018: 19th Sunday after Pentecost. Holy Protomartyr and Equal-to-the-Apostles Thecla of Iconium (1st c.). Ven. Coprius of Palestine (530).

Epistle: 2 Corinthians 11:31-12:9
Gospel: Luke 5:1-11

Ss Cyril & Methodius Orthodox Church, Madison, WI

Glory to Jesus Christ!

The first two chapters of Genesis introduce us to the God Who is both Redeemer and Artist of Creation.

Rather than Aristotle’s impersonal Unmoved Mover or the Enlightenment’s somewhat more personal but nevertheless detached Watchmaker, as portrayed in Genesis God is intimately involved in the shaping and ordering of Creation.

Day after day, God orders the primordial chaos. To those who lived at the time, this ordering of chaos would not have been understood abstractly.

In a world beset with the chaos of disease and famine, war and accidental death, God’s actions at the Creation would have been proof that the God of Moses was worthy of human obedience. This God above all the gods of the time was victorious not only over the passing chaos of daily life but the cosmological chaos that always threatened to overwhelm humanity.

And when God creates His finest creation–humanity–He doesn’t do so like the other gods from a distance or with violence. Rather, He reaches down in love to His creation and forms Man out of the dust, the mud, of the earth.

We can see in this a foreshadowing of the Incarnation. As St Augustine points out (City of God, 24), the One Who gives us physical life by His breath will later breath upon the apostles and disciples granting them the power to forgive sins and so great us life everlasting (see John 20:19-25).

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

What God creates first, is more manikin than Man. It is only when God mixes His Spirit with His this model of a man that the mud of the earth becomes, as we read in Genesis, “a living being” (Genesis 2:7). This means that to be human means to be a creature who shares, participates, in the divine life (compare 2 Peter 1:4).

The Hebrew word translated as “living being” is nephesh. It is a word often used to describe things like a flute or the throat. It has the connotation, in other words, of things that are only themselves when they are empty so they can be filled with breath. It’s only with breath, that the flute makes music or the throat words.

For the human to be nephesh means that, from the beginning, we are only ourselves when we are filled with the Spirit of God. This is the context with which we can understand St Paul’s boast that in human weakness, divine grace is perfected.

The power of the Gospel is only made real in the lives of those who have come to accept and embrace with gratitude their absolute dependence on God. This means as well, that I am most fully myself only to the degree that I depend on God. And it is this dependence on God that makes possible for us to do the mighty works of God.

Look at St Peter in the Gospel.

After a hard night of failure, Jesus comes to him and asks to be rowed out into the lake. Of all the things Simon wanted to do that morning, going back on to the water was likely not one of them.

But out he goes.

And when Jesus is finished preaching? He tells Simon to row out to the deep part of the lake and let down his net.

Not surprisingly, Simon doesn’t want to do this. After all, he not Jesus is the fisherman. And while he was willing to provide Jesus a platform to preach, rowing out on the water and dropping his net means revisiting the scene of his failure.

We need to understand, Simon’s failure wasn’t an abstraction for him. Failing to catch fish the night before, means he goes hungry this morning. And not only Simon.

His wife and children will have no food this morning. And he will have no fish to trade. This means he has failed not only his family but his village as well.

And so for Simon to hear Jesus, this rabbi, this carpenter, and his friend, to say “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch” means to be asked to revisit the scene of his failure as a husband, a father and a member of the community.

To do as Jesus asks is humiliating for Simon. The successful catch comes at the cost of Simon surrendering all his notions of who he is and what it means to be a good husband, father, Jew, and man.

Rather than responding with anger, he confesses his sinfulness. In that moment of miraculous success, Simon realizes how little room he has in his heart for God.

It is precisely at the moment when he realizes his weakness, that Simon the fisherman becomes Peter the Apostle who’s preaching will set the world on fire!

We are called to live the same life as Peter and Paul. If we embrace our dependence on God if we root out all the things in our life that we cling to instead of God, then like Peter and Paul, we can not only set the world around us on fire, we can become ourselves fire!

And what does fire do but shine and burn?

We can become light and warmth for a world grown cold and dark because of sin. And far from being used up or destroyed in the process, we will become more and more the persons who God has created us to be.

My brothers and sisters in Christ! Jesus says to each of us today, “I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!”

Today, Christ calls us to fulfill His desire for the world!

Today, Christ calls us to be His disciples, His witnesses!

Today, Christ calls us to become who we are!

Today, Christ calls us to become fire!

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

Repentance, Discipleship and Evangelism

Sunday, September 27, 2015: Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost & First Sunday of Luke

The Apostles Aristarchos, Zenon and Mark of the Seventy; New-martyr Aquilina of Thessalonica; Venerable Ignatius, abbot in Asia Minor; Venerable Savvatios of Solovky

St Ignatius Orthodox Church, Franklin TN

Epistle: 2 Corinthians 6:16-7:1
Gospel: Luke 5:1-11

The Apostle Paul tells us to separate ourselves from the world and to make “holiness perfect in the fear of God.” We should hear in this not simply a call to virtue but to Christian discipleship. To be a Christian means I longer arrange my life according to the expectations of the world but instead according to the teaching and example of Jesus Christ.

A life of Christian discipleship, of Christian holiness, is built the twin foundations. First these is that of divine grace poured out in the sacraments—especially holy baptism. Second—and important—personal repentance. The latter is often misunderstood with feeling bad about one’s self. This is not only simplistic it is misleading. Yes, the Apostle Peter confesses his sinfulness to Jesus—”Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord”—but in saying this he is speaking in relative, not absolute, terms; his words are motivated by humility not catastrophic thinking. What do I mean by this?

Peter see his sinfulness in light of God’s love for him. In the events on the lake, Peter comes to realize how deeply he has misunderstood Jesus. This is not simply a carpenter’s son or even a gifted rabbi. No Peter realizes, if only an inchoate manner, that he is in the presence of God Himself. This is why Jesus comforts Peter, James and John—”Do not be afraid”—and then reveals to them their true dignity.

No longer will they be fishermen. Now they will be fishers of men, evangelists and apostles whose preaching will overturn the world and draw all men to Christ in the net of the Gospel. The holiness that Paul calls the Corinthians to cultivate begins on the shores of the lake of Gennesaret.

As I said, repentance is more than seeing our shortcomings. True repentance is the fruit of knowing you are loved by God and seeing yourself as He sees you. The sorrow that we rightly associate with repentance is the fruit not of a negative self-image—it’s not, as I said above, the bitter fruit of catastrophic thinking—but of a gratitude born from humility.

Seeing what God has done for us in Jesus Christ, we see His love for us and grasp something of our dignity and value in His eyes. Standing bathed in His love, I also realize how little I have done with all that He has given me. This is why gratitude flows from humility and humility is born from repentance; God’s love for me, for each of us, far outstrips anything we can do for Him.

It is this, God’s great love not only for humanity but for every human person that is at heart of the evangelical and apostolic witness of the Church. Too often we confuse evangelism with apologetics. While both are important, the latter is part of the internal life of the Church. Apologetics isn’t about convincing those outside the Church of their errors but meant to build up the faith of those inside the Church; it is encouragement for the faithful not correction for those don’t yet believe.

What draws people to Christ is not well crafted arguments but love. And not so much God’s love for them but ours. This isn’t meant to minimize, much less dismiss, the primacy of God’s love. But when the Father wishes to reveal His great love for us, He does so by sending His Son to live among us as one of us. It is in and through His deified humanity that Jesus draws all men to the Father.

Look again at this morning’s Gospel.

Yes, there is the miracle of the great haul of fish but we can’t isolate this from Jesus’ friendship with Peter, James and John. The miracle serves to surprise the men, to help them see something about their friend that they overlooked. But just as we can’t dismiss His divinity neither can we dismiss the humanity of Jesus. It in and through the human act of friendship, of love in work clothes and with calloused hands, that Jesus reveals His divinity, the Father’s love and Peter’s vocation.

Love—human and divine—are meant to function synergistically; the latter purifies and deifies the former while the former reveals the latter. The evangelical work of the Church embraces both the immature believer as well as the unbeliever. Both are called to a life of personal Christian discipleship. Both are called to that life of continual repentance that makes it possible to grow in the knowledge and experience of God’s love passing, as Paul says in another place, “from glory to glory.”

This morning my brothers and sisters, Christ calls us to separate ourselves from the world. We are not to turn our backs on the world but on its myriad disordered desires. This is what it means to drop our nets and follow Jesus Christ in our daily lives. It is no longer the fallen and broken world that is now the standard of our lives but God’s great love for us. And it is God’s great love for all human beings that is the Good News we proclaim.

To do this, I must lay aside my sinfulness. Building on the grace of the sacraments, I must conform myself more and more to the example of Christ’s sacred humanity. This is what it means not only to live a life repentance but also to live as a disciple of Jesus Christ. And without this? Well what do I have to offer to a fallen and broken world but my own fallen and broken life?

But with the grace of repentance and the strength that comes from discipleship what we have to offer is nothing less than the love of God poured out in Jesus Christ and, in Christ, our own lives.

Glory to God for all things!

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory