“Look at Christ in Our Lives”
Homily for the First Sunday after the Exaltation of the Cross
By Archbishop Cyril Salim Bustros
Look at Christ in Our Lives
(First Sunday after the Exaltation of the Precious Cross (Luke 5:1-11)
Jesus is our Savior and the Savior of all humanity. He lived only thirty three years, preached the Kingdom of God, healed many sick people, showed God’s love to human beings, died on the cross, and finally was risen from the dead, and sent his Holy Spirit on the Apostles at the day of he Pentecost. He wanted His work of salvation to endure for ever. So He chose twelve Apostles, prepared them during His life for the mission of continuing His savaing work throughout history. They were very ordinary people, but with God’s grace they became great Apostles and missionaries.
In the Gospel’s lesson of today we hear how Jesus showed to His Apostles His power, and summarized their mission. Jesus comes along the Sea of Galilee, and is followed by a throng of people who were eager to listen to Him speak. His words are food for the soul. No man ever spoke as He did. On this particular occasion the crowd was so great that Christ asked Simon Peter if He could use his boat as a pulpit. By Christ getting off a short distance from the shore, the people would not be able to press in upon Him, and at the same time, they would be still close enough to hear Christ speak.
After speaking from the boat, Jesus turned to Peter and asked Him to go into the deep and let down the nets for a catch of fish. Peter answered: “Master, we have toiled all night, and have caught nothing. Nevertheless, at Your word, I will let down the net”. “At Your word!” Notice the difference between Peter working alone, and Peter working with Christ’s word: Alone, Peter has toiled all night and had caught nothing. With Christ’s word, in one moment, when the net was lowered into the sea, the catch of fish was so great that the net began to rip. When Peter realized the wonderful miracle before his eyes, he fell down at Jesus’ feet and prayed: “Depart from me, 0 Lord, for I am a sinful man”. Christ then told Peter: “Do not be afraid. From now on, you will be a fisher of men”. And after the boats were brought to shore, Peter, along with James and John, left their work and their homes, and went to be the Lord’s Apostles.
When I remember my vocation to the priesthood, I remember also having said with Peter: “Depart from me, 0 Lord, for I am a sinful man”. But Jesus told me, as He told Peter: “Do not be afraid. From now on, you will be a fisher of men”. We all are sinful men, but with God’s grace we can do God’s works.
The important lesson here is this: Jesus can bring out the very best that is in people. The Lord can make you your best self. No one else and nothing else can accomplish this. The only thing you have to do is to hold onto Him, to believe his word. “I am the vine, you are the branches, Jesus says to us. Whoever remains in me, with me in him, bears fruit in plenty, for apart from me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5). To bear fruits of virtue and of holiness, in our personal life, in our business life, in our community life, and in the education of our children, we must remain united to Christ and obedient to His word. He alone can make us the finest man and woman that is in our power to become.
Look at Simon Peter. If Christ had not crossed Peter’s path, he would have lived and died a fisherman. People who lived along the lake saw Peter a big-hearted good fellow, nothing more. Christ saw in him a leader, who would one day speak to three thousand people and get them to be baptized and become Christians.
Look at some of the other Apostles and leaders of Christ’s Church. St. Matthew was a tax-collector. Most people looked upon him as a traitor and a thief, for the Hebrews disliked those in the employ of the Roman government, and beside this, the collectors often exacted more money from the people than they were supposed to. The crowd had no use for Matthew. But Jesus saw in him the desire to right all wrongs, the desire to serve God, and Christ called him to become a great Apostle and Evangelist. Down through all the centuries of the Church you can find examples of this kind of transformation, in which Christ brings out the best in people. Saul, the persecutor of the Lord, became Paul the chosen vessel of God and the great Apostle and missionary; James and John left their nets by the sea to become also great Apostles and missionaries for the sake of Christ.
Of course, this is not something that worked in the past only; it works today. It can work in us. There are many people today whose lives have been touched by the Lord, and who have, as a result, been transformed into radiant Christians serving their Lord and their neighbor. Peter shows us the process of this transformation. First of all he confesses his weakness. When he came to the realization of Who Christ was, he fell on his knees before the Lord in worship. Then he left his old way of living and followed the new way of the Lord.
Let us become aware of Christ’s greatness and our smallness, of His holiness and our sinfulness, and then let us bring the light of Christ into our life to transform it to the best. St. Paul wrote to the Ephesians: “You must give up your old way of life; you must put aside your old self, which gets corrupted by following illusory desires, and acquire a fresh, spiritual way of thinking. You must put on that new self created in God’s image, in the goodness and holiness of the truth” (Eph. 4, 22-24).
Dear sisters and brothers, has Christ influenced our lives? Are we all we could be? Are we living up to our potentiality? Are we doing best – at school, at church, at work, at home? Let Christ’s life touch our lives, and our nets will be filled with fish, we will bear good fruit for us and for the whole world. Amen.