38 - Fishers of Men, June 18, 2017

For audio, click here

Romans 2:10-16

Matthew 4:18-23

One notes in these Gospel lessons going back to the Sunday before Pentecost a focus on the LORD’s disciples andon the WORD or doctrine they proclaimed. On Pentecost Sunday, we hear the LORD crying out: “Come to Me and drink, all you who are thirsty!” Then we read in that Gospel how the academically trained religious scholars, the Pharisees, rejected His call (Jn 7:37-52). They did not “come” to Him, nor have they ever since proclaimed His WORD. And who, if I may say, has ever been healed, whose heart has ever been cleansed by the word of the Pharisees or of any “scholar”?

The following Sunday, we heard the LORD crying out: “Whoever loves his family above me is not worthy of Me. Whoever does not take up His Cross and follow after Me – whoever does not come to Me – is not worthy of Me.” Then, in contrast to the Pharisees, we hear St Peter say: “LORD, we have left everything and followed after You.” And the LORD confirms Peter’s claim: “In truth,” He says, “you who have followed Me … in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on His Throne in Glory, you will judge the twelve tribes of Israel.”

Now, in this morning’s Gospel, we hear how all these fishermen immediately left everything in answer to the LORD’s call. It’s like the Holy Spirit in these Gospels is writing a kind of letter of reference recommending the LORD’s disciples to us. As the voice of the Father said to Peter, James and John on Mt Tabor; “This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” (Mt 17:5) so now the Holy Spirit says to us: “These are the men I have sent to you from the LORD Jesus Christ. Hear them!” God Himself is bearing witness to us that these simple fishermen have been found worthy of the LORD because they left everything and followed the LORD, even to the point of taking up the cross of martyrdom, and all who would receive the word of these “uneducated” fishermen experience the cleansing and vivifying of their heart, the illumination of their soul and mind, and the healing of their inner man and, many, many times, of their bodies as well.

Let’s note well that the disciples are fishermen and, with that, how the movement of the disciples, which the Gospels of these last three Sundays since Pentecost has set before us, originates in the Upper Room in Jerusalem, and from there proceeds, by the end of this morning’s Gospel reading, into Galilee. With this, note how the Spirit – whom the LORD calls “living waters” – descends on the disciples in the Upper Room as a mighty rushing wind (cf Gen 8:1, when the wind dries up the flood waters to reveal to Noah in the ark, in effect, a new earth). Remember how a mighty river sounds like a mighty, rushing wind. Note that the Spirit takes the form of fiery tongues and sits on each of the disciples.

Now, see how the Spirit sitting on the disciples in the form of fiery tongues looks just like the “Glory” or the fiery uncreated light of the LORD descending and overshadowing the OT Temple, both the Tent of Meeting constructed by Moses in the desert and the Temple newly built by Solomon in Jerusalem. And, note that the Blessed Virgin was overshadowed in the same way by the Holy Spirit (Lk 1:35) and how the Son of God emptied Himself to dwell in her womb as in His Holy Temple and, finally, His Body that He received from the Virgin in the Holy Spirit, is the Temple (Jn 2:19) in whom the fullness of God dwells bodily (Col 2:9).

On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descends and, in effect, overshadows the disciples in the Upper Room as He did the OT Temple and as He did the Blessed Virgin. The tongues of fire recall both the Glory of God filling the OT Temple and the burning bush that was not consumed, a prophetic anticipation of the Virgin Birth of the Son of God in the flesh.

I.e., all of this imagery is of the Temple. It sets before us the erection of the New Temple built on the cornerstone the builders (the religious leaders of Israel) rejected – i.e., the New Heavenly Temple built on the Body of Christ that was laid as the cornerstone in the midst of the earth (Ps 74:12), in the New Tomb on the Blessed Sabbath of God. The Spirit descending on the disciples at Pentecost, therefore, shows the Spirit raising them up to become one with the New Temple of Christ’s Body (cf. I Cor 3:16); and in the sanctuary of that New Temple, i.e., in their deep heart (cf. Jer 17:5/9) created anew (Ps 50:10 LXX), the LORD Jesus Christ Himself now abides and working in them for the salvation of the world He created (cf. Wisd of Sol 1:15).

Suddenly, the Upper Room has become the New Temple of Jerusalem, and the movement of the disciples that proceeds from Jerusalem into Galilee looks exactly like the movement of the mighty River of Ezekiel’s prophetic vision (chptr 47). Ezekiel sees a Mighty River proceeding eastward from the Temple’s East Gate into Galilee (47:8). Fishermen, says Ezekiel, will be found there ready to cast their nets (47:10). And everywhere that river goes, it says, it will heal and make alive all it touches (47:9).

Can you see the Mighty River as the blood and water flowing from the side of Christ’s Body on the Cross, the Living Waters of His Holy Spirit flowing from the “Gate” of His Body, the True Temple, growing ever deeper as His Church flows out from Jerusalem into Galilee and beyond, flowing down through the centuries to our land and even to our corner on 54th and 38th; for, is it not the Mighty River of the Holy Spirit who descends from the Temple of Jerusalem on high and “overshadows” our baptismal font, and rests on the Bread and Wine we offer so that it in the sacramental mysteries of the Church, it touches us and heals us absolutely by raising us from death to life, even taking away our sins and removing all our iniquities to make us righteous, i.e., immortal (Wisd of Sol)?

So when the LORD says to Peter and Andrew, James and John: “I will make you fishers of men,” He shows us that this is a Pentecost Gospel; for, as we sing on the Feast: “by sending down upon them the Holy Spirit” He made the fishermen most wise (wiser than the “scholars” of the world!), making them to fishers of men for they draw the whole world into the net, the Holy Spirit, of the LORD. And that is the net that is being flung out to us this morning to draw us up out of the sea of life surging with the storm of temptations, and into the Kingdom of Our LORD God and Savior Jesus Christ. It is flung out to us in the word of the apostles’ preaching and teaching, which is not their word – nor is it the word of the “scholars” of the world. It is the WORD of the LORD Jesus Christ that they received directly from the LORD Himself (cf. Jn 17:8). Indeed, the WORD of their preaching and teaching is the LORD Jesus Christ Himself, whom they received directly from the Father in the Holy Spirit who descended and rested on them as fiery tongues in the Upper Room!

It says in this morning’s Gospel that the LORD “went about all of Galilee teaching in their synagogues, preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom, and healing every sickness and every malady of the people.” See how the WORD of the LORD teaches and heals every sickness and every disease, and even raises and makes alive those who are dead in their sins and trespasses (Eph 2:1).

Dear faithful: this is the WORD that touches us in the Church: in the words of her doctrine, her prayers, her ascetical disciplines, her sacramental mysteries. The words of the Church carry the WORD of God, Our LORD Jesus Christ. They burn immaterially with the fiery glory, the Holy Spirit, of the Glorified WORD of God, our LORD Jesus Christ, so that the words of the Church heal and make alive whoever receives them in his inner man – as the saints and faithful of the Church bear witness!

Why, then, would we not leap into the net of the apostles’ preaching and teaching? Why would we not draw near in faith and love to stand in the Rushing Wind of the Holy Spirit and eat its holy fire and drink its living waters? And, we can by confessing, i.e., speaking the language of God in our heart and soul, so that this living WORD of God is what we eat and drink in our inner man, what we live in, what we think on, so that it is this WORD that shapes us to heal us and to form us into a New Creation in Christ Jesus. Amen!