Have you ever stopped to think about the things that you know?

Gospel of Luke 5:1-11

Have you ever stopped to think about the things that you know? For example, you may know a person, or a thing, or a job. You can know someone by name, or where they come from, or even know where they stand. You can know something like the back of your hand or like the palm of your hand, whichever one you know better. You can know your job backwards and forwards or forwards and backwards. You can know where you have been, where you are at, and where you are going. You can know the ropes, know the score, and it is sometimes very helpful to know your place.

However, have you ever stopped to consider the things that you don’t know. For example, you may not know someone from Adam. Or, you may not know enough to come out of the rain. Or, you may not even know if you are coming or going. You may not know where to look, or how to begin, and there are times when you don’t know whether to laugh or to cry. There are moments when we must admit that we know that heaven only knows and that there are times when we are just better off not knowing at all.

I would dare say that for most of us what we don’t know far exceeds what we do know.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus challenges us on both accounts. He challenges us on what we know and invites us to learn what we don’t.

In Luke’s Gospel, after having finished speaking to the crowd, Jesus turned to Peter and said, “”Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” To Peter, an experienced fisherman, who had just spent the entire previous night fishing with no success, responds to Jesus’s request with a warning. He states, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing.” Peter, who knew how to fish, may have been trying to tell Jesus, who, in Peter’s estimation, wasn’t an experienced and accomplished fisherman, that the likelihood of success was not very good. He may have been trying to spare Jesus the embarrassment of failure.

Peter knew how to fish. He knew when to fish and where to fish. Peter and his business partners, James and John, may not have known the first thing about carpentry, but they knew a lot about fishing.

We too, like Peter, know things. We know ourselves, our lives, our family, our friends, and our neighbors. Our knowledge determines how we interact with one another and causes us to behave in prescribed and predictable ways. However, there are times, just like Peter, when Jesus asks us to go beyond the limitations of our knowledge, take risks, and follow him.

Sometimes what we know prevents us from following Christ. For example, we know that if we give the disheveled looking person standing at the entrance of Wal-Mart $5, they will just spend it on alcohol, so we don’t practice Christian charity. We know that the person sitting in church who speaks a different language, or comes from a different place, or has different political, religious, or social opinions will be difficult to get along with, so we refuse to join them in Christian solidarity. We resist in showing kindness or friendship to the person who goes to a different church or doesn’t even go to church, and ignore Jesus’s command to be a servant to all. There are countless different ways in which our knowledge gets in the way of our obedience.

Though Peter knew better than to go fishing at a time and in a place that had he knew to be barren and fruitless, he responds to Jesus in faith and states, “At your command I will lower the nets.”

As they hauled in the nets, overflowing with fish, Peter was forced to confront his personal biases, self-created beliefs, and acknowledge his sinfulness. Up until that moment Peter had seen Jesus as a miracle worker, a faith healer, an itinerant preacher. He knew Jesus as an individual who spoke with authority and performed mighty deeds but had not known him as his Lord. When Peter’s self-constructed ideals were vanquished, he was able to see Jesus as for who he truly was. What Jesus provided Peter that day was not just a plentiful harvest of material blessings, but he gave Peter something, and more importantly someone, to believe in and to follow. Peter and his fishing partners James and John left everything and followed Jesus.

My sisters and brothers in Christ, Peter is our example. We too are called to “put out into the deep.” We too are called to “lower our nets” and place our faith in our Lord and Savior when everything we know tells us otherwise. Jesus called Peter, James, and John to be “fishers of men.” Men who follow him for the sake of others. That call was not unique nor exclusive in its purpose. We too have been called to be fishers of men and we too have the same purpose.

Our challenge today is to place our knowledge, and our talents, and our skills into the loving hands of Jesus. Peter was not asked to abandon his knowledge and skill, he still had to row the boat, drop the nets, and haul them back in. Rather he was called to put his knowledge and skill to use for the kingdom of God. We too have been called for that same purpose.

My friends, it is not what you know, nor is it what you don’t know; rather it is who you know and YOU, who know Jesus, are called to be “fishers of men.”

Bring glad tidings to the poor

Gospel of Luke 1:1-4; 14-21

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring glad tidings to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.- Lk 4:18-19

Those who would say that the Jesus Christ was not primarily concerned with the poor, the captive, the down-trodden, the marginalized, and the oppressed are ignorant to his very words. In today’s Gospel the ministry of Jesus begins with a proclamation of purpose. A proclamation that Jesus came for the salvation of humankind, all of humankind, and most especially for those who exist in desperate need.

In our modern-day 1st world culture we have allowed ourselves to become insulated from the desperation of the human condition. The images of human suffering filtered through the lens of political opinion and compartmentalized by the refined delicacies of wealth have given permission to the treatment of the human-being as a commodity. A commodity to be exploited for personal and corporate wealth, or power, or pleasure.

The Catholic Church proclaims that human life is sacred and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society. The belief that every person is precious, that people are more important than things, and that the measure of every institution is whether it threatens or enhances the life and dignity of the human person is essential to our faith and to our salvation. To diminish, and in some cases even, remove the significance, value, and beauty of the human being is a reprehensible sin against God.

Yet, we do.

In our society abortion, euthanasia, and contraception have pressured us to deny the intrinsic God ordained dignity of life. In response to these evils we often (and rightly so) gather together to protest, to pray, and to stand in line to cast our ballot against these atrocities. However, as we gather in protest or in prayer, or as we make our way to the ballot box, we must not ignore the needs present in our very church, neighborhoods, places of work, or in our communities. The poor, the captive, the down-trodden, the marginalized, and the oppressed surround us and are even present here among us. We, in our imitation of Christ, should never ignore the priority of those for whom he came. In our fervor for a movement, we must not lose our compassion for the individual.

We should never cease in our efforts to move our governmental and social institutions in alignment towards God’s universal call of justice and peace. And, we must not pass over those for whom Jesus Christ came to set free, to give sight, and to release from burden. Those who lie in the shadowy gutters of poverty, captivity, isolation, desperation, and loneliness are our preference. They are our first priority.

Those who by circumstance or consequence lack the ability to change their environment or their station are for us the very ones to whom our first efforts should be given. Those who desperately need the hands of Jesus to lift them from their deprivation should find our hands outstretched in compassion and care. St Vincent de Paul states, “It is not enough to give bread and soup. This the rich can do. You are the servant of the poor… They are your masters.”

The poor are still among us and not just those who lack material and physical need. There are those among us whose poverty is a poverty of friendship. A poverty of legitimate and meaningful relationships. They exist in our world. We pass by them every day. On our travels to and from home, at our places of work, and in our shops, markets, and most definitely, in our Church.

Have we forgotten the very words of Christ? Have we forgotten his call to pick up our cross and follow him? Have we dismissed his mission? His mission to bring glad tidings to the poor!

My brothers and sisters today’s Gospel is a call to action. A reminder that our Savior, our Lord, came to this earth not that we may be men and women of comfort. Not that we should turn our eyes and deafen our ears to the cries and pleas of the hurting, the hungry, and the lonely.

No, my brothers and sisters, our Savior and Lord has called us;
to proclaim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.

“Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing”, and not just in your hearing, but also by your doing.

We give thanks to God for giving us the opportunity to be charitable

Thanksgiving Day
Gospel of Luke 17:11-19 

In today’s Gospel proclamation we heard about the miraculous healing of 10 persons afflicted with leprosy. We are told that Jesus, as he traveled from Samaria to Jerusalem, came upon these 10 individuals who “raised their voices” prayerfully asking for mercy. 10 individuals who were ostracized from their families and their communities. 10 individuals who had no viable option for help or a cure. 10 individuals who were in desperate need of healing.

It is reasonable to assume that the New Testament diagnosis of leprosy does not accurately reflect the modern-day medical diagnosis of this disease. However, there is little in doubt regarding the personal, spiritual, and social consequences associated with this 1st century diagnosis. At that time and in that place in human history an individual diagnosed with leprosy was assured of the following; 1) the disease could be painful and sometimes fatal, (2) Jewish Law required lepers to be separated from all of Israelite society, and (3) lepers were ritually unclean and thus unable to participate in worship. In short, a diagnosis of leprosy, unless cured, resulted in the total and complete discontinuation of participation in society. A person diagnosed with leprosy was prevented from associating with their family and their community, and their family and their community were prevented from associating with them. At worst leprosy was a diagnosis of death and at best a lifetime of isolation and torment.

Yet, in the mercy of God and in the healing power of Jesus, these 10 individuals found the physical, social, and spiritual healing they so desperately needed. The grace of God, freely given in disregard to the social and religious norms of the day, allowed life and opportunity to these 10 individuals; and, yet, only 1 responded to this grace with gratitude and praise. This recorded encounter is not so much about the miracle as it is the response to the miracle.

Today is Thanksgiving, a unique American holiday. Today we, as a nation, repose from our labors and take opportunity to ponder our wealth, our prosperity, our fortune, and give thanks. We give thanks for what we have, and we are encouraged to be generous to those who have not. Of course, we are encouraged to do this by shopping. Like I said, a truly unique American holiday.

According to recent studies 12.8% of Idahoans live in poverty, making the state of Idaho 25th in nation. The poverty threshold for a family of 4 in the state of Idaho is $24,860 in annual income. Yet, as state’s unemployment rate hovers just below 3%, a 2016 United Way study discovered that nearly 40% of Idaho households could not afford basic needs such as housing, child care, food, health care, and transportation.

1 in 8 Idahoans are food insecure, meaning “without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.” In other words, 1 in 8 Idahoans are unsure when they will next have their meal. When adults are removed from the equation the number of children in the state of Idaho who are affected by food insecurity increases to 1 in 6.

Idaho is consistently among the states with the highest suicide rates. In 2016 Idaho had the nation’s 8th highest suicide rate. A rate that is 57% higher than the national average.

It is not my intent to discourage or depress your Thanksgiving Day celebrations. I share these sobering statistics only to highlight the ongoing need for the continued outpouring of charity and support to those in our midst who continue to struggle and suffer. As Jesus stated, “the poor you will always have with you” and it is our responsibility, as his followers, to alleviate their suffering and to raise our voices with theirs in asking for mercy and justice.

As the lone Samaritan, who had been healed and returned to honor his savior, so should we give thanks and praise to the God of mercy, for his mercy is given without measure or merit. Today, we give thanks to the God of mercy and justice. We do this not by our acts of charity, rather we give thanks to God for giving us the opportunity to be charitable.