Archbishop Peter A Comensoli
Beginnings matter. The annual parade of ‘first day of school’ photos that appear on Facebook at the end of January is testimony of this. The best I saw this year was a ‘then and now’ compilation from friends of mine with three children who have recently returned to Australia. The two photos – one of 5 years ago in another country, and the other now – were similarly staged. But there was the delight of different uniforms, changed faces, and a new day dawning. Beginnings – even small, personal ones – matter.
There are all sorts of ways in which we mark the myriad of beginnings that occur throughout our lives. As adults, our beginnings can often be moments when we set out on a new direction or outlook. (Changing careers, for example.) And beginnings are also almost always moments of hope – starting afresh, embarking on a new venture, staking out a path ahead.
We have just heard a story about Jesus at the beginning of his public ministry. Over the past two Sundays, we heard about the day he stood up in his hometown synagogue to claim for himself the prophecy of Isaiah: The Lord has sent me to bring good news to the poor. Today, we hear how Jesus began to fulfil this prophecy, with the words: do not be afraid, put out into the deep. Jesus’ beginning matters.
What might we learn from it? The unfolding of that day on the shore of Lake Galilee is instructive. First, we find Jesus inviting people into a new life in God. As we are told, Jesus was teaching the gathered crowds, inviting them to hear a new message. This invitation to the crowd was then extended to include an invitation to Peter – representing us all – to put out into deeper waters, not just to hear a new word, but to experience a new life. This was an invitation not just into Jesus life, but to go somewhere with him. At the beginning of his public ministry Jesus invites.
Then we hear of the extraordinary catch, which prompts Peter’s confession: Leave me Lord, I’m a sinner. But what does Jesus do? He welcomes Peter into his life. Here was a sinner who had been found by God; a humbled man who had been welcomed home. And in welcoming that one sinner, Peter, Jesus welcomes us fellow sinners. We, too, are found by Jesus at the beginning of his ministry in us, and we are welcomed home. So, at the beginning of his public ministry Jesus also welcomes.
Finally, in the gospel story, we learn that Peter and the others leave their past life, so as to embark on a new beginning with Jesus as his missionary disciples. They did not abandon what they already knew, but transformed it into a new way of being. They knew how to catch; now they had a different way of catching. The first disciples of Jesus had been invited into a new vision; welcomed into a new life, and now they were being sent out on a new journey, all from an encounter with Jesus’ beginning on the shore of Lake Galilee.
What might we learn from Jesus’ beginning? It was one involving an invitation to, a welcome in, and a sending out. At the beginning of his public ministry, Jesus revealed the structure of missionary discipleship. This same discipleship – a missionary one – is for us today. We are always at a new beginning with Jesus: he is inviting us now to hear his word; he is welcoming us now into a life with him; he is sending us now to proclaim his name. Beginnings matter – do not be afraid to begin now with Jesus.
[Vigil Mass in honour of Blessed Card. Aloysius Stepinac for the Croatian Community:
It has been 59 years since the death of Cardinal Stepinac. For those of us who have come to know the name of this saintly bishop from the pages of history, our sense of his life might be associated with a now-fading past, caught up in a by-gone world of 20th Century Fascism and Communism. But for those of you who come to his life from the perspective of faith, Cardinal Stepinac offers a deeper and more contemporary invitation of holiness and hope. It is not an historical figure we might commemorate at this time, but a living saint who might guide the living of our lives today. For the Croatian Catholic Community of Melbourne, gathered here a St Patricks, may the Blessed Aloysius be an encouragement for you to work for the graced of your own lives, and of the good of the culture from which you come.]