March 2007 - Volume 11, Issue 8
Sins Of The Founders
The excited fishermen labored feverishly to haul their miraculous catch of fish into their boat. Above the din, the voice of the author of their bounty reached the ears of one member of the crew - Simon. "Come, follow me", the voice said. As he did then and as he always would, Simon saw more in Jesus of Nazareth than the others did. Simonís protests that he was a sinful man did not dissuade Jesus from choosing him. Jesus too saw more in Simon, more than Simon ever could have imagined. Of course, Simon was to become Peter, no longer to be a fisherman, but a fisher of men.
All of those whom Jesus would call to apostleship were burdened by the sins and frailties of humankind. Each of them, however, would reach a new understanding of who he himself was and of what he could be through the person of Jesus Christ. In accepting the call to follow Christ, they entered into a long and agonizing process of conversion. An arduous journey to a distant Pentecost would be required of them before the meaning of their time with Jesus and the power of their mission would be known fully.
Is not our response to the creative forces of faith the sign of our salvation or of our undoing? The gospels provide ample evidence of Godís desire for the reclamation of souls. Many stories about the lives of the Apostles illustrate Jesusí healing love and his call to redemption. Matthew, a tax-collector for the occupying Roman government, is considered a traitor and an extortionist by the Jewish people. Christ calls him to become a collector of souls. Peter would rise from the depths of his weakness and fear to offer his life as a sacrifice for the faith. Thomas, a tentative and a doubting disciple, bows before the Resurrected Christ and carries the faith to faraway lands. Paul, a vigorous persecutor of the faith, would encounter the Risen Lord, claim the name and mission of Apostle for himself, and apply his innate and irrepressible zeal toward spreading the faith throughout the Roman Empire. The passage of centuries does not lessen the transforming grace of God nor does it limit the transcendent power of Christís call. Innumerable men and women are mandated to carry on the work of the Apostles. Unless afflicted with a spiritual deafness, all of Godís people are beckoned to reform their lives and witness to Christ.
Some months ago there was a furor over actor Mel Gibsonís anti-Semitic remarks after being arrested for drunk driving. The next day he confessed his sin publicly and expressed contrition for his actions. As a Catholic, he admitted that his deeds were contrary to tenets of his faith and his ant-Semitic statements did not reflect his true feelings. Many in the media delivered crushing blows of reproach and condemnation upon the actor. No doubt about it; Mr. Gibson sinned. And he is aware of the burden of the lifelong struggle he has against his addiction. What I find curious is that these same media types not only remain mute concerning the prevalent atmosphere of immorality in their community, but tend to celebrate it. Why did Mel Gibson become the object such opprobrium? Could it be his Catholicism, or has he sinned against the Hollywood culture in other ways? Whatever the case, it seems true that it is easier to spot the sins of others than those of oneís own.
There is an old story of a Welch miner who used to drink too much, break furniture in his house, and abuse his wife. Tearfully, his wife would face each day. In her despair, she would pray for a miracle. As fate would have it, he eventually became a devout Christian and it changed his world profoundly.
Down in the mines, some of his colleagues would tease him:
ďYou donít believe that tale about Jesus turning water into wine, do you?
"Well, I donít know about that, but I do know this. In my home, Jesus has turned beer into furniture and tears into smiles. Thatís enough of a miracle for me."
The course of oneís life may be greatly altered by an honest evaluation before God of both heart and soul. Self-knowledge is a possession of consequence. The manner in which these nuggets of understanding affect daily living will define the feel of life itself. Baring the good and bad of oneís character before the creative power of God opens the possibility of living life authentically. Of course, commitment in the pursuit of a life of virtue is necessary. In human freedom, Godís grace cannot achieve the desired effect unless the effect is desired. This truth sculpted the faith of the Apostles and can do the same for sincere believers today.
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