Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Fishermen are Most Wise

Dear Parish Faithful & Friends in Christ,

The Troparion of Pentecost is as follows:

Blessed art Thou, O Christ our God,
who has revealed the fishermen as most wise
  by sending down upon them the Holy Spirit;
through them Thou didst draw the world
  into Thy net.
O Lover of Man, Glory to Thee!

It is rather incredible when you think hard on it, that it was essentially a group of former fishermen who traversed the Greco-Roman world and beyond with the Gospel proclamation of the Crucified and Risen Messiah and Son of God, Jesus of Nazareth. That they were successful is nothing short of miraculous. 

Of course, the Apostle Paul is a major exception to this, as he was a highly-educated Jew who knew Greek thought and rhetoric very well, and employed both in proclaiming the Gospel. But the Twelve Apostles, on the whole, had a rudimentary education and they hardly were that aware of the greater world around them.  

They were fishermen.  Their initial concern in life was all that goes into making their fishing trade successful. They had to worry about their nets, that they would not break, and then mend them when they did. They worked hard to put their "daily bread" on the table. They had to worry about feeding their families. A "bad night" out on the lake would cost them dearly. And then they were "called" by Jesus, who told them somewhat enigmatically, that they would now become "fishers of men" (MATT, 4:19).  So they dropped their nets and followed Jesus. As disciples during Christ's earthly ministry, they did not quite "get it." They were often obtuse and slow to understand. And they would even betray their Master.

But following the Day of Pentecost, their "nets" would now be filled with men and women "caught" by the compelling and wonderful message of the Gospel, that salvation from sin and death has come in the human form of the incarnate Son of God who, though a crucified Jew, was raised from the dead and glorified at the right hand of God. 

The apostles did not invent this or think it up. They knew this was true by direct experience. They had seen the Risen Lord and they had witnessed His glorious ascension into heaven. 

The fishermen turned disciples, turned apostles, were not philosophers or trained rhetoricians. They were not wise according to the wisdom of this world. They were filled with the Holy Spirit (ACTS 2:4) and this made them "most wise;" but with a wisdom that may have appeared foolish to the "wise men" and "debaters of this age," but was nevertheless a wisdom directly from God (cf. I COR. 1:18-31).  

Once inspired from on high, they would fulfill the Lord's commission to go into the world and "make disciples of all nations" (MATT. 28:16-20).  The apostles knew that their success in drawing the world into their nets was the result of the mysterious activity of the Holy Spirit working through them as they witnessed to Christ in word and deed. They would never attribute any success in proclaiming the Gospel to their own human efforts.

All of this points to the truly miraculous nature of the emergence and spread of the Christian Faith. Considering the lowly origins of the apostles - and that of their Master -  this is unprecedented in human history. 

In purely human terms it could not have succeeded. Not with a dead Messiah and a group of insignificant fishermen promoting their teacher. Only a divine origin can account for the "word of the Cross" penetrating a world that is so often swayed by power and pride - "the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life" (I JN. 2:16). 

The Christian Faith burst forth from the empty tomb that revealed the victory of Christ over death. This new life could not remain hidden. It was meant for the entire world. Hence, the Lord "revealed the fishermen as most wise by sending down upon them the Holy Spirit." 

If you are reading this as a Christian, then you have been drawn into the net of the Lord. You have committed yourself to following the commandments of Christ and to seek first the Kingdom of God. 

This has nothing to do with your level of formal education or your socio-economic status. These may prove to be irrelevant categories when it comes to being filled with the Holy Spirit. The many saints of the Church coming from humble and lowly origins bear this out. What is essential is faith and a readiness to serve Christ and to put Christ first in your life.  

For those in the Church, whatever our background, "with one voice, we glorify the all-Holy Spirit!" (Kontakion of Pentecost)

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