Second Sunday after PentecostRomans 2:10-16
Did you ever have someone say to you, “How can Christianity be true? What about all those people who’ve never heard about Jesus”? Well, it seems to me that Paul pretty much answers that question in our Epistle today.
As you may remember, God spoke through the Prophet Jeremiah, saying that He would make a New Covenant. It would not be like the Covenant, the Law, given through Moses. That was a covenant of do’s and don’ts. As Paul wrote to Galatians, “ The Law was to be our teacher until Christ came. Then we could have faith and be acceptable to God. But once a person has learned to have faith, there is no more need to have the Law as a teacher”. And, to the Hebrews, he wrote that the Law was a shadow of the good things to come.
In this New Covenant, He says, “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people’. As Paul writes, “When Gentiles who have not the law do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts”.
So, the answer to what about those who have never heard about Jesus is this; God will write His law on their hearts. And He will judge each of us according to how we respond to the Law He writes on our hearts.
Does that mean that we needn’t worry about them hearing the Gospel? Of course not. One of the last things Jesus said to the Apostles was to tell them to go into all the world, baptizing and telling people what Jesus had taught, teaching them to obey all he said. And, as I pointed out a few weeks ago, that responsibility isn’t confined just to clergy - to bishops, priests, and deacons. As Peter writes, you are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light”.
As clergy, the ministry of bishops, priests, and deacons is to you - to the Church. But, as members of the royal priesthood, we all - bishops, priests, deacons, and laity - have a ministry to those outside the bounds of the visible Church - to the world. We have the obligation to declare the wonderful deeds of Christ. Sometimes we tell it verbally, sometimes we tell it through ministering to their physical needs, sometimes we minister to them in love.
How does that relate to the Gospel reading?Well, this was not the first encounter that Jesus had with these four men. Earlier in this chapter, Matthew tells us that John the Baptist had been arrested. But in John’s Gospel, we read, “The next day again John (the Baptist) was standing with two of his disciples; and he looked at Jesus as he walked, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned, and saw them following, and said to them, “What do you seek?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying; and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two who heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon, and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him, and said, “So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter)”.
Remembering that John the Evangelist never names himself in his Gospel, it would be a likely conclusion that he’s the second of the two who heard John the Baptist speak.
So the sequence would be Andrew and John were disciples of John the Baptist. They dragged their brothers along to meet Jesus. And then, after John the Baptist was arrested, Jesus calls to them, saying, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men”. It was then, and only then, that they dropped everything that they were doing.
Sometimes, you see, it takes time for God’s call to get through to us. So, ask yourself. Is God calling you to be more active, more vocal in your faith? I’m not talking about beating people over the head with icons!! Certainly not, but if you were to die today, would people be surprised to learn that you’re Catholic? Have you touched anybody with Christ’s love?
If being Catholic were suddenly declared illegal, would your life be used as evidence to convict you? Or would your defense be that, while you belonged to the Church, it wasn’t that big a part of your life.
As our Lord said in last week’s Gospel, “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will acknowledge before my father in heaven”.
We are all called to be fishers of men. Sometimes that fishing may be menial tasks in the boat, sometimes it might just be handing the worm to be placed on the hook. Sometimes it might just be painting the boat. Every task is important in the effort. And, sometimes, the most important task is giving prayer support for those doing the other jobs.
And sometimes it might take a while to decide to become part of the team. Now’s the time to answer that call. Ask God what part He wants you to play.