Bishop Vincent’s homily: Becoming “fishers” with Christ for the kingdom.

By Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, 21 January 2024
Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta. Image: Diocese of Parramatta


Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta

Homily for the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B

Readings: Jonah 3:1-5, 10; Psalm 24(25):4-5, 7b-9; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31; Mark 1:14-20

21 January 2024


Becoming “fishers” with Christ for the kingdom.


Dear sisters and brothers,

I have had a quality holiday with my family during the past three weeks. Apart from my hobby as a keen gardener and a lover of topiaries, I just enjoyed the company of my 96-year-old mother. I realised that the time she had left was precious and this realisation led me to a deep sense of gratitude and love for her.

We are at the beginning of a new year and how we live the time we are given is also a matter for reflection. Today’s scriptural lesson teaches us to conscientise ourselves with divine appointment, which means we must seize the opportunity for life-changing engagement. In biblical language, time is not merely chronological but also a Kairos or a critical juncture that provokes a radical response, a fundamental reorientation and a courageous realignment with God’s vision.

This was how the people of Nineveh responded to the call of the prophet Jonah. On the surface, it was a great prosperous city, unrivalled in the region. However, beneath the veneer of wealth, power and success, the city had lost its soul. It had drifted away from the values that bound its inhabitants together. It had become an unviable community. Jonah, the reluctant prophet from Israel, was sent to preach to them a message of conversion. To his surprise, not only did the non-Israelites and outsiders heed the voice from elsewhere, they also made a break with the past. They repented “from the greatest to the least”. They changed their priorities and re-oriented their behaviour to the will of God.

In many ways, the human community is also at the threshold moment. If we are to survive and thrive into the future, we will have to do what the ancient people of Nineveh did. We cannot keep justifying wars and blaming one side or the other. We cannot pivot the wellbeing of the nation on economic outcomes, regardless of who are the beneficiaries and who are the victims. We must learn to envision a new way of living, relating and flourishing together with one another and with Mother Earth. St Paul speaks of a sense of urgency that is required of Christians in responding to God’s invitation. There is no time to waste, to procrastinate and to lose in pettiness.

In the Gospel, Jesus shows Himself as a Messiah who seizes the moment and enacts God’s plan. He goes about proclaiming the reign of the kingdom and acting in favour of that kingdom despite the rampant and overwhelming presence of evil. John’s arrest should serve as a warning to Him. Yet instead, it is a catalyst for Jesus’ full immersion into a life of service and witness. It marks a break with the past and a launch into deeper waters of the future. Jesus refuses to sit back and allow sin, evil, injustice, oppression to crush humanity. He proclaims and acts in favour of the kingdom of peace, justice, dignity, freedom and liberation. He calls his disciples to follow Him and join Him in the proclamation of the kingdom and transformation of the world.

“Follow me and I will make you into fishers of people!” Jesus challenged the people with an all-encompassing vision of life which was beyond what they had been accustomed to. This same challenge is issued to us today to shake us out of our comfort zones and familiar routines. Can we rise above our distorted search for happiness and our self-centred concern? Can we break with our ambitious pursuits for power and possession in order to “fish” for something of greater significance? Do we have the courage to embody God’s alternate vision for humanity and demonstrate a different way to live as kingdom community? This is indeed the call to discipleship and transformation.

Sisters and brothers,

Like Jonah and the disciples of Jesus, we have – by virtue of our baptism – embarked upon the journey beyond our limited horizons into God’s unfolding plan for humanity. Jesus made it clear that following has to do with an alternative mode of existence where the healing, restoration and transformation of the world are more important than our prosperity, security and self-interest. He Himself showed us the way in how He lived and served. The essence of his Evangelium, the Good News was a freedom to be and to live as God’s beloved children. The early Church understood and lived this Good News. They developed a way of life and an ethic of care centred on the example of Jesus that set them apart from the survival of the fittest culture around them. They were a force of leaven for social transformation. They provided a viable alternative to the world’s trickle-down and winners-take-all system.

Let us be the vehicle for the kingdom of God. Let us work for the reign of justice, liberation, harmony and dignity of all. As Australia Day draws closer, we cannot but acknowledge the hurt and pain inflicted on our indigenous peoples. May we learn to walk in each other’s shoe and reset our priorities in such a way that we can bring about a better future, full of possibilities and blessings for humanity and all God’s creation. Let us become fishers with Christ for the kingdom.


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