Once upon a time, a game warden noticed how a particular fellow named Sam consistently caught more fish than anyone else. Whereas the other guys would only catch three or four fish a day, Sam would come in from the lake with a boat full of fish. Stringer after stringer was packed with freshly caught trout. When the warden found out he asked Sam his secret. The successful fisherman invited the game warden to accompany him and observe. So the next morning, the two met at the dock and took off in Sam’s boat. When they got to the middle of the lake, Sam stopped the boat, and the warden sat back and watched. Sam’s approach was simple: He took out a stick of dynamite, lit it, and threw it into the air. The explosion rocked the lake with such a force that dead fish immediately began to surface. Sam took out a net and started scooping them up. Well, you can imagine the reaction of the game warden. When he recovered from the shock of it all, he began yelling at Sam, “You can’t do this! You’re going to jail, buddy! You’ll be paying every fine there is in the book!” Sam set his net down and took out another stick of dynamite. He lit it and tossed it in the lap of the game warden with these words: “Are you going to sit there all day complaining, or are you going to fish?”
The kingdom of God is not about fishing. The kingdom of God is about dynamite…another name for dynamite is grace!
Isaiah the priest encounters God’s grace at worship. He does what he does best- offers prayers at the time of sacrifice. And as he performs his priestly function heaven appears to him. Despite Isaiah’s unworthiness, God commissions Isaiah the priest to be Isaiah the prophet. And Isaiah speaks, “Here I am, send me!” In the words of St. Thomas Aquinas, “Grace builds on nature!”
Peter, James and John, fishermen, encounter God’s grace at sea. They work hard all night and catch nothing. But when they encounter God’s grace their lives are turned upside down. Jesus commissions Peter and his partners to fish for people for the kingdom of God. In the words of St. Thomas Aquinas, “Grace builds on nature!”
Dynamite literally means, “power.” It is “something that has the potential to generate extreme reactions or to have devastating repercussions.” And that is also the definition of grace. Grace is power and it has the potential to change our lives if and when we cooperate. St. Paul tells us that by God’s grace, I am what I am. St. Paul was a Pharisee and a persecutor of Christians. But over a period of time, God’s grace convicts him of his crime. And is there any more powerful, grace-filled story than the conversion of St. Paul? Is there any better preacher-teacher-evangelizer? Again, in the words of St. Thomas Aquinas, “Grace builds on nature.”
Isaiah becomes a prophet; Peter, James and John become apostles; Paul becomes the fearless preacher of the kingdom of God. God builds upon the nature of their personalities and dynamic events take place. You and I could use a stick of dynamite right about now. But you know prevents God from building on our natures? It is called self-pity—the “Whoa is me syndrome.” To illustrate shortly- Sister Verna Holy head tells a short story about a young woman who gives birth to a child with Down’s syndrome. In tears she cries out, “Why me? Why does this happen to me?” The mother replies, “Why? Because of all of my eight children, you are the one I would choose- and God has chosen- to be the mother of this child who needs so much love.”
Everyone here is a valuable asset for the kingdom. By the grace of God I am what I am…and by the grace of God we can perform powerful things in the kingdom. Do not say we are too old; do not use a cane or wheelchair or a walker as an excuse. Grace operates when we are sick and even when we lay on our deathbeds. How much dynamite we can discover here at the Sacraments because grace builds on nature!
The Rev. Fr. Dr. T. Becket A. Franks, O.S.B.