Good Fish

Here is my homily for tomorrow, originally written in Spanish, but here, for your convenience, translated into English. As a side note: I don’t like fish.

St. Alphonsus, pray for us.

I think that the moral choices with which we are daily faced are like the net full of fishes that our Lord speaks about in today’s gospel: we have to separate the good fish from the bad fish, and toss out the bad. We have many opportunities each day for doing good, but we also have opportunities for bad, and we have to decide. Sometimes, that which is bad appears to be good, like a fish in the supermarket that looks very nice but inside is actually rotten. Therefore, beyond deciding and separating, we have to know – like a wise shopper – how to recognize that which really is not good in spite of appearances. For this we need life experience and wisdom, and thus we go on practicing; we go on maturing. It is worth adding that some fish are bigger than others, just like some moral decisions in our lives are bigger than others.

St. Alphonsus Liguori, whose feast we celebrate today, also had to learn how to separate the good fish from the bad in his life. He was a very intelligent man, but be careful: intelligence is not the same as wisdom and experience. At a very young age he was taken with the idea of becoming a lawyer, and he entered the university to study law. After, having obtained the doctorate, he began to work in his new profession. A few years later, however, he abandoned it: he realized that he was not called to be a lawyer; he could not save himself continuing in that line of work.

St. Alphonsus had chosen a good profession – we have always needed good Catholic lawyers, and still do – but in any event he had erred in his choice. In his case, the “fish” of being a lawyer was not a good one. It looked good, but inside – in his particular case – it was bad. Eating that fish, he would not come to a good end. Alphonsus by that time had matured in his relationship with the Lord; he had acquired more life experience and wisdom. Therefore, the moment arrived in which he had to reject that “fish”; he had to renounce his legal profession and seek “better fish”, as it were. Later, he discovered his true vocation, was ordained a priest… and you can read more of his life to know “the rest of the story”.

We seek to grow in Christian maturity: we seek to be wiser in our choices. Sometimes we are met with a big choice and we realize that we must make a large change in our life, as happened with St. Alphonsus. But more often, we are faced with small and ordinary things in our daily life, and there we need a lot of wisdom also. We go on practicing; we go on maturing. I would imagine that all of us could tell of things that we used to do that, thanks be to God, we no longer do, because since then we have matured a bit; the gift of wisdom has increased in us, and now we see that those “fish”, so to speak, are not good.

Therefore, we ask the Lord today, through the intercession of St. Alphonsus Liguori, that the gift of wisdom might continue to increase in each of us, so that we might know how to distinguish truly between the good and the bad and so choose well. And in that way – choosing well – we will rest in the hope that, at the end of our lives, we will be counted among the “good fish” in the net that will not be thrown out, but rather received into the Kingdom of Heaven. Amen.

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