In much of Latin America, there is a 9-day “novena” in December leading up to Christmas. It’s not the prayer card type of novena you might have heard of in the States. It’s a big activity each night, visiting homes and sharing scripture and reflection and prayer and food.
This last novena in Chontal, I was the guy leading it. Rather, creatively facilitating it. I say that because I like to come up with creative ways to let people get involved in the way they’re comfortable and expresses who they are, and also has personal meaning to people and the Gospel, and forms communion together. I do the creative facilitating and the preaching – my big gifts – and it always seems that people come to life.
On one night, I started off explaining that I didn’t come to judge the people there, but to attract them. Now that first required a little explanation to everyone that, no, I had not come to attract the ladies and steal someone’s wife. I explained why I preach with stories and tales.
Jesus preached using parables. The word ‘parable’ comes from two Greek words put together, and it means to throw next to. That is what fishermen do: they load bait on a hook and cast it next to the fish. Now, if you were to throw the hook right at the fish, they would scatter. And, if you cast the bare hook, the fish won’t be attracted. So, when the Gospel says that Jesus spoke in parables, it means he’s a fisherman. He’s casting a baited hook next to the people. Jesus tells parables that are not cold, sharp hooks, but curiously interesting and relatable things that are close enough to life to be grasped.
But at one point in John’s Gospel, he says, “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” (Jn 12:32) What’s he saying? He is the bait. Jesus is the bait. And that’s what I said to the people: I am the bait. I came to attract you, because God wants to get you hooked on His love. Jesus shows up on Christmas as a baby in a feeding trough because he is God’s bait.
God is a great fisherman.
If you take a moment to think a little bit on Jesus, on his life and the stories of the Gospels, I think you will find that Jesus is attractive. And a big part of that is because he didn’t stay in his paradise and send messages or money or armies or rescue teams. He got cast next to us. He was the living parable he preached.
To get us hooked on the deepest human love and life.
All we have to do is give in to the attraction.
Because God is a great fisherman.