Homily 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C 7th February, 2016
First Reading - Isaiah 6:1-8
Ps 137:1-5. 7-8. R. v.1
(R.) In the sight of the angels I will sing your praises, Lord.
Second Reading - 1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Gospel - Luke 5:1-11
Any public speaker or homilist can take heart from the fact that Our Lord’s first public speech… his first sermon… (which we heard last weekend), resulted in a large crowd of people picking him up and wanting to throw him off a cliff…. So, it is highly unlikely that one’s first talk will ever be received as badly as that!
In the first reading, the Prophet Isaiah is called by God, but he looks at himself and says, "I am not worthy"…….and so, in response "God sends an angel to touch Isaiah's lips with a smoking-hot ember and tells him that God has MADE him pure… God deems him worthy of the tak he is being given.
So, it is not the place of (even) the great prophet Isaiah to tell God what he is or is not worthy of.
And in any case, there is a lesson here that we humans can take a long time to learn - that it is not all about our efforts and willpower, but rather it is primarily about God’s grace. This is a timely reminder when we are just about the commence Lent, next week. It is possible to fall into a bit of a trap; treating Lent as a time to prove to ourselves and God just how strong our willpower is in resisting temptation; and how much personal self-control we might have in giving up things we usually like; while, actually it is really about making more space, (more room) for God and for God’s transforming grace.
The Prophet Isaiah learns this lesson if the first reading and the the same happens with Saint Peter in today’s Gospel.
Thank goodness for the early disciples. We look up to these wonderful people. But, they are also revealed to be people with weaknesses, with foibles, sinfulness, failure, and, (at times), a shocking lack of trust; and a hesitancy of faith. And at other times they show fear, and sometimes even cowardice. Because of this list of flawed leaders, it reveals how good God is, and how wise God is. And how utterly dependent we ALL are, on God's grace. Its not so much about us, but about God! Without God’s grace, we can do nothing. God makes use of the humble things we have to offer and transforms it according to God’s good purposes.
Jesus is not ever saying to us that we should wallow in our sin, or use it as an excuse to stay stuck in our old ways and old sins. We know we should never say: 'this is as good as I can be….' // However, God also wants to remind us that our worthiness is not the issue, because actually- (as many great saints throughout history remind us by their own life stories); none of us is worthy of ourselves. None of us is worthy without God except that we are all lovingly created by God and are made worthy of God’s love. It is God who makes us worthy. We never earn God’s love, it is freely given as a generous act of graciousness. It is God who calls us. And it is God alone who knows what we are capable of, and who calls us to fulfil it. The difference between the saint and the sinner is not their worthiness before God, but their determination NOT to stay stuck in their weakness or their own wilfulness or limitations, but to put their trust and all their cooperation and openness into God's hands. We are then transformed into instruments of God's love and grace. Living, cooperating instruments in the hand of God, the perfect artist.
St Peter, Saint Paul, Isaiah, Jeremiah…… King David… Saul…. Moses……. the list goes on and on: Great people. People who did God's will. But, ALSO, these same people were at times, terrinly weak and sinful. Who sinned. Sometimes they even betrayed their calling or resented or doubted it. But, nevertheless it was God who called them. God knew them and what they truly could do, and held them to that. They trusted in God's wisdom, mercy and guidance, and of course, relied on God's grace.
Again we can reflect on our own experiences of weakness and forgiveness, both by the Lord and by others. Being forgiven is a humbling experience, but one that allows us, like Isaiah, to step forward and volunteer for the Lord's work.
All of us are invited to reflect on our own refusals, (big and small), where we at times declined to accept God and His power and His presence. God is not there to frighten us; nor to condemn us to be frozen into inaction by our limitations; but, rather, God loves us into being everything God wants for us.
Whenever believe and to accept forgiveness for our weaknesses and failings, and put our reliance and our cooperation into God’s grace, then we are able to be given-over to the work of the Lord.
As with Saint Peter, we can doubt many times and we can deny but eventually, when we believe and trust, our lives can be transformed into a reflection of God's mercy, God’s compassion and graciousness.
It would be ridiculous for a pencil to refuse to be taken into the hand of a great artist, claiming that it is not talented enough to draw a masterpiece. And it would also be crazy for a pencil to claim credit for the work that was wrought through its important use. Naturally, we know that we are not inanimate objects, and we are not merely passive objects in God’s action. God has lovingly and graciously willed that we will always be conscious, helpers, co-workers and cooperators… heirs and family, participating in God’s work. But we always keep in mind whose work it is we are doing and guard against relying too much on our own efforts or our own virtues and going down dead-end paths, and we also avoid the other extreme, inaction when faced with our limitations. Both extremes (which we are called to avoid carefully), are based on putting ourselves in the centre of things instead of God.
But there is more. Did Jesus learn something from his previous rejection in his hometown. He preached alone and this met with utter rejection. The crowd almost killed him. He narrowly escaped being thrown off a cliff. Now, he goes and calls followers to join him, support him and be company on the journey; AND, what a hard journey it is. He (as always) calls a community around him.
Simon Peter experiences a great miracle. In the least expected situation, not on a mountain top somewhere, but in the ordinariness of his workplace; he experiences this amazing event because he was huble enough to listening to someone telling him how to do the job he knew so well. Our Lord shows him a new and dramatic and different way… and the results are huge……..
This is a timely reminder to us:
We must connect the gospel to our daily words, actions and priorities, or it will not make sense.
Secondly…. We …. (Just like the disciples), need to work together… in unity… and in community. Like the disciples who were ALL needed to help haul in the enormous catch of fish…
We must always take our cues, as best we can discern them, from Christ… If it is only about our own individual efforts and priorities, our toil may be heavy and it may be misdirected. We never want to work like slaves on something and find that our struggle was mysteriously fruitless; like the fisherman who laboured all night (and applied all the experience and wisdom of their trade and still caught nothing), but, then Jesus asks them to trust him and follow his ways and do the same activity but under his direction, and they catch more than they can hold. Jesus’ ways are not the most ordinary, and not the most logical. However, they are the way of the gospel, and only by following Our Lord, (which is almost always the road less travelled), can we hope to bear fruit for Jesus good news……
Today let us ask the Lord to deepen our faith and give us the courage to proclaim his marvellous deeds. Let us be able to say: Here I am, Lord. Send me!"
Fr Paul W. Kelly
the Abbot, Monastery of Christ in the Desert, http://www.christdesert.org/ ;
Gustavo Gutierrez, Sharing the Word through the liturgical year/
reflection from Madonna Magazine, Jan-Feb 2007.
Archive of homilies and reflections is at: http://homilycatholic.blogspot.com.au
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