Homily for 5th Sunday in Ordinary time

posted Feb 8, 2016, 10:01 AM by Church Office   [ updated Feb 8, 2016, 10:01 AM by Michelle Massung ]

Today’s readings remind me of the recruiting slogan of the Marines, “We are looking for a few food men.”  The first Marine called is Isaiah. He sees the magnificent glory of God even though he expresses his unworthiness to receive this great gift. God still chooses Isaiah to be one of the most important prophets in the Old Testament.  The second Marine is Paul. He talks about how Christ appeared to him and as a result, how he became the hardest working of all the Apostles, even though he had previously been one of the biggest persecutors of the early church. Finally, in the Gospel, Jesus appears to a real marine, Peter, and after the miracle of the catching of the fish, Peter admits his sinfulness and asks Jesus to depart. Yet, Jesus does the exact opposite, he calls Peter, and then James and John to follow him; to become Disciples of Christ and catch men and women, instead of fish. In each of these stories, we hear how they believe that they are unworthy to do the work that God wants them to do, yet God still calls them.

Let’s take a minute and look a little closer to the Gospel passage. James, John and Peter all worked for the same fishing company. They must have had a pretty successful business because they had two boats and some hired hands. If you wanted to get started in the fishing business during the time of Christ, you started with a single net and tried to catch the fish near the shore. This was very difficult to do, so it was hard to grow your business. As times got better, you could afford to buy a boat and go out to the deeper waters and fish there. Most of the fishing was done very late at night and into the early hours of the morning. The fish liked being in the darkness so at night, the would come closer to the surface and this made it easier for them to be caught.  Once the sun came up, the fish would go down into the deep water to avoid the light.  For these reasons, this is why they had been fishing all night.  Jesus comes along just after they have worked all night and have not caught any fish. Yet, Jesus asks Peter to let him get into the boat and to teach the people. Although this request must have tried Peter’s patience, he lets Jesus into the boat and Jesus teaches the people. Peter probably didn’t mind sitting there in the boat after a long, unproductive night of fishing. However, this is where the story starts to turn. Jesus, who knows virtually nothing about fishing compared to Peter, asks Peter to take the boat out into deeper water and to let down the nets. He asks Peter to leave the security of the shore and to venture out into the deep waters. At first, Peter protests at the request of Jesus, yet he relents and lowers the nets. See, Peter had been in the deep water all night long and had nothing to show for his efforts. But he did not have Jesus with him when he was in the deep waters. So what happens this time when Jesus comes along with Peter to the deep end? What a great catch of fish!! It is so great that they can barely get the fish to shore to be sold. Peter has gone from having a bad day of fishing to one of his greatest days because he trusted in Jesus’ request. As a result of this great catch of fish, Peter, asks Jesus to depart from his presence because Peter admits his sinful nature. Yet, Jesus still calls him to be the rock upon which he will build his church. The point is that Jesus wants to have various people spread the good news of the Gospel to others, so he recruits Peter, James, John, and Paul to help him. The ones he calls are sinners and in their own hearts believe they are not worthy to spread the Gospel.

As Catholics, we have the responsibility of spreading the good news to others; it is our responsibility as a result of our baptism. The most effective way for any of us to spread the good news is in the manner taught by St. Francis. To paraphrase one of his famous sayings, spread the Gospel to all, use words if necessary. His point is that the most effective way of sharing the joy of Christ’s message is by the way we live our lives; our lives of service to others instead of serving ourselves. To do this, we have to go out into the deep end of our existence like Peter did and take Christ with us. We need to leave our comfort zones of our lives and to stretch ourselves by trusting the Christ’s presence will help us to get through miraculously.

So, as you can see, we are all called like the three Marines in the readings to love God and to spread the good news of Christ to others, even if we feel that we are unworthy of that mission. Isaiah, Paul and Peter all felt unworthy, yet they trusted in Christ and followed him. In return for this trust, he gave them the courage to boldly proclaim the message of God’s love to all people. As Lent approaches, it is time we begin thinking about how we are going to stretch ourselves, to grow in our holiness by serving others. This is the true calling for us during Lent. By serving others, we put their needs ahead of our own. This lets us empty ourselves so that Christ’s love my fill us. This week, start thinking about how you are going to serve others by going out into the deep end of your life, with Christ as your companion, so that you may serve others and bring in a miracle catch of grace for you and your family. May god bless you this week.