YEAR C: HOMILY FOR THE 5TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: MIRACLE OF GRACE
BY: Fr. Gerald M. Musa
HOMILY: We all have our deficiencies and are far from being perfect people. It baffles me how God pays special attention to people who admit they are unworthy, unqualified, imperfect and weak. St. Augustine tries to explain this modus operandi of God when he says, "God gives where he finds empty hands." Empty hands in this case refer to people who are able to let go and let God. Each one of us has a personal story of his or her faith journey and the miracles of grace encountered in the journey.
The prophet Isaiah narrates how God called him. He had a vision in which he saw himself overwhelmed by the presence and holiness of God. This vision reminded him of his unworthiness and imperfection in the sight of an all-holy God and conscious of his sinfulness, he said: “Woe is me, for I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of people of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5). As soon as he voiced out his imperfection, God cleansed him from his guilt and shame by sending an angel to him with a burning coal to touch his mouth and the angel said to him, “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin forgiven” (Isaiah 6:7). As soon as this rite of purification was completed, the Lord asked, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” (Isaiah 6:8) and Isaiah responded positively to the call for mission saying, “Here am I send me” (Isaiah 6:8). This was how Isaiah was saved and sent out to go and preach to his people. Deep within him, he knew he was far from being qualified as an instrument of God, but the miracle of the grace of God was at work in him.
Other people who were called for mission (Paul and Peter) share a similar experience with the prophet Isaiah. The similarity is based on their declaration of unworthiness and on God’s subsequent merciful love and grace upon them. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul recounts how he found his vocation. He did acknowledge his past sins by recalling how he persecuted the Church of God. Therefore, he does not declare himself as the greatest, but the least of the Apostles. He attributed his call to the miracle of grace – “Though it is not I, but the grace of God working in me” (1 Corinthians 15:10).
Peter, on his part, had a special encounter with Jesus at the lake of Gennesaret. Peter and his companions were in a state of disappointment as they worked for many hours, but could not catch fish. They were washing their nets, preparing to go away. Jesus came and offered them hope and a new strategy to catch fish. He told them to put out the nets into the deep (duc in altum). They listened to him and were astonished at the great shoal of fish they got. Peter was so enthralled with this encounter and immediately he fell on his knees to acknowledge his own unworthiness in the presence of Jesus. In words that are similar to Isaiah’s, He said to Jesus: “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” For acknowledging his sinfulness and for his humility, Jesus considered him qualified for mission and said to him, “Do not be afraid; henceforth, you will be catching men.” Peter responded generously to the call of Jesus as he left everything and followed Jesus.
We have stories of men and women who have attained greatness by declaring their unworthiness and imperfection. C.S. Lewis, a novelist and poet, says, “The gospel means we can stop lying to ourselves. The sweet sound of amazing grace saves us from the necessity of self-deception. It keeps us from denying that though Christ was victorious, the battle with lust, greed, and pride still rages within us. As a sinner who has been redeemed, I can acknowledge that I am often unloving, irritable, angry and resentful with those closest to me. When I go to church I can leave my white hat at home and admit I have failed. God not only loves me as I am, but also knows me as I am. Because of this I don’t need to apply spiritual cosmetics to make myself presentable to Him. I can accept ownership of my poverty and powerlessness and neediness.”
Isaiah, Paul and Peter all acknowledged their unworthiness, weakness and helplessness in the presence of God. Their humble disposition towards God marked a turning point in their lives. Some salient scriptural verses teach us how God operates. One says, “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong” (1 Corinthians 1:27) and another passage declares, “Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?” (James 2:5).
An unknown author has the following words of encouragement for you and I, “When you feel unlovable, unworthy, and unclean, when you think that no one can heal you, Remember, Friend, God Can. When you think that you are unforgivable for your guilt and your shame, Remember, Friend, God Can. When you think that all is hidden, and no one can see within, Remember, Friend, God Can. And when you have reached the bottom, And you think that no one can hear, Remember, my dear friend, God Can. And when you think that no one can love, the real person deep inside of you, Remember, my dear friend, God Does.”
Never ever forget that the miracle of grace is constantly at work in those who acknowledge their emptiness and unworthiness.
5th Sunday, Year C; Isaiah 6:1-2a, 3-8; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Luke 5:1-11