10 February 20195 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
5 Ordinary Time
Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Cycle C Luke 5:1-11

The tony New Yorker magazine ran a wonderful cartoon of a psychiatrist and his patient. The caption has him saying to her, "Madam, please do not get angry. I'm only trying to save you money. You should feel guilty." The late Archbishop Fulton Sheen said that instead of becoming penitents many of us become patients. The Lake of Galilee possesses a picture postcard beauty. If you were to rent an Air Chance helicopter, you would see a pear-shaped body of water about thirteen miles long and eight miles wide. It enjoys almost a tropical climate. In the time of the Christ, there were ten prosperous towns situated around the lake. Almost all of those people made their living from the waters in front of them. Thus, one gets an idea of how rich the lake was in fish. This point makes it difficult to understand how the professional fisherman Peter and his companions had come up empty the night before. All they had caught were bad colds, a pair of old sneakers, some empty bottles, and crabs dead from advanced old age. Some years ago I swam in the Lake of Galilee. I watched Jewish teens water-skiing on its surface. I wondered if they ever recalled that a fellow Jew had once walked on the same waters without skis.

Early morning Peter and his people were cleaning their nets on the shore. At the same time, Jesus was well into His long workday. He was preaching to huge crowds on the beach. Because of Cana and several other miracles, He had become an reluctant celebrity. The village synagogues were no longer large enough to hold the people anxious to hear Him. So, He preached on the beaches. The Teacher was not bound to old methods. He was willing to try new ways of reaching people. If the mountain would not come to Jesus, He would go to the mountain. We should be as enterprising as He. The mob was so eager to hear Him they were pushing Him into the lake for an unwanted swim. Jesus had to be an awesome preacher. When was the last time you fought for ringside seats to hear a preacher? Quickly the Nazarene jumped into the high bow of Peter's large boat drawn up on the sand. He had to have been in wonderful physical shape. There was very little chance that He was overweight. And you were thinking of not exercising today or not beginning that long overdue diet, were you? The bow became His pulpit. Once His instruction was finished, He ordered Peter to cast off.

He was about to give him a payback catch. Even for Jesus there was no such thing as a free meal. We can thus assume that He will likewise return us dividends whenever we freely cooperate with Him. Before the miracle catch, Peter addressed the Christ as Master. He was but an interesting rabbi but nothing more. But then the nets were dragged into the boat overflowing with fish. At that point, Luke stresses Peter was no longer on his feet but on his knees. And this time he called Jesus Lord. It was not that Peter was an incisive theologian. Rather, like all his fellow Jews, he believed that anyone who possessed control over the waters also possessed divinity. Such a man had to be the Messiah. Notice too what Peter says: "I am a sinful man."

The Wall Street Journal carried an article that posed the question: "When was the last time you had a good conversation about sin?" Most of us would have to reply that we no longer have such discussions. We have become sinless. If so, one should not wonder why the world is in the state it is. Why not examine your conscience against this benchmark by Fr Joseph? In the home Christianity is kindness. In business it's honesty. In society it's courtesy. In work it's fairness. To the unfortunate it's sympathy. To the weak it's help. To the evil it's resistance. When a preacher speaks about sin, do you shrug and conclude he is speaking about someone else? If affirmative, I respectfully suggest you reflect on The New Yorker cartoon. Perhaps you should feel guilty. Are you Fulton Sheen's penitent or patient? When was the last time you were at confession?

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
5 Ordinary Time
Fifth Sunday Ordinary Time: Least Likely, Perfect Choice

 Today's reading present three men, Peter, Paul and Isaiah. All called by God. All appear to be unlikely choice to perform the mission they were given. Each one, though, was the perfect choice. Simon, was a fisherman. He knew the sea. He knew where to find fish, at least most of the time. He was a big man, an ox of a man. He was the leader of the group, but that was a small group of four fishermen consisting in himself, his brother, Andrew, and the two Zebedee kids, James and John. He was probably illiterate. Yes, the New Testament lists two letters attributed to him, but he could have dictated these to a Christian scribe. Simon was just a good, hard, blue collar worker we would say, an everyday laborer. He was the least likely to lead an international movement. He had never been outside of Galilee and Judea. But this man, Simon, the Son of a man named Jonah, was called by the Lord to lead the Church, personally bringing the Gospel message all the way to Rome. He was the least likely to do this. But Jesus called him. He gave him a new name, Peter, the Rock.

And Peter was the perfect choice. God made him the perfect choice. Saul of Tarsus was brilliant. He wasn't just literate; he was scholarly. He was a student of Gamiliel, one of the most important rabbinical teachers of the ancient world. Saul knew the scripture and the Jewish practices better than most people of his time. He was passionate for the Hebrew religious law. He was more enthusiastic than most Pharisees. He would hunt down the followers of Christ, convinced that their way of life was polluting the Holy Land of Israel. Saul was certainly not someone you would choose to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. What is more, he is the last person you would expect who would argue that the gentiles did not have to first become Jewish before becoming Christian. But Christ called Saul as he traveled on the road to Damascus. He was given a new name, no longer Saul, now Paul. Least likely?

No, Paul was the perfect choice. He was the perfect choice to spread the Good News. God made him the perfect choice. 700 years before Peter and Paul, a man was chosen to be a prophet for Israel. His name was Isaiah. The main focus of his prophecy was on the holiness of God. The "Holy Holy Holy" that we sing during Mass is taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. But Isaiah was certainly not the person anyone would expect to proclaim God's holiness. He was a man with unclean lips. What did that mean? In our days when we accuse someone of having a dirty mouth we mean that his language is vulgar, offensive and abusive. Perhaps Isaiah was filthy that way. Or perhaps he was a liar, a violator of the eighth commandment. Or perhaps he was someone who was not thoroughly devoted to Yahweh and even ate food that the Jewish people were not allowed to eat, such as pork, shell fish and food sacrificed to pagan gods. These are some of the ways that his lips might have been unclean. Yet, those lips were chosen to proclaim the holiness of God.

Today's first reading tells us that God purified these lips. God made Isaiah the perfect choice. God does that. He did that for Peter, Paul and Isaiah. He does that for us. He makes each of us the perfect choice. So the brand new Mom and Dad bring their baby home from the hospital. Do you parents remember that day? Everyone was excited. Then they left. And your baby was colicky. Where were those people at 2 am in the morning? Like the guy in the commercial, the Dad said to himself, "I'm a sports car kind of guy; not a van guy." As she rocked the baby all day, and all night, the Mom said to herself, "I don't know if I'm ready for this." Both Mom and Dad said to themselves, not to each other, and certainly not to their own parents, "I can't do this." But God called them, called you, to be parents. He even gave you new names, "Mommy and Daddy." There are no better parents for your child, your children, than you. God made you the perfect choice. Your wife, your husband, has been severely ill. Worse, one of your children is chronically ill.

You are continually going back and forth to the hospital, back and forth to the doctor. You are exhausted, physically and emotionally. "I can't do this," you say. "I've always hated hospitals. I get squeamish just at the site of blood." But God has called you to be a care giver. He'll give you the strength to get through it all. You might just be a teenager, but you have so much pressure. School work can be tough. It can be boring. Some subjects are fun and come easy. But then there are those that drive you up a wall. You can't seem to get it right. You are on a team or in a club, and there are high expectations placed on your back. And then there is the constant drama with your friends. Who is not talking to who and why? On top of all this put peer pressure. Others tell you that you are the only one who doesn't drink, doesn't take drugs, doesn't have sex. They are lying, or at least they don't know everyone else, but still they put pressure on you to join them in their self-destructive behavior. You have all this pressure and you say, "I can't do this. I can't be a committed Catholic." You are correct, alone you can't, but with God you can. He has called you to bring the message of his Kingdom to those who have rejected him. He has called you to develop into the man or woman who will lead his people. He even gave you a new name at your baptism.

He calls you His Child, His Son, His Daughter. Think about this, God doesn't just call you Liz; He calls you His Daughter Liz. He doesn't just call you Bill. He calls you His Son Bill. You can do this, and I can do this. We can be Christians thoroughly committed to spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We can do this because the One who has called us gives us the power to complete his mission. All of us have times that we are convinced we are the least likely to perform a role that God has set for us, perhaps as a parent, perhaps as a care giver, certainly as a committed Christian. We all might think that we are the least likely to serve God. But we are wrong. Like Peter, Paul and Isaiah, we might think we are the least likely, but God has called us. In His mind, with His help, with His Divine Mercy, we are each the perfect choice.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
5 Ordinary Time
Hitting Bottom (February 10, 2019)

Bottom line: When we hit bottom, we can hear Jesus say, "Do not be afraid." Amen. Today we hear about three men who hit bottom, who recognized their radical unworthiness. Isaiah says, "Woe to me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips." Paul says, "I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle..." And Peter says, "Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man." These men are not practicing false modesty. No, they are looking reality straight in the eye. They realize the gulf between God and man. The distance between us and God is great than the distance between us and a worm. The worm, after all, can get along just fine without us. Our dependence upon God, however, is total and ongoing. We would neither have come into existence nor be sustained for an instant without him. Our existence depends totally on God. Nevertheless we want to set ourselves up as little gods. Last week the Nazarenes gave an archetypal example. In their native son, Jesus, they have the greatest treasure ever, but when he began to reveal his true status, they wanted to hurl him from a cliff (Lk 4:29). Likewise we react when Jesus infringes on what we consider ours - my time, my money, my body. Like Isaiah and Peter we sometimes want to run away and hide from God.

The resulting emptiness and fear can lead a person to contemplate suicide. I once heard about man who hit bottom. The date was October 16, 1978 and this weary man sat in a Roman hotel. He had made a mess of things and was convinced his life was worthless. On the table he placed a small pile of pills and a glass of whiskey. In the background a radio played with news of the papal election. A staccato Slavic voice said, "Non Avete Paura - Do not be afraid." Hearing those words, something lifted in his heart. He swept the pills in a waste basket and poured the whiskey down the sink. The man hit bottom but he started back up. To come to Jesus you and I in some sense need to hit bottom. God forbid that we should contemplate suicide. There's a better way to "hit bottom". Try meditating on Isaiah, Paul or Peter - and hear their cries of anguish. Then recognize we are surrounded by people in desperate situations: the homeless, the terminally ill, people whose lives are falling apart. Consider that your life will eventually unravel. You might seem secure now, but dear brother and beautiful sister, your world will come apart. When we hit bottom, we can hear Jesus say, "Do not be afraid."

Now is the time to come to Jesus, admit to him our uncleanness, our sin. We can then learn from Paul who said he was "not fit to be called an apostle" because he persecuted the church of God. The movie Paul Apostle of Christ shows him in a Roman prison having flashbacks about hunting down innocent men, women and children. Those shameful memories bring him low, but Jesus lifts him: "by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective." Then with honest pride he adds. "I have toiled harder than all of them; not I, however, but the grace of God that is with me." Amen

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
5 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
5 Ordinary Time
Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

This is the first account of Jesus actually teaching the people as recorded in the Gospel of Luke. He has already been baptised, he has been tempted in the wilderness, he was rejected in the synagogue of Nazareth, he has exorcised a demon from a man possessed and he healed many sick people including Simon Peter's mother-in-law. The last line of the previous chapter does tell us that Jesus was preaching in the synagogues of Judea, but here by Lake Galilee is the first occasion when we are told that he is directly teaching the people, although it will be a while yet before we are told the actual content of his teaching. The crowds press around him, so eager are they to hear the Word of God, and this causes Jesus quite pragmatically to get into one of the boats so that he can teach the people without being smothered by the crush of so many bodies. But this is not just any boat, this is Simon Peter's boat and, after he draws his teaching session to a conclusion, he tells the fishermen to put out into deep water and lower the nets for a catch.

The Lake of Galilee, or Gennesaret as Luke calls it here, is a rather clear lake. It does not have much in the way of sediment and since the water is clear the fish can easily see the nets, which is why most of the fishing was done at night. Peter and his companions are exhausted, they have been up all night fishing without success, then their work of washing the nets was interrupted while Jesus used the boat for teaching. So, we can imagine that they were a bit exasperated when Jesus told them launch out and start fishing again. It is clear that these fishermen already knew Jesus since Luke has told us that Jesus had healed Peter's mother-in-law some days beforehand. In the light of this it is obvious that they want to be helpful and do what their honoured guest asks of them, even if he apparently knows absolutely nothing about fishing. At this point Simon Peter even gives Jesus the title ‘master' which is something equivalent to ‘rabbi.' Since Jesus has been teaching the people it is evident to these new friends of his that he has real authority and is someone who knows what he is talking about.

Here is a man who explains the mysteries of God to the people in a way that they can understand. Once they start to draw in their nets the fishermen are astounded to discover that they have caught so many fish that the two boats are in danger of sinking. This astonishing miracle causes Peter to recognise that Jesus is indeed a very holy man and he admits his own unworthiness by saying, ‘Leave me Lord, I am a sinful man.' He had addressed Jesus previously as ‘master' but now he calls him ‘Lord' which indicates that he regards Jesus as being someone truly powerful in a spiritual way. However, Jesus ignores his words and informs them that from now on they will be catching men and not fish and, in this way, he recruits them as his first disciples. Specifically mentioned here as Peter's companions are James and John, but we don't get the full list of all the Apostles until the following Chapter. The very first action of these new Apostles is that they ‘they left everything and followed him.' This indicates their wholehearted acceptance of their new role.

These are to be no half-hearted followers, these are no fair-weather friends. No from the outset their commitment is total. We know that later on, when things get sticky, they might waver a little but that is due to incomprehension rather than a lack of dedication. Catching fish, difficult though it may be, is a lot easier than catching men. The fish are swimming in the water and all you have to do is get the net in the right place and then draw in the fish. It is hard physical work and involves knowing where the fish are likely to be and most likely also involves quite a lot of luck. However, men and women are different; each one needs separate treatment. What persuades one man or woman will not persuade another. Bringing other people to faith is a real skill; it involves convincing them of the truths of the Gospel, it means helping them to realise that they need salvation and that it is only to be found in Jesus Christ. Sometimes a lot of talking is involved but then with other people talking is not required at all, they prefer to learn from good example.

An important truth is that the work of Evangelisation is always accompanied by prayer. It is impossible to convince anyone about the truths of the Gospel unless prayer is involved. The person doing the Evangelising needs to accompany his teaching with a large measure of prayer. And indeed, even if you do not do any Evangelising yourself you can still support the Evangelical work of others by your own prayers. Prayer is an absolutely vital component in this important work of spreading the Gospel. Jesus called the twelve Apostles, but he has also called us to a similar work. We are not called to lead communities but we are called to play our part, we are called to hand on the faith to others as best we can. We are called to worship God as part of the parish community and we are invited to experience God's grace as mediated to us through the sacraments. So, we should rightly regard ourselves as Apostles, men and women with a mission; men and women tasked with bringing the Good News to others in whatever way we can.

We might not think that we are eloquent enough to physically preach the Gospel to others but there are other things that we can do to support the work of the entire community. In our parishes each one of us ought to exercise some sort of ministry. It may be something as simple as helping to keep the Church clean. It could be singing in the choir or arranging the flowers, it could be serving on the altar or doing the readings or handing out hymn books. It may be that we find ourselves called to do some voluntary work in the wider community such as helping the homeless or collecting for charity. It could be looking out for our elderly neighbours and doing a bit of shopping for them. It could be something as simple as helping a child to read. There are millions of ways to be an Apostle in the world of today. The important thing is to do something and to do it gladly and with joy in our hearts. The Lord has called us, he has given us a particular set of talents and he wants us to use them in his service. By means of these talents that we use to build up the body of Christ we become each day stronger and better Apostles of Jesus Christ in the world of today.

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