Sunday, February 10, 2013

We, too, must become "Fishers of People".

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Gospel Luke 5:1-11

While the crowd was pressing in on Jesus and listening to the word of God, he was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret. He saw two boats there alongside the lake; the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, he asked him to put out a short distance from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.”
Simon said in reply, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.” When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come to help them. They came and filled both boats so that the boats were in danger of sinking. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him and all those with him, and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners of Simon. Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him.

All three readings today illustrate the initial hesitancy and sense of unworthiness of those being called to do God's work in the world and yet in all these encounters with divinity, there is God's affirmation and transformation, so that those being called become empowered for their missions.

In an examination of the stories of Isaiah, Paul and Simon, we can gain confidence that we too, are called to experience the presence of God and a resultant conversion for the greater glory of God's Reign. Isaiah is the recipient of a terrifying vision in which he comes face to face with YHWH. We recall that Elijah hid his face when he perceived that God passed by the cave where he had taken shelter (2 Kgs 19:13) and that Moses hid his face from the presence of God in the burning bush (Ex 3:6).

For a people who did not even feel themselves worthy to pronounce the name YHWH, to dare to look at God would have meant death and so we can imagine why Isaiah's response was 'Woe is me." Yet, his terror turns to self-assurance once his sin is forgiven and somehow, in realizing he's in the holy Temple, surrounded by angels, he knows he is worthy....worthy to live in God's presence.. worthy to proclaim God's word .he has seen God and lived ! And suddenly the willingness to be sent, springs from his lips! "Here I am, O God, send me!" With those words Isaiah signs a blank check, so to speak. He had no idea what the tasks would be or what the future would hold for him. But he believed in the power of God, which had filled him with the knowledge that no matter what was asked of him, he could accomplish it.

Paul, also (we recall) was the recipient of a dramatic, terrifying encounter with God, having been knocked off his horse and accused of persecuting the Lord Jesus Himself! Before becoming a follower of Jesus, Paul zealously persecuted the newly-forming Christian church, trying to destroy it. He traveled the synagogues, urging the punishment of Jews who accepted Jesus as the Messiah. He held the coats of those who stoned Stephen, the first Christian martyr, to death. He went from house to house, dragging men and women Christian believers to prison, where he had them tortured in an attempt to get them to deny their faith in Christ. When they refused, he voted to have them condemned to death. But then, while traveling on the road from Jerusalem to Damascus on one of his missions of persecution, Jesus appeared to him in a great light. He was struck blind, and after three days was restored his sight. In the 2nd reading Paul reminds us that he did persecute the Church and that he's not even fit to be called an apostle, and that it is by God's favor, and only by God's favor, that he is what he is now-- an apostle, and indeed, as it turns out, the hardest working and biggest promoter of the Gospel amongst the Gentiles all around the Mediterranean Basin, and the most prolific writer of the New Testament. So we see from Paul's story that God can transform any of our pasts, no matter how reprehensible, into lives of good and glory.

We see, in the Gospel reading, a similar transformation in Simon Peter. After having fished all night without any luck, Jesus tells Peter to cast his net into the waters once again. Peter must have wondered, "What does this carpenter know about fishing?", and perhaps to prove his point that there were no fish, Peter lowers the nets, only to be astounded by the immensity of the catch. Peter felt then, just like Isaiah and Paul in the presence of the Almighty, for he fell at Jesus' knees, pleading, "Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinner...." (as if to say) I didn't believe in Your power to work Your works through me.

But then Jesus' merciful encouragement "Do not be afraid...from now on you will be fishers of people" inspires Peter and all those with him to leave their former lives and follow Jesus.

And what does it take for us to be fishers of people? to draw others in our nets to Jesus? What are the qualities we will need to develop? 1. We'll have to be aware of where the fish are....and then go out in search of them (realizing most often, that they are right under our noses where they've been the whole time). 2. We'll have to keep working at it, in all kinds of weather, day or night, whether we are weary or not. 3. We'll have to keep our nets clean of seaweed and debris ....the useless collections of junky thoughts and wasteful attachments. We'll have to wash our nets again and again with the truth that we are God's children and have God-given destinies. 4. We'll have to keep our nets mended-- constantly checking for the holes in our character of discouragement, apathy and self-doubt, taking the care and the time to sew up the holes of negativity with the strength of God found in the Scriptures, sacraments, prayer, and faithful friends.

Although the three readings we've prayed today seem to portray instantaneous, complete cooperation with God on the part of Isaiah, Paul and Peter, we know from the 'rest of their stories', that they struggled all their lives with remaining confident in and committed to God's presence in their lives. And so it helps us to remember, that God doesn't call the perfect, but perfects the ones who are called..... and since we are all called, I prefer to paraphrase this as...God doesn't call the perfect, but perfects the ones who answer The Call. And finally, let us remember that God doesn't call us to be successful, but only to be faithful.

Homily by Reverend Mary Wagner

St. Valentine Faith Community
Mass: 10AM Every Sunday
2670 Chandler Avenue
Suite 7 & 8
Las Vegas, NV 89120
702-523-8963 Rev Sue Provost, Pastor

"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. " (1 John 4:9-10)

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