TEXT: 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, February 7, 2016
5th Sunday in Ordinary Time
February 7, 2016
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church
Whenever I train Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion,
to help the priests distribute Communion,
I always begin by telling them:
“none of you is worthy to distribute Holy Communion.”
Most are shocked—some are even angry—when they hear that.
But then I add: “and I’m not worthy either.”
Think of it: No one is worthy to even touch Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.
and anyone who thinks he is, shouldn’t touch the Blessed Sacrament.
And if you disagree, why do you always say just before approaching Him:
“Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof…..”
Everything is a gift from God—and we’re not worthy of any of it…on our own.
This is one of 2 central themes of all 3 readings today.
In the first reading, when Isaiah has his vision of the Lord he says:
“Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips,
…yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”
He’s afraid that since he is a sinner, and unworthy to see God,
God will strike him dead.
And even the great St. Paul doesn’t consider himself worthy to serve Jesus,
as he says in today’s 2nd reading:
“I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle,
because I persecuted the church of God.”
And most strikingly, when the great St. Peter recognizes that
he’s in the presence of the Christ, today’s Gospel tells us:
“he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, ‘Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.’”
Yet every day you and I take so much for granted
–we act as if everything we receive is our birthright.
Even though we’re all descendants of Adam and Eve, from a family of sinners,
cast out from paradise, and unworthy of even God’s mercy.
And like our first parents—Adam and Eve—
we carry on the family tradition: each us is a sinner.
And yet, as sinful and undeserving as we are, God still loves us.
So He makes us worthy by his mercy, and by his grace.
As St. Paul tells us today, after proclaiming his unworthiness:
“But by the grace of God I am what I am,
and his grace to me has not been ineffective.”
It’s not anything we do that makes us worthy of his love
–he doesn’t owe us a thing: he simply loves us and freely gives to us.
And, as St. Augustine said once, everything he gives us is a “grace.”
Now, let’s be clear, we are, inherently good,
because we are made in the image and likeness of God himself.
But even so, even that goodness is a gift from God.
And it’s been tarnished by the original sin of Adam and Eve
and our own personal sins.
But ever since the original sin and every time there’s been a sin since then,
God has longed to give us his greatest gift possible:
he’s wanted to give us himself
–not simply to restore us to our home in an earthly paradise,
but to bring us to his home in heaven.
And so since mere human beings, and sinners,
can’t make ourselves worthy of his love, he steps in and does it himself.
In the story of Isaiah, God sends his angel to purify Isaiah,
taking an ember from the altar
and touching it to Isaiah’s mouth, and saying,
” ….your wickedness is removed, your sin purged.” And with that he is ready to serve God as his prophet.
Nowadays, angels don’t fly around with burning embers to purify our lips.
Instead Jesus himself gives us the sacraments,
in particular the sacrament of Baptism,
which cleansed us from original sin
—the purifying water pouring out his sanctifying grace—
and prepared us to enter into his presence.
And when by our own choices we return to our sins, especially our grave sins,
he pours his sanctifying grace on us again and again
purifying us in the sacrament of Penance.
And as we come before him at Holy Mass, aware of the small sins of our lives,
and realize that even now we’re not completely
“worthy that he should enter under our roof,”
and so we beg him to only “say the word and my soul shall be healed.”
And then He comes to us in Holy Communion,
wiping away all these venial sins
and filling us with every grace and heavenly blessing.
This is the fountain of grace poured out on us, making us worthy
to not only stand in the presence of Christ, but to share in his life.
So as St. Paul tells us today:
“I have toiled harder than all of them;
not I, however, but the grace of God that is with me.”
This is the same grace we find Jesus promising in today’s Gospel
as he tells Peter:
“from now on you will be catching men.” Because Peter won’t be “catching men” by his own power.
As St. Matthew’s gospel recorded, Jesus added:
“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
It is Christ and his power that makes them fishers of men.
And it is only by being with Christ, “following” him,
that it is possible for this grace to come into their lives
—even though they are completely unworthy.
This brings us to the 2nd central theme in each of the 3 readings today.
Each of the key characters of the readings
is called to do something particular for the Lord:
Isaiah is called to be the great prophet of the Messiah;
and even more, Paul and Peter, and James and John,
are called to be the apostles of the Messiah.
None is worthy of even being in God’s presence,
and yet he makes them worthy to become his great and powerful
prophets and apostles.
Like Isaiah and the apostles, God, Jesus, comes to us,
and by his grace brings us into his presence
and gives each a vocation in his divine plan for the salvation of the world.
Some he calls to leave everything behind to become fishers of men
—priests and bishops, and in some sense religious sisters and brothers.
But most he calls to remain with their work and families.
And there in the midst of ordinary life
he sends them—you—to imitate the prophet Isaiah
and proclaim God’s word to your friends and family
and anyone who will listen.
To imitate St. Paul and “toil hard” for Christ.
To imitate St. Peter and “not be afraid” to follow Jesus wherever he leads,
and to catch spouses, children, friends and even enemies
—in the net of the Gospel.
None of us is worthy of any of this.
And none of us can do it on our own.
But as Jesus tells us elsewhere:
“what is impossible for man, is not impossible for God.”
And so by God’s grace we are made worthy
and made capable of doing the impossible.
In a few moments you will prepare yourself to receive Holy Communion,
and you will follow the example of Isaiah and Paul and Peter
and fall on your knees and say:
“Lord I am not worthy.”
Today the Lord reminds you that with all of your faults, he still loves you,
and has restored you to grace in baptism and penance
and longs to come to you personally now to fill you with his grace.
Today He will not send a heavenly angel
with a burning ember taken from the altar,
instead he will send an unworthy priest, or extraordinary minister,
with his love burning in the host taken from the altar.
Receive this host, which “by the grace of God” is the very Body of Jesus himself.
And by his grace be not afraid to follow him,
to be made worthy of his love,
and to answer His call to become fishers of men.