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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

February 10, 2013
Isaiah 6:1-8; Psalm 138; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Luke 5:1-11

Today’s Scripture tells us about the call of Isaiah, a man of unclean lips, Paul, a persecutor of the followers of Jesus, and Peter, a reluctant fisherman. Each person has an unusual story to tell, just as our stories are unique. In each case, they answer an invitation and are asked to do something “above and beyond” what they thought previously possible. Answering the call means to trust that God sees something “more” in you to be developed for God’s greater glory. In human history, we seldom give much thought to the person who existed before the call because that is not what God wants us to notice. God’s glory shines in their reshaped lives.

Isaiah tells us that he was a man of unclean lips living among a people of unclean lips. His words do not build up and create, but rather he gives himself over to sarcasm, complaint, and gossip. He is just like the others around him. His word means nothing and is not to be trusted. Notice that God takes Isaiah’s greatest sin and uses it for God’s glory. Isaiah goes from a man whose words cannot be trusted to a man who speaks prophetically for God. His lips have been touched and his wickedness removed. What does history remember about Isaiah? We remember his poetic reassurance to the people of Israel that their time of exile is over and that a Messiah is sure to be born to them.

Paul is a fearless persecutor of new Christians as a Roman Jew. He does not fit the criteria for being a disciple of Jesus; others are far more suited for the task being asked of Paul, but his call highlights the power of the grace of God. His story as a man who condoned the killing of Christians is transformed. His greatest sin is used as an asset. What does history remember about Paul? We remember his great missionary endeavors to build up a church faithful to the teachings of Jesus. We remember his tireless care to include Gentiles into the faith and to impose no undue burden on them. We remember his loving zeal to be with the Lord.

Simon is an ordinary fishing merchant who is diligent in his craft. He demonstrates that he is not a man of great faith when he tells Jesus that he has worked the deep water all night to no avail, but because Jesus is a good teacher he obliges his request. Simon, rather than embracing the Lord, tells Jesus to go away because he knows in all humility that he has not lived virtuously. We see many times in which Simon’s faith is not as sure as Jesus would like. What does history remember about Simon? We remember him as Peter, the man upon which the church is built. We remember his human frailty through which shines his great faith. We remember that he is the first one to call Jesus the Messiah.

In each case, these great men say, “yes” to a simple invitation. Saying yes is important, but first the person must be able to hear that an invitation is offered. Invitations respect freedom. These are not requests. Invitations are always gentle. It is like the question from the song, ‘The Summons’: “Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?” Your free choice is crucial. Listen. Do you hear it? Are you able to hear the call?

Many conditions block our willingness to hear and listen. Pride is one of the big obstacles. Our need to control and manipulate outcomes and behaviors is another. Fear! Fear of the unknown is a killer. Losing one’s place of privilege is another. The list can be extensive. The problem is: we want to say “yes” to God, but we cannot get out of our own way. God intervenes in dramatic ways in the conversion of Isaiah, Simon Peter, and Paul. God similarly intervenes in our lives too, but sometimes we turn them into battles of wills than to recognize that God wants us to learn a valuable lesson. God wants to take our human foibles and make them into something much greater. However, we do everything in our power to let that happen. We dearly hold onto the illusions of the world we know rather than to hear the invitations gently nestled within the drama.

I like to give a guided meditation that asks people of prayer to make a clay image of some object that represents how they see themselves. After shaping this object, Jesus lovingly takes it into his hands and reshapes it into an image that more aptly suits us. He is able to see our potential without regard for limitations. He is able to dream bigger for us than we can ourselves. This is what he does for Isaiah, Paul, and Peter. It is what he offers you. What do you need to do to let Jesus take you into his gentle hands to reshape you and call out of you your potential? He gives each of us many gifts to develop.

I suggest that we use some time this week, as Lent is beginning, to ask Jesus how he sees us and if there are some invitations for us to hear. We need to be relaxed and let the swirl in our mind settle down. We can’t hear if we are paying attention to the myriad of voices designed to keep us in our place. We need to find that still small voice of Jesus – in the silence that follows the whisper, and we need to let that tender voice silence the others. We need to hear that invitation renewed constantly. There’s always newness in it as the call always deepens. It always brings greater life and joy and fredom – especially if we are stretched beyond where we thought we could go. Let’s hear Jesus sing out again, “Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?” and may we respond, “Here I am, Lord. Send me.” It is quite a remarkable journey that follows. It can start with nothingness and move towards greatness. We remember the remarkable achievements of many who followed int the footsteps of Christ because they said, “Yes.” How will history remember you?
Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: The beginning of the Creation account is told in Genesis to indicate that there is one God who has mastery over the universe. All created things come to existence because of God’s word. Light, the sky, earth, night and daytime skies, water, and all living things come about in God’s design. God created humans in God’s own image.

Ash Wednesday interrupts the readings of ordinary time. In Joel, the Lord beckons everyone to return to him with all their heart. Rend your hearts and see that the Lord is gracious and merciful and rich in kindness. In Deuteronomy, Moses respects the freedom of others. Choose life, he says, that you and your descendants may live, or choose death, which means taking care of only your own needs. Life means blessing and prosperity, long life, and many offspring. Isaiah lays out ground rules for fasting. They contain acts of corporal mercy and practical ways to move through your day respecting the Lord’s will. He sets out a way of living in relation to neighbor designed to promote the common good and care for the most needy among us.

Gospel: Jesus returns to the Galilean side of the sea where people immediately recognize him and bring the sick to be healed even if by only touching his cloak. Pharisees arrive and gather around Jesus. They observe that his disciples eat their meals with unwashed hands and question him on their practice. Jesus replies that they have set aside a commandment in order to uphold their tradition.

Ash Wednesday’s Gospel is taken from Matthew’s account of the Sermon on the Mount where instructions on prayer are handed out. Prayer respects the relationship of human to God. Fasting is not to be a public showcase, but an internal observance. Almsgiving is to help the needy, not to display one’s generosity. At the very start of Lent, Jesus reminds his disciples that the cross of suffering lies at the end of the journey. Discipleship means taking up that cross daily and following him. When the disciples of John the Baptist ask Jesus why his disciples do not fast, Jesus tells them that mourning does not occur when the bridegroom is with them. Jesus sees a tax collector named Levi sitting at his customs post when Jesus calls him to discipleship. Some object, but Jesus exclaims that he came to bring the repentant sinner to God’s kingdom.

Saints of the Week

February 10: Scholastica (480-543) was the twin sister of Benedict, founder of Western monasticism. She is the patroness of Benedictine nuns. She was buried in her brother's tomb; they died relatively close to one another.

February 11: Our Lady of Lourdes is remembered because between February 11 and July 16, 1858, Mary appeared to Bernadette Soubirous in a cave near Lourdes, France eighteen times. The site remains one of the largest pilgrim destinations. Many find healing in the waters of the grotto during the spring.

February 12: Mardi Gras is your last chance to eat meat before Lent. This is the last day of Carnival (Carne- meat, Goodbye – vale). Say goodbye to meat as we begin the fasting practices tomorrow.

February 13: Ash Wednesday is the customary beginning to the season of Lent. A penitential time marked by increased fasting, prayer and almsgiving, we begin our 40-day tradition of sacrifice as we walk the way of Jesus that ends at the Cross during Holy Week. Lent is a time of conversion, a time to deepen one’s relationship with Christ, for all roads lead to his Cross of Suffering and Glory.

February 14: Cyril, monk, and Methodius, bishop (Ninth Century), were brothers who were born in Thessalonica, Greece. They became missionaries after they ended careers in teaching and government work. They moved to Ukraine and Moravia, a place between the Byzantium and Germanic peoples. Cyril (Constantine) created Slavonic alphabet so the liturgy and scriptures could be available to them. Cyril died during a visit to Rome and Methodius became a bishop and returned to Moravia.

February 15: Claude La Colombiere, S.J., religious (1641-1682), was a Jesuit missionary, ascetical writer, and confessor to Margaret Mary Alocoque at the Visitation Convent at Paray La Monial. As a Jesuit, he vowed to live strictly according to the Jesuit Constitutions to achieve utmost perfection. Together, they began a devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Feb 10, 1773. The rector of Florence informed the general, Fr. Ricci, that a copy of the proposed Brief of Suppression had been sent to the Emperor of Austria. The general refused to believe that the Society would be suppressed.
·      Feb 11, 1563. At the Council of Trent, Fr. James Laynez, the Pope's theologian, made such an impression on the cardinal president by his learning and eloquence, that cardinal decided at once to open a Jesuit College in Mantua, his Episcopal see.
·      Feb 12, 1564. Francis Borgia was appointed assistant for Spain and Portugal.
·      Feb 13, 1787. In Milan, Fr. Rudjer Boskovic, an illustrious mathematician, scientist, and astronomer, died. At Paris he was appointed "Directeur de la Marine."
·      Feb 14, 1769. At Cadiz, 241 Jesuits from Chile were put on board a Swedish vessel to be deported to Italy as exiles.
·      Feb 15, 1732. Fr. Chamillard SJ, who had been reported by the Jansenists as having died a Jansenist and working miracles, suddenly appeared alive and well!
·      Feb 16, 1776. At Rome, the Jesuit prisoners in Castel San Angelo were restored to liberty. Fr. Romberg, the German assistant, aged 80, expressed a wish to remain in prison.


  1. What an excellent homily! I am making a presentation on the gospel next Tuesday for RCIA and I wonder it would be ok to incorporate a few of your ideas. These readings are so appropriate for people who are discovering God's call to them.

    1. Thanks, Lynda. Take whatever you want. It is in the public domain. Thanks for your good words.

  2. Answering the call means to trust the God sees something “more” in you to be developed for God’s greater glory.
    Thank you for this. What a beautiful way of saying it...