Homily for the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C 2019
Often, it is at our lowest moments, when all hope is gone that God shows up. He breaks in to reorder our lives, to do what He alone can do. This is as true of us, as it is true of biblical figures like Isaiah, Paul, Peter, James and John. In our First reading from Isaiah 6:1-8, the prophet opens with a detail that at first may appear irrelevant, “In the year of King Uzziah’s death”. But on a deeper reflection, it is Isaiah telling us something about his state of mind, his grief.
King Uzziah was a great king. He was faithful to God. He sought the Lord. He did what was right in the sight of God. He was very successful, and Israel prospered. However, he became obsessed with his successes and disobeyed the Lord. Pride set in, and he turned his back on God. He even went to the extent of offering in the Temple, the sacrifice that only a priest could offer. He was stricken with leprosy and he later died. Isaiah was caught up with all this.
He struggled with the successes, the sudden failure of Uzziah. He might have looked up to the king. He had his questions. He prayed, but there wasn’t any answer. Rather, there was silence. It was during all this that he saw the Lord seated on a high throne and he heard the seraphs cry out, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts. His glory fills the whole earth”. God revealed Himself to Isaiah who at the time might have been blaming Him for Uzziah’s plight.
This encounter blew Isaiah’s mind. He couldn’t understand why God was good to him when he couldn’t even trust God. There was God reaching out to him, not to condemn him, but to allow him to experience His goodness. This experience humbled Isaiah. It made him acknowledge his sinfulness. Thus, he cried “What a wretched state I am in! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips…” This is mercy. This is grace.
Mercy, that is God seeing more in Isaiah. He sees more than our action. He sees me. He sees you. He sees who we can be, not just who we are. As a result, He doesn’t give us the punishment our sins deserve. Grace, that is God giving us Himself and He allows us to experience His saving action. This is very evident in the life of St. Paul. For all we know, Paul deserved to die. He was a murderer. And He was out to murder more people (Acts 9). Why didn’t God kill him?
Because God in his mercy saw more than Paul’s sins. He saw the saint in the sinner. He also sees more than your sins. So, don’t give up. Like Isaiah, Paul’s encounter with the mercy and grace of God led him to acknowledge his sinfulness. He too was lost. He had lost his purpose in life. Unfortunately, he didn’t know this until the Lord found him. This is grace – God finding us, redefining our purpose. Notice, it is the Lord who took the initiative and found him.
But Paul didn’t just sit back and waste his life waiting on the Lord to find him. He also took the initiative to find God. He became a faithful Jew. He was zealous in keeping the commandment and traditions of Judaism. Although he went about it the wrong way, God found him and redirected his steps. Isiah also did the same. He took his grief, his pain to the Lord in prayer. Peter in the Gospel reading from Luke 5:1-11 was also searching for God in his trade.
Yes, fishing might not have been his calling! Perhaps, that was his mistake. But he didn’t know that for sure. He had to take the risk and trust God would direct him. He was bold enough to search for the Lord in the place where he was experienced, in something he was good at. God saw this. He saw how Peter was putting his talents and treasures to good use. As a result, Jesus met him half way and offered him a new direction in life. God wants to meet us half way too.
He wants us to take own step for He has taken the first step already. He wants us to take the risk. We don’t have to wait for the perfect moment. He has perfected all times. We don’t have to get all the details right. He is with us to guide us. All we must do is to say, “Here I am Lord, I have come to do your will”. No doubt, we may go wrong. But He will find us and redirect our steps. This is the beauty of God’s mercy. We don’t earn it, but we must be prepared for it.
Unfortunately, many of us are too hard on ourselves. We dwell more on our sins than on the mercy of God. We are like Peter who in the face of God’s mercy preferred the Lord to depart from him. The Lord didn’t come to us because of our perfection. He came to us because we, His sons and daughters had lost our way. Remember, He said, “I came for the lost sheep, for sinners”. So, don’t let your sins hold you back from the Lord. Rather, let Him have your sins.
For sin distorts our vision. It blinds us from seeing our true purpose. Thus, the Lord urges us, “Do not be afraid” to let go of your sins. Perhaps, it has been a long time since you went to confession. Today, is a good day to find a priest and confess your sins. Repent of them. No sin is too big for the Lord to forgive. Remember, “Every saint has a past. Every sinner has a future”. The Lord has found you. So, cast your net into the deep of His mercy and have a big catch.
St. Pope John Paul II sums all this up when he said, “Duc in Altum (cast into the deep): these words ring for us today and they invite us to remember the past with gratitude, to live the present with enthusiasm and to look to the future with confidence. ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8). In other words, He is alive. He is calling us out of our own realities into His own reality. Let’s fall before Him in worship and follow Him.
Fr. Francis Afu