HOME Homily Archives - Year C Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Homily. Readings: Isaiah 6:1-2, 3-8; Psalm 138; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Luke 5:1-11.


Green Stole and Gospel
Readings: Isaiah 6:1-2, 3-8; Psalm 138; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Luke 5:1-11

Isaiah has an intense experience, both of the utter holiness of God, and of his own unworthiness (First Reading), as does Peter in the presence of Christ (Gospel). Paul’s mention of his having received the grace of God despite his unworthiness reminds us that God is the one who makes the apostle effective (Second Reading).

Isaiah’s vision in the First Reading is an astounding experience. He comes into contact with the awesome holiness of God, which forces him to an immediate realization of his own unworthiness, and an abrupt recognition of his own condition as “a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips” (First Reading). In the Gospel, Luke gives his version of the first encounter between Christ and Simon Peter. The miraculous catch of fish provokes a similar reaction in Peter, when he understands that Christ’s holiness goes infinitely beyond what he originally suspected. Like Isaiah, he is made acutely aware of his own smallness, saying to Christ, “depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man” (Gospel).

Both of these experiences touch upon the infinite gap between the Creator and creatures. God infinitely transcends the created world, which is totally dependent upon him for its existence. Nevertheless, the contemplation of nature helps us to grasp something of his grandeur, whether it is the massive yellow orb of a beautiful sunset, the towering majesty of a snowcapped mountain peak, or a star-filled night. The mere sight of these spectacular marvels can only bring us to the realization that the God who created all this and sustains it in being must be awesome indeed.

And yet, the transcendence of God is a remote idea for many in today’s world, and all too often, God is brought down to our puny size, especially in popular media, such as in the 1977 film “Oh, God,” starring George Burns as God. Why is this? One of the reasons may be our own faulty awareness of sin. Today, people are more concerned with assuaging bad feelings, coping with stress, and limiting the damage from “at-risk behaviors,” rather than repenting from sin. In order to consider God’s power and glory, one needs to have a handle on one’s own moral inadequacy. Peter and Isaiah, both aware of their severe smallness, are more capable to react with awe when God’s presence manifests itself (First Reading, Gospel).

But any discussion of sin has to go hand in hand with a reflection on the redemption. Awareness of moral misery is futile without realizing that God is working to rescue us. Paul refers to his own personal history of moral failure as a persecutor of Christianity: “I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” Indeed, God in his mercy can bridge the gap between his Might and our misery through his grace: “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective” (Second Reading).

This is especially evident in the Gospel. Jesus’ encounter with Peter occurs in the context of the morning after a night of failed fishing. Overcoming their own reluctance, Simon Peter and his companions, obedient to the word of Christ, cast out their nets once again. Now overwhelmed by the miraculous catch, Peter expresses his awareness of Christ’s greatness and his own inadequacy: “Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man.” Jesus’ response should fill us with hope as much as it did Simon Peter: “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” The Lord’s greatness is seen in his desire to work through weak human instruments. This is truly the Catholic outlook that focuses not so much on the man, be he a pope, bishop or priest, but on Christ, who works through him. What is true for those who exercise sacramental ministry in the Church also holds true for all the baptized. If we are docile to the command of Christ and cast out our nets with a spirit of absolute confidence, the Lord will make fruitful our efforts, especially when we cast them out for the most important reason: the salvation of souls. With the help of Christ, we can all be “fishers of men.”