Homily – 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Is 6:1-2a, 3-8; 1 Cor 15:1-11; Lk 5:1-11)
The last two weeks I have spoken about the Dignity of every human person and their infinite worth from God. That each person was created for a purpose given to them from before they were born. Our mission, our goal, is to fulfill this purpose and answer our call, our vocation, from God. This week we hear of three people called by God to fulfill their purpose for which they were created. All three responded in a similar fashion. One said: “Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips.” The next that he was: “Unfit to be called an apostle” and the last: “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” In essence they all said they same thing. They all said they were not worthy of the call; and they were all right.
The truth is that each and everyone of us is unworthy of our call from God; yet he calls us anyway. The question we have to answer is: “Will we answer him with a yes”. In every one of our three examples in the readings we hear that they do in fact answer the call of God. Not because they are worthy, but because they place their faith in Christ and obey his words. In each situation the response is that God remedies their defects. God purifies us; sometimes by fire. God makes us what we are by his grace, and not our own talents. And God is the one that makes our efforts bear fruit even when it seems it might be a waste of time to do as he asks. Weakness, unworthiness, and lack of talent and skill are not barriers for God. They are the ingredients, the foundation, of his greatest works. He tells this to Paul in 2 Cor 12:9: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” What God asks of us is what he asks of Peter: Faith and Obedience.
Peter was a fisherman by trade. He knew his profession because that is how he made his living. He had just worked very hard all night and had nothing to show for it. That is when Jesus, someone he had only recently met and who was a carpenter not a fisherman, asked him to put out into the deep and lower his nets for a catch. Peter explained his situation but then told the Lord if that is what you want of me then I will do it. He didn’t ask for an explanation. He didn’t ask why. He didn’t demand a reason or even a sign before he answered God’s call. For Peter it was simply enough that the Lord was asking him and he didn’t even realize he was the Son of God yet. He had faith in him.
Faith, as scripture defines it, is evidence of things hoped for but not seen. A German philosopher by the name of Joseph Pieper said it is always a belief in someone and not in something. We believe it because someone told us and we trust them. Not because we have seen it.
This idea is very difficult for us modern and “enlightened” thinkers. After all the age of reason says that if something can’t be proven it doesn’t exist. They say that seeing is believing. We want proof. We want evidence before we act and we won’t take the chance unless it is there. Too many people are liars and so we won’t risk anything too important. We refuse to have faith and we want proof or understanding instead.
While that may be true in some cases it isn’t the case with God. God isn’t a liar. When God asks something of us we are faced with many things God has said that we must have faith and believe or we must refuse to believe. God says in Jeremiah “I have plans for your welfare, not for your woe.” In Romans “All things work for the good of those who love the Lord.” In Matthew “It is not his will that a single one of these little ones be lost.”
Now either God was telling the truth and these things are true or God was lying. We get to decide. We choose whether we have faith in God and act on his word like Peter simply because he asks. Or, we refuse and demand a sign, or proof or understanding. To demand proof or to demand understanding is to refuse to have faith. It is to doubt God and demand something else. His word is not enough.
When the Lord asks something of us, whether through his Word in scripture or through his Church that he established, then we know it is for our own good. If it wasn’t then he was a liar. The question is how will we respond? Will we demand proof or an explanation of why we must do something? Or will we respond as Peter did? He had every reason to think he knew more about fishing than Jesus but still his response was: I will do it if you ask me to.
This second response of Peters is what produces the abundant catch. It bears the great fruit. You see it wasn’t simply enough for Peter to believe what the Lord said was true. He had to do what the Lord Said. To believe if you lower your nets you will catch fish will not produce the fish unless you lower the nets. You must have not only faith but you must obey it in your works. As scripture says: Faith without works is dead. In this case Faith without works would not have produced the abundant catch. We must not only simply believe in Christ but we must do as he asks us. If someone says he Loves the Lord but doesn’t keep the commandments he is a liar. Those are scriptures words not mine. We must be faithful and obedient.
Obedience isn’t a popular word today. Obedience is seen as a bad thing by most people unless they are the ones issuing the commands in which case they expect absolute obedience. But obedience to God? Well, he will forgive me. That is treading on dangerous ground as scripture shows. If we love him we must keep his commandments. We must obey his will.
I am not sure why this is seen as such a bad thing. Obedience can be good. Let’s say your traveling down Highway 83 and there is an oncoming Semi-Trailer. Now you can be obedient to the Laws and drive in the right lane or you can insist that obedience is bad and drive in the Left lane with the semi? Is it bad to be obedient to the law? Is the Law set up to oppress you and keep you down? Is it there to limit your happiness? No sane person would say yes to those questions. Clearly the Law is there to protect you and give you more enjoyment out of life. We would say the disobedient person was the insane one.
If you are on top of the Empire state Building and there is a big fence surrounding the edge of the railing and it says do not climb over the fence and jump. Do you do it anyway? Who are they to tell you what you can and can’t do? The Law of Gravity is trying to keep you down and you are going to disobey it and jump. Sane or insane? I think you get my point. Obedience can be a good thing when you are obeying laws for your welfare and laws that never change. No matter how many times you jump off a building, you will fall every single time. To think you won’t is insane.
How much more reliable and steadfast are God’s laws for us? His laws are more reliable than traffic laws, or the laws of nature itself. And he says that his laws are for our welfare and not for our woe? How dare he try to limit us? How dare he try to keep us down? Just like the previous two examples: to choose to disobey God’s law is insanity.
We cannot kill. We cannot lie. We cannot skip Church on Sunday even for a basketball game or camping trip. We cannot have sex outside of marriage. We cannot use birth control to change God’s laws for a woman’s body (Yes God’s laws apply even in your bedroom). We cannot steal. We cannot cheat. We cannot refuse to help our neighbor and still think we are sane.
Faith in Jesus Christ and Obedience to his will are our keys to a happy and fruitful existence. Anyone who tells you different is either a liar or they are insane.
The question we each have to answer for ourselves is “Who do we believe?” “Who do we choose to put our faith in and who do we choose to obey?” As for me and my house: I choose Christ. How about you?


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