| Isaiah 6: 1-2, 3-8 | I Corinthians 15: 1-11 | Luke 5: 1-11 | 5 Ordinary C ‘13 |
Print PDF: Weekly Homily 02.10.2013
Richard Rohr begins the third chapter of his recent book, “The Naked Now,” with a story that I think can help us hear something new in this gospel. Most often those hearing this text focus on the amazing catch of fish. That catch of fish is interesting but I suggest it easily distracts us from Luke’s purpose for including this narrative in his gospel.
So before trying to open the gospel please listen to this brief version of Rohr’s story. Three men stood by the ocean, looking at the same sunset. One man saw the immense physical beauty and enjoyed the event in itself. The second saw the same sunset and enjoyed all the same beauty, but his studies enabled him to give a scientific explanation of what he was seeing. The third man saw the same sunset, knowing and enjoying all that the first and second men did. But he stood in awe of the great mystery underlying that moment and aware of how connected we are with everything. He progressed from seeing physically, and beyond explaining, to being absorbed.
Since mid-January, as we heard John’s version of a wedding feast at Cana and Luke’s narrative of the violence Jesus encountered in the synagogue at Nazareth, I suggested both events ask and offer answers to a perennial question. “Who is this Jesus whose life is so surprising to those in his home village?” That question continues to guide me in this homily.
After being rejected by his peers in Nazareth, Jesus went to Capernaum. There he cast a demon out of a man and healed Simon’s mother-in-law. After his time in Capernaum “crowds pressed in on Jesus and listened to his word.” His teaching astounded them because “he spoke with authority.” Jesus was a man who attracted people because of his personality and his teaching.
Simon and his companions netted an amazing catch of fish, “Simon Peter fell at the knees of Jesus and said, ‘I am a sinful man’.” We hear the word “sinner” and think it means a morally bad person. Simon was a hard working family man, a morally good person. The work he did was smelly and bloody. “Nice folks” probably looked down on fishermen. So Simon and his partners had no sense of their inherent dignity and importance. They thought of themselves as “sinners.”
“Who is this Jesus whose life and authority attracted such crowds?” He is a human being who is like the third man in the story about the sunset. Jesus had progressed beyond seeing physically and beyond explaining. He was absorbed by the ultimate mystery, the Gracious One we name God. He is human like all of us, but he has moved far ahead of us on the evolutionary ladder. He knows and honors his own dignity and importance, and Simon Peter’s, and yours, and mine.
Jesus does not correct Peter. He simply accepts him as he is and “said to Simon, ‘do not be afraid’.” In that interchange, Simon and his two partners become aware of their own dignity and importance. “When they brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed Jesus.”
There is amazing goodness and dignity buried deep in each of you. Your ability to love unconditionally is like a smoldering ember deep in you. Perhaps you are like Simon Peter and his two partners. Perhaps you do not know and appreciate who you are and the sort of person you are capable of being.
In this story Luke is subtly inviting you to enter into a personal relationship with Christ. The Risen One can awaken your potential to become fully human, and bring your potential into actuality.
That has been and continues to be my own personal experience. I am who I am, I live as I do, because of Christ. I attribute my own transformation and growth to my relationship with Christ. I know my growth is not ended. I am far more like the third man in the story then I was when I was newly ordained, but I readily acknowledge I am far from being fully human and certainly far from loving everyone in my life without condition. Because of Christ I am confident I will continue to grow. So will you.