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Homily for fifth Sunday C

05 Feb 2016, by Rev. Fr. Joel Okojie OSA in Sermons

Our readings this morning are very encouraging and reassuring of God’s mercy; we are encouraged today never to let our smallness, our weaknesses separate us from God but to challenge us to go close to God for strength.  The strength to move on in life comes from him; he alone can turn our weaknesses into power.

Simon and the catchIn our first reading this morning, we read about the vision of Isaiah. In his vision, he saw the Lord seated on his throne in his full glory, and above him, angels who worshiped him in these words; Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts. His glory fills the whole earth. This vision of God’s glory and majesty exposed Isaiah’s’ own weaknesses and unworthiness to himself. He saw how God was worshiped, and he realized that his own worship of God has been so imperfect; he heard the voices of the worshipers, and he realized how he had been a man of unclean lips and lives among people of unclean lips. The holiness of God revealed Isaiah’s sinfulness to himself; the glory and power of God revealed the weaknesses of Isaiah to himself, and he cried out in fear; 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, and my eyes have looked at the king, the Lord of hosts.

At that point, Isaiah had judged and condemned himself as a sinner, as one who was good for nothing but death. A wretched sinner has seen God, has seen the beauty of his holiness. What Isaiah saw in himself was different from what God saw in him; while he saw sin, weakness, and death in himself, God saw in him one who could be forgiven and shown mercy,  God saw in him a great prophet, an instrument to be used for the good of the people and the glory of God. So, one of the angels flew to the prophet with a live coal from the altar of God and touched Isaiah’s mouth and said: See now, this has touched your lips, your sin is taken away, your iniquity is purged. Isaiah was cleansed and transformed by God into Devine instrument, a mighty prophet of God.

In our second reading today, St. Paul gave the same testimony. Paul was a great sinner; he persecuted the Church of God. He arrested and killed so many of God’s children, but God arrested him and turned him into his own battle-ax at the appointed time. Paul said in our second reading this morning: I am the least of the apostles; in fact, since I persecuted the Church of God, I hardly deserve the name apostle; but by God’s grace that is what I am, and the grace that he gave me has not been fruitless. On the contrary, I, or rather the grace of God that is with me, have worked harder than any of the others; but what matters is that I preach what they preach, and that is what you all believe. This is not arrogance; St. Paul is not arrogant here. He is rather boastful of God’s grace and mercy.

The same storyline continues in today’s gospel reading. Jesus was preaching by the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was so much that he needed a boat to pull away a little to avoid been crushed. Simon’s boat was there, for he and his partners had fished all night and caught nothing. They were out of the boat washing their nets, a sign that they were through with the search for fish, at least for that day. They were tired, frustrated because they fished all night and caught nothing. Even in their tiredness and frustration, Simon still offered his boat to Jesus to be used as a pulpit. In the end, Jesus directed Simon to cast his net, and in obedience, Simon did, and the catch marveled at him and his partners. He saw the handwork of God and realize that his professional fishing skills are nothing without God; he realized that unless the Lord directs the work of your hands in vain, your labor, he realized that he was standing before God like the prophet Isaiah. He fell at Jesus’ knees and said: Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord. Jesus did not look at his sins just as he did not look at Isaiah and Paul; he said to Simon, Do not be afraid; from now on it is men you will catch. Again, a sinner became an instrument in the hands of God.

The mercy of GodToday’s liturgy is not to glorify sin or reward sinners for their actions; far from it. Today’s liturgy reminds us of the availability of God’s grace and mercy; it is a call to repentance.  The people God called and used were not holy when they were called, they were sinful people like you and me, but they allowed themselves to be transformed and empowered by God.

Brethren, you and I have sinned; we have disappointed God and man. But anyone who repents today will be transformed by God’s grace and mercy. It doesn’t matter right now the gravity of the crime you and I have committed; what matters now is that God wants us to repent and return to him. Let us, therefore, ask for the grace of repentance and go back to our Father through Christ our Lord.

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