Homily for the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (5 & 6/2/22)

posted 9 Feb 2022, 02:44 by Parish Office

Each Sunday there is a link between the Gospel and the first reading, and sometimes it’s a case of trying to work out what it is. Looking at the two, the running theme seems to be one of unworthiness in the presence of almighty God, but there are also differences as well.

The first reading is something like the scene of either a high Mass or solemn Benediction: the Lord is seated on a high throne; the angels are there in adoration; the foundations shook with the sound of the prayers, and the temple was filled with smoke, a bit like a church full of incense. Isaiah sees this scene of the majesty of almighty God, and he is struck by his unworthiness, and the fact that he, a sinner, has seen the Lord of hosts. So an angel takes a burning coal and uses it to touch Isaiah’s lips, to cleanse him of his sin. Then, after his sin is taken away, he is called to mission.

The Gospel also works in a similar way. Almighty God is present, although this time, rather than angels and incense being visible, He is there powerfully proclaiming the message of salvation. This time, He reveals His glory by the miraculous catch of fish. Simon knows it is miraculous, because of his experience as a fisherman and his slight protest: “we worked hard all night long and caught nothing”, so he is saying that if they caught nothing during the night, there’s no way they’ll catch anything now during broad daylight, when the fish hide at the bottom of the lake and can easily see the nets. But he is proved wrong, and just like Isaiah, he confesses his sinfulness: “Leave me, Lord; I am a sinful man”. As with Isaiah, Simon is forgiven, and called to mission: “Do not be afraid; from now on it is men you will catch”.

In the first reading, God’s majesty was apparent; in the Gospel it was more hidden. When we come to Mass, in some ways it is even more hidden. When Christ walked on the earth, His humanity was visible, but not everyone recognised His divinity. Following the consecration at Mass, Christ is present, body, blood, soul and divinity, but it is all hidden under the appearance of bread and wine. But He is there nonetheless. Our response, like Isaiah and Simon, has to be one of unworthiness. But our unworthiness has to be, as it were, a “healthy” unworthiness.

Firstly, we have to be aware of our sinfulness. Following the miraculous catch of fish, Simon didn’t defend himself by saying, “How was I supposed to know you were going to perform a miracle?” But his unworthiness is perhaps exaggerated. Rather than simply asking for forgiveness, he says, “Leave me,

Lord; I am a sinful man”. God can forgive all things – there is no need to run away. For our own times, A R Adams had a similar message: “Don’t stay away from Church because there are so many hypocrites. There’s always room for one more.”

We all live with a certain sense of “hypocrisy” in our lives. There’s what we believe and how we should behave, and what we actually do in reality. And here, once again, there is the need for a distinction: between venial sin and mortal sin, especially with regard to the Eucharist. Mortal sins are the more serious sins, when we break one of the Ten Commandments in a serious way, when we know what we are doing, and do so in a full and deliberate way. If we don’t meet all those conditions, then our sin is venial. The Catechism teaches us that the Eucharist separates us from sin, because at the same time it unites us to Christ. It says: “the Eucharist cannot unite us to Christ without at the same time cleansing us from past sins and preserving us from future sins” (CCC 1393). It also tells us that the Eucharist preserves us from future mortal sins: “The more we share the life of Christ and progress in his friendship, the more difficult it is to break away from him by mortal sin.” But, the Catechism continues, “The Eucharist is not ordered to the forgiveness of mortal sins – that is proper to the sacrament of Reconciliation. The Eucharist is properly the sacrament of those who are in full communion with the Church” (CCC 1395), and of course, mortal sin turns us away from God (see CCC 1855). We can perhaps sum all this up with words from Padre Pio. Regarding the Eucharist, he says:

“It is quite true, we are not worthy of such a gift. However, to approach the Blessed Sacrament in a state of mortal sin is one thing, and to be unworthy is quite another. All of us are unworthy, but it is He who invites us. It is He who desires it. Let us humble ourselves and receive Him with a heart contrite and full of love.”

Then, like in the first reading and Gospel, after humbling ourselves and receiving from the Lord, we are called to mission: “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord”, “Go forth…” “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life”. We accept this challenge and glorify God by saying: Thanks be to God.

So our lives mirror those of Isaiah and Simon Peter. We recognise almighty God present among us at Mass, we confess our unworthiness, recognising that distinction between mortal and venial sins, we receive the Lord with a soul free from mortal sin, and then we accept the challenge of mission: Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.