Sunday Sermon for February 6, 2022, the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Readings: Is 6:1-2a, 6-8; 1 Cor 15:1-11, Lk 5:1-11

In both the first reading and the Gospel, we see the reaction of two holy men in the presence of the Lord.  Isaiah pronounces a woe on himself because he is a man of unclean lips and he is looking upon the Lord of Hosts.  Peter sees the catch of fish and clearly realizes something more than human senses can perceive, falls before the Lord, and pronounces himself to be a sinful man. 

In the first instance, Isaiah believes that he is going to die because no one can look upon the Lord and live.  But the seraph comes to him with the coal taken from the altar, touches Isaiah’s lips, proclaims his wickedness is gone and his sins are forgiven.  Following this, God calls Isaiah to go for Him to do His work.

In the second instance, Jesus assures Peter that he has nothing to fear and then calls him to be a fisher of men.  Just as Isaiah left everything to do the work of the Lord, so, too, with St. Peter.  We are told that when they came to shore, Peter left everything and followed the Lord. 

What is most striking about the situation of St. Peter is that he was willing to follow Jesus even though he was not certain Who Jesus was.  We know that Andrew had told Peter they had found the Messiah, and we know that later on Peter made his profession that Jesus is the Messiah, but we also know that he entertained some doubts and even denied the Lord.  Being the “Monday morning quarterback” it is easy for us to criticize Peter and wonder why he doubted.  But who of us would have been any better?

Think about this in context.  St. Paul, in the second reading, tells us that he handed on what was of the greatest importance of what he had received: that Jesus died for our sins, that He was buried, and rose again on the third day.  That is what is most important and the foundation of our faith.  None of this had happened yet when Peter was with Jesus.  To believe Jesus is the Messiah when He had not yet accomplished the work of the Messiah is astounding.  Peter was being asked to put his faith in Jesus three years before our Lord did what was most important.

We have been given what is most important, as well as all of those things that are of secondary and tertiary importance.  Still, many question and many doubt.  What would it take for us to believe?  Do we need to see God as Isaiah did?  Do we need to see a miracle as Peter did?  We have Jesus truly present in the Holy Eucharist.  He is God so, unlike Isaiah, we do not look into the Temple where the Lord is seated on His throne.  Instead, we become the Temple and our heart is the throne where God is seated.  In adoration we can gaze upon the Lord, but He is present within us every day, all day.

In the first reading, the angel tells Isaiah that his sins are forgiven and in the Gospel the forgiveness of St. Peter’s sin is implied in our Lord’s response.  When we go to confession, our sins are forgiven.  This is one of the greatest miracles anyone can experience.  Perhaps we have taken such gifts as the forgiveness of sins and the Holy Eucharist for granted.  The old saying that familiarity breeds contempt is something we must always guard against.

The best way to guard against taking for granted the greatest and holiest of gifts is to make sure we maintain our reverence for them.  With confession, we need to make a good preparation and approach the sacrament with reverence, knowing that we are confessing to God, not merely to a priest.  With the Eucharist, we need to spend time in prayer with our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, always keeping before us the truth that this is God. 

Like Isaiah and St. Peter, we can humble ourselves by recalling our sinfulness and our own unworthiness to be in His presence.  We are there at His invitation; He is the One Who makes us worthy to be there.  Do not let a false sense of humility keep you from our Lord.  If He is inviting us, who are we to refuse?  We profess our unworthiness right before Holy Communion, and acknowledge that only He can make us worthy, but we must strive to have the proper disposition that comes from confession and prayer.  Being in the state of grace and being rooted in prayer will allow us access to the Lord so when He calls we are ready to respond, “Here I am, Lord!”

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.

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