The Sunday Readings
Before going any further, listen to Bp. Barron’s Sunday Sermon (14 minutes) (find out more here). They are always excellent, but today’s entry is one of his best. One of his many gifts is the ability to help the listener see things in a new light or make apparent angles that were obscured (to me, at least). It is these new insights that prompted me to take time out of a busy day to build on, or at least explore tangents of, his thoughts. I am blessed to have fine homilists at my parish, but still listen to Bp. Barron nearly every week. If you are not as blessed, or are unmoved or even dismayed by what you here at your church, consider Bp. Barron your lifeline on the drive home.
First we hear the call of Isaiah (6:1-2a, 3-8) “a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips.” I am reminded of two New Testament passages:
Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye? You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.Mt 7:3-5
For there is no distinction; all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God. They are justified freely by his grace through the redemption in Christ Jesus…Rom 3:23b-25
I provide the first quote, because Isaiah is totally on board with this teaching since he acknowledges his own sinfulness first. But then, per the second passage, he recognizes the sinfulness of the people (particularly egregious in his time, as we know, since he expends considerable effort in his writings rebuking and warning the Chosen People of the disaster to come because of their waywardness). (I will say, we give that generation a run for its money today.) But then, notice how easily his sin is removed. That burning ember is the fire of God’s love, received by us through grace, making us able, according to our openness to it, to be sent (i.e., apostles), giving us the ability to say, “Here I am…send me!” The world would be transformed in an instant if every professed Christian imitated the prophet.
And for anyone who dares think he is not fit to be an apostle, Paul, in the second reading (1 Cor 15:1-11), disabuses such a person of that notion:
For I am the least of the apostles,1 Cor 15:9-10a
not fit to be called an apostle,
because I persecuted the church of God.
But by the grace of God I am what I am,
and his grace to me has not been ineffective.
“Everything is a grace” (St. Therese of Lisieux in “Her Last Conversations”).
Now to the Gospel (Lk 5:1-11). Bp. Barron, in his homily, is masterful in speaking of the lordship of Christ, getting into the boat uninvited and ordering around Peter, the master fisherman. Jesus takes the initiative, the men in the boat are compliant, they receive a material reward (a great catch of fish), and the grace to leave everything on the spot to follow the Lord.
It was Bp. Barron, speaking about allowing Jesus into our “boat,” that got me going on a different, but related, tack. That is, is there room in our boat, in our lives, for the Son of God? Or is the boat so full of earthly cares, anxieties, material things that Jesus could not even get a toehold? Are we sinking into the abyss of the world, drowning with lots of “stuff,” while our Savior can only look on from afar due to our being distracted, or worse, inordinately attached, to these non-essentials?
Is there a dumber expression than “He who dies with the most toys, wins”? Life is not a game. It is our chance to merit eternal life through God’s grace which allows us to have faith working in love. What we do here in this short life, this mortal coil, determines our fate in the next life.
So, it is time to unload our boat of the accumulated material and immaterial junk of our lives. What do sailors due when a boat has taken on too much weight and is sinking? They throw non-essentials overboard. In desperation, they may even toss beyond the rail what seem to be essentials. But what good are the latter when one’s very life is in the balance?
This is to be our attitude. Casting Christ aside puts one’s very life in jeopardy. there is no finer time than today to reassess our priorities, clear out the clutter, and invite Jesus into our boat. Like with Peter, the Lord takes the initiative. But will He find an honored place in our barque? Look to the Barque of Peter, for guidance.
I was thrilled to discover that the prolific writer, Mike Aquilina, has just come out with another book, How the Fathers Read the Bible. It sits on my desk, waiting for a little break to be consumed ravenously. I have read many of his books, but this one, based on the title alone, looks to be one of his most important works. Retrieving these early Church Fathers (through about A.D. 800) and making evident their relevance today, particularly in Scripture study, is a noble and worthwhile task. How better to read the Bible from the heart of the Church than to go back to those men much closer than we are to the time of Christ and the apostles.
If you have read Mike already, you have a good idea what you are in for (a very accessible, lively, and interesting work, filled with interesting people and places). If you have not yet had the pleasure of a romp, and you love the word of God, I can’t think of a better place to start.