"FIRST IMPRESSIONS"

5TH SUNDAY -C- February 10, 2019

Isaiah 6: 1-2a, 3-8; Psalm 138; I Corinthians 15: 1-11; Luke 5: 1-11

by Jude Siciliano, OP

Dear Preachers:

Just a reminder – for those of you who preach at or attend daily Mass. We have reflections on the lectionary readings on our webpage: http://www.preacherexchange.com/ Go to the tabs on the left for daily reflections in English and Spanish.



"I didn’t know what I was getting myself into!" I have heard people, including myself, exclaim that many times. They may be referring to the decision they made with their spouse to have children. There are wonderful moments parents have with their children, but over the years, the long haul, parenting requires love, patience, perseverance, humor and a large dose of hope. I am sure every parent has said, probably more than once, "I didn’t know what I was getting myself into!" I know a man who also said the same thing. He decided to add a room to his house and did the work himself. Halfway through he felt he was in over his head and wondered what he had gotten himself into. Those of us who have gone on to college, or graduate school, inevitably feel that way, usually when we are racing to finish a term paper, or cramming for an exam. What did we get ourselves into?

I wonder if Peter and his companions, at some time further down the road, and after watching and listening to Jesus, wondered, "What have we gotten ourselves into?" – especially when Jesus began speaking about going to Jerusalem to die – most especially when he said they must be willing to deny self, pick up their cross and follow him. But all that comes much later in the story. That’s not where we are in the gospel narrative today. We are still at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry when he has begun calling his disciples.

It begins simply enough; but there are already suggestions in today’s gospel that Peter and his companions are going to get very involved and much will be asked of them in their relationships with Christ – further on down the road. It all starts when Jesus gets into Simon’s boat and asks him to, "put out a short distance from the shore." Then Jesus teaches the crowds from Simon’s boat. But a teaching has

begun for Simon. Since Jesus is in his boat, we can presume he heard Jesus’ words. And that might be why he was willing to follow a carpenter’s advice about fishing, "Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch."

It’s one step at a time; not a sudden lunge into full-blown discipleship. First it’s a "short distance" from the shore. Then Simon will go into "deep water." Out there his own resources and skill will be inadequate. He has come up empty in his attempts to catch fish. But listening to the word from Jesus and responding to it will make all the difference in deep waters. (Did you notice how Luke first calls him Simon and then, when he sees the enormous catch of fish, his name shifts to Simon Peter? It’s as if he is already changing into the disciple – not completely, but little by little?)

How many people have we known, ourselves included, who have decided to "do a little something," or "give something back" by helping others? After a while, they find themselves deeply immersed in their good works – working hard, sometimes feeling drained, but loving it nevertheless. Someone decided to teach a religion class to teenagers; a few years later they are taking them on retreats, or spending vacation time with them to help repair homes in rural Mexico. A college student joins friends to deliver a box of food to a needy family at Christmas, is moved enough by the experience to become part of the campus ministry’s outreach program. A business man gives his just-purchased lunch to a homeless person near his office and then, before long, he and his family are making 50 sandwiches a night to be dropped off at a shelter on his way to work.

Like Peter, we have heard an invitation to "put out a short distance" and, if we keep listening – at our liturgies, in prayer, during the very act of serving others— we hear a further call to, "put out into deep water." When we hear that voice and respond, we become Simon’s companions, whose very identity was changed from being fishers of fish to "fishers of people." Later, to show the extent and depth of the change that was taking place in Simon, Jesus will give him a new name – Peter. As Luke tells us at the end of today’s episode, following Jesus requires leaving everything and receiving a new identity. We become, step by step, hearers and then responders to God’s Word.

For the first time in this gospel, Luke uses the expression, "the word of God." People, he says, are pressing forward to hear "the word of God." (What preacher wouldn’t like that said of him, or her!?) Also, for the first time, Jesus is addressed as "Master." Peter introduces the term of address here; throughout the gospel only the disciples will call him "Master." In today’s account they not only hear the word from Jesus, their Master, they also decide to respond to it by following Jesus’ command. Because of that, their efforts are rewarded. How does divine power for their task occur? – by their hearing and responding to the Word of God.

Any of us who have followed Jesus’ invitation to "put out to deep water," know how demanding the work can be and how much is needed to be faithful and persevering, especially when the results of out toil are not immediately evident. We don’t often get to see the nets full and overflowing.

What’s more, all disciples, like Simon, feel at one time or another, a sense of unworthiness. We, like Isaiah, can say we are a people of "unclean lips." In today’s gospel Luke is underlining the Word of God as the origin and sustaining power for our role as disciples. We are on the road with Jesus, trying to live by his word and respond to his call – especially when serving him has taken us into deep waters and we ask, "How did I get myself into this?"

These past two Sundays have emphasized God’s call and our response. Last week we heard about Jeremiah’s call and Jesus’ announcement in the synagogue of his own vocation. Today Isaiah finds himself in God’s presence, feels unworthy, is cleansed, purified and then he is ready to respond to God’s call. Peter responds similarly when he senses the special presence and power before him. He too feels unworthy. But, as with Isaiah, the holy One does the calling and, despite feelings of unworthiness, the human is invited to respond and follow. The issue isn’t whether we think we are worthy or not to serve God. The issue is that God chooses us and finds ways to grace us with worthiness – and forgiveness, when we realize again and again, we are people of "unclean lips." Jesus isn’t just asking Simon Peter to make an act of faith in him and then go home and pray. Faith in Jesus does require that – and more. His followers must also go out into the world and catch people for him. By our words and deeds, we must share with others the faith we have received.

Simon Peter received his call while he was doing his work. He said, "Yes," and responded by changing his life. Everyday, in the midst of our routine, at work, home, school or play, there are opportunities to respond to Jesus’ call to follow him. In innumerable ways our Christian vocation must guide what we say and how we act. In big decisions and small, we are asked to live what we profess as Jesus’ followers; to be attentive to what God may be asking of us at this moment of our lives. This may entail being faithful to the commitments we already have; responding to a need we see, or taking the opportunity to witness to what we believe. Of course such responses may seem small and insignificant. They may be small, but they are never insignificant! In addition, who knows where the next "Yes" we say to Christ may lead us? We might go places we never expected; say things to people we never thought we would – all because of Christ. We even might get to a place where we ask ourselves, in wonder and amazement, "I didn’t know what I was getting myself into!...but it is very good!" Wherever and however we find ourselves serving the One Peter and we call, "Lord," our faith assures us disciples he will be there with his presence and reassurance, "Do not be afraid...."

Click here for a link to this Sunday’s readings:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/021019.cfm

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

"Here I am," I said, "send me!"

Isaiah 6:8

Do you remember the scene in the Indiana Jones movie when he had to make a leap of faith in order to find the grail? I have always liked that scene for its visualization of that first huge step into the abyss. With the Isaiah passage today, the prophet also makes a leap in saying "send me" after inner turmoil on his own inadequacies. Both people in these stories exercise their free-will in choosing. We see this over and over in the biblical stories--some choosing to do God’s will and making it their own will and some not so much.

Any transformational experience requires a giving up of something, both tangible and intangible, to make room for something new. We have to change ourselves in order to be change-agents for others. Here is the rub, we may see the world as fine the way it is and choose to ignore the cries of the downtrodden around us. I am reminded of another story I heard from a friend of mine many years ago, who told me about her very wealthy friend who lived in an island community. The lady’s large estate was at the top of a hill and every day she would drive past the slums that dotted the road leading to and from her house and never once did she question, let alone concern herself with, the plight of her neighbors. When my friend visited her, she was astonished at this woman’s sense of entitlement. How many of us go about our daily lives and never give a thought to those who might be suffering in our community? Or to even think that their suffering is God suffering? The biblical prophets made the connection, they made room for the pain, and spoke out to call other Hebrews to change their ways, too.

Sometimes the situation is such that leaping out into the unknown is the best alternative for one’s life. Still, a leap worth its salt puts self-interest second. When it comes to actions of faith in helping to create a more just world, God could use more ‘leapers’ like this. I believe it would be a whole new world that we would discover on the other side of the abyss if everyone took a freely-willed, collective leap toward justice for the ones living with injustice. As Anthony de Mello writes in One Minute Wisdom, "Take the leap! You cannot cross the chasm in little jumps" (Image, 1988, 36).

---Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS

Director of Social Justice Ministries

Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral, Raleigh, NC

FAITH BOOK

Mini-reflections on the Sunday scripture readings designed for persons on the run. "Faith Book" is also brief enough to be posted in the Sunday parish bulletins people take home.

From today’s Gospel reading:

Peter said to Jesus, "Master we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets."

Reflection:

Like Peter we have things that concern us and keep our minds preoccupied during the night We can use some help to keep us focused and to guide our decisions. In the midst of all that occupies us we want to continue hearing Jesus’ invitation to follow him. We especially want to do that as we toil through the sometimes, very dark periods of our lives.

So we ask ourselves:

POSTCARDS TO DEATH ROW INMATES

"One has to strongly affirm that condemnation to the death penalty is an inhuman measure that humiliates personal dignity, in whatever form it is carried out."

---Pope Francis

Inmates on death row are the most forgotten people in the prison system. Each week I post in this space several inmates’ names and addresses. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of them to let them know we have not forgotten them. If you like, tell them you heard about them through North Carolina’s, "People of Faith Against the Death Penalty." If the inmate responds you might consider becoming pen pals.

Please write to:

----Central Prison 4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh 27699-4285

For more information on the Catholic position on the death penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network: http://catholicsmobilizing.org/resources/cacp/

Also, check the interfaith page for People of Faith Against the Death Penalty:  http://www.pfadp.org/

DONATIONS

"First Impressions" is a service to preachers and those wishing to prepare for Sunday worship. It is sponsored by the Dominican Friars. If you would like "First Impressions" sent weekly to a friend, send a note to fr. John Boll, OP at jboll@opsouth.org.

If you would like to support this ministry, please send tax deductible contributions to fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.

St. Albert Priory, 3150 Vince Hagan Drive, Irving, Texas 75062-4736

Make checks payable to: Dominican Friars. Or, go to our webpage to make an online donation: http://www.PreacherExchanhe.com/donations.htm

ANNOUNCEMENTS

1. We have compiled Four CDS for sale:

If you are a preacher, lead a Lectionary-based scripture group, or are a member of a liturgical team, these CDs will be helpful in your preparation process. Individual worshipers report they also use these reflections as they prepare for Sunday liturgy.

You can order the CDs by going to our webpage: www.PreacherExchange.com and clicking on the "First Impressions" CD link on the left.

2. "Homilías Dominicales" —These Spanish reflections on the Sunday and daily scriptures are written by Dominican sisters and friars. If you or a friend would like to receive these reflections drop a note to fr. John Boll, O.P. at Jboll@opsouth.org.

3. Our webpage: www.PreacherExchange.org - Where you will find "Preachers’ Exchange," which includes "First Impressions" and "Homilías Dominicales," as well as articles, book reviews, daily homilies and other material pertinent to preaching.

4. "First Impressions" is a service to preachers and those wishing to prepare for Sunday worship. It is sponsored by the Dominican Friars. If you would like "First Impressions" sent weekly to a friend, send a note to fr. John Boll, OP at the above email address.


Thank you and blessings on your preaching,

fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.

Jude Siciliano, OP - Click to send email.

 

St. Albert the Great Priory of Texas

3150 Vince Hagan Drive

Irving, Texas 75062-4736

frjude@judeop.org

972-438-1626