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Contents: Volume 2 - Fifth Sunday of Ordered Time
February 10, 2019


 

The 5th

SUNDAY

Ordered

Time

 

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

3. -- Brian Gleeson CP

4. --

5. --(Your reflection can be here!)

 

 

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Sun. 5 C

In today's Gospel according to Luke, Simon Perter, James and John participate in and witness the catching of a super-abundance of fish, something quite astonishing to them as skilled fishermen . Their reaction was to leave their former occupation and follow Jesus... immediately. What is our reaction when we participate in or witness one of the everyday miracles that still abound in our times?

Perhaps there are skeptics among us. Let's start here then: Are you able to list anything "astonishing" that might be considered a miracle in our times? My long list includes everything from the cry of a healthy newborn baby after a difficult pregnancy to the great number of women wearing white, some under 30 years old, who have been recently elected to the US Congress.

Yes, I agree that using the term miracle for the last item may be a stretch, but maybe not. One miracle that ALL of us, however, might agree upon is contained in the longer selection from St. Paul's letter to the Corinthians. St. Paul says: "But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective."

God has poured out abundant grace upon each and every one of us. That grace has effectively lifted each of us from sin and brought each of us to a place where we want to turn toward God rather than away from God. For each of us personally, that qualifies as an indisputable miracle.

So, my companions on the journey, upon reflection of the time when we most needed God's grace and GOT IT, are we willing to change how we live? We may not need to change our occupation, but are we willing to change that something in our life that needs to change in order to follow Jesus more closely? The season of Lent is close at hand...now is the time to think about that most seriously.

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Fifth Sunday of Ordered Time February 10, 2019

Isaiah 6:1-8; Responsorial Psalm 138; 1st Corinthians 15:1-11; Luke 5:1-11

"‘Here I am,’ I said; ‘send me!’" What a remarkable scene Isaiah shares with us this morning. His vision of the Lord frightens him, makes him aware of his smallness and his failures at keeping the Law of Moses. He is in the presence of the Lord of Hosts. His vision shows him a choir of Seraphim singing mightily a song that is familiar to us. We sing it each time we participate in Mass: "Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God of Hosts. The heavens and the earth are filled with his glory." We, of course, add to that proclamation "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest." It is our shout, our expression of delight that we are in the presence of the Lord God. We repeat the song of the angels around the altar of the Lord.

Each of the three readings this Sunday highlights a person. In the reading from Isaiah we hear a first-hand account of the prophet. This prophet was from nobility and was welcome in the company of kings and persons of wealth and power. He began his work as prophet in the year that King Uzziah died. Uzziah was the last king of Juda’s period of peace and prosperity. After Uzziah there began a period of greed, hypocrisy, and injustice, especially toward the poor and marginalized in Jerusalem. Isaiah was married and had two children. His work before being called to interpret and warn the nation is unclear. It is clear that he was comfortable and welcome in the halls of royalty, power, and wealth. So his statement that his were unclean lips is no false humility. As we know, what we say more often than not comes from the inclinations of our heart more than from the logic of our minds. So Isaiah claims his heart was not steeped in the justice of the Lord or in a heartfelt covenant relationship with the God. In his vision that apparently took place in the Temple, Isaiah has the movements of his heart cleansed and aligned with the heart of God. In that state he was able to shout to the Lord God, "Here I am; send me!" Isaiah moves from ordinary to extraordinary: from secularity to immersion into a reality that lies beyond what the senses and rationality consider real. Isaiah is the greatest of the prophets of the people Israel. In the reigns of those kings following Uzziah, the nation seeks accommodation with first the Assyrians, then the Syrians and the Northern Kingdom, and even the hated Egypt. Isaiah warns against placing the nation’s future in the hands of those who worship false gods. Those nations will force their empty worship and rituals on Judah in violation of their covenant with the Lord God. The movements of his heart come into sync with the Lord’s hope and wishes for this beloved people. He speaks, he warns, he cajoles, he shouts. For it is from what the heart holds dear that the mind, the hands, the feet, and the tongue express itself. For it is by the works of our hands that our hearts are made visible.

The reading from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians tells of Paul’s call to serve the gospel, the good news of the Lord. Paul is no slouch. He has spent years studying the Law and the Prophets and is either already a Rabbi or well on his way to becoming one. He believes with his heart that it is the Law of Moses with its 613 prescriptions that is how persons maintain a covenant relationship with God. Following those rules and regulations is all that is required of those who are God’s people. Paul admits that he persecuted the followers of Jesus. Luke, in the Acts of the Apostles tells us that Paul was a witness to the stoning of Stephen, holding the cloaks of those who threw the stones. We know that Paul had a vision on his way to Damascus where he planned to persecute and execute the followers of Jesus. What happened exactly we don’t know: what he knocked off a horse? What he struck by lightning? Was he tripped up and fell? What we do know is that at that moment Paul heard the voice of Jesus. "Saul, Saul! Why do you persecute me?" He spent years following that episode studying, learning, reading the Hebrew Scriptures, speaking with followers of Jesus. At last he was ready to become one who preached the Good News. He claims it had nothing to do with him. It was the presence of Jesus, the grace that came from God, which changed his heart. He claims he worked harder than any other because of that grace, that presence within his heart. Paul was educated in the presence of God among his covenanted people. He was called in an extreme way to be a follower of Jesus. His life changed forever. It was his heart that was changed to a love it had not known before this. Just as Isaiah was called by the vision of the presence of God, so also Paul was called by an event that created in him a new heart.

In the gospel from Luke this Sunday we hear the story of Jesus preaching to the crowds. His teaching was so inviting and so transformative that great crowds came to hear his message of the Goodness of the Lord God. To avoid being pushed into the lake by those wanting to hear him, he asked that one of the boats coming into shore take him a little way out from the crowd so he could speak. The people were amazed at Jesus’ teaching. And as he finished he turned to the fishermen and told them to set out to the deep and lower their nets. These fishermen had been at it all night and caught nothing. There didn’t seem to be any point to Jesus’ directive. Yet they had just heard him speak and thought to accommodate him. When their catch was so large that they shouted to the other boat to come help them lest their net tear they became frightened. The boats were so overloaded with the catch that the fishermen thought they would sink. It seemed that nature itself came to this preacher. Simon Peter saw this event as a visitation by the Lord God. He wanted to shrink away as he felt himself unworthy to be in Jesus presence. Despite Simon’s fear, Jesus invited him to come and follow after him. Amazingly, Peter and James and John left everything – their catch, their boats, their nets – everything and followed after Jesus.

All three stories this week are about a calling. In each story there is a change of heart. There were three who worked at their career. They are each called from the pursuit of their goals into a new place. Each has their heart changed so that what they once loved becomes secondary to the new love they’ve discovered.

Do these stories apply to us? Are we called to an extraordinary way of life? What would that extraordinary way of life look like? The majority of us refuse to think we have anything in common with an Isaiah, with a Paul, or a Simon Peter. We’re just ordinary. We are engaged with family, with work, with our community. Our relationships are with family and friends. What would need to be changed within us to make us extraordinary? What event should we be looking for that would call for such a change? Will there be a scary vision like Isaiah? Would there be a shocking physical event that gets our attention? Will there be a presence of the Lord Jesus that causes us a success that nearly sinks our ship?

If we look at our lives carefully we’ll see that we are constantly called. Perhaps we are called by a thing of beauty: perhaps a sunset, a panoramic view of mountains, a photo from the Hubble Telescope, or a beautiful person. Perhaps it’s a piece of music or a painting or a movie that stirs our hearts. Whatever it might be, we all have such experiences – perhaps not so clear-cut as Isaiah or Paul or Simon Peter. We are all called to be prophets to our world.

As with Isaiah, Paul, and Simon Peter it is our heart that will direct our hands, our feet, our thinking, and our growth in wisdom, age, and grace. When we are moved in our hearts we can repeat Isaiah’s words. "Here I am. Send me!" It is the work of our hands for justice, for peace, for the good of others, and for a constant growth from ordinary to extraordinary. We cannot think of God being "out there." God is here. Remember the name God gives himself at the burning bush. Moses hears God name himself as "Yahweh." That is translated - "I am with you through it all." Faith in God changes our hearts and through our works and words it changes others as well. Thus we’ll come closer to the justice and peace that God holds out to us, to us "ordinary folk."

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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THE HOUND OF HEAVEN: 5TH SUNDAY C

Recently. a Baptist lady said to a Catholic priest: ‘God is so big and we are so puny.’ The lady’s humility somewhat surprised the priest, because she was an outstanding Christian. She and her husband had built a hospital in Africa. She had trained a group of young women to nurse the poor. Now in her 80’s she was still reading the bible and praying every day. When the priest asked her what her life, her work and her faith had taught her most of all, she simply said: ‘God is so big and we are so puny.’

That Christian lady had discovered from life experience that her smallness, her insignificance, even her sense of being unworthy, did not stop God from doing good things, even big things, using her as his humble agent and instrument. It was the same with the Old Testament priest, Isaiah. He caught a glimpse of the glory and majesty of God in the Jerusalem temple. Compared with God he saw himself not just as puny, but as completely unworthy of what he saw. So he cried out: ‘What a wretched state I am in! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips.’ But God transformed him, by sending an angel to touch his lips with a burning coal and purify him. Now he was ready to be God’s messenger, and was able to say to God with confidence and enthusiasm: ‘Here I am, send me.’

The apostle Paul too has insisted [in our Second Reading today] that it was ‘by the grace of God that he gave me’ that he became an apostle, a missionary for Christ. Much the same may be said of Simon Peter and his friends. They too had an experience of the bigness, the generosity – in short they had a profound experience of the ‘amazing grace’ of God.

In their case it happened through taking Jesus at his word, believing in him and trusting him. As a result, despite toiling all night, and not netting a single fish, now in the daytime they were hauling in a massive catch. So, in the presence of the power and generosity of God, Peter drops to his knees and says to Jesus: ‘Leave me, Lord; I am a sinful man.’ Jesus is not put off by this. He has big plans for Peter and the others. Jesus tells them: ‘Do not be afraid; from now on it is people you will catch.’ There and then, supported by hia trust in them, they leave everything – occupation, home, family, location and property – to join Jesus in netting people into the kingdom of God.

At different times in our lives, God has been in touch with us as well. God has spoken to us and called us to do God’s work. Usually there hasn’t been anything particularly grand about where God has called us. With Isaiah it was at his work the Jerusalem temple. With Paul it happened as he was galloping towards the city of Damascus on his horse. With Peter and his companions it was while they were trying without success that night to catch fish. So too with you and me, God has tracked us down wherever we live or work or pray.

Notice that I just said, ‘God has tracked us down.’ I now say that God will keep tracking us down, and never stop tracking us down. In a famous poem he calls ‘The Hound of Heaven’, the poet Francis Thompson, reflecting on his life-experience of trying to run away from God, presents God as being like a bloodhound, who never stops chasing us till he catches up with us and reaches us so irresistibly, that finally we surrender to God and to God’s great expectations and dreams for us. The whole powerful truth of this is captured in the very first verse of the poem. Let me quote it now:

‘I fled him, down the nights and down the days; I fled him down the arches of the years: I fled him down the labyrinthine ways of my own mind; and in the mist of tears I hid from him, and under running laughter. Up vistaed hopes I sped; and shot, precipitated, adown Titanic glooms of chasmed fears, from those strong Feet that followed, followed after. But with unhurrying chase, and unperturbed pace, deliberate speed, majestic instancy, they beat – and a Voice beat more instant than the feet – "All things betray thee, who betrayest me".’

There’s simply no getting away from God. For us too, resisting God and saying ‘Leave me, Lord, I’m not good enough. I’m a sinner’ won’t be the end of the matter. If God could use Peter for God’s good work with people, or Paul, or Isaiah, or the Baptist lady, God can and will purify and use us too to do good things, truly beautiful things in fact, for both God and God’s people.

So we better stand by, ready to hear his call! At any time! At any age! In any place! In any situation! And be ready to say, like Isaiah: ‘Here I am, Lord, send me.’

"Brian Gleeson CP" <bgleesoncp@gmail.com>

 

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Volume 2 is for you. Your thoughts, reflections, and insights on the next Sundays readings can influence the preaching you hear. Send them to preacherexchange@att.net.  Deadline is Wednesday Noon. Include your Name, and Email Address.

-- Fr. John


 

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