By the Charcoal Fire...

By the Charcoal Fire...

Sunday, 7 February 2016

A Reflection on the Readings 
for the 5th Sunday of Ordinary Time (07/02/2016)

For the first time! - An audio of this homily:

My friends,
you might notice that just before I come to the ambo to proclaim the Gospel,
I bow my head before the priest and he says something to me.
Now he doesn’t say “Don’t forget you’re preaching” or indeed “Keep it short”!
What he does say is:
“Damien, may the Lord be in your heart and on your lips, that you may proclaim his Gospel worthily and well, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”. 

And at the end of the Gospel, when I kiss the words on the page, I say:
“Through the words of the Gospel may our sins be wiped away.”

So either side of the Gospel there’s a big emphasis on my not being worthy enough to proclaim the Gospel to you and the hope that the words of the Gospel, the word of God, will take away our sins, our unworthiness. And later on at this Mass, just before we receive Communion, we all pray that despite our unworthiness, the Lord will still come to us and be with us.

I think we can see echoes of all this in our first reading:
Isaiah stands before God in the sanctuary and laments that he is a sinner, that he’s not worthy enough to speak the words of God because he is a man of unclean lips. Then those lips are touched and his sin is taken away so that he can proclaim the word of God.

Simon Peter in our Gospel also laments that he is a sinner, not worthy enough.
“Leave me, Lord: I am a sinful man”
he says after he sees what effect Jesus has on his work as a fisherman.

And if we’re truly honest, we’re all sinners.
This is a church full of sinners.
We wouldn’t be out of place standing with Isaiah or Simon Peter and lamenting that we are not worthy enough to be in the presence of God. 
And yet here we are. Right now, we are in that presence of God.

What connects Isaiah and Simon Peter is that despite their sinfulness, their unworthiness, they are open to inviting God into their lives. Isaiah moves from saying “I am lost” to saying to God, “Here I am.” Being open to the presence of God helps Isaiah find himself again.

And Simon Peter – he initially doubts Jesus, doubts that going further out into the lake will net them more fish but he lets Jesus in – literally lets Jesus into his boat – and nets an abundant catch of fish, so much that it takes two boats to take the fish to the shore.

So like Isaiah and Simon Peter, we too are sinners, unworthy to stand in the presence of God.
But see that God doesn’t say to Isaiah:
“You’re being too harsh on yourself, you’re not a sinner.” 
And Jesus doesn’t to Simon Peter: 
“Stop being so hard on yourself, you’re not a sinner.”
God knows that they, like us, are sinners.
And yet despite their sin, maybe because of their sin, God is very present to them.
Despite our sin, God is be very present to us.

Perhaps, the challenge of us today my friends is to reflect on where God is in our lives. 
  •  Do we let God into our lives, even, like Simon Peter, into our day job?
  • Do we let Jesus get into the boat that is our home, our relationships, our work, wherever we are, and let him show us what to do?
  • Or are we satisfied to keep him at a distance and to wave at him from our boat now and again, perhaps just every Sunday?
  • Do we like having Jesus the lifeguard - standing on the shore of the lake, there for us when we need him?
  • Or could we see Jesus as the captain of our boat, the one in it with us, guiding us on our journey across the lake of life to finally reach the other shore?

My friends, is Jesus our lifeguard or our captain? – The choice is ours.

(Boat image taken from; lifeguard image taken from

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