Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Fr. William McNeeley
February 9 & 10, 2019
Bishop’s Appeal Follow up.
The roads we choose in life also go a long way into shaping our character. They bring us into relationships with people we otherwise would not have met, and our experiences along the way go a long way toward developing our character and our manner of life. That’s what is happening in today’s readings.
Isaiah is called by God to be his prophet. In the beginning, Once Isaiah perceives that he is in the presence of the almighty he becomes keenly aware of his own unworthiness, so he proclaims, “I am doomed!” But by the end of the reading, Isaiah has a change of heart, not that he thinks he has become worthy, but that in spite of his unworthiness he has a mission and a purpose in life, so he proclaims; here I am, Lord, send me. That is similar to the experience of Simon in today’s Gospel. In the beginning, Simon and his companions are getting out of their boats and washing their nets, tired and exhausted after a long unproductive night. All Simon wants to do to go home and go to bed because he’s going to be doing it again the next night. All he is doing is humoring Jesus by putting out his nets again, but by the end, everything has changed. The same fishermen have abandoned their boats, left everything and followed Jesus. What a turnaround! Just a few years later when Jesus had taught some hard teachings about eating his Body and drinking his Blood, many followers stopped coming around. Jesus asked the Twelve, “Do you wish to leave also?” I can well imagine Peter thinking of this very incident in today’s Gospel when he replied, “Lord, we have left everything to follow you. Where else can we go?
Today’s gospel follows the same pattern in our own lives, and it occurs in the lives of all faithful followers of Jesus.
1) We hear the Word of God.
2) We put out into deep waters.
3) We take courage and follow his admonition not to be afraid.
That how Jesus calls all of us. We hear the Word both here at Mass, and we encounter the Lord in the other sacraments and we encounter him in our daily lives. Then we put out into the deep of our while he emboldens us to take courage and not be afraid to do what the Lord asks.
In what ways are we holding back from the Lord’s Word to us? How am I avoiding the deep waters in my life? I think that much of what people suffer from in the world today is their fear of the deeper waters of life, a reluctance and lack of courage to do what pleases God and not man. We yearn for approval, and we want the world to do what we think is right, so we post on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. On social media we take courage, not in the Lord, but in anonymity, which is no courage at all. Desiring the praise of others, and if we are not careful we join the social media lynch mob and destroy those who disagree with us, and in so doing we exalt ourselves on that pagan shrine of social media. Our society is being poisoned and manipulated just as surely as the tobacco companies did in years gone by. For decades tobacco companies manipulated nicotine levels to addict more people, and as a result, millions were killed and maimed because the companies hid behind the fact that you could not prove in court that cigarettes killed that person. It wasn’t until a corporate executive of a tobacco company was prompted by a guilty conscience that the dam of lies finally broke.
Just last week I said how one of the problems in our country is that we are so polarized and we can’t come together politically because no one wants to let the other side have any part of a win. That is true, and I stand by every word, but what the church cannot compromise on is infanticide. I had mentioned to you all before that when I was an Episcopal priest, I was basically pro-choice. It wasn’t until I came into the Catholic Church that I started thinking about what abortion meant morally and ethically. Coming from a medical family and with some clinical experience I thought of abortion as just another medical procedure; a bad way out of a bad situation. I had a conversion on that issue once I realized the spiritual, moral, psychological and emotional harm that comes with abortion. Still, I felt very uncomfortable when any pro-life person spoke of the “Culture of death” in America. And yet, here we are some 40 odd years since Roe vs. Wade, and we have gone from keeping abortions “safe, legal and rare” to the killing of fully formed fetus weeks, days or moments before birth and then the dismemberment of the body. We also must be mindful of the fact that post birth abortions are legal in the Netherlands and a few other European countries. If there is anything that the News from New York and Virginia prove is that it can happen here. It is happening here.
How willing are we to brave the storm and the choppy seas of an increasingly hostile culture and country. As the church becomes increasingly counter cultural to this developing culture of death, we can expect more and more attacks against the institutional church and its members in the years to come. I know some of you are saying to yourselves, come on let’s get past this. We all know your position on this. My concern is not so much for the adults, but especially our children who are being taught each and every day that all that matters is being happy, feeling good about ourselves and that there’s nothing wrong with avoiding the consequences of our choices.
Jesus meets us where we are, as we are. He calls us as we are but he does not call us to stay that way. Little by little, he invites us to step toward become faithful disciples. If we rely on our own efforts we will surely fail, but with him cannot and will not fail. As the Lord tells us God’s will, will be done, it’s just a matter of when weget with his program. We may work hard, and our “catch” may be minimal to nothing. With the Lord, however, saying yes little by little, our lives will change. With the Lord at our side our efforts will bear fruit and our “catch” will be overflowing.