Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time by Father Gerard Jonas

Homily of 10 February 2019

Isaiah 6:1-2a,3-8; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Luke 5:1-11
Duc in Altum

A math teacher in Grade 8 relates how one time at the end of the school day, a student approached her with a small bundle of clothes and whispered that her mom doesn’t have money for the laundromat that week and asked if she would help her with her uniform. This teacher at an underserved middle school in the greater Boston area shocked her friends in non-education fields when she revealed that she does wash her students’ uniforms periodically and that she started doing so to show them that there was an adult in school who cared about them. Early on she realized that some of her students were skipping school because they didn’t have a dependable adult figure who could help them with basic needs, such as food security and hygiene. “Addressing their non-academic needs are as important as creating an effective academic curriculum,” she said.

How far do we go or can go to reach out to people beyond the ordinary?

I remember that it was my Science teacher in grade 2 who taught us to pray the “Hail Holy Queen.” It was October. We prayed parts of the Rosary at each class period and Science was at the end of the day.

Today we hear how Jesus ordered Peter to put out into deep waters again in broad daylight after a failed night fishing trip. We will never know what was in his mind in taking that order from a carpenter turned itinerant preacher. He nevertheless obliged, maybe unwillingly at first, just to get over it. But when they ended up with two boatloads of fish, he was overwhelmed and just dropped to his knees before Jesus, acknowledging his sinfulness, his unworthiness before His presence. Then Jesus told him that there’s more in store for his fishing skill, that from then on he would be gathering people.

Peter was not the only one who felt this way. In our first reading, we heard how Isaiah too savored the Divine presence only to feel doomed with his unclean lips. But his lips were cleansed and his wickedness removed. St. Paul too, in his Letter to the Corinthians, recounted how from persecuting Christians he ended up being called and sent as an apostle.

Common among Peter, Isaiah and Paul is their conversion-transformation experience in their encounter with the Lord and their openness to His promptings.

“Do not be afraid,” the Lord is telling us also now. Are we ready to let Him be in charge of our life? Where do we go in this life and beyond this life when left just on our own?

In faith, let us recall our many encounters with the Lord. Have we gone farther and further in his summons that we be with Him and likewise take his presence to our brothers and sisters?

In Vatican II’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium no. 31) the Church reminds us, “The faithful who by baptism are incorporated into Christ’s Body and are placed in the people of God and in their own way share the priestly, prophetic and kingly office of Christ and to the best of their ability carry on the mission of the whole Christian people in the church and in the world.” There’s nothing new to God’s call that we recognize at any stage in our life. It’s the natural growth that should occur in our spirit, the way more evidently we notice in our physical body. We are indeed body and spirit.

We may say the eighth-grade teacher in Boston has gone further, deeper into her being a teacher beyond Math lessons and was able to venture into life’s lessons and challenges. Yes, but she herself was once also a student from a family of meager means. In her needfulness, she has matured in generosity. Many other teachers go the extra mile for their students. “According to a 2018 study by the National Center of Education Statistics, a significant majority of public school teachers spend $480 per year to purchase school supplies even though teachers qualify for a federal $250 tax deduction. There are teachers who volunteer after school to help with homework and oversee clubs and activities. Despite their modest income, many teachers spend their time and money to support their students in and out of their classroom.”

As with Peter, the Lord tells us now, “Duc in altum, put out into the deep.” May we with Isaiah respond, “Here I am. Send me,” and ever with the zeal of Paul go beyond the boundaries of comfort and convention, believing that when Christ calls us, he equips us at the same time. The call and the ability to accomplish the call are given together.

May we find our true self and true growth only in God, in this life until the next.