Sunday, February 10, 2013

Sunday word, 10 Feb 2013

Honest and Alert
Fifth Sunday of the Year C (10 Feb 2013)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Some approach scripture seeking to wrestle from it a meaning or lesson with little personal significance. They pick through scripture as if it were a menu or a train schedule. A sensitive approach to scripture is different. In a sensitive, personal approach, readers desire to meet Jesus in scripture not to wrestle something from it. Like meeting others, including those with whom we are initially attracted, knowledge builds and that helps us confirm our attraction.
Today’s scriptures present us with people whom God called: Isaiah; and apostles Paul and Simon. The particulars differed; yet prophet and apostles shared a feeling of having a brush with the one who is cause of and at the core of reality. In all scripture being in the divine presence registered as honesty with self. Isaiah: I am a man of unclean lips…yet my eyes have seen...the Lord of hosts! Paul: meeting the risen Lord kept him honest as he brought the gospel to others: I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle. Peter:

Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man. A closer look at Simon Peter helps us appreciate both his self-honest moment and growing knowledge which helps us discern.
Astonishment at the catch of fish Simon and his colleagues made at Jesus’ invitation certainly gets our attention. It caught Simon’s attention, but it was not first. Earlier Jesus had been active in Galilee teaching and healing. Jesus even taught from Simon’s boat.1 Simon knew people were overwhelmed that Jesus taught with authority2 as well as the widespread news that he healed.3 When we meet Simon in Luke’s gospel, Jesus entered his house. He and others had spoken to Jesus about his mother-in-law and her fever. Jesus healed her and the many brought to Jesus there.4 

Hearing about, hearing firsthand then seeing Jesus heal his mother-in-law began Simon’s growing knowledge of Jesus. The great catch of fish increased Simon’s knowledge of Jesus. The miraculous catch of fish was personal. It was Simon’s brush with the divine as well as the circumstance in which Jesus chose to call him. As with Isaiah and St. Paul, honesty about one’s limitations and unworthiness before God, God transformed into confident commitment. Isaiah said, Send me! Paul preached in diffi-culties of every sort. Simon and his companions left everything and followed Jesus.

One more thing about Simon calls our attention. It helps us appreciate that God qualifies those God calls and God calls us in our humanity. Before the catch of fish and his call, Simon was tired physically, and his morale was exhausted, too. It had been a long, frustratingly unproductive night fishing. Simon was not at all hesitant to let Jesus know it: “Master, we have worked hard all night and…caught nothing. Seeing disappointment on Simon’s face and hearing it in his voice, Jesus told Simon to lower his nets again. Simon’s fatigue and sore-muscled disappointment could not extinguish his personal fascination with Jesus and attraction to him. With little heart for it, he responded to Jesus, “But at your command I will lower the nets.

Physical exhaustion as well as lessened interest in things around us change our awareness. It seems contrary, but those things can prepare us to be more alert to God. Who here hasn’t felt them, knowing neither exhaustion nor disinterest do not automatically make people desperate fanatics? Religious experience isn’t wild fantasy.

Depart from me, Lord, I am a sinful man. Simon’s words to Jesus in the face of his power expressed honesty. He did not berate himself, exaggerate or minimize his limitations or faults. Instead, Simon’s response revealed his awe at Jesus’ attractive, accepting quality. I liken it to sunlight: the more bright the sunlight on me, the more dark and sharply visible to me my shadow. Our faith is no mental exercise but an experience of Jesus, an encounter with Jesus, who welcomes us to be ever more our true selves not our shadow selves.

Accepting ourselves as we are at each moment is not just honesty. Accepting ourselves as we are at each moment helps us be alert to how we meet our triune God, who is active for us in all things. Having a brush with God does not happen only in a lofty or out-of-body way. Simon’s experience reminds us we may meet God in wild, wet, windswept ways as well as in calm and quiet. Accepting ourselves as we are each moment is a virtue: it strengthens us to be more receptive of self, others and God, who desires us to grow more our true selves.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause in the presence of the Trinity: free yourself to be aware of our triune God and yourself.
  • Ask Simon Peter to present you to Jesus. Notice what Jesus is wearing, his face, how he welcomes you.
  • Chat with Jesus from your heart. Be alert to what Jesus awakens in you. Savor it even if it is only emerging and not fully clear to you. If the shadow of your unworthiness darkens, do not fear.
  • Take heart, and ask Jesus for grace to respond to him inviting you as you are into the light of his life and love.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Be sensitive to each word. Jesus gave us his words to abide with him and to grow more strong, focused and honest as his disciples. Jesus always empowers those he invites to join his mission.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise


  1. Luke 5.3.
  2. Luke 4.31-32.
  3. Luke 4.37.
  4. Luke 4.38-42.

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