HOMILY: 5th SUNDAY OF THE YEAR ‘C’ 2019
The present day cultural climate that surrounds us makes it only too easy for us to live merely on the surface of life. In today’s culture and society, so much is stacked against the odds for those of us who want to live thoughtfully, reflectively and deeply.
There is, I know, nothing original in saying this. But what exactly is it about the world of today, at least in the west, that makes it so difficult for us to live other than at a superficial level? Partly, surely, it is the pace of life: it is difficult to resist the demands on us to be for ever proving ourselves, to be ever on the move, always rushing to catch up and get on to the next thing. This is especially the case for parents of young and not so young children – parents who find almost all their spare time used up ferrying children to one sporting or social or cultural activity after another. Then too there is the subtle and quite corrosive effect of the constant barrage of visual images provided by the media to satisfy our unending craving for something new. Not to mention the tyranny of smart phone and i-phones, constantly distracting us. And the result is that our attention span gets less and less. These and many other elements of life today make it so difficult to live deeply – to be thoughtful and capable of any sort of deep reflection.
This climate in which we all live makes it difficult for us to understand and get inside the Readings in today’s Mass. At the heart of all three Readings there is an encounter with what we may call ‘mystery’ – a reality that quite transcends this world. Isaiah is bowled over by a vision, a glimpse of the holiness of God: ‘I am a man of unclean lips…’ St Paul, after persecuting Stephen to death and then being overwhelmed by Christ appearing to him on the Damascus Road, has an acute sense of how outrageous it is for him to be an Apostle. Finally, St Peter is devastated by the miraculous catch of fish, achieved by the awesome power of the Messiah: ‘Depart from me – leave me, Lord – for I am a sinful man’. In each instance, a mystery that is far beyond human understanding is encountered – and everything is changed. This mystery is hidden from us for most of the time; above all because of the frenetic way in which we live our lives. The way we live makes it virtually unthinkable to ‘cast out into the deep’ – to venture out into uncharted, unknown realms, where God is waiting for us – beyond our immediate, superficial world.
But the fact of the matter is that, by living as most of us do, we not only deprive ourselves of the deep, rich life that could be ours. We also miss out on being able to serve God effectively – by way of letting him ‘send’ us, to bring knowledge of his truth and his love to others. We need to remember that, whether it is Isaiah or St Paul or St Peter, in each case glimpsing something of the mystery of God resulted in finding themselves being ‘sent out’, to make God known to others. Before he could be sent out as a Prophet of the Lord, Isaiah had to glimpse the Lord of Hosts and have his tongue touched by a burning coal. Before he could be sent to the Gentiles, St Paul had to suffer his world being turned upside down by what happened on the Damascus Road. Before he could be ‘sent’ and become a fisher of men, St Peter had to face the awesomeness of Christ’s power, achieving the miraculous haul o fish.
The Season of Lent is now coming up on to the horizon. In the time between now and Ash Wednesday, it would be good if we could begin to readjust our lives, to make ourselves a bit more ready for those weeks of special closeness to God. Let us try to slow down, to have some quiet in our day to day existence. To ‘stand and stare’ rather more often – to be still and silent – so that we may be there for the Lord to make known to us the transcendent mystery of his Presence – and the joy this can mean for us; so that, touched by him in our depths, we may respond to him and see what he may be sending us to do.