Homily for 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2019
Isaiah 6:1-2A, 3-8 || First Corinthians 15:1-11 || Luke 5: 1 – 11
If you ever travel as I do between the Green Line and North Station during the evening commute, you will invariably see two Jehovah’s Witnesses standing next to a portable literature rack that contains pamphlets about their faith. They are well dressed, very friendly, and if you catch their eye, they will give you a warm smile. They aren’t very aggressive. If you speak to them, they will speak to you. Otherwise, they just stand there as you go on your way through the tunnel connecting the subway to the commuter rail.
They call what they are doing witnessing…witnessing to their faith… They are out there in the public as disciples.
As I passed by them this week, it made me wonder what do we – you and I – do to witness to our Catholic Christian faith? How do present ourselves to the world as disciples of Christ?
The three readings today talk about our call to be witnesses to our faith. Through our baptism, we are all called to be disciples. At your baptism, the priest or deacon touched your ears and lips, saying “The Lord Jesus made the deaf hear and the dumb speak. May he soon touch your ears to receive his word, and your mouth to proclaim his faith to the Glory of God the Father.” It is your baptismal call – your obligation as a Catholic – to proclaim the Catholic faith.
But, as I see it, there are two reasons we don’t do this as much as we should.
First, we live in multicultural, multi-religious society that is increasingly becoming secular. And in this environment, we often sidestep any talk that highlights our differences to avoid making each other feel uncomfortable. You’ve often heard the phrase – “Don’t discuss religion and politics.”
But we have to get beyond this fear of offending others. At the very least, we must be able to respond to the question, “Why are you a Catholic?
The second reason that we shy away from being a visible disciple of Christ is because we don’t feel we are up-to-the challenge. We don’t think that we are smart enough… or holy enough. But who is? I mean look at the three readings for today – they all involve people called to be disciples who feel unworthy of the call.
In the first reading, we hear the prophet Isaiah say, “I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips.” In the second reading, Paul says, “I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle because I persecuted the Church of God.” In the Gospel reading, Peter sees his fishing nets miraculously bursting at the seams and he drops to his knees, saying, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”
None of these people feel holy enough.
And if you are wondering whether you feel up-to-the-task intellectually, consider St. Peter. He didn’t have an advanced degree in philosophy of theology. He didn’t go to college – or whatever the equivalent was in those days. He was a fisherman, with a very limited education. And yet, Jesus chose him to be the rock upon which he would build his church… the leader of the Apostles… his top disciple. You don’t need to have the mind and learning of a Thomas Aquinas. You just need to be able to communicate from the heart why you have faith… why you believe in God and Jesus and the Holy Catholic Church.
But even more important than your ability to articulate the reason you are a Catholic is the way you live your life. The way you express your faith in worship and the way you care for others will speak so much louder than words. Being a disciple means be-ing a disciple in ways that go beyond words. Jesus gave us two commandments – to love the Lord and to love one another. We witness to our family and friends when they see us love the Lord by worshiping God and participating in the sacramental life of the church. And we also witness to them when we go out of our way to show them compassion, patience and love.
To give you an example, I want to close this homily by sharing another subway story.
A couple of weeks ago, I was riding the Orange Line to Back Bay Station. I noticed an older woman sitting across from me. She was quietly praying the rosary… slowly fingering the beads as she said each Hail Mary to herself, her eyes closed in meditation. There, in a crowded subway, in the midst of the all these people of different races, ethnicities, religions, and social classes, she was quietly witnessing to her Catholic faith. She was being a disciple for Christ.