Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time C Reflections by Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time C: Homily by Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
Readings: Isa 6: 1-2a, 3-8; Ps 138:1-8; 1 Cor 15:1-11 and Luke 5:1-11

 God’s Grace for all agents  of Evangelizations

Listening to today’s Bible readings I want to believe that one of the major lessons we must take home with is that, God's Grace is sufficient to all  of us, agents of the Gospel, no matter how weak we might  hunanly think that we are. Prophet Isaiah, St. Paul and Peter thought the same.  They thought they were unwworthy prach the Gospel, but each time God proved them wrong. Please, Don't count  yourself out from the Kingdom of God.

Last Sunday remember, when the Prophet Jeremiah, a contemporary of Zephaniah was called (Jer 1:4-5) In the face of the threat of the destruction of Jerusalem he gave excuses. His excuses were that he too young to be a prophet. He said his village, Anothoth, located three miles from Jerusalem was not popular not huge enough. He also said he was short of skills of public speaking and preaching. But he was empowered and given reassurances God’s grace. His mouth was touched by God (Jer 1:5-9).

Similarly in the first reading of today Isaiah is called to be God’s agent, the mouth piece of God.. This happened more than two thousand years ago, the time of King Uzziah (740 BCE),to reassure  Judean kings and his fellow citizens  God’s abiding presence with them in spite the threat of destruction facing them from Assyrian and Babylonian military might.

Like Jeremiah last Sunday, Isaiah thought today he was weak like his fellow citizens.  He called himself unclean, and a man of unclean lips (Isa 1:5-7), not worthy to be the spokesperson for God who is holy and perfect. But the grace of God was sufficient for Isaiah. God touched and cleansed his lips. His wickedness is removed and his sins purged away. Isaiah can now proclaimed, “Here I am Lord send me” (Isa 1:6-8).

It is always interesting to see how God can use weak instruments to do great things.  About 66 books, the longest in of the prophetic books attributed to the ministry of Isaiah a man who thought he was too weak and too unclean to preach. He courageously preached God’s judgment (Isa 1–39). He brought comfort (Isa 40–55) and the message of hope for salvation and restoration to his people (Isa 56–66) in times of pains, frustration, threats, homelessness, “Temple-less” and humiliation of exile that confronted his compatriots.

Apart from the Psalms (79 times), the message of the prophet Isaiah (a man initially with unclean lips) is quoted about 66 times in the NT- from Matthew to 1 Peter, which means it dominates the 4 Gospels and the Letters of St. Paul, especially the Romans. His message bears witness to Christ's birth and events. Recall his advent prophecies (e.g. Is 7:14), the Suffering Servants and the Lam of God(Isa 42-55) and Christ quotation of Isaiah 61:1 in Luke 4 18: “the spirit of the Lord is upon because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor….”

By this I mean to demonstrate how God can use weak instruments to do great things. Paul who witnesses Christ’s resurrection in today’s second reading (1 Cor 15:1-11), we know, was not the best of the human beings in the beginning. On January 25th, the Feast of his conversion we read in Acts of the Apostle (Acts 9:1-22; 22:3-16) that Paul though initially a murderer, a tyrant and a persecutor of the Christians later with the grace of God became  a beacon of hope, and an outstanding advocated and bearer of the Good News of Christ (euvagge,lion). See my reflection of Year B.

 In the 2nd reading he acknowledges his weaknesses and his reliance upon the Grace of God. He says, “For I am the least of all the apostles not fit to be call an apostle, because, I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective” (I Cor 15:9-11). In almost 1/3 of the 27 books of the NT Paul, initially weak bear witness to the love of Christ (1 Cor  13), reconciliation and inclusiveness of all peoples (Gal 4). He also championed the course of unity in the Church, the Body of Christ (1 Cor 12–14). Paul knew he can only do all things through Christ the source of his strength (Philp 4:13).

Like Isaiah whose unclean lips were cleansed by God, or Paul whose conversion came as a result of God’s grace, Peter in today’s Gospel(Luke 5:1-11)  is threatened by the divine presence of God.  He said, “Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man.”Peter the professional fisherman toiled all night without catching a single fish, until Christ said to him, “Peter put out your net into the deep and lower your nets for a catch.”  What a miracle working God!!  Christ now empowered Peter, “Not to be afraid.” In metaphor Christ commission Peter in spite of his weaknesses not to catch fish any longer to be a disciple that catches or brings Christ message to people and people to Christ.

Like Isaiah, Paul and Peter, Christ wants each of us to stop seeing ourselves as sinners or unclean but to become his friends, his companions and agents of the Good News of Christ in our daily lives. By the grace of God you and I can move mountains in the works of evangelizations.

 Peace be with you!