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Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time Cycle C (2)
Object: A picture of Neil Armstrong or another astronaut walking on the moon. If you do not have a copy, it can be obtained at the library.
Good morning, boys and girls. How many of you remember watching Neil Armstrong walk on the moon? It happened long before you were born. If there was someone on the moon now, You could not see it by sitting on your front porch, but if you have a television set then you probably watched Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. I am going to ask your mothers and fathers and all of the other people who are here this morning to raise their hands if they saw Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. [Have a show of hands.] Can you imagine that? Almost everyone here saw that happen. They are witnesses that Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. Do you think that you could find anyone who would say that Neil Armstrong did not walk on the moon, and someone here would believe him? I don’t think so. These people are witnesses to what happened, and they believe that a man, several men, have walked on the moon.
St. Paul remembered the importance of witnesses when he wrote his letter to the people in the city of Corinth. He told them about all of the people who had seen Jesus after the resurrection so that they would know they could believe what he was telling them. I have a picture of Neil Armstrong walking on the moon, but that doesn’t mean you believe that Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. But if I show you this picture and let you talk to people who have seen it, you will believe. I know that Jesus came back to life after he was dead, and that he walked and talked and ate with people he knew and worked with.
That’s the reason Paul told the people in Corinth about the 500 people who saw Jesus after his resurrection. They were witnesses to the greatest miracle in the world, the resurrection of Jesus. That is, why it is also a help to you and me. We can’t see Jesus today but we know of more than 500 people who did see him walk around and talk after he was resurrected. They didn’t have television, and there were not nearly so many people, but even today 500 people is a lot of people. They saw him and they told others that they had seen him alive even after they knew that he had died on the cross.
You believe that Neil Armstrong walked on the moon because your parents saw him walk while they watched their television. I can tell you that Jesus lived after he died because more than 500 people saw him and told others about this wonderful day.
Of course, this study was completed before the recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. A lot of companies cut their workforce, and the remaining employees worked longer hours to compensate. Also, many people began working from home, which made it harder to leave work at work. The result: working unpaid overtime. (1)
We all know that the U.S. is the nation of “rise and grind.” Hard work is in our DNA. But so is being tired. We complain about how busy and tired we are. We compare our busy schedules and shrug our shoulders. “Oh well, that’s just how life is. What can you do about it?”
A seasoned doctor was training his latest group of interns on diagnostic techniques. He wrapped up his training by saying, “Never ask your patients if they feel tired.” Why? Someone asked. “Because,” the doctor said, “everybody feels tired.”
And he may be right about that. Everybody feels tired. That’s normal, right? It’s a hazard of modern life.
I’m not against hard work. I thank God for the opportunity to work, and to use the skills and energy He gave me to make a difference in the world. I’m sure you feel the same way. But most of us also understand that sometimes our work can be unfulfilling. When we give our best efforts to something and we don’t see any results, we lose heart. That tired feeling isn’t just bone-deep. It’s spirit-deep.
Author Max Lucado tells the story of a man named Joseph Crater, a New York Supreme Court Justice who disappeared in August 1930. Crater was just forty-five years old at the time. He had gone to dinner with some friends one night. After he left the restaurant, he hopped in a taxi and rode away, never to be seen again.
No evidence ever turned up to explain Justice Crater’s disappearance. But on the night he disappeared, he left a check for a large amount of money for his wife. Attached to the check was a brief note. It read simply, “I am very weary. Love, Joe.” (2)
That’s sad, isn’t it? “I am very weary. Love, Joe.” Sometimes the tiredness runs spirit-deep. And it steals away our joy, our peace, our hope. That’s not what God intended for our lives. Our God is a creative God, and God made us for peace, hope and joy. So that spirit-deep tiredness poisons the life that God intended for us to have.
That’s why we can relate to Simon Peter and the other disciples in our Bible passage for today. Crowds of people have come to the shore of the Lake of Gennesaret to hear Jesus preach. On the edge of the lake are the fishing boats that have come in after a long night’s work. Professional fishermen in Jesus’ day lowered large nets into the lake. In the dark of night, the fish couldn’t see the nets, so schools of fish were easier to catch at night. (3)
Unfortunately, Simon Peter and his colleagues had an unsuccessful night. Jesus climbed into Simon’s boat and asked him to float out a short distance from shore. After Jesus finished teaching the people on the shore, he told Simon Peter to sail into deeper waters and let down his nets again.
Put yourself in Simon Peter’s shoes. He’s just finished working all night with no results. In addition to being tired and ready to go home, he’s probably frustrated that his hard work didn’t pay off. He was tired and ready to quit. And now Jesus is telling him how to do his job. Simon answers, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
And in this story, Jesus gives us a gift. He shows us how to heal a tired spirit. For example, one thing we learn from this story is that doing meaningful work can heal a tired spirit. A great way to stay energized and effective in your work and in your life is to seek to do something that you truly believe in.
Back in 2013, officials from the California Department of Social Services shut down an eldercare facility in San Francisco named Valley Springs Manor. They shut it down because the facility had failed several inspections. The Department of Social Services planned to relocate the 20 residents who were still living there to other, safer facilities.
Sadly, the owners of Valley Springs Manor didn’t wait for the Social Services workers to complete their relocation efforts. They ceased operations immediately and announced that they weren’t paying their employees any more. So most of the employees walked out, leaving behind 16 elderly, vulnerable residents and just two employees to care for them.
The two employees who refused to leave were the cook Maurice Rowland and the janitor Miguel Alvarez. Imagine that: an eldercare facility being staffed by only a cook and a janitor. However, these two men couldn’t imagine abandoning the patients. So without any help or pay, Rowland and Alvarez worked around the clock for two straight days taking care of the residents. They fed them, kept them safe, kept the facility clean, and dispensed medications. Each man would go home for one hour every 24 hours to take a shower, then would return to the Manor.
Two days after Valley Springs’ owners and other employees abandoned the facilities, workers from the Department of Social Services showed up to relocate the last 16 residents. They were amazed to discover that the cook and the janitor had been working for 48 hours straight caring for the residents.
When asked why they stayed around, Miguel Alvarez said, “If we left, they wouldn’t have nobody.”
And Maurice Rowland said, “I just couldn’t see myself going home . . . Even though they wasn’t our family, they were kind of like our family for this short period of time.” (4)
These men found meaning in stressful, exhausting work by thinking of the residents as family. Doing meaningful work is one of the best ways possible to heal a tired spirit.
Another way to heal a tired spirit is to catch God’s vision for your life. You’ve heard me say several times before, God has a plan for your life. In no way is your life meaningless. You are here for a reason. To invigorate your life, pray that God will show you that reason. That’s what I mean when I say that we need to catch God’s vision for our life.
Pastor Mike Slaughter once noted that people have a tendency to view life through either a microscopic lens or a telescopic lens. If you view life through a microscopic lens, then you’re focusing on your current circumstances, your current challenges, your current stresses. You’re focused on the details of the now. And that can get pretty overwhelming.
But people who view life with a telescopic lens see a bigger picture for their lives. They are not stressed out or trapped by their current circumstances. They “look forward to what God is creating in the future. Whereas microscopic people focus on problems, telescopic people see the possibilities.” (5)
When Jesus told Simon to row out to deep waters and cast his nets again, Simon said, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything.” That’s a microscopic response. “But because you say so, I will let down my nets.” That’s the moment that Simon opens himself up to Jesus’ leading. And Simon and his colleagues catch so many fish that they have to load them onto two boats.
Simon is so ashamed of his doubts that he falls at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man.”
But Jesus didn’t do this to shame Simon. He did it to share with Simon a new vision for his life.
Jesus says to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.”
Jesus is talking to us as well as Simon Peter. Don’t be afraid, he says to us, from now on you will fish for people. Whatever work you are doing, whatever hobbies you have, wherever you find yourself, your primary purpose now is to bring people to God. Your primary purpose in your home, in your workplace, in your school, in your hobbies, in your passions, in your relationships is to share the love and truth of Jesus Christ with others. That’s the new vision God has for your life.
It’s like something interesting that I read about our country’s space program recently. It seems that when NASA engineers sent the Perseverance rover on an historic mission to Mars in 2020, they hid a coded message in the rover’s parachute. The parachute had an unusual red and white pattern . . . Alan Chen announced that this strange pattern held a secret message. Then he challenged folks to find and decode the message. It only took six hours for internet sleuths all over the country to find and decode the message on the rover’s parachute. The message was, “Dare mighty things!” (6)
Dare mighty things! That’s what Jesus is saying to Simon. You’re looking at your life through a microscopic lens. You only see if you’ve caught enough fish to feed your family and turn a profit. Catch my vision for your life. I want to work through you to share the presence and power of God. I want you to change lives. And that is exactly what those weary fishermen did. They changed lives and they changed the world. So, the second thing we learn from today’s Bible passage is catching God’s vision for your life can heal a tired spirit.
And finally, we learn from this passage that, more than anything else, committing your life to Jesus can heal a tired spirit. How does our Bible passage end today? After Jesus offered Simon and his friends a new vision for their life, we read, “So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.” They didn’t go home and catch up on that missed sleep. They didn’t even go out and sell that big catch of fish. They just left everything to follow Jesus.
Is it possible that your tired spirit is a result of not committing your whole life to Jesus’ Lordship? Your successes, your failures, your strengths, your weaknesses, your doubts, your security, your future, your identity—are you still wrestling over committing everything to Jesus’ plans and purposes? Because when you commit your entire life to Jesus Christ, you are also trusting Jesus with the results of your life. He is offering to work through you to change lives with his power and his message and his love. You don’t have to do the work alone. That is a sure antidote for a tired spirit.
In the 1920s, Lillian Dickson and her husband, Jim, moved to Taiwan to serve as missionaries. Once the Dickson’s children were grown, Lillian wanted to begin a mission of her own. With Jim’s blessing, she set off to reach people in the most remote region of Taiwan. She worked with medical missionaries at first, then she founded a school. She spent more than 30 years working among the poorest and most remote groups of people in Taiwan and Indonesia. She walked thousands of miles through thick forests and rushing rivers to bring medicine, food, education and love to people in desperate need, including lepers and orphans.
She founded schools, orphanages, clinics and churches. She even went on to found Mustard Seed International, a mission organization that is still in operation today. Someone once asked Lillian Dickson how she could continue working so enthusiastically when she was surrounded by an “ocean of suffering that could never be emptied.”
Lillian replied, “I just scoop out my bucketful.” (7) What a great answer. When you commit your life to Jesus, all he is asking is that you scoop out your bucketful. He will work through you to bring others to God. Leave the results to him.
When you become tired, discouraged or filled with doubt about whether or not your efforts are making any difference, please remember this: Jesus’ disciples faced harassment, rejection, imprisonment, beatings and death for their work. But they also convinced thousands of people that Jesus is Lord and Savior for all humankind. They planted churches all over the Roman Empire, Africa and Arabia. Today, over 1 billion people from every race and nation call themselves Christians, and there are Christian churches in every corner of the world. And you and I are here today because of the work of Simon Peter, Paul, and the other apostles who committed their work and their lives to the message and ministry of Jesus Christ.
Now it’s our turn. Commit your life to Jesus and see how he can give you a new sense of vitality and use you to make a difference in this world.
1. “Overwork Killed More Than 745,000 People in a Year, WHO Study Finds” by Bill Chappell, NPR May 17, 2021, https://www.npr.org/2021/05/17/997462169/thousands-of-people-are-dying-from-working-long-hours-a-new-who-study-finds.
2. Lucado, Max. God Is with You Every Day (p. 291). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
3. “Biblical Fishing 101 Reeling in the First Fishers of Faith” by James Campbell, D. Min., LoyolaPress.com https://www.loyolapress.com/catholic-resources/prayer/arts-and-faith/culinary-arts/biblical-fishing-101-reeling-in-the-first-fishers-of-faith/.
4. “The Everyday Superheroes at the Elder Care Facility” by Dan Lewis, Now I Know! May 25, 2021.
5. Momentum for Life, Revised Edition: Biblical Practices for Sustaining Physical Health, Personal Integrity, and Strategic Focus (Mike Slaughter).
6. “Internet sleuths solve secret message on Perseverance rover’s Mars parachute” by Chelsea Gohd, February 2021, Space.com, https://www.space.com/perseverance-rover-mars-parachute-secret-message-solved.
7. “Women who inspired World Vision’s founding father” by Marilee Pierce Dunker, https://www.worldvision.org/christian-faith-news-stories/women-inspired-bob-pierce.
Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time Cycle C (1)
I heard recently about a man who took great pride in being a former Navy Seal. And why not? This is an elite group. It takes a special sailor to qualify as a Navy Seal.
This man tells about sharing his military exploits with his grandson’s kindergarten class. This former Seal regaled the children with his war stories. After he finished, hands shot up into the air all over the classroom. The kids were eager to ask questions. “So,” asked one little girl, “can you balance a ball on the end of your nose?” Well, to be sure, a Navy Seal ought to be able to balance a ball on the end of his nose.
Life has a way of humbling us, doesn’t it? We think we are impressing people, and all they want is to see us balance a ball on the end of our nose. Our scriptures for today all have one thing in common: we see a man who was humbled.
Today’s reading present three men, Peter, Paul and Isaiah. All called by God. All appear to be unlikely choice to perform the mission they were given. Each one, though, was the perfect choice.
Simon, was a fisherman. He knew the sea. He knew where to find fish, at least most of the time. He was a big man, an ox of a man. He was the leader of the group, but that was a small group of four fishermen consisting in himself, his brother, Andrew, and the two Zebedee kids, James and John. He was probably illiterate. Yes, the New Testament lists two letters attributed to him, but he could have dictated these to a Christian scribe. Simon was just a good, hard, blue collar worker we would say, an everyday laborer. He was the least likely to lead an international movement. He had never been outside of Galilee and Judea. But this man, Simon, the Son of a man named Jonah, was called by the Lord to lead the Church, personally bringing the Gospel message all the way to Rome. He was the least likely to do this. But Jesus called him. He gave him a new name, Peter, the Rock. And Peter was the perfect choice. God made him the perfect choice.
Saul of Tarsus was brilliant. He wasn’t just literate; he was scholarly. He was a student of Gamiliel, one of the most important rabbinical teachers of the ancient world. Saul knew the scripture and the Jewish practices better than most people of his time. He was passionate for the Hebrew religious law. He was more enthusiastic than most Pharisees. He would hunt down the followers of Christ, convinced that their way of life was polluting the Holy Land of Israel. Saul was certainly not someone you would choose to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. What is more, he is the last person you would expect who would argue that the gentiles did not have to first become Jewish before becoming Christian. But Christ called Saul as he traveled on the road to Damascus. He was given a new name, no longer Saul, now Paul. Least likely? No, Paul was the perfect choice. He was the perfect choice to spread the Good News. God made him the perfect choice.
700 years before Peter and Paul, a man was chosen to be a prophet for Israel. His name was Isaiah. The main focus of his prophecy was on the holiness of God. The “Holy Holy Holy” that we sing during Mass is taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. But Isaiah was certainly not the person anyone would expect to proclaim God’s holiness. He was a man with unclean lips. What did that mean? In our days when we accuse someone of having a dirty mouth we mean that his language is vulgar, offensive and abusive. Perhaps Isaiah was filthy that way. Or perhaps he was a liar, a violator of the eighth commandment. Or perhaps he was someone who was not thoroughly devoted to Yahweh and even ate food that the Jewish people were not allowed to eat, such as pork, shell fish and food sacrificed to pagan gods. These are some of the ways that his lips might have been unclean. Yet, those lips were chosen to proclaim the holiness of God. Today’s first reading tells us that God purified these lips. God made Isaiah the perfect choice.
God does that. He did that for Peter, Paul and Isaiah. He does that for us. He makes each of us the perfect choice.
So the brand new Mom and Dad bring their baby home from the hospital. Do you parents remember that day? Everyone was excited. Then they left. And your baby was colicky. Where were those people at 2 am in the morning? Like the guy in the commercial, the Dad said to himself, “I’m a sports car kind of guy; not a van guy.” As she rocked the baby all day, and all night, the Mom said to herself, “I don’t know if I’m ready for this.” Both Mom and Dad said to themselves, not to each other, and certainly not to their own parents, “I can’t do this.” But God called them, called you, to be parents. He even gave you new names, “Mommy and Daddy.” There are no better parents for your child, your children, than you. God made you the perfect choice.
Your wife, your husband, has been severely ill. Worse, one of your children is chronically ill. You are continually going back and forth to the hospital, back and forth to the doctor. You are exhausted, physically and emotionally. “I can’t do this,” you say. “I’ve always hated hospitals. I get squeamish just at the site of blood.” But God has called you to be a care giver. He’ll give you the strength to get through it all.
You might just be a teenager, but you have so much pressure. School work can be tough. It can be boring. Some subjects are fun and come easy. But then there are those that drive you up a wall. You can’t seem to get it right. You are on a team or in a club, and there are high expectations placed on your back. And then there is the constant drama with your friends. Who is not talking to who and why? On top of all this put peer pressure. Others tell you that you are the only one who doesn’t drink, doesn’t take drugs, doesn’t have sex. They are lying, or at least they don’t know everyone else, but still they put pressure on you to join them in their self-destructive behavior. You have all this pressure and you say, “I can’t do this. I can’t be a committed Catholic.” You are correct, alone you can’t, but with God you can. He has called you to bring the message of his Kingdom to those who have rejected him. He has called you to develop into the man or woman who will lead his people. He even gave you a new name at your baptism. He calls you His Child, His Son, His Daughter. Think about this, God doesn’t just call you Liz; He calls you His Daughter Liz. He doesn’t just call you Bill. He calls you His Son Bill.
Note, first of all, how they were made aware of their sinfulness and their dependence on God.
Having worked with drug addicts and alcoholics we always say that they have to hit rock bottom before they can be lifted up. They same is true for people who are addicted to their sin. If you keep confessing the same sin over and over again, you are addicted to it. You have a choice f stopping it now or let it grow and fester until it brings you down. Either way you can’t do it on your own. You need help. AA gives you a sponsor but they also say you need a higher power. Hopefully for us sitting here that higher power is God.
Seeing ourselves as we really are, experiencing God’s grace to make a new start in life—lead to the call to a purposeful life. For everyone that call is to bring others to Christ. So parents for your children You Can Do it. For students in school You Can Do it. For those in the military You Can Do it.
The Lord asks, “Whom shall I send and who will go for us?” And Isaiah cries out, “Here am I, send me.” Jesus says to the frightened Simon Peter, “I will make you a fisher of men” and immediately he follows after the Master. And St. Paul acknowledges that because he persecuted the Christians, he was the least of the Apostles, but, he adds, that by God’s grace, he worked harder than any of them. That’s what happens when we have an encounter with the living God. And it is the most important encounter we will ever have–giving our lives completely to Christ.
You can do this, and I can do this. We can be Christians thoroughly committed to spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We can do this because the One who has called us gives us the power to complete his mission.
All of us have times that we are convinced we are the least likely to perform a role that God has set for us, perhaps as a parent, perhaps as a care giver, certainly as a committed Christian. We all might think that we are the least likely to serve God. But we are wrong.
Like Peter, Paul and Isaiah, we might think we are the least likely, but God has called us. In His mind, with His help, with His Divine Mercy, we are each the perfect choice.
If I told you that God would send His son to this earth, that He would only live about 33 years and only the last three of those years would be how His life would be measured, what do you think He would do with those three years? Let’s make it personal. Suppose from the day you were born you knew you would only live 33 years and that your life would be measured by only the last three. What would you do with your life?
It is indisputable that Jesus did more and accomplished more in the last three years of His life than any other human being has in a full life. In fact, He accomplished more than any other nation or kingdom in history. H. G. Wells, the famous author, one of the top historians of the 20th century said this about Jesus:
“More than 1,900 years later a historian like myself who doesn’t even call himself a Christian, finds the picture entering irresistibly around the life and character of this most significant man….the historian’s test of an individual’s greatness is, ‘What did he leave to grow?’ Did he start men to thinking along fresh lines with a vigor that persisted after him? By this test, Jesus stands first among all who have ever lived.”
Someone has said, “You can gauge the size of a ship that has passed out of sight by the huge wake it leaves behind.” By any measure, Jesus left the world’s largest wake behind Him.