- The Abbey of the Genesee - https://www.geneseeabbey.org -

February 7, 2016

Fr. John Denburger, OCSO
5th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Isaiah 6: 1 -2a, 3 – 8; Ps  138; 1 Cor 15: 1 – 11; Luke 5: 1 – 11

What is it like to experience the presence of God? In the three Scripture passages for this Mass, we have the answer to that question; not every answer but that of three individuals: the Prophet Isaiah, the Apostle Paul and the Fisherman Peter. We are blessed to hear them because they present to us as fellow believers – the awesome, merciful, gracious Reality of God.

Isaiah overwhelmed by the utter holiness of God thinks himself doomed but he is able to say, “I am a man of unclean lips…yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” He finds himself purged, cleansed and responding wholeheartedly to God’s question, “Whom shall I send?” – and Isaiah responds with passion, “Here I am, send me!”

Then there is Paul, his life radically changed from fanatical persecutor to a zealous preacher of the Good News. He speaks of Christ’s appearance to many and then: “Last of all, as one born abnormally, He appeared to me, the least of the Apostles.” In that most personal account, one can hear Paul’s wonder and his awareness of God’s grace in his life. His steadfast zeal is his response

By the Lake of Gennesaret, Jesus is preaching while Simon and a companion are washing the nets. Jesus advice, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for catch” is met with Peter’s quick reply, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.” I can imagine Peter rolling his eyes at this only to find the nets tearing from a huge catch. Falling before Jesus, Peter exclaims, “Depart from me, Lord, I am a sinful man.” There was no departure; Simon and companions leave everything and follow Jesus. They are captivated!

Isaiah, Paul and Peter were graced with God’s presence in an unmistakable way; something they would never forget. In their common humanity, each one is humbled and, at the same time, is more committed to God than ever. In the readings we have been allowed to know something very personal about their lives, their own sacred journey of faith.

But there is more – surely, there is a revelation about God and all people – about God and us, you and me. God wills, more than wills, delights in being present to us, to touch our lives, to enter our hearts, to embrace us as His own. As Psalm 100 puts it so simply, “We belong to God!” God is love – His love is not vague, general, abstract – the Son of God became human like us – and the love of God was seen, was felt, was heard. The first words of St. John’s Epistle are a heartfelt personal confession of wonder and awe: “This is what we proclaim to you: what we have heard, seen with our eyes, looked upon, touched – we speak of the Word of Life. This Life became visible…” (1Jn: 1)

Today is a very good day – the Lord’s day – to reflect on the presence of God to you, to me so that the experience of His love penetrates deeper, the awareness of His love takes a firmer hold and really affects how we live, think, act – being a believer, a man, a woman of faith in the Lord – should not our lives witness to His personal love for each of us?

No one can live in God’s world and not be exposed to His presence, His love – it surrounds us in creation, in nature, in people – of course, one must be open to it, listen, see with faith or else, it will go unnoticed and therefore, unaccepted and the grace passes by, sad to say.

Now, in this Church, the presence of God surrounds us, embraces us through His Sacred Word, through this Mass, through one another gathered in faith – and the supreme moment, of course, is when we receive the Lord Jesus Christ in Holy Communion – in that moment we are caught up in a love beyond all comprehension, a love that embraces us in all our humanness, in receiving the Lord, God Himself is saying, “You belong to Me and I to you. I am captivated with you; I take delight in you.” Fantasy? By no means! Truth? Reality? By all means!

The Holy Season of Lent begins on Wednesday and according to custom, we choose some penance for Lent to prepare for the greatest solemnity of the Year – The Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Why not spend some time each day calling to mind God’s living presence to me, to you personally? Perhaps, it will lead us to treasure a most extravagant grace, God being captivated with you, with me – I said, “Perhaps” but there is no ‘perhaps’, it will happen because God desires it with delight.

Such is our God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit and we, you and I, belong to Him. May our experiences of God, like today, confirm our belief that you, I belong to Him and He to us!