Reflections on the Readings
Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time - February 10, 2013 Year C
The Year of Faith
I Am Not Worthy
But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord."
Dottie Rambo was a prolific gospel song writer. Among her most moving songs is He Looked Beyond My Faults: "I do not know, just why he came to love me so. He looked beyond my faults and saw my need."
In today's Scripture readings there is a common theme of a personal awareness of sinfulness. Isaiah cries out, "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips." Even as an apostle, Paul remembers the grace that found him: "For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain." And then in the Gospel today, Peter in the presence of Jesus and the miracle catch of the fish falls before the Lord and declares, "I am a sinful man."
This coming Wednesday we will receive ashes on our foreheads. We will hear one of two liturgical formulas: "Remember, man, you are dust and to dust you will return,"(Genesis 3:19) or "Repent, and believe in the Gospel."(Mark 1:15). Both remind us that without distinction all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We also remember that grace is the gift of God given us through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:23-24)
We are called to walk in holiness, to put on Christ. Adam and Eve, after they sinned, hid themselves from the presence of Lord God among the trees of the garden. Out of mercy the Lord God made for Adam and his wife garments of skins and clothed them. In his great love for us, aware of our great need for that love that covers a multitude of sins, God gave us his only Son, the Son of his love.
Every day is an opportunity to grow in grace. To grow in our love for Christ and the Church he gave us. To understand better what it means to be witnesses of Jesus. To ask for a greater work of conversion in our hearts. May we always remember that the work of grace in our lives is not a single event. Every day we learn about something else to put off, to repent for, so that Christ will be in us more profoundly. If there is one thing that marks the earliest followers of Jesus Christ it is their undivided loyalty to follow Christ, to know him and the power of his resurrection. The imperishable seed of the living and abiding word of God took root in their lives and grew in them the salvation of Christ.
That same imperishable seed is in you and in me. Through humility and deference to the things of Christ, a life of holiness emerges. Gentle, yet firm warnings remind us to not be deceived, to be aware that whatever we sow we shall reap. If we put on the spirit of the age and hide among its lures and enticements, the light of Christ is diminished. As we avail ourselves of the means of grace like confession, we are renewed in our mind; we are transformed by the Spirit of the living God.
The renewal of the Church in our day will come as we humble ourselves before the Lord, seek his forgiveness, and walk in a new baptism of love for God and neighbor. Paul asked the Church at Corinth to enter into an examination conscience. Paul's exhortation was, "Examine yourselves, to see whether you are holding to your faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you? - unless indeed you fail to meet the test! This examination may reveal as Paul told the Romans: ...I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do...Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Since the earliest days of the Church, the practice of examination of conscience has been an important aspect of growing in holiness. Some features of self examination include:
1. Thanksgiving: Gratitude replaces self importance, and imprudent judging of others.
2. Intention: Honesty with oneself is important. Am I truly inviting Christ to be my Lord and my Savior every day?
3. Reflection: As I let the Spirit of the Lord search me and examine me, did I show the love of Christ to all I met today?
4. Contrition: Ask the Lord for a greater awareness of the power of his love. Ask for Jesus to forgive everything you've done today that was not his face, his voice, and his love. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins.
5. Hope. I will take my place again in the pilgrimage toward heaven. I will ask again for the gifts of faith, hope, and love; to be more the person I'm meant to be and pray that others will have hope because I've helped them to know the love of God.
My dear friend, we are God's children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when Christ appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.(1 John 3:2) Until then, I with you, shall pray at every Eucharist, "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed." As Dottie Rambo's song says:
"I shall forever lift mine eyes to Calvary, to view the cross, where Jesus died for me. How marvelous, His grace that caught my falling soul.
He looked beyond my faults and saw my need."
And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. (1John 3:3) Amen.
Dennis Hankins is a parishioner at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, of the Diocese of Knoxville, TN. Prior to his uniting with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil 2006, Dennis served as a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org His website is: www.dennishankins.com