Sunday Sermon for February 7, 2016, the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Readings: Is 6:1-2a, 3-8; 1Cor 15:1-11; Lk 5:1-11
In the Gospel reading today we hear about our Lord getting into a boat belonging to Peter. At that point our Lord was beginning to gain some notoriety, as evidenced by the number of people who gathered to hear Him and the need for Him to get into a boat and push out a ways from shore. Imagine for a moment what the average human person would do after the fact, especially when it becomes clear to everyone Who this Person was Who was in your boat.

I suspect that most people would be sure to tell everyone about the day Jesus was in their boat. They would relate every detail of what He did and what He said. Perhaps it would be due to the awe of the event, but most probably it would be pride that the Son of God, the Savior of the world, was in MY boat.

If the latter is the case, we would most likely be tempted to think that the Lord wanted to be in my boat because either the boat was better than any other boat in the vicinity or because there was something special about me that made Him want to be in my boat. Of course neither of these would probably be the truth, but it is the skewed way that the typical person would look at things.

Well, guess what? Jesus is in your boat! Not a sea worthy vessel, but within you. When we look at the other reading the Church has given us today, we recognize very quickly that He did not choose to enter into our boat because we were the best, the brightest, the greatest, the most beautiful, or whatever reason we might suggest.

St. Paul tells us in the second reading that the Lord appeared to him as one born abnormally, one who is not fit to be called an Apostle. In the first reading Isaiah calls himself a man of unclean lips living among a people of unclean lips. He thought himself doomed to death because he had seen a vision of the Lord and realized his unworthiness.

You and I may not have had the privilege of having a vision of the Lord, but we do have the great blessing to sing with the Seraphim, the “fiery ones,” the highest choir of Angels as they praise God and glorify His greatness singing the threefold Sanctus as we hear in the first reading. Why would God allow us, pathetic little human creatures, sinful, broken, weak, human creatures, to sing with the highest, most powerful, most brilliant creatures that He created? Imagine, the highest and the lowest united in praising God!

This is, indeed, a great privilege, but it is a far greater privilege to be able to share with them a common belief in the Gospel, as St. Paul summarizes it: Jesus died for our sins, in accordance with the Scriptures, He was buried and, in accordance with the Scriptures, rose on the third day. The Seraphim, in fact, all the Angels, praise and glorify God constantly because of this, but He did not do any of it for the Angels. He did it for us! What an astounding gift!

The Angels praise God constantly because of what He did for us. How much do we praise Him for what He has done for us? We have nothing to brag about. It is true that the Trinity dwells substantially within us when we are in the State of Grace. It is true that we are sons and daughters of God, members of Jesus Christ and heirs of Heaven. It is true that your sins are forgiven and removed from your soul. It is true that you receive Jesus in the Most Holy Eucharist. None of these things can be said of the Angels, yet they praise God because of His goodness and mercy toward us.

We are not worthy of any of these gifts from our Lord; they are given out of love, not as a reward. This is what allowed the Saints to recognize their own unworthiness and still accept the graces God was offering. But love, recall, is a two way street. With God showering so much love upon us, what is our response? Clearly we cannot do anything for God, but we can love Him. That is all He wants from us.

If the Angels can praise God because of what He has done for us, would it not make more sense that we should be praising God for what He has done for us? If you are like most people, you would tell the world if the Lord made use of your boat. He has done far greater things for you! Praise Him and tell others of His mercy!

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit