Sunday, Feb. 7, is the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C, Cycle II).
Sunday, Feb. 11, is the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, a perfect occasion to watch one of the famous Lourdes movies: The Song of Bernadette (1943) or the more accurate but less dramatic Bernadette starring Sidney Penny.
But for something new, go to NavisPictures.com and see the trailer for a film starring children. Our kids are in it — but go to the site, and you will see that we would promote it whether we were involved or not. A New York area filmmaker is showing kids the process of making high-quality motion pictures, with an eye to the future. Today’s successful directors all started tinkering with film as children. Navis Pictures’ hope is that Catholic children will have the same experience and make tomorrow’s high-quality films.
Bernadette is the perfect way to illustrate this hope. After all, at Lourdes, a girl saw a heavenly vision that has evangelized people worldwide.
Isaiah 6:1-2, 3-8; Psalm 138:1-5, 7-8; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 or 15:3-8, 11; Luke 5:1-11
The first reading today reminds us of three things about God: He is unapproachably above us. He allows us to approach him anyway. He is not alone.
We all love the stories of the infant Lord and the carpenter who emerges from the community to reveal his true self and invite us to follow. But it’s good to hear a reading like this every once in a while to remind us about the full importance of the stories of the “humble” Lord. Isaiah is granted a vision of God as he is, and he’s a mighty, thunderous, ground-shaking God.
Isaiah’s response is what ours might be at our first Mass if we fully understood what was happening: “Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”
The reality is, at Mass, we are surrounded by angels and in the presence of that same almighty God. If we pray to him as if he was our own private Jesus, we might be onto something true — his personal friendship with us — but we might miss something key: He is continually surrounded by a cloud of witnesses. When we sing today’s Psalm refrain, we can be very literal about it: “In the sight of the angels, I will sing your praises, Lord.”
But the fact is: We would feel like we were on shaky ground if we could see God as he is sitting on the altar like a throne instead of in the Eucharist.
That’s how St. Peter feels in today’s Gospel. When Jesus gets in his boat and performs a miracle, Peter says, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man.”
Bishop Fulton Sheen, however, compares Peter’s reaction to that miraculous catch of fish with his reaction to another miraculous catch after the resurrection. In that other catch, when John says, “It is the Lord,” Peter’s reaction isn’t the desire to separate himself from Christ — it’s to jump into the water and swim to him, so eager is he to get to Christ.
That’s Paul’s attitude toward Christ in the second reading: I know I’m a sinner, but by God’s grace, that isn’t the story of my life. I am now in his company.
We should be ready to have the same attitude — and we can expect Christ to follow the same sorts of stages with us that he followed in approaching Peter:
1. Expect him to come to you when you’re minding your own business. Peter wasn’t looking for Jesus; he was cleaning his nets, finishing up a hard day’s work. At work we’ll come across a challenge and have the opportunity to allow Christ in, or find some way to force him away.
2. Expect him to assist your state in life. Jesus didn’t immediately give Peter the gift of being a better preacher, as he would at Pentecost. He started out by making him a better fisherman, such that Peter recognized that all his fishing had been subject to God’s providence all along.
3. Repent, and expect him to embrace you after your repentance, as he did Peter.
Ultimately Jesus’ words are the same to each of us when we recognize how great he truly is: “Do not be afraid.” Do not be afraid to follow. Do not decide ahead of time that the standard is too high. Do not be afraid of this very frightening God. He’s going to help you make it.
Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas.