Sunday, February 07, 2010


(Fifth Sunday of the Year (C): This homily was given on Sunday, February 7, 2010 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I. by Fr. Raymond Suriani. Read Isaiah 6: 1-8; Luke 5: 1-11.)
[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Fifth Sunday 2010]

What do all these people have in common?

Jack comes into church before Mass from the side door, walks by the tabernacle, and immediately takes his seat in the first pew.

Jill comes in the front door, and immediately goes over to the statues and lights a candle. Then she turns around and walks out.

Joe sits in the last row and text messages his friends many times during Mass.

Jane chews gum while Mass is going on.

James wears his weekday-worst instead of his Sunday-best when he comes to church for Mass.

Jerry comes to Communion with his mind on the pretty girl in front of him and receives the Holy Eucharist without giving it a second thought and without making any gesture beforehand.

John comes to Mass late every week—although he could easily be on time; and he leaves early.

Justine talks more to her friends than to God when she comes to Sunday Liturgy.

Finally, Jacob comes to Mass faithfully each week, but only out of obligation and not because he thinks he needs it.

So, what do all these people have in common?

They all get on Father Ray’s nerves, right?

Well, yes, that is true—people like that do get on my nerves (and on the nerves of most other priests!); however that’s not the answer I’m looking for.

What they all have in common is a lack of proper reverence for God! Perhaps it’s not intentional; in fact, in most cases it probably isn’t intentional—but it’s a lack of reverence nonetheless.

How different Isaiah and Peter were! In our first reading from Isaiah 6, the prophet sees a vision of God on his heavenly throne, with a multitude of angels all around him singing his praises, and he’s so awestruck that he thinks he’s about to die! He cries out, “Woe to 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!”

Peter in today’s gospel text has a similar reaction after Jesus works a fish-catching miracle for him and his friends! After catching nothing the previous night, the future apostles throw their nets over the side of the boat at the command of Jesus, and they immediately catch so many fish that their boat almost sinks.

And just like Isaiah, Peter responds with reverence and awe. He falls to his knees in a sign of worship and says, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!”

That, incidentally, was a prayer which Jesus Christ did not answer—thank God. We may abandon the Lord at times, but he never abandons us, as he never abandoned Peter.

In this year of evangelization, that’s an important message for us to share with those who have been away from Christ and the sacraments for an extended period of time. They need to know that the Lord has not abandoned them and wants them to come home—soon!

Coming back now to those people I mentioned at the beginning.

What was the problem with Jack, the guy who came in the side door, walked by the tabernacle, and took his seat in the front row?

He forgot to genuflect to the Eucharistic Presence of Jesus Christ in the tabernacle! Any time we pass in front of a tabernacle in a Catholic Church, we are supposed to genuflect on our right knee—out of reverence to Jesus Christ, who is present there body, blood, soul and divinity!

What about Jill, the woman who came in the front door, went over to the statues, lit a candle, and then walked out?

Well, her mistake was similar to Jack’s! Before we light a candle and seek the intercession of a saint, we should genuflect toward the tabernacle out of reverence to the one—Jesus Christ—who made the saints saints!

And believe me, that’s exactly what Mary and Joseph and Pius X and all the other canonized saints of the Church would tell us to do!

Jesus first!

The lack of reverence shown by Joe, the text-messager, Jane the gum-chewer and Justine the chronic-talker should be obvious. At least I hope their lack of reverence is obvious!

James, who always wears his weekday worst to Mass lacks reverence because he could easily make himself more presentable if he wanted to. If he were meeting the president or the governor or a famous celebrity, I’m sure he would dress a little better than he does for Jesus.

John who constantly comes in late and always leaves early lacks reverence because he’s not giving the Lord his best effort. But God deserves our best effort in everything—because he’s God.

Jerry, who comes to Communion with his mind on the pretty girl in front of him and who receives the Holy Eucharist without giving it a second thought, demonstrates a lack of reverence by not making the effort to his mind on Jesus, and by failing to make an act of reverence (like a head bow) before he receives.

Jacob’s lack of reverence might not be so obvious, but it’s present nonetheless. It’s present in his attitude. He’s there at Mass each Sunday only out of obligation, not because he recognizes the deep need he has for God and his saving grace.

Isaiah and Peter were just the opposite, weren’t they? Because of the incredible reverence and awe they had toward the Lord, they were extremely conscious of their need for forgiveness and salvation.

Today, at this Mass—and especially after Communion when we return to our pew to pray—let us ask the Lord to give us a spirit of reverence—deep reverence.

Because if we learn to be reverent toward Jesus in here—the Jesus who is present in his Word and in the Eucharist—we will in all likelihood become more reverent toward the Jesus out there: the Jesus who is present in the people we live with and work with and interact with every day.