HOMILY for the 22nd Thurs per annum (II)
preached at the Mercy Convent in Edinburgh
“You belong to Christ”, and in today’s Gospel, we see how Christ loves and cares for those who belong to him. First he proclaims the Word of God to those who press around him. So, we recall how God is, and what God does: his ways are not our ways. And then, Christ teaches the crowds. So, we are taught the ways of divine Wisdom by Christ, who is God’s Wisdom incarnate, and God’s Word made Man. This divine instruction is an expression of God’s care, just as parents teach their children because they love and care for them, because, in some sense, our children ‘belong’ to their parents, are entrusted to them. Recall, how in last Sunday’s First Reading, the gift of the Law, of divine wisdom and teaching, was seen as God’s privileging of his beloved people, Israel.
And God cares for his people, not just by nourishing them with his life-giving Word and wise teaching, but he feeds them too. So, Jesus fills Simon Peter’s nets with a miraculous haul of fish. But what this incident tells us, too, is that even though we have so little to offer God – after all, Simon Peter had “caught nothing” – if we go to God with humble trust, he will transform what we give him, and fill us with more than we can imagine. For God alone can make something out of nothing; he makes something out of the nothingness of our lives, out of our mistakes and pasts sins, even, if we offer them to him with faith and trust to be transformed by his grace.
Simon Peter recognizes this, which is why his response to this miracle is to kneel before Jesus and confess his sinfulness. But there is something more. Peter kneels because this is the proper posture to adopt before the God who loves and cares for us, who gives us being and life, mercy and grace, forgiveness and salvation. For the posture of kneeling shows our utter need of God for all that we have; it shows that we belong to the Lord – who we are, then – and it expresses our faith in Christ – in who he is. So, the word for kneel, proskynein, occurs 59 times in the New Testament as a statement of faith in who Jesus is and our relationship to him.
Jesus’ response to our faith is an act of mercy and love. He raises us up to be his partners, co-workers in the divine work of mercy and salvation, which is to proclaim the Gospel of grace to the whole world. So, he says: “You will be fishers of men”.
All these elements in today’s Gospel which show our belonging to Christ are found in the Mass. For we gather to listen to God’s Word, proclaimed in the Scripture readings, and then Christ teaches us through the homily, as well as through the one sacred action of the Liturgy. So, we are nourished by divine Wisdom, by the living Word. Then we bring to him the ordinary gifts of bread and wine, and we offer him, too, all we are – our sinful hearts, our worries, concerns, and intentions; our faltering devotion, distractions, joys and hopes. And from the little that we offer him, he takes them, blesses them, and speaks his Word of blessing over them. So, bread and wine becomes his Body and Blood, and we, too, are transformed by his grace if we believe and are open to his divine action.
And to express this humble trust, like St Peter, we kneel before the Lord. We kneel because we belong to him, and because we need his mercy. We need God to transform our sinful selves, which he does with his love. For he doesn’t leave us, as we might expect him too when we’re sinful. On the contrary, because God is Love, he draws even closer to us sinners so that he can be our redemption and salvation. That is the foolishness of Love, which the wisdom of the world cannot understand. For Love – vulnerable, embracing, sacrificial love – is God’s wisdom and power. Because Love alone can transform our nothingness and teach us sinners, who are, thus, foolish in God’s eyes but wise in the world’s sight, the Way of divine wisdom. Hence, God comes close to us, enters into intimacy with us, through the gift of his whole Self in the Eucharist, in Holy Communion. So, we are nourished by divine Wisdom, by the Word made flesh.
And so united with the Lord, we become sharers in his divine life, and sharers in his divine mission. We’re sent out at the end of the Mass to work for the salvation of souls, to feed and nourish our fellow men and women in both body and soul. Hence the works of mercy that are done in this place, and in our own Christian homes, are a sharing in God’s saving of the world, transforming human foolishness with the divine wisdom of Love. Thus we show in our lives that we truly belong to Christ, and through Christ, to God who is Love.