Ridding ourselves of sin like Isaiah, Paul and Peter to follow the Lord

Homily for the Fifth Sunday of Year C

by Fr. Tommy Lane

Every time I fly to Ireland to visit family the flight is about one hour shorter than the return flight from Ireland to the US. Why? When flying to Ireland the plane is flying with the jet stream but when traveling from Ireland the plane must fly against the wind and all that extra drag adds about one hour onto the flight. I remember watching a documentary which showed that one airline discovered it would save huge sums of money by washing the outside of its planes more regularly thus reducing the wind resistance.

Planes being slowed down because of extra drag is a way of seeing what happens to us when we are in sin. We are slowed down from living the fullness of the Christian life. Another way to describe this is that sin is putting a weight on us. Guilt is a weight on us. If you had to carry an extra 50 pounds every day, you would certainly notice it. When we sin we carry weight which hinders us. In our three readings today we see people who were held back by the drag or weight of sin temporarily. In the first reading (Isa 6:1-8) the prophet Isaiah received a vision of God in heaven but instead of Isaiah being overjoyed as we would expect at having seen God in heaven he was filled with fear because he was in sin.

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! (Isa 6:5)

In the second reading Paul remember all the trouble he caused the Church in the past,

I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. (1 Cor 15:9)

In the Gospel when Peter saw the catch of fish, what came to his mind was his sinfulness,

he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” (Luke 5:8)

Clearly Isaiah, Paul and Peter were held back by the drag and weight of sin before they were forgiven. We also cannot really be happy if we are in sin. But once we turn from sin and our sin is forgiven in the Sacrament of Reconciliation we are new people. After the angel in Isaiah’s vision touched Isaiah’s lips with the coal and his sins were cleansed God asked,

“Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” (Isa 6:8)

Isaiah then had the freedom to respond, “Here I am. Send me.” (Isa 6:8) In the second reading (1 Cor 15:1-11) God’s grace overcame Paul’s past as he wrote,

“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective. Indeed, I have toiled harder than all of them; not I, however, but the grace of God (that is) with me.” (1 Cor 15:10)

Peter’s sin also was overcome by Jesus who called him,

“Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him. (Luke 5:10-11)

Isaiah, Paul and Peter acknowledged their sin. That was good because the first stage in overcoming any problem is admitting that the problem exists. Then they were cleansed of their sin and forgiven. If we do not know we are in sin we cannot be cleansed and we continue to carry the weight of sin around with us. Unfortunately now many people don’t realize that sin is what is causing the problems in their lives. I once heard a priest in Ireland relate that his niece who is a psychiatrist said to him that in the past when people were in sin they went to their priest to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation but now they go to psychiatrists like her and the psychiatrists make lots of money. Don’t get me wrong, I have the greatest of respect for psychologists and psychiatrists and the great work they do to help people. But it is Jesus who forgives sin in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

If people do not know they are in sin, why not?  One reason is that the world has convinced them that the teaching of the Church is wrong. They get their information from the media instead of from the teaching of God. If people do not get their teaching from God how can they know about the things of God and healing that comes from God when sin is forgiven? If people do not realize that it is sin that is causing their problems then they will not seek the solution for that sin in the correct place, forgiveness from Jesus. People have been deceived by the media and the secular teaching of the world just as Eve was deceived by the serpent in garden,

The serpent asked the woman, “Did God really tell you not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?” The woman answered the serpent: “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; it is only about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, ‘You shall not eat it or even touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman: “You certainly will not die! No, God knows well that the moment you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods who know what is good and what is bad.” (Gen 3:1-5)

Yes, people have been deceived by the world and the teaching of the media to believe that the teaching of the Church and of God is wrong so now people do not even know they are in sin. But they still carry the weight of sin with them just as a plane is slowed by drag. 

But we do not want deceived. We want to learn from God and God’s teaching through the Church. We cannot rationalize our sin by saying, “I just needed a little fling” or “But we love each other” or “everybody is doing it” or “God will understand.” At the end of time we will not be judged by the media and world who try to convince that God’s teaching is wrong, we will be judged by God. We take our teaching from God and from the Church so that we may not be blind to our sin but acknowledge it and be forgiven. Sin is like the extra drag on the plane slowing it down and using up extra fuel. We want to rid ourselves of sin that we may be truly happy and follow the Lord in peace. Then like Isaiah, Paul and Peter, we will be free, free to live happy lives without the weight of sin, full of God’s life, life the world or the media cannot give us. I conclude with an excerpt of the second reading today,

“Let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us.” (Heb 12:1)

Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2013

This homily was delivered in a parish in Maryland near where I have joined the faculty of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.

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