5th Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)

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Oh, God! (2:29) God (George Burns) speaks to Jerry (John Denver) through his car radio.

When God Calls Out to Us

The conventional wisdom is that every homily should begin with a story to capture the congregation’s attention and to introduce the theme. Here is one example. Visit Fr. Tony’s website for a whole lot more. 

Fr. Tony’s Eight Minute Homilies

In the spring of 1978, the film, Oh God! was given an award. It was a film that portrayed the message that God cares about people, that God comes to people, and He wants people to be happy. Do you know the award that film received? “Best Fantasy Film of the Year”!

To some people, it is a fantasy that God cares for us; that God loves us and comes to us in the ordinary affairs of our life. To some, that is a fantasy! Why? If we truly believe that God comes to us, speaks to us, calls out to us, then we, too, have to place the net where He tells us, in spite of the fact that we think we know better. That is what this Church is trying to do. When Simon saw the miracle and stood face-to-face with the miracle worker, he fell to his knees at Jesus’ feet and said, “Get away from me! I am unclean! Get away from me! I am a sinful man!” Confrontation with Jesus was not a fantasy for him.


#1:Divine calls answered: St. Teresa of Child Jesus (the Little Flower) heard God’s call and joined the Carmelite convent when she was only 15. Agnes Bojaxhiu or Mother Teresa heard God’s call and joined the Loretto Sisters when she was 18. St. Jeanne Jugan was 47 when she heard God calling her to devote her life to the care of the sick and the elderly. St. Ignatius of Loyola heard God’s call as a wounded and recovering soldier in his late thirties. St. Francis Xavier was a young, famous university professor when he heard God’s call through St. Ignatius and became a great missionary saint. Just like Isiah in the first reading, St. Paul in the second reading and St. Peter in the Gospel, all these saints acknowledged their sinfulness and limitations, and God blessed their good will with His grace and enabled them to transform the lives of many for God.

# 2: “Here I am Lord, send me.” A mother and father were worried about what career their son would choose. A friend told them to place on the dining room table a $20 note, a Bible and a fifth of liquor. Then they were to hide behind the curtains and observe their son’s actions when he came in. If he took the $20 bill, he would grow up to be a banker; if he chose the Bible, a preacher, and if he chose the liquor, a drunkard. The son came in and put the $20 bill in his pocket, held the Bible under one arm and the liquor under the other, and happily walked out of the room. “Great goodness, Martha,” said the husband to his wife, “He is going to be a politician!” (Fr. Lakra).

# 3: “Ours is total commitment!” There was a story about the hen and the pig bragging to each other about their contribution and commitment to humanity. The hen bragged: “We hens supply thousands of eggs for the market every day. Ours is the best selfless gift.” Not satisfied, the pig countered, “And who lay down their lives so that people may eat bacon, lechon, barbecue, ham, and sausages? Pigs. Ours is total commitment of our lives in the service of humanity!”– In all the readings for today, especially the Gospel, the message is one – a Call from God and the Commitment expected from those God has called.

# 4: A call rejected: Reverend Billy Graham tells of a time early in his ministry when he arrived in a small town to preach a sermon. Wanting to mail a letter, he asked a young boy where the post office was. When the boy had told him, Dr. Graham thanked him and said, “If you’ll come to the Baptist church this evening, you can hear me telling everyone how to get to Heaven.” “I don’t think I’ll be there,” the boy said. “Why?” Billy Graham asked him. “Because you don’t even know your way to the post office! How can you show me the way to Heaven?” –Today’s readings tell us about the calls of the prophet Isaiah, Paul, and Peter to God’s ministry.

# 5: Divine call daily executed: One day, author and educator Howard Hendricks was on a plane that was delayed from takeoff. As passengers became irritated and demanding, Howard noticed how gracious one of the flight attendants continued to be with each passenger. When they were finally in the air he continued to be amazed at her poise and control. When she came by his seat, Howard asked if he could write a letter of commendation to the airline on her behalf. “I don’t work for the airline,” she replied, “I work for Jesus Christ. My husband and I prayed this morning that I would be a good representative of Jesus Christ on this flight.” — Do you have a career or a calling? You see, somewhere out on Lake Galilee, a few fishermen were transformed in such a way that they would eventually change the world, because Christ had come and had given them a mission for eternity.

Central Theme of the Readings

Today’s Scripture readings challenge us to discern God’s call to each one of us to become His disciple with a mission. We are asked to recognize God’s holy presence and acknowledge our unworthiness, due to our sinfulness, to become humble instruments in His hands, as the prophet Isaiah did in the first reading, as St. Paul did in the second reading, and as St. Peter did in today’s Gospel. Today’s readings also teach us that God has His own criteria for selecting people to be His disciples, ministers and prophets. Presenting the special calls, or vocations, of Isaiah, Paul, and Peter as life-changing events, the readings challenge us to examine our own personal change of life and commitment to our discipleship.

Scripture Readings Summarized

First Reading

Isaiah, in the first reading, and Peter, in today’s Gospel, express their unworthiness to be in the presence of God’s great holiness, and Peter and Isaiah both immediately receive reassurance and their Divine calls.


Additional insights on the Gospel from Fr. Tony

In the late eighth century BC, God’s people in the Promised Land had become divided into a northern kingdom, Israel, and a southern kingdom, Judah. Among outside hostile forces, Assyria was the dominant power in the region. A fourth nation, Syria, was also vying for power, and trying to recruit Israel to support its ambitions. The kings of Israel and Judah started cooperating in political schemes to ensure their nations’ safety, instead of relying faithfully on the Lord God to sustain them. This was the situation in which Isaiah received God’s mission to speak God’s word to the kings and people of Judah and Israel. Yahweh permitted Isaiah to experience His magnificence in a vision in the Temple of Jerusalem. Experiencing the glory of God, Isaiah at once confessed his unworthiness, calling out, “Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips.” In the presence of God’s holiness, Isaiah became painfully aware of his own sinful human nature. However, when cleansed by God, he was ready for His ministry: “Here I am. Send me!” God gave him the courage to speak His word, interpret His will, and call His people and their leaders to repent and return to God’s ways. “Today’s scene from Isaiah is recalled in every Mass. Before reading the Gospel, the priest silently asks God to cleanse his lips that he might worthily proclaim His Word.” (Scott Hahn).

Responsorial Psalm

Today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 138) offers a prayer of gratitude for just such a calling. For, it was by giving these three men a strong conviction of their unworthiness and of their need for total dependence on His grace that God prepared them for their missions.

Second Reading

Today’s second reading describes the call of another great apostle, Paul, who judges himself to be unworthy of the name or the call, as he was a former persecutor of the Christians and as he was last apostle selected by the Risen Lord.


Additional insights on the Gospel from Fr. Tony

Some Corinthian Christians questioned Paul’s authority and disputed the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. Paul silenced them by presenting the evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus. Then he recounted the story of how he had been chosen to be an apostle to the Gentiles by the Risen Lord who appeared to him on his trip to Damascus. But Paul confessed his unworthiness to be an apostle because of his former persecution of Christians and gave the full credit to God for his call to the ministry: “By the grace of God I am what I am.” That is, it was only by the grace of God that Paul was claiming the designation of “apostle” and only by that authority that he proclaimed the Gospel, toiling harder than the other apostles. He reminded the Corinthians that he had already passed on to them the traditional confession of Faith about Jesus’ death and Resurrection, which he had received personally from Christ Himself. Hence, the Corinthians should not doubt his teaching about the resurrection, lest they forfeit salvation and wind up having believed in vain. A real Faith not only accepts the content of God’s message but involves a total surrender of oneself and all one has into God’s hands. Our response to God’s grace must be like that of Paul.


It was the miraculous catch of fish at Jesus’ command, described in today’s Gospel, which enabled Peter to find God in Jesus and prompted him to surrender his life fully to Jesus’ service as a full-time disciple. The Second Vatican Council teaches that we are all called to Christ’s ministry by virtue of our Baptism into Jesus Christ.


Additional insights on the Gospel from Fr. Tony

Epiphany on the sea: The story of the miraculous catch of fish described in today’s Gospel is similar to the post-Resurrection appearance of Jesus recounted in John 21:4-14. In both accounts, the apostles at first fail to recognize who Jesus is, then receive a revelation of his true identity. This prompts a full confession of Faith from Simon Peter to which Jesus responds by commissioning him as the representative of the disciples. In this sense, both narratives are Epiphanies in which Jesus reveals himself to the world as the Messiah —for Jesus does what only God can do. The point of this story lies, not in the miraculous catch, but in the confession of Peter and his commissioning by Jesus.

The fishermen and fishing: The scene is the Sea of Galilee (Gennesaretin Greekand Tiberiasin Latin). This body of water is thirteen miles long and seven and a half mile wide. In Jesus’ time, there were ten prosperous towns situated around the lake. Most of the people residing in them made their living from the waters in front of them. Thus, one gets the idea of how rich the lake was in fish. The Sea of Galilee was the site of many manifestations of Jesus’ Divine power. In the incident in today’s Gospel, Jesus preached from Peter’s boat to a large crowd, jammed together at the edge of the water. When the teaching had ended, Jesus told Peter to pull out into deeper water for a catch of fish. In matters of fishing, Peter was an expert, while Jesus was only a carpenter. Hence Peter, perhaps not wanting Jesus to look foolish, explained, “Master, we have worked hard all night long, caught nothing.” Peter might have added that fish come to the surface in the Sea of Galilee only at night, or that the presence and noise of people would frighten the remaining fish away. Instead, he said, “Nevertheless, if you wish it, I will lower the nets.”

Hope against hope: That declaration of trust was what made the miracle that followed possible. We may assume that Jesus smiled a little, indicating that he understood Peter’s point and still wanted the fisherman to take the boat out into deeper water. So, Peter obeyed. This time, however, instead of pulling up an empty net, Peter and Andrew found the net was filled to bursting point, and they had to ask the help of their partners, Zebedee’s sons, James and John, to help them bring in the catch. Simon Peter understood the message very quickly. Confronted by the size of the catch, he recognized the presence of God before him and became convinced of his own pride and self-centeredness, that is, of his sinfulness. We find the same response in all three readings today. Isaiah, seeing the glory of God in his vision, says, “What a wretched state I am in! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips… and my eyes have looked at the King, the Lord of hosts.” Paul, not particularly known for his modesty, says, “I am the least of the apostles… I hardly deserve the name apostle.” Peter begs Jesus to go away. His simple confession —“Leave me Lord. I am a sinful man.” In each instance, the recognition of unworthiness marks a turning point in the speaker’s life and becomes the model for our own response to Jesus. With Peter, Jesus seized this opportunity to proclaim the fisherman’s mission (a mission that included the rest of the disciples), a call Peter was able to receive because he had seen the tremendous power of God. Thus, Peter became the first person in the Gospel to acknowledge his sinfulness. He is also the first apostle to be called by Jesus. Today’s Gospel concludes with an inspiring image of commitment which all present: “When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him” (Lk 5:11).

The abundance miracle: The miraculous catch of fish is a miracle of abundance and resembles other “abundance” miracles — such as the sending of manna to Israel in the wilderness (Ex 16); the widow’s never-empty meal jar and oil jug (1 Kgs 17:8-16); the extension of a one-day supply of oil for the lamps to light them for the full eight-days of the Temple’s rededication ceremony (2 Kgs 4:1-7); and Elisha’s feeding of a hundred men with twenty loaves of bread (2 Kgs 4:42-44). Later in this same Gospel, we will see Jesus feeding five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish (9:12-17). The Gospel of John reports another abundance miracle, the wine (160-180 gallons!) Jesus supplied at the wedding in Cana (John 2:1-11). All these “abundance” miracles have two common characteristics: (1) they meet human needs and (2) they demonstrate God’s power. The spiritual outcome of this particular miracle was that the disciples, “left everything and followed [Jesus]” (v. 11).

Dimensions of discipleship: The Gospel reading today displays the three dimensions of discipleship: (1) the recognition of the power of Jesus, (2) the response of confession, and (3) the assurance of success when we follow God’s word. Peter’s commission is one which is repeated often in the New Testament (Lk 9:20, 22:32; Jn 21:1ff; Mt 16:16ff). Peter and the other disciples were given the privilege of sharing in Christ’s work of gathering people to God. As they shared in gathering the fish, so now they would share in gathering “lost” human beings. Simon’s response was similar to the responses made in Old Testament human encounters with God. As he stood before the burning bush, Moses confessed his disqualifications for leadership, particularly his inability to speak well. (Ex 3:11-4:17, esp. 4:10). Later in the Bible, when God came to Solomon in a dream, Solomon declared that he was not wise enough to govern God’s people and asked for an “understanding heart” (1 Kgs 3:7-9). Likewise, when God called Jeremiah, the prophet recognized the inadequacy of his youth to take on this mission (Jer 1:6).

Who are called as the fishers of men? It is not true that Christ’s invitation to become “fishers of men” is addressed only to the apostles and their successors (the bishops together with the priests and religious). Every Christian is commissioned to a ministry of love and justice by virtue of his/her Baptism. One of the documents of Vatican II, Lumen Gentium (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church ), in paragraph no. 31 describes all of us very clearly as, “the faithful who by Baptism are incorporated into Christ’s Body and are placed in the people of God and in their own way share the priestly, prophetic, and kingly office of Christ and, to the best of their ability, carry on the mission of the whole Christian people in the Church and in the world.” In addition to this, Vatican II’s Apostolicam Actuositatem (The Apostolate of the Laity), no. 3 says, “Incorporated into Christ’s Body through Baptism and strengthened by the power of the Holy Spirit through Confirmation, the laity are assigned to the apostolate by the Lord Himself.” It is even stated that where lay involvement is lacking, “the apostolate of the pastors will frequently be unable to obtain its full effect; where lay responsibility is absent, the Church is incomplete,” (Apostolicam Actousitatem nos. 10, 21, PCP II).

Life messages


1) We need to pray that our encounters with the holiness of God may lead us to recognize our sinfulness and accept His call.

God, who calls us and commissions us for His service, wants us to realize His presence everywhere and in everyone, to repent of our sins, and to remain in readiness to speak and act for Him in our life circumstances, as He shall direct us through His grace and His Holy Spirit.

2) We need to teach and practice expressions of reverence for the Lord. 

We need to express our reverence for God through appropriate bodily gestures. For example, when we come into Church, we need to show reverence for Jesus’ presence in the Tabernacle by making a deep bow or by genuflecting and blessing ourselves with sign of the cross. Then we need to honor Him by listening to the word of God and by actively participating in the liturgy’s prayers and singing. This same sense of reverence can be expressed by keeping the Bible, God’s living word to us, in a prominent place in our homes and by kissing it each time we read from it. True reverence for God naturally leads us to reverent, respectful love of our neighbors, as God dwells in them.

3) We need to remember that each of us has a unique mission in the Church.

This is why God has a different call for each of us. Each of us is unique, so each of us has a mission which no one else can fulfill. Let us accomplish this mission as parents, priests, religious, and lay persons by radiating the love, mercy, and forgiveness of Jesus and by participating in the various ministries of our parish.


Additional insights on the Gospel from Fr. Tony

1) We need to pray that our encounters with the holiness of God may lead us to recognize our sinfulness.

The Good News of today’s Gospel is that our sinfulness — our pride and self-centeredness – does not repel God. Our God is a God Who gives sinners a new start. It is important that we acknowledge our sinfulness. Our response must be modeled on that of the tax collector in the parable: “Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner” (Lk 18:13). The recognition of our inadequacy and sin is necessary for us, if we are to be willing and able to receive transformation through God’s grace. Isaiah, Paul, and Peter teach us that even the greatest person among us stands in need of conversion. God, Who calls us and commissions us for His service, wants us to realize His presence everywhere and in everyone, to repent of our sins, and to remain in readiness to speak and act for Him in our life-circumstances as He shall direct.

2) We need to teach and practice expressions of reverence for the Lord.

Today’s world desperately needs a “revival of reverence.” We need both to recognize God as God and to express that reverence for God through appropriate bodily gestures. For example, when we come into Church, we enter the presence of Jesus dwelling in the Tabernacle. We need to remember that this is His house, a part of Heaven, and we need to express that remembrance by making a deep bow toward Jesus, present in the Tabernacle, or, if we are able to kneel, by genuflecting on the right knee before we enter the pew. We should offer him the same reverent recognition when we leave the Church and Jesus’ Sacramental Presence. We might also remember to give a slight bow of the head whenever we hear, or say, the name of Jesus. The new regulation of bowing one’s head before receiving Communion is another beautiful act of reverence. This same sense of reverence can be expressed by keeping the Bible, God’s living word to us, in a prominent place in our homes and by kissing it each time we read from it. True reverence for God naturally leads us to the reverent, respectful love of neighbor. St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) loved people because she saw Jesus in them. That was the same Jesus Whom she reverenced and experienced in the Holy Eucharist. We, too, will have many opportunities for daily experiences of Christ. So the heart of our mission as Christians is really to find Jesus hidden in our neighbors, and to accept his challenge to us – to love him, to have compassion on him, to practice justice toward him, to be kind to him there. Then it becomes easier for us to forgive injury as Jesus did, and to be reconciled to those with whom we have difficulties. Thus, our mission as Jesus’ disciples is to seek, to find, and to respond to him in all people and events.

3) Each of us has a unique mission in the Church.

God has a different call for each of us. Because each of us is unique, each of us has a mission which no one else can fulfill. God will use all of us, and particularly what is unique in us, to bring this mission to fulfillment. Our response must be like that of Isaiah: “Here I am, Lord…send me.” — “I’ll do it. I’ll play my part. I’ll speak to that neighbor, that coworker, that friend, that relative. I’ll talk to my daughter about the way she is rearing her children. I’ll keep my mouth shut and refuse to gossip or criticize my co-workers or my bosses. I’ll pray every day. I’ll learn to listen patiently to those in need. With Your help, I’ll do it.”

End of homily

Jokes of the Week

At the end of Mass, some priests like to offer a joke to their parishioners. Please be sensitive though to particular circumstances or concerns. Some Jokes may not be suitable for particular times, placeS, OR CONGREGATIONS. 


1) Catching fish from the shop: A man had spent fruitless day fishing. He didn’t want to go home empty-handed. He decided to stop at a local fish market. “I’d like three good sized fish,” he said to the clerk. “But before you wrap them, toss them to me, one by one.” The clerk looked puzzled at his request, “Sir? That’s a strange thing to ask.” Smiling the man said, “This way I’ll be able to tell my wife truthfully that I caught them!”

2) “I am a fisher of men.” The Reverend Dr. McStuffed-Shirt encountered one of his less-than-faithful parishioners returning from a day’s fishing and engaged him in conversation. “Ah, Brother Jones,” he began in his best preaching tone, “You are a fine fisherman, but I am a fisher of men.” Jones, determined to get home after a long day, replied, “So I have heard. But I was passing your Church last Sunday, looked in the window, and noticed you had not caught too many…”

3) Priest Plays Hooky:The pastor was a fisherman, but he hadn’t fished in months. One perfect Sunday morning he couldn’t resist. He called up his associate priest and claimed he had laryngitis. The priest then headed out to his favorite spot. The hook hadn’t been in the water five minutes before he got a strike and landed the biggest fish he had ever caught – although he had seen bigger ones caught by others. A half hour later, he caught the biggest fish he had ever seen. Another forty-five minutes later he landed a fish that broke the world record. All this time St. Peter and God have been watching the priest from Heaven. St. Peter turns to God, and says, “How can you reward this priest? He lied. He doesn’t observe the Sunday obligation.” — God smiled at St. Peter, and replied, “I am punishing him.” St. Peter was confused, so God continued, “Well, after he finishes, to whom can he tell his story?”

4) Walking on water: Three ministers were out in a boat on a lake fishing one fine afternoon, a Protestant minister, an Episcopalian priest and a newly-arrived Catholic priest. They were sitting out in the middle of the lake and the Protestant minister said he had to relieve himself, so he got out of the boat and walked across the water to shore, relieved himself behind a tree. Then walked back to the boat. The Episcopalian priest did the same thing. The Catholic priest thought to himself, if they can do it, so can I. So, he stepped out of the boat and started sinking. After saving him and bringing him back on the boat one minister commented: “We should have told him where the rocks are under the water!”

Fr. Tony started his homily ministry (Scriptural Homilies) in 2003 while he was the chaplain at Sacred Heart residence, applying his scientific methodology to the homily ministry. By word of mouth, it spread to hundreds of priests and Deacons, finally reaching Vatican Radio website (http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html). Fr. Tony’s homilies reach nearly 3000 priests and Deacons by direct email every week.

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