Called to be Children of Light
Thursday Sept. 4, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Colossians 1:9-14) Gospel (St. Luke 5:1-11)
In the Gospel reading today, Our Lord, after preaching the Gospel to the people, tells Peter to lower his nets. When Peter sees the catch of fish that he had made at the Lord’s command, he falls at Our Lord’s knees (an odd statement, except that the boat would be completely full of fish to about the level of His knees, which is why it would say that) and says to Our Lord, “Leave me for I am a sinful man.” The humility of Peter in this case to be able to recognize his unworthiness to be in the presence of the Lord had nothing to do with the fish, but rather we are told it was the astonishment Peter felt at the catch he had made. Knowing what had happened and Who was responsible for this, he understood (in a generic way, at least) Who the Lord was and that this was quite a miraculous catch. And as soon as they bring the boat back in, they leave everything and follow the Lord.
Now we can look at our own circumstances and see that the Lord has certainly done some wonderful things in our lives. We can ask ourselves, number one, “What has been our response? Have we been astonished when we have seen the goodness of the Lord?” Astonished, not in the sense of disbelief, but astonished in the sense that the Lord would love us so much. And then, “Do we have the humility like Saint Peter to recognize our own sinfulness, to recognize that by ourselves we have no business being in the presence of One so holy?” It is only by His grace that we are able to do so. And so like Peter, He says, “From now on you will be catching men.” So Peter goes off to become a follower of Christ and to evangelize others.
For each one of us, we have to look at what the people of Colossae were doing and what Saint Paul is praying for them because it is precisely the same for us who have been taken out of darkness and brought into the kingdom of light. We know that is what has happened. I do not think any of us here could say we were living such a grand life that the Lord picked us because we were the best He could find. We know better than that. We were headlong into the kingdom of darkness, swimming in it, drowning in it, literally. And the Lord in His mercy plucked us out of that pool of filth and He brought us into His kingdom of light.
So listen again to what Saint Paul prays for the people of Colossae because it is exactly what he is praying for us. He says that he prays that “you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s Will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, so as to be fully pleasing, in every good work bearing fruit and growing in the knowledge of God, strengthened with every power, in accord with His glorious might, for all endurance and patience, with joy giving thanks to the Father, Who has made you fit to share in the inheritance of the holy ones in light.” That is what the Lord desires for each of us. Since we have been called out of this darkness, we have been redeemed, and our sins have been forgiven, as Saint Paul tells the Colossians, then our response has to be to seek the Will of God, to seek to walk in the light, to seek the wisdom and understanding, to know what God wants for each one of us, and then to be fully pleasing and bearing fruit in every good work, so that we can grow in the knowledge of God, and that we will have endurance and patience and strength that can only come from the Lord.
When we recognize what the Lord has done for us then we need to follow up. It is not enough to be able to say, “It was nice of You to pull me out of the pool of garbage that I was swimming in,” but rather it is to be able to say, “Now that I have been plucked from this cesspool that I had thrown myself into, I need to get cleaned up and I need to live according to the way of the Lord. I need to seek His Will. I need to follow Him. I need to bring His Gospel message to other people.” That is what the Lord is seeking for each one of us. Just as Peter recognized his own sinfulness, his own unworthiness, so too do we. Just as Saint Paul recognized his, and the people of Colossae would recognize their own unworthiness, so must we.
Yet rather than sitting in a pile and saying, “Oh, I’m just no-good and I’m unworthy,” look at what Saint Paul talks about for these people: that they would have an inheritance with the holy ones in light. It is that balance again. We do not want to keep defining ourselves by what we used to be. We do not want to just sit around and feel sorry for ourselves and think that because we are sinful and unworthy that therefore we are worthless and we cannot do anything – by ourselves, that is true enough; but with God’s help it is not – but rather to recognize what Jesus has made of us and who He has called us to be: members of His own body, persons who have been plucked out of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of light. Now we must live no longer as children of darkness but truly as children of the light.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.