On May 12, the priests of our diocese gathered for liturgy and lunch in honor of those celebrating 25th- and 50th-anniversary jubilees. The readings were Isaiah 6: 1-8, 1 Corinthians 15: 1-11 and Luke 5: 1-11. The following is my homily on that occasion:
With thanks to Mike Bausch and the great people of the parish, we gather at Church of the Transfiguration today to praise and thank God for the gift of priesthood.
It is a good and holy thing to do — especially at a time of jubilee. Jubilee offers a privileged moment to remember God’s trust, fidelity and tender mercy. Jubilee is a time for healing and recovery from the bumps and bruises that are part of every disciple’s journey of faith.
Jubilee is also an occasion for a fresh start, for re-conversion and new insight into the experience amassed over years. Jubilee is a time for the renewal of the deep relationships in our lives — with our God, with those with whom we share the journey and with our own hearts. Most of all, it is a time of praise and thanksgiving. Why? Because the special grace of jubilee is a fresh awareness of where we started, of what has transpired along the way and of where we are now.
The particulars will be different for each one — each has his own name, a personal history different from any other, lived in a distinct set of circumstances.
But it’s likely that we can all identify with the theme that runs through our readings today: our own reluctance, our own sin, our own inadequacy touched and transformed by God’s mercy and love for our own good and for the good of others. And, all of this not because we deserved it, but simply because God is generous beyond our imaginings.
Isaiah was right, wasn’t he? “Woe is me. I am doomed — unclean among an unclean people”. Of course he was right. But, touched by God — purified — he confidently asked God “send me” and held up a saving vision for the people.
That is a moment that we, and all disciples of the Lord, can identify with. A feeling of reluctance vis-√†-vis the holiness of our call. And, it comes not just at the moment of initial decision. It runs through our experience. How can I presume to console a person so much more wise or strong or holy or faithful than I am?
And we know, like Isaiah, that if we stand with the other in faith, and speak out of our friendship with Christ, the Lord will touch us both.
Paul is most encouraging when he comments on his call to be an apostle. “I am the least of all,” he says, “not fit for this at all because I persecuted the Church of God.” To this observation that he is a sinner, he adds the notion of grace: “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.” Graced sinners, dear friends, that’s what we are. Jubilee is a time really to appreciate what that means.
And don’t we identify easily and deeply with our brothers, the hard-working, worn-out fishermen of the Gospel story? “I’ve worked all night. Had no luck at all. I’m totally spent — and you want me to go out again? Well, all right, if that’s what you want, that’s what I’ll do.”
Every disciple of the Lord here knows what that’s like. Every person in this church this morning has found herself or himself at the edge of their strength, their ability, their endurance — and then heard the voice of the Lord asking for just one, last, small push.
Jubilee is a time to remember that precious presence of God’s strength. The memory brings us the continued nourishment of graced experience and strengthens our hope about what is to come.
Yes, jubilee is very important: It gives perspective to the years. It heals, restores and enlivens. It reminds us that we are graced and loved and deeply respected by the God who gives us life and continually reconciles us.
Jubilee strengthens us for the future. How much time do we have left? Not a worry. Jubilee reminds us that every moment belongs to God. Every moment — deep down where life is centered — is jubilee.
Peace to all.