Hitting Bottom

(February 10, 2019)

Bottom line: When we hit bottom, we can hear Jesus say, "Do not be afraid." Amen.

Today we hear about three men who hit bottom, who recognized their radical unworthiness. Isaiah says, "Woe to me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips." Paul says, "I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle..." And Peter says, "Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man."

These men are not practicing false modesty. No, they are looking reality straight in the eye. They realize the gulf between God and man. The distance between us and God is great than the distance between us and a worm. The worm, after all, can get along just fine without us. Our dependence upon God, however, is total and ongoing. We would neither have come into existence nor be sustained for an instant without him.

Our existence depends totally on God. Nevertheless we want to set ourselves up as little gods. Last week the Nazarenes gave an archetypal example. In their native son, Jesus, they have the greatest treasure ever, but when he began to reveal his true status, they wanted to hurl him from a cliff (Lk 4:29). Likewise we react when Jesus infringes on what we consider ours - my time, my money, my body.

Like Isaiah and Peter we sometimes want to run away and hide from God. The resulting emptiness and fear can lead a person to contemplate suicide.

I once heard about man who hit bottom. The date was October 16, 1978 and this weary man sat in a Roman hotel. He had made a mess of things and was convinced his life was worthless. On the table he placed a small pile of pills and a glass of whiskey. In the background a radio played with news of the papal election. A staccato Slavic voice said, "Non Avete Paura - Do not be afraid." Hearing those words, something lifted in his heart. He swept the pills in a waste basket and poured the whiskey down the sink.

The man hit bottom but he started back up. To come to Jesus you and I in some sense need to hit bottom. God forbid that we should contemplate suicide. There's a better way to "hit bottom". Try meditating on Isaiah, Paul or Peter - and hear their cries of anguish. Then recognize we are surrounded by people in desperate situations: the homeless, the terminally ill, people whose lives are falling apart. Consider that your life will eventually unravel. You might seem secure now, but dear brother and beautiful sister, your world will come apart.

When we hit bottom, we can hear Jesus say, "Do not be afraid." Now is the time to come to Jesus, admit to him our uncleanness, our sin. We can then learn from Paul who said he was "not fit to be called an apostle" because he persecuted the church of God. The movie Paul Apostle of Christ shows him in a Roman prison having flashbacks about hunting down innocent men, women and children. Those shameful memories bring him low, but Jesus lifts him: "by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective." Then with honest pride he adds. "I have toiled harder than all of them; not I, however, but the grace of God that is with me." Amen


Spanish Version

From Archives (Homilies for Fifth Sunday, Year C):

2016: New Beginning: Nowhere to Go But Up
2013: Like Fresh Walnuts
2010: Cleanse My Lips
2007: Before the Grandeur of God
2004: Not Worthy
2001: Do Not Be Afraid
1998: Unclean Lips

Other Homilies

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

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Take the Plunge Bible Study (audio resources)

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Fr. Frank Schuster
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Fr. Michael White
Fr Pat Freitag (and deacons of St. Monica)
Bishop Robert Barron

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