Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Book of Isaiah is the source of the first reading this weekend. Written before the Babylonian conquest, this prophecy was composed when, relatively speaking, and with some qualification, the southern kingdom of the Hebrews was tranquil and prosperous.
Nevertheless, Isaiah felt that he was called by God to confront the people about their infidelity to God, or at least their lukewarmness in responding to their role as God’s special people. The story, told in this reading, conveys by its drama and bluntness the totality required in Isaiah’s willingness to answer the divine calling to be a prophet.
Here in this reading, Isaiah displayed the fervor and power that are typical of the writing in all three sections of this ancient book.
Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians provides the next reading. Paul recalled the death of Jesus and then the Lord’s resurrection, giving the details that Peter, whom Paul calls “Cephas”, using the Greek term, saw Jesus after the Resurrection, that James saw Jesus, and that even 500 of those who believed in the Gospel saw the risen Lord.
The reading is also autobiographical. Paul declared that he himself is an Apostle, having been called by the Lord, however, he called himself “least” among the Apostles, since he, unlike the others, once persecuted Christ living in the community of Christians.
Still, God called him. Unrestrained by this sense of personal unworthiness, Paul wholeheartedly responded to this calling. He was God’s instrument. Through him, God worked the plan of redemption and mercy.
St. Luke’s Gospel supplies the last reading. This passage shows the fine literary hand at work in the composition of the Gospel of Luke, and by extension the other Gospels. Here Luke uses the Gospel of Mark as a source, but then he adds details drawn from a source also apparently known to John.
Of course, Jesus is the central figure in the story. The next most important figure is Peter. A fisherman, along with his brother, Andrew, both destined to be great Apostles, both evidently living in Capernaum, Peter was in his boat on the Sea of Galilee when Jesus embarked. The Lord began to preach to the people assembled on the shore.
Then Jesus told Peter to row into deeper water and lower the nets into the water. Peter mildly protested, saying that he and his associates had fished all night, but with no success.
Nonetheless, Peter did as he was told. The nets were so filled with fish that Peter and his companions had difficulty in pulling the nets aboard.
Humbly, aware of the Lord’s power, Peter confessed his own sinfulness. Jesus swept beyond this admission, recognizing Peter’s faith instead, and called Peter thereafter to fish for souls.
For weeks since Christmas, the Church has been introducing us, as it were, to Jesus. The great feasts of the Epiphany and of the Baptism of the Lord told us about Jesus.
Now, subtly but firmly, the Church urges us to respond to this entry of Jesus into our consciousness. How shall we respond?
The Church answers the question by putting before us three great figures in the tradition of holiness, Isaiah, Paul, and then finally Peter.
Each reveals his unworthiness to be a part of the great and divine mission of salvation. Yet, fully realizing this unworthiness, God called them each to a particular task.
Each person who hears the word of Christ and is healed and strengthened by Christ’s life in grace, has a holy task. Each believer, each of us, has a role to play in the work of salvation, beginning with personal salvation. Everyone is unworthy and weak.
Nevertheless, God calls us and promises us that all that truly is needed is to be a disciple.
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