Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time - Cycle C
1st Reading: Isaiah 6:1-2A, 3-8
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 138: 1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 7-8
2nd Reading: 1 Corinthians 15: 1-11
Gospel: Luke 5: 1-11
Each of today’s readings presents a clear and dramatic picture of God’s call and the response of complete commitment that call beings forth. In the first reading, Isaiah tells us of God’s call to him to be a prophet and his response. He describes how he is unworthy of the call, how he is cleansed and made worthy by God, and how because of this, he commits himself entirely to the work God sends him to do. In the second reading, Paul tells us of God’s call to him to be an apostle and his response. Like Isaiah, Paul also tells us that he is unworthy of the call, but because of God’s favor to him, he commits himself completely to the work God sends him to do. Again, in the gospel reading, Luke tells us of the call of Jesus to the first disciples, and especially to Peter, and his response. Like Isaiah and Paul, Peter declares his unworthiness; but Jesus explains to them what he has in mind for them, and because of this they commit themselves entirely to the work which God send them to do. The reason why these classic scripture stories of God’s call are each in the liturgy today is to bring home to us that we, too, are called by God, even if we feel unworthy.
When we read these stories, there is the danger of thinking that nothing wonderful and extraordinary like this ever happens to us, and so we must not be called by God like Isaiah and Paul and Peter. So, these Scripture stories tend to become just mysterious religious stories of the past. What we must understand is that sometimes the miraculous happens in us and through us and we are not always aware. Sometimes the transformation is so quiet and subtle we don’t even realize that we’ve been transformed and prepared for the work. And what is that work? It is the work of discipleship. That is, to hear the word of God and do it. To be aware in faith of what God calls us to do in the individual, concrete circumstance of our different ways of life. As married, as single, as priest, as politician, as business person, as farm worker, as teacher, as doctor, as lawyer, to hear the word of God and do it in whatever particular, specific way of life God, through our ordinary circumstances, calls us to……even if we feel unworthy and inadequate.
This series of readings always reminds me of a high school wrestling tournament I once attended. A typical varsity wrestling team consists of 14 wrestlers. That particular year, our team included 7 Freshmen, 1 Sophomore 5 Juniors and only 1 Senior. At one big match we were up against a tough team from Bret Harte High School that had nine seniors on the team ( (David and Goliath). We were obviously outmatched in experience. Our coaches had worked out every scoring scenario ahead of time and knew exactly what had to happen in order to beat this team. Everyone had to do their job no matter how small or insignificant. Some were asked to move up a weight class to better match up against the opponent’s lineup. Some were asked to pin their opponent in the first period. Some were told, “Just don’t get pinned.” Everyone played a part, and everyone had a job to do. It was up to the little guys to fulfill their individual responsibility to the team to get the overall victory. They had been prepared, practicing all season for this type of scenario. They had to trust their coaches’ decision where to put them in the lineup and that the planned strategy would work. They were called, no matter how inadequate they felt. They were asked to step up and “just do it.” Talk about a whole lot of faith, hope, and trust. In the end, the feat, which seemed insurmountable as an individual, was accomplished as a team.
It’s not difficult to envision Peter’s reaction to the miracle of catching so many fish, where just a few hours before there were none. Obviously, Jesus told them to lower the nets because he knew they would catch fish. He knew what the result would be. But put yourself in Peter’s sandals. If this man Jesus can see fish in deep water, plainly he can see what’s really inside of me; sin. The ultimate feeling of unworthiness. Every one of us has lived this gospel in our own lives, in our own relationship with the Lord. We’ve had the same conversation. Peter surely was an expert fisherman; he knew what he was doing. He knew what he was capable of, at least under his own power. All three characters in the readings from yesterday (Isaiah, Paul, and Simon Peter) had a typical reaction. First the whining about how unworthy they were. However, all three also had the same end reaction to the call; just do it.
We tend to volunteer for what we know we can accomplish readily. We receive callings all the time. Our natural reaction, our first step in discerning which ones we take up and which ones turn down is our evaluation of how successful we would be. However, it’s important to see God’s point of view. Or at least recognize that we might not be able to see from God’s point of view. Jesus called someone like Peter because he KNEW he could accomplish the mission. He was confident in Peter, even if Peter had no confidence at all. So it’s also important to realize that Jesus didn’t ask Peter to go out and catch a boat full of fish. All he asked was for Peter to lower his nets. God did the rest. We didn’t ask sponsors to be great spiritual leaders, guidance counselors, pillars of the community, an inspiration to all who know them and yet so often, this is precisely who they became. We just asked them to show up and be open to the Spirit. We didn’t ask the Candidates and Catechumen to come to RCIA to influence sponsors and team with their profound testimony; to witness to the Holy Spirit through their sharing of talents, stories and friendship; to feed a community whom they inspired every time they are dismissed from the 8:00 am mass; to inspire more profound faith in lifelong Catholics. And yet, it happened every single week. God was just asking us to show up and be open to the spirit.
Luke often precedes conversion with a miracle. I guess it would be easier to accept the call if you were first shown the possible fruits of your labor. But I’d be willing to guess that most of us are not called to leave everything; family, job, security, etc. Although we have to be willing to do it, few of us are called to leave everything behind. Most of us have simple callings. Most of the time, God’s just asking us to put out our net. Your success in your call is through Jesus alone.
1. What were some of the choices the fishermen were called to make?
2. How did their choices change their lives?
3. What choices have you been asked to make?
4. How did your choices change your lives?
5. When have you made a choice to follow Jesus?
6. Was it easy or was it difficult?