Sunday Scripture Readings

Fifth Sunday in ordinary time, February 8 Isaiah 6:1-2, 3-8; Psalm 138; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Luke 5:1-11 OUR GOOD NEWS: What it means to be called by God. In Luke’s usage (Gospel), "crowd" normally designates Jews well disposed to Jesus’ Good News. Here they "press about Jesus," eagerly "listening to the word of God." In Luke’s Acts of the Apostles, "the word of God" refers to the Christian message preached by the apostles. By using the same phrase here, Luke shows how intimately the Church’s proclamation is rooted in Jesus’ own preaching. God’s deliberate plan was at work from the beginning, when Jesus freely chose Simon’s from the two boats available. His concern was that the audience hear without being trampled. Afterward He commanded Simon (as captain) to "put out" (singular) "into deep water," then ordered the crew to "lower your (plural) nets." Simon acknowledged Jesus as possessing authority, addressing Him as "Master" and therefore to be obeyed. Significantly, in Luke, this title is used of Jesus only by His followers or disciples. The resulting miraculous catch of fish is highlighted by details, which emphasize its greatness as well as the power of Jesus’ word. The fishermen’s workday was over; no fish were to be caught at this time (they had "disembarked" and were "washing nets"). The enormous quantity of catch was dramatically evident — their "nets were on the point of breaking," "the boats almost sinking." All this serves only as background for Peter’s call. Like Isaiah in today’s first reading, Peter experienced a personal and direct encounter with God. Similar, too, his response: a deep sense of personal sinfulness that caused Peter to classify himself with publicans as "sinful men." Jesus however neutralized Simon’s paralyzing fear before the divine presence by an implicit offer of forgiveness, followed by formal command to discipleship. Isaiah too was forgiven but had been allowed — was expected — to volunteer. The two calls taken together thus preserve both divine omnipotence and human self-determination. Having encountered the mighty power of the Spirit at work in the Master, Simon however let himself be summoned to a unique role among the earliest followers. He was first: the first Galilean to witness Jesus’ miraculous power, the first called to "catching human beings" (literally "taking human beings alive"); and the first witness to the risen Christ (Lk 24:34; Acts 2:14-40). Peter is thus the first/premier missionary, through whom others are gathered as followers of Jesus into God’s Kingdom, where they can be saved from death and preserved for fullness of life. The miraculous catch of fish foreshadowed Peter’s apostolic success; his personal commission as catcher-rescuer established his leadership among the disciples. Peter immediately assumed the role. Because of his own experience and example, "the others" likewise "left everything and followed Jesus." This same experience is shared, with adaptations, by everyone of us as Christians, since each of us is called ("vocation") in personal encounter with God and sent as apostles bringing Christ to others. Peter is our model and our support throughout life and into eternity.

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