February 10, 2019
5th Sunday – C
Movies have a technique known as “flashbacks,” in which the movie shows an incident from an earlier stage in the person’s life. Movies also may jump from one stage of life to another. St. Luke’s Gospel has a somewhat similar technique in that he moves scenes in the life of Jesus around somewhat. A couple of Sundays ago we hear about Jesus beginning his ministry in Galilee in his home town of Nazareth, while other Gospels have this incident happening later in his ministry. Today’s reading from the Gospel of Luke has Jesus beginning his preaching in Galilee before he calls his first disciples, while the other Gospels have Jesus calling his first disciples and then beginning his public ministry in Galilee. Also, today’s Gospel reading has Simon Peter making a big catch of fish, an incident which takes place after his Resurrection in the Gospel of John. However, St. Luke’s account shows us some important things about Jesus calling his disciples and his call to us. First of all, the call can be surprising and happen in an unusual way. Secondly, the one called may feel (and be) unworthy, but the person can be helped by the grace of God to answer the call. Thirdly, the person must answer the call and be willing to leave everything else behind.
Our readings today look at the call of important people in the history of salvation. There were surprises involved in these calls. The first reading involves the call of the prophet Isaiah, who lived mainly in the 8th century before Christ. As a young man, Isaiah had a vision of the Lord in the temple in Jerusalem. The seraphim (angels) cried out, and the building was filled with smoke. Isaiah heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?”
Isaiah said, “Here I am. Send me.” It is unusual to have such a dramatic call. St. Paul in the second reading today from the First Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians makes his reference to his own call, which was very unusual. He had been persecuting the early Church when the Lord Jesus appeared to him near Damascus in Syria. St. Paul heard a voice from heaven saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Paul was taken into Damascus, unable to see. A Christian disciple prayed with him, and Paul recovered his sight. Paul was then baptized and became an apostle. St. Paul received the tradition of the Church and passed it on to others and made many converts. Finally, we find Simon Peter and his companions fishing in the Lake of Gennesaret (the Sea of Galilee) without any success. Jesus got into the boat of Simon Peter and taught the crowds. He then told Simon Peter “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Simon Peter protested that they had caught nothing, but he obeyed the order of Jesus. Simon Peter and his companions then had a huge catch and filled two boats. Jesus tells him, “Do not be afraid, from now on you will be catching men.” Jesus calls in different ways, and his call may come as a surprise. Yet, his call is genuine and can lead to good results.
But when we are called, we may feel unworthy of God’s call. However, God can give us the grace that is needed to answer that call. Isaiah protested, “Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips.” But one of the seraphim flew to him, holding an ember that he had taken with tongs from the altar. He touched the mouth of Isaiah with it and said, “Your wickedness is removed, your sin is purged.” Isaiah was then prepared to respond to God’s call. St. Paul had been a persecutor of the Church, but he was baptized and received the Holy Spirit. St. Paul in our reading today says, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective.” When Simon Peter saw the large catch of fish, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” But Jesus called him to be the leader of the apostles and of the Church and forgave him when he fell short. We are to trust that the Lord will give us the grace needed to answer his call.
Lastly, those called by God answered that call and lived a new way of life. Isaiah became one of the most important prophets in the Old Testament and functioned as a prophet for many years. St. Paul left his former way of life as a Jewish Pharisee and became an active Christian apostle. He suffered in many ways, he endured beatings, imprisonment and shipwreck, but he eventually got to Rome and died as a martyr there. St. Luke tells us that Simon Peter and his companions (James and John, the sons of Zebedee) left everything and followed Jesus. Peter was the leader of the Church for many years and died as a martyr in Rome. We who are called by Jesus are to make whatever sacrifices are needed in order to answer our call. The Lord will provide for us.
Today we again give thanks that Jesus came to be our savior and that he calls us to be his disciples. Let us not be discouraged by our sins or unworthiness, but rather let us trust that the Lord will give us the grace that we need. May we be strengthened by the sacraments, especially the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, in which we receive the Body and Blood of Christ. We pray that we will be faithful disciples and that the Lord will help us to produce good fruit. We pray that we will someday experience the fullness of Christ’s kingdom in heaven.