5th Sunday of Ordinary Time-Cycle C-2019
FIRST READING Isaiah 6:1-2a, 3-8
In the year King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, with the train of his garment filling the temple. Seraphim were stationed above. They cried one to the other, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts! All the earth is filled with his glory!” At the sound of that cry, the frame of the door shook and the house was filled with smoke. Then I said, “Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” Then one of the seraphim flew to me, holding an ember that he had taken with tongs from the altar. He touched my mouth with it, and said, “See, now that this has touched your lips, your wickedness is removed, your sin purged.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” “Here I am,” I said; “send me!”
SECOND READING 1 Corinthians 15:1-11
I am reminding you, brothers and sisters, of the gospel I preached to you, which you indeed received and in which you also stand. Through it you are also being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures; that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures; that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. After that, Christ appeared to more than five hundred brothers at once, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. After that he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one born abnormally, he appeared to me. For I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective. Indeed, I have toiled harder than all of them; not I, however, but the grace of God that is with me. Therefore, whether it be I or they, so we preach and so you believed.
GOSPEL Luke 5:1-11
While the crowd was pressing in on Jesus and listening to the word of God, he was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret. He saw two boats there alongside the lake; the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, he asked him to put out a short distance from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Simon said in reply, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.” When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come to help them. They came and filled both boats so that the boats were in danger of sinking. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him and all those with him, and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners of Simon. Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him.
My sisters and brothers in Christ,
Jesus calls people to follow Him– and we also recognize that He is calling us. The call of the Lord comes in many ways: through dramatic inner visions as in the call of Isaiah or through the simple actions that we hear in the Gospel today–which are still miraculous–or through the preaching of others as we hear in the second reading, from the First Letter to the Corinthians. The call of God to his people is persistent and perennial.
Jack London wrote about another compelling call in his 1903 novel The Call of the Wild. Multiple film adaptations of the book follow the adventures of a dog, Buck, that is kidnapped and then brought north to Canada to be exploited as a sled dog. Buck is loyal and heeds the call of his final kind and trustworthy owner, John Thornton. But, ultimately, Buck follows the call of his primordial instinct and learned experience as a sled dog to emerge as a leader in the wild among a pack of wolves. Calls are powerful in animals and humans. Within the monastery monks discern calls, too, and understand that the most awesome call is the one from God.
The Prophet Isaiah describes how God touched his mouth. The call of this prophet begins with a heavenly liturgy. It is not clear whether this is an inner vision of Isaiah or a strong dream or some other way of perceiving the reality. On the other hand, it is clear that Isaiah takes it as God reaching into his personal life and cleansing him so that he can proclaim God’s word to others. Because of this awareness of being cleansed and purified, Isaiah feels that he can be a mouthpiece to be sent by the Lord to His People.
We can note three things about this Divine call: it comes from God, there is a purification and cleansing, and, finally, there is a willingness on the part of the one who is called to respond with assent.
Saint Paul in his First Letter to the Corinthians speaks about his personal call to serve the Lord. It also comes directly from God (Even knocking him to the ground!), it purifies him (making him aware of God’s plans in a way he had never thought of before) and Paul becomes willing to follow the Lord. To this is added: “For I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective.
We can sometimes feel unworthy of the call from God, but that’s okay! When a person becomes keenly aware of his utter dependence on God, his unworthiness, and God’s infinite mercy, he is on a holy path to a greater intimacy with the source of his life. God called and continues to call some unworthy characters: King David, Mary Magdalene, the penitent thief at Our Lord’s Crucifixion, Dismas, you, and me. Doesn’t this give us all hope for our salvation, the ultimate reunion with God the Father? Or, do you doubt the call?
Peter doubts the words of Jesus commanding him to drop his nets, but, nonetheless, does Jesus’ bidding. It is because Peter obeys that he discovers the presence of God, is humbled, and then follows Jesus. James and John seem to display little resistance to the call of Our Lord.
We are called by our baptism to follow the Lord. We are purified, regularly in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. And, yes, we will have doubts. But, in obedience to the Word, we can encounter the Living God.