Theme: Send me
This week, we are invited to consider the spiritual astonishment of three of the great messengers of God, Isaiah, Paul and Peter. Each of the readings details the special call of these three men as a life-changing event. While considering their vocational experiences, we are challenged to examine our own personal calls to conversion and discipleship.
First reading: Isaiah 6:1-2, 3-8
Did Isaiah know what he was doing when he so casually acquiesced to God’s call by responding ‘Here I am, send me!’ With these words he accepted to be the minister of God’s word and bearer of unwelcome news to those resenting change. He was to act as a kind of father confessor, holding his people to a public accountability. He was to make known the specific of their sin: injustice, militarism, greed, aping the nations and reminding them of making the covenant a dead letter. He was to tell the other nations of God’s generous and passionate love for them. Isaiah’s vision of the holy One had its price; it would require the complete gift of self to a cause that by human reckoning appeared impossible. Like all the other prophets; Isaiah’s mission originated in God whose words he continued to speak, challenging the recalcitrant and comforting the contrite. Called by God in the year King Uzziah died around 742 B.C, Isaiah exercised his prophetic ministry for over forty years during which: 1. Syria allied with Israel to invade Judah; 2. Assyria conquered Israel; 3. Judah became a vassal of Assyria cf.2 Kings 16:7-9; 4. Egypt prompted Judah to revolt against Assyria with a promise of help; 5. the revolt during Hezekiah’s reign was crushed by Assyria causing Judah to suffer terribly cf.2 Kings 18:13-16.
Through all the political conflict, Isaiah remained a faithful champion of the word of God interpreting each tragedy as deserved punishment for sin thus calling for repentance. The controlling principle in what Isaiah taught was his conviction concerning the holiness and glorious power of God which he experienced at the time of his calling in the temple. ‘Holy One of Israel’ was the prophet’s favorite title for God whose glory did not merely abide in Jerusalem but filled the whole earth. Isaiah believed that human sin; particularly the sins of oppression and injustice against the weaker, poorer members of society which could only be reversed by being holy.
Second reading: 1Corinthians 15:1-11
The Corinthians had welcomed the Gospel but had difficult in believing the Resurrection. They were saying that after death, man disappears completely. Paul reacts to put this fundamental principal of Christian faith by insisting that without the resurrection, any other kind faith is in vain. Proclaiming the Faith means decreeing that Christ died for our sins; He was buried and on the third day He rose again. There are four explanations concerning the presence of the risen Lord. The first is the exaltation of Jesus Christ to the right hand of the Father, yet dynamically present in our world than when he walked the hills of Galilee. Second, all the mysteries of Jesus’ earthly history from the cradle to the grave have been mysteriously endowed in his glorified humanity. The third is the contemplation of Jesus’ earthly history related to the present. The forth is the faith oriented Jesus human history that believers are able to imitate in their daily lives.
Within less than thirty years after the resurrection, Paul had already arrived at such an appreciation of the truth about the abiding presence of the risen Lord clearly evident in his preaching that “Christ died for our sins in accord with the Scriptures; he was buried and, in accord with the Scriptures, rose on the third day” 1Corinthians 15:3-4. Like his Jewish colleagues, Paul believed that Jesus’ death and rising had been divinely planned and, that “the world received hints about it hundreds of years ahead of time” Psalm 16:8. Scriptures were not the only witnesses to the resurrection; Paul also drew upon the testimonies of hundreds of eyewitnesses leading to six manifestations of the risen Christ: 1-Jesus appeared to Peter. 2- to the twelve. 3- More than five hundred brethren. 4- to James. 5- to all the apostles 6- finally to Paul in person cf. 1 Corinthians 15: 5-8 in different places, at different times, all of whom had experienced the risen Jesus more dynamically than before. Paul counted himself as “the least among those to have witnessed the resurrected Christ” 1Corinthians 15: 8-9; because he had been instrumental in persecuting the people of the way. Like Paul we are invited to comply with this paschal mystery which is the very heart of our faith.
Gospel Luke 5:1-11
The first Christians were asking themselves ‘is Jesus inviting us to follow Him?’ What is His plan for us? Luke replies all these questions by the example of the calling of His first disciples. The lake is Gennesaret and the master is on the shore teaching with crowds pressing on him from all sides. So he gets into the boat of Simon to preach. After that he orders Simon to put nets into the deep during day light. Simon being a technician in running after fish better than any known person of his time, he objected but after a second thought he gave in and obeyed. The catch was overwhelming that he called for help. What could this story be leading to? Seemingly the first disciples depended on fishing for their livelihood but any day when Jesus would be around they would catch nothing until he directed them to do the needful. Therefore, it would appear that the great catch of fish should be understood as a secondary motif, serving as a backdrop for Luke’s original purpose in this gospel narrative meant to illustrate the vocation and special role of Simon Peter within the community of the faithful. Before meeting with Jesus, Peter had spent his nights trolling the Sea of Galilee, dragging his nets through its water, hauling the fish to shore, selling his catch and then mending the tears in the nets. But, because of his encounter with the Lord, his life would alter forever. He would spend the rest of his days catching men and women for the kingdom of God cf. Luke 5:10. It has often been noted how strange and even inappropriate this metaphor seems to be because the mission of the disciples was to be one of rescuing people and bringing them to salvation. What fishermen and women do to fish, however, is far from salutary. Perhaps Jesus’ call to be catchers or netters of humanity can be better appreciated if we realize that the Greek term is literally rendered ‘you will be taking them alive’. The implication is that those ‘caught/netted’ by Peter and his companions would be saved from death, preserved for life and gathered into the real kingdom.
Before he became an active participant in drawing all people into the saving embrace of God, Peter himself was caught into the sphere of Jesus’ mighty power. In that experience, he became conscious, he came to the realization of his own sinfulness and urgent need of repentance “Leave me, Lord, I am a sinful man” Luke 5:8. Strengthened by the call, he and those with him stood ready for the task that lay ahead of them by extending Jesus’ invitation to salvation to others. Like Isaiah and Paul, Peter teaches us that even the greatest among us stand in need of conversion. It is the Holy God of Isaiah who calls, cleanses our lips and commissions us for service. Ours is to realize, to repent and remain ready to hear and do God’s will.
Watch also this particularity; Jesus is no longer in the synagogue but in the boat of Peter which means the Small Christian Community where all can hear well the word of God and even ask clarifications. It is Peter who leads the boat into the deep, meaning we need faith to succeed in this plan. Jesus is the one in charge of the whole adventure because the command is His. Even if the boat is full of sinners, it is in this boat where the word of salvation is proclaimed. This means that all those entrusted with the ministry of leadership like Peter ought to obey and deliver back to the master. Success depends on hearing well the voice, recognize it and acting accordingly. The miraculous catch is not Peter’s hard work but the word of Jesus to which Peter responds that “but if you say so I will do.” Luke 5:5. How many times have we trusted money, power and trickery instead of trusting in the Lord and bringing all people to the fold? Our vocation is to willingly do as Jesus asks us.
Today we are all invited to appreciate who we are and acknowledge our weakness so that that the grace of God can build on our honest nature. Like Paul, we have to realize that it is the grace of God which makes anything possible. What is expected of each one of us is to obey Jesus’ command; then with time we shall realize that it is the word of God which makes things possible no matter how tough the situation may seem to be. Jesus in Lord and master, he makes great things to happen even when we have to hope against hope.