The first reading captures a common expectation that God appears to religious people (priest and prophet) in holy places (a temple). But the call of God also comes to sinful people (Peter) and in unexpected places (boats and crowds). Even to those who are actively and blindly persecuting the good (Paul). The call depends not on the individual or the place, but on the graciousness of God. This is very good news! (“Working with the Word” http://liturgy.slu.edu)
Henry Nouwen reminds us that in this fragmented world, our admitted woundedness and our willingness to make that woundedness available to others as a source of their healing, can be a powerful way for God to work in our lives and the lives of others. Isaiah, Peter, and Paul – all in many ways were wounded healers. Ask God to help you see your ‘woundedness’ and weaknesses as a source for his healing and love. (Celebrations, 2/04)
1st Reading — Isaiah 6: 1-2, 3-8
King Uzziah, also knows as Azariah, ruled Judah from 783 – 732BC). The account of his reign can be found in 2 Kings 15:1-7 (Ancient Israel, p. 166). It seems he died of leprosy, but ruled in a way that pleased the Lord.
This is a call story. Isaiah is being called to be a prophet for God. Whenever there is the presence of smoke, one knows that there is an observable manifestation of God. His “woe is me” reflected his fear and trembling at having seen the Lord. Isaiah saw the Lord, repented, and was commissioned by the heavenly court to go and proclaim Yahweh’s word. He went in peace and assurance (W&W, Birmingham, p. 359).
The three R’s happen here: Realization, Repentance and Readiness. There is an awareness that God is all holy, all good, all loving and all giving. Then there is an awareness of self as a person undeserving and yet totally in need of all that God is. With this full realization and repentance, the believer can now stand in readiness to be and to do all that his/her vocation will require (Celebrations, Feb 1998). How does this speak to you and your call?
2nd Reading -1 Corinthians 15: 1-11
How is Paul like Isaiah? Do you see the three R’s again?
This is probably the earliest written account of the resurrection.
From Living Liturgy, p. 54: A theophany or appearance of God always reveals our own sinfulness, but God’s focus is elsewhere – on call and mission. God sees humans as people, created good, who can respond to God’s invitation. Once Isaiah is cleansed, he responds eagerly. Once Peter overcomes his fear, he and many others leave everything and follow Jesus. Paul also overcomes his prejudices and ‘blindness’ once he comes to know the Risen Christ. God can transform us! The astonishing thing about the good news of Jesus Christ is that we are all made worthy simply because God calls. All we need to do is respond with our lives. Even the ordinary can hold the power and presence of God’s love. “God doesn’t call the qualified. He qualifies the called.”
From Introducing the New Testament, p. 301: We don’t know what Paul may have been referring to in saying “one born abnormally”. There are other times when he says he has a weak bodily presence (2 Corinthians 10:10) and having a thorn in his flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). Some say he may have been short (the name Paul comes from Paulus, meaning small). A 2nd century writing says Paul was congenitally bowlegged. Tertullian (2nd-3rd century) said he had frequent headaches. Maybe it was his guilt over persecuting the church, or a speech impediment (2 Corinthians 10:10) or poor eyesight (Galatians 4:15; 6:11) or epilepsy (Acts 9: 3-4). It may just been simply out of humility, which is certainly the direction he continues to go in the rest of the pericope. Look this Lent for more on Paul!
The Gospel — Luke 5: 1-11
Notice the 3 R’s again. Peter was aware of Jesus’ presence, but he didn’t believe Him at first that they would catch fish in the deeper water. Once he repented for his doubt, Peter was ready to follow and respond to God’s will for him. How often do we not follow God’s will in our lives because we don’t think it is possible? How do we figure this out? The GOOD NEWS is that God believes in us anyway, despite our failings!
Peter was a fisherman who worked hard to provide food for others. Think about when you have fed or shared food with another person. How was God working in this ordinary situation?
Joseph Fitzmyer, a N. T. scholar, notes how strange this metaphor of ‘catching people like fish’ seems to be. The mission of the disciples was to bring them to salvation (fullness of health). Yet, what fishermen do to fish is far from salutary! He points out, though, that the Greek term that Jesus used to say that they would be ‘catchers or netters’ of humanity could literally be translated as “you will be taking them alive.” The strange metaphor then comes to mean that those ‘caught’ or ‘netted’ by Peter and the others would be saved from death and gathered into God’s Kingdom. (Celebrations, Feb. 1998)
There is also meaning in Jesus’ words “put out into the deep water” to lower their nets for a catch (v.4). Those who wish to bring people to God must be willing to venture into the deep, to unfamiliar and unchartered territories. It is important to go where the people are and draw them to God . . . Celebrations, Feb., 2004
All of our readings this week help us to think about our own inadequacies. Isaiah, Paul and Peter are not really reacting with shame as much as realism. In the midst of God’s presence and call they are profoundly aware of their own humanness and their real place in reality. This is what humility is – seeing ourselves clearly – we humans cannot save ourselves –no matter what. Their experience of God let them understand that they are far, far, far less than God. This is not bad for them or us; it is good. For now we can be called out of ourselves – and beyond our limitations! God can make us holy when we are open to God’s gracious love (grace). Our humanness is full of holes –like a sponge. We just need to soak up God-juice: grace – and cry out: “Here I am” Lord: catch me, fill me, send me! (J. Foley, SJ http://liturgy.alu.edu/5OrdC020710/reflections_foley.html + J. Kavanaugh, SJ, http://liturgy.alu.edu/5OrdC020710/theword_engaged.html)