On Listening to the Lord's Call

Dear brothers and sisters!   In today’s liturgy the Gospel according to Luke presents the account of the calling of the first disciples. This version is original with respect to the other 2 synoptic Gospels, Matthew and Mark (Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20). The call, in fact, is preceded by Jesus’ teaching of the crowds and of a miraculous catch of fish, accomplished by the Lord’s will (Luke 5:1-6). While the crowd gathers on the shore of the Lake of Genesaret to listen to Jesus he sees Simon who is discouraged because he had not caught anything all night. First he asks Simon if he might get into the boat to preach to the people a little ways from the shore; then when he finishes preaching he commands him to set out into the lake with his companions and cast out the nets (5:5). Simon obeys and they catch a great quantity of fish. In this way the evangelist makes us see how the first disciples followed Jesus, entrusting themselves to him, basing themselves on his word, which is also accompanied by wondrous signs. Let us observe that before this sign, Simon speaks to Jesus calling him “Master” (5:5), while afterward he calls him “Lord” (5:7). It is the pedagogy of God’s call, which is not much concerned with the qualities of the elect but with their faith, like that of Simon, who says: “At your word I will cast out the nets” (5:5).   The image of the catch of fish points to the mission of the Church. St. Augustine comments on this: “Twice the disciples fish at the Lord’s command: once before the passions and once after the resurrection. In both cases we find a figure of the whole Church: the Church as she is now and as she will be after the resurrection of the dead. Now she contains a multitude impossible to count, including the good and the bad together; after the resurrection she will only contain the good” (Sermon 248, 1). Peter’s experience, certainly singular, is also representative of the call of every apostle of the Gospel, who must never be discouraged in proclaiming Christ to all men, to the ends of the earth. But the text of today’s Gospel also brings us to reflect on the vocation to the priesthood and the consecrated. It is the work of God. Man is not the author of his own vocation, but he replies to the divine proposal; and human weakness must not trouble us if God calls. We must have confidence in his strength, which acts precisely in our poverty; we must more and more place our trust in the power of his mercy, which transforms and renews.   Dear brothers and sisters, may this Word of God revive in us too and in our Christian communities the courage, the confidence and the zeal to proclaim and witness to the Gospel. Failures and difficulties must not lead to discouragement: we are expected to cast out the nets with faith, the Lord does the rest. Let us trust in the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Queen of the Apostles. Quite aware of her littleness, she responds to the Lord’s call with total trust: “Here I am.” With her maternal aid let us renew our openness to follow Jesus, Master and Lord.  

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[Following the recitation of the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted those present in various languages. In Italian he said:]  

Today, various peoples of the Far East celebrate the lunar new year. Peace, harmony and thanksgiving to heaven are the universal values that are celebrated on this joyous occasion and they are desired by all to build their own family, society and nation. I hope the aspirations of those peoples for a happy and prosperous life may be realized. I send out a special greeting to the Catholics of those countries that in this Year of Faith they let themselves be guided by the wisdom of Christ.   Tomorrow, the liturgical feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Lourdes, will also be the World Day of the Sick. The solemn celebration will take place in the Marian shrine in Altötting in Bavaria. With prayer and affection I am near to all the sick and I spiritually join with those who will be gathering at that shrine, which is especially dear to me.   [In English he said:]   I am pleased to greet all the visitors present at today’s Angelus, especially the young people of Saint Patrick’s Evangelisation School, London. In today’s Gospel, the crowds press round Jesus, “listening to the word of God”. May we too listen attentively to Jesus’ words, as he calls us, like Simon Peter, to go out fearlessly and draw others to Christ. God bless you and your loved ones!  

[Concluding in Italian he said:]  

I wish you all a good Sunday, a good week. Have a good Sunday! Thank you!

[Translation by Joseph Trabbic]
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