Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C – February 7, 2016
Is 6, 1-2.3-8; Ps 138; 1 Cor 15.1 – 11; Luke 5, 1-11
Sir 18.11 to 14; Ps 102; 2 Cor 2, 5-11; Lk 19, 1-10
Last Sunday after Epiphany, called “forgiveness Sunday”
1) To act in faith.
A few days ago, on February 2, the liturgy enabled us to celebrate the presentation of the Lord. We have witnessed the first procession to the Temple done by Christ taken there by two right peoples, Mary and Joseph, and welcomed by two right people, Simon and Anna. It will be followed by that of the teenager Jesus who remains three days in the house of the Father among the Doctors of the Law. The last procession will be the one of Palm Sunday where the Redeemer is accompanied by righteous and sinful men and women.
In the first procession we can see the realization of the Malachi’s prophecy, heard in the first reading on February 2: God who comes to make justice on earth is the Child Jesus, who enters the Temple in the arms of his Mother, the Virgin Mary. Our Lady “presents” to God the Son, she “offers” him with the knowledge that each offer is a waiver. To offer a sacrifice to God is to recognize the source of life. It is a sacrifice of communion, not of death like the pagan sacrifices done to appease a pagan God. In the procession of the Passion that we will relive on Palm Sunday, we will accompany, as repentant sinners, Jesus who enters for the last time in Jerusalem and shows on the cross that he is the complete “Yes” of God to man and the complete “Yes” of man to God.
If the feast of February 2 is centered on the entry of Jesus in the Temple, escorted by a small procession accompanied by the singing of Psalm 47 “We received O God, your mercy, in your temple”, the liturgy of this Sunday celebrates the redemptive work of the Messiah who brings to fulfillment the new and definitive covenant. He today calls Peter, followed by Andrew, James, John and all of us, to collaborate with him.
In bringing her Son to Jerusalem, the Virgin Mother acted in faith and offered him to God as a true Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. She showed him to Simeon and Anna as the proclamation of redemption. She introduced him to all as a light for a safe journey on the path of truth and love.
Also Peter acted in faith. Today’s Gospel, in fact, shows us that the First of the Apostles, after having answered to Christ: “Master, at your word I will let down the nets”, acted in faith going against his own experience as a fisherman, which was telling him that it is useless to fish during the day especially after a night in which nothing has been caught.
We, too, learning from Peter for whom listening to the Word of Jesus and trusting him became the new shocking rule of Simon’s life, act in faith obeying (= listening and putting into practice) to the invitation of Christ. This invitation becomes a call to follow him so to bring to Him, light of truth and love, all men, pulling them out of the unhealthy water and bringing them into the sea of God’s mercy, who is Life and the source of life.
2) The call to mercy.
St. Peter’s story on the lake is the story of us all, starting with those whom God has called to become “fishers of men”. It is the story of each of us, called by Jesus, in Baptism and Confirmation, to follow him and invited to ‘throw the nets “’.
Today’s Gospel (third reading) speaks of the vocation of Peter, who is called to change his trade of “human” fisherman into the one of “fisherman of humanity.” The First of the Apostles, after experiencing the miraculous catch, says on his knees: “Lord, depart from me, for I am a sinner” (Lk 5, 8), and Christ replies: “Do not fear, from now you will be fisherman of men “(Lk 5.10)
The whole Liturgy of the Word this Sunday has vocation as the main theme.
The first reading tells of the prophet Isaiah, who, while in the temple, had a vision: “I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, with the train of his garment filling the temple. Seraphim were stationed above; each of them had six wings…One cried out 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.“ For this great prophet it was a shattering experience and could not be otherwise because the call of the Lord completely changes the life of those who are called making them aware of their own unworthiness. In this respect, Isaiah describes his vocation-conversion as follows: “Then I said, ‘Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!’ Then one of the seraphim flew to me, holding an ember which he had taken with tongs from the altar. He touched my mouth with it. ‘See,’ he said, ‘now that this has touched your lips, your wickedness is removed, your sin purged’.”
It is after having experienced his pettiness and his being a sinner in need of forgiveness that Isaiah says his “Yes” to God.
The second reading shows that the first feeling that comes from the encounter with Christ, is awe mixed with the awareness of one’s own littleness and poverty, which indeed needs the divine mercy. In fact, this second reading makes us listen to St. Paul remembering the appearance of the risen Jesus, who on the road to Damascus came to meet him, “the least of the Apostles … but by the grace of God I am what I am” (second reading).
From the three liturgical readings the divine call emerges above all as a manifestation of God to man. Before sending anyone out and entrusting him or her to a mission, God manifests himself in his greatness and goodness. The person called is placed in front of the truth of God that illuminates and brings him or her to understand the reality of being weak, fragile, limited and sinful. Yet it is precisely this human being that God uses to cooperate in building his kingdom in the world, and to make known to the women and men around the world his message of love and peace, mercy and redemption.
Do not forget, however, that vocation, as well as the gift of mercy and redemption, is a mystery, and has its roots in God’s salvific will, a will that escapes the human logics and plans, and can turn and involve whomever He want.
In front of the vocation, man can only recognize his smallness and fragility of sinner. But, as happened to Isaiah, Paul and Peter, it was the Lord himself who led the way and made fruitful the initial “Yes”, pronounced with great enthusiasm and, at the same time, fear.
Regarding the fact of not having fear, it is interesting to note the word used by Luke to indicate the mission that Jesus entrusted to Peter and, with him, to all of us, when He says: “Do not be afraid, you will be catching men.” The word that is used by St. Luke in the Greek text and that is translated as “fisherman”, is a new word that it is found only twice in the Gospel and that comes from a verb that literally means “to be taken alive”. So the fishermen called by Christ are “captors of life”, people who take alive people to keep them alive. The fishermen of Christ, therefore, cast their nets into the sea of the world to offer Life to people, to snatch them from the unhealthy water and bring them back to true life. Peter and the other Apostles, we and our brothers and sisters navigating this world, can continue, if we want and in whatever situation we are, that marvelous mission of envoys of the Father “to save what was lost” (Lk 19, 10), making us evangelizers of mercy.
3) The vocation of consecrated virgins in the world.
The Gospel of this Sunday ends with a sentence short and incisive: “They left everything and followed him.” These two verbs, “leave” and “follow”, clearly indicate the essential characteristics of the response to God’s call.
“To leave everything” is the basic requirement of the vocation of those who commit themselves in the proclamation and witness of the Gospel. It is an experience which involves a lifestyle conforming to an authentic, deep poverty, as poor as the Son of God, who “emptied himself .”
It is not an easy task, especially in our time, but, certainly, it was not easy even for those few who were called directly by Jesus if, one day, they asked him: “We have given up everything and followed you. What will there be for us? “. Jesus answered: “Everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life.“(Mt 19.28 to 29).
“To follow”. To follow Christ means to go on His own path, to lead his own life, to make is own choices, to go on his own life journey, the journey of the Son that goes towards his brothers and sisters to save them. It means making our familiarity with Christ our home.
One significant way to experience this pure intimacy with the Lord is that of the Consecrated Virgins in the world. In them “love becomes sequela: your charism entails a total gift to Christ, an assimilation of the Bridegroom who implicitly requires the observance of the evangelical counsels to safeguard complete loyalty to him (see RCV, 47) (Benedict XVI). Their vocation implies that “their life is a special witness of charity and visible sign of the future Kingdom” (see RCV 20). These women show how beautiful and joyful is to follow Christ, obeying to him. In fact, putting themselves in an attitude of obedience (listening) to the Spouse who called them to love, these brides listen (obey) to the Bridegroom who loves them, returning his love with the gift of themselves to him.
In opening the heart to God through a life of virginity, they have welcomed his call and have devoted their entire lives to Christ and to the proclamation of the Gospel with joy and mercy, to fish humanity alive and bring it from the water of death to water of life. The cross they carry is a sign that the wood on which Christ died is now the wood that allows to cross the sea of life to reach the shore. They show that when Christ is our Lord, the center of our lives, the one who loves us infinitely and the one we love, then anything is possible.
On Luke 5.
- 1-3 and 4-7
AMBROSE; When the Lord had performed many and various kinds of cures, the multitude began to heed neither time nor place in their desire to be healed. The evening came, they followed; a lake is before them, they still press on; as it is said, And it came to pass, as the people pressed upon him.
CHRYS. For they clung to Him with love and admiration, and longed to keep Him with them. For who would depart while He performed such miracles? who would not be content to see only His face, and the mouth that uttered such things? Nor as performing miracles only was He an object of admiration, but His whole appearance was overflowing with grace. Therefore when He speaks, they listen to Him in silence, interrupting not the chain of His discourse; for it is said, that they might hear the word of God, &c. It follows, And he stood near the lake of Gennesaret.
THEOPHYL; The lake of Gennesaret is said to be the same as the sea of Galilee or the sea of Tiberias; but it is called the sea of Galilee from the adjacent province, the sea of Tiberias from a neighboring city. Gennesaret, however, is the name given it from the nature of the lake itself, (which is thought from its crossing waves to raise a breeze upon itself,) being the Greek expression for “making a breeze to itself.” For the water is not steady like that of a lake, but constantly agitated by the breezes blowing over it. It is sweet to the taste, and wholesome to drink. In the Hebrew tongue, any extent of water, whether it be sweet or salt, is called a sea.
THEOPHYL. But the Lord seeks to avoid glory the more it followed Him, and therefore separating Himself from the multitude, He entered into a ship, as it is said, And he saw two ships standing near the lake: but the Fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets.
CHRYS. This was a sign of leisure, but according to Matthew He finds them mending their nets. For so great was their poverty, that they patched up their old nets, not being able to buy new ones. But our Lord was very desirous to collect the multitudes, that none might remain behind, but they might all behold Him face to face; He therefore enters into a ship, as it is said, And he entered into a ship, which was Simon’s, and prayed him.
THEOPHYL. Behold the gentleness of Christ; He asks Peter; and the willingness of Peter, who was obedient in all things.
CHRYS. After having performed many miracles, He again commences His teaching, and being on the sea, He fishes for those who were on the shore. Hence it follows, And he sat down and taught the people out of the ship.
GREG. NAZ. Condescending to all, in order that He might draw forth a fish from the deep, i.e. man swimming in Or the ever changing scenes and bitter storms of this life.
THEOPHYL; Now mystically, the two ships represent circumcision and uncircumcision. The Lord sees these, because in each people He knows who are His, and by seeing, i.e. by a merciful visitation, He brings them nearer the tranquillity of the life to come. The fishermen are the doctors of the Church, because by the net of faith they catch us, and bring us as it were ashore to the land of the living. But these nets are at one time spread out for catching fish, at another washed and folded up. For every time is not fitted for teaching, but at one time the teacher must speak with the tongue, and at another time we must discipline ourselves. The ship of Simon is the primitive Church, of which St. Paul says, He that wrought effectually in Peter to the Apostleship of circumcision. The ship is well called one, for in the multitude of believers there was one heart and one soul.
AUG. From which ship He taught the multitude, for by the authority of the Church He teaches the Gentiles. But the Lord entering the ship, and asking Peter to put off a little from the land, signifies that we must be moderate in our words to the multitude, that they may be neither taught earthly things, nor from earthly things rush into the depths of the sacraments. Or, the Gospel must first be preached to the neighboring countries of the Gentiles, that (as He afterwards says, Launch out into the deep) He might command it to be preached afterwards to the more distant nations.
CYRIL; Having sufficiently taught the people, He returns again to His mighty works, and by the employment of fishing fishes for His disciples. Hence it follows, When he had left off speaking, he said to Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.
CHRYS. For in His condescension to men, He called the wise men by a star, the fishermen by their art of fishing.
THEOPHYL. Peter did not refuse to comply, as it follows, And Simon answering said to him, Master, we have toiled all night and have taken nothing. He did not go on to say, “I will not hearken to you, nor expose myself to additional labor,” but rather adds, Nevertheless, at your word I will let down the net. But our Lord, since he had taught the people out of the ship, left not the master of the ship without reward, but conferred on him a double kindness, giving him first a multitude of fishes, and next making him His disciple:
as it follows, And when they had done this, they enclosed a great multitude of fishes. They took so many fishes that they could not pull them out, but sought the assistance of their companions;
as it follows, But their net broke, and they beckoned to their partners who were in the other ship to come, &c. Peter summons them by a sign, being unable to speak from astonishment at the draught of fishes. We next hear of their assistance, And they came and filled both the ships.
AUG. John seems indeed to speak of a similar miracle, but this is very different from the one he mentions. That took place after our Lord’s resurrection at the lake of Tiberias, and not only the time, but the miracle itself is very different. For in the latter the nets being let down on the right side took one hundred and fifty-three fishes, and these of large size, which it was necessary for the Evangelist to mention, because though so large the nets were not broken, and this would seem to have reference to the event which Luke relates, when from the multitude of the fishes the nets were broken.
AMBROSE; Now in a mystery, the ship of Peter, according to Matthew, is beaten about by the waves, according to Luke, is filled with fishes, in order that you might understand the Church at first wavering, at last abounding. The ship is not shaken which holds Peter; that is which holds Judas. In each was Peter; but he who trusts in his own merits is disquieted by another’s. Let us beware then of a traitor, lest through one we should many of us be tossed about. Trouble is found there where faith is weak, safety here where love is perfect. Lastly, though to others it is commanded, Let down your nets, to Peter alone it is said, Launch out into the deep, i.e. into deep researches. What is so deep, as the knowledge of the Son of God! But what are the nets of the Apostles which are ordered to be let down, but the interweaving of words and certain folds, as it were, of speech, and intricacies of argument, which never let those escape whom they have once caught. And rightly are nets the Apostolical instruments for fishing, which kill not the fish that are caught, but keep them safe, and bring up those that are tossing about in the waves from the depths below to the regions above. But he says, Master, we have toiled the whole night and have caught nothing; for this is not the work of human eloquence but the gift of divine calling. But they who had before caught nothing, at the word of the Lord enclosed a great multitude of fishes.
CYRIL; Now this was a figure of the future. For they will not labor in vain who let down the net of evangelical doctrine, but will gather together the shoals of the Gentiles.
AUG. Now the circumstance of the nets breaking, and the ships being filled with the multitude of fishes that they began to sink, signifies that there will be in the Church so great a multitude of carnal men, that unity will be broken up, and it will be split into heresies and schisms.
THEOPHYL; The net is broken, but the fish escape not, for the Lord preserves His own amid the violence of persecutors.
AMBROSE; But the other ship is Judea, out of which James and John are chosen. These then came from the synagogue to the ship of Peter in the Church, that they might fill both ships. For at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, whether Jew or Greek.
THEOPHYL; Or the other ship is the Church of the Gentiles, which itself also (one ship being not sufficient) is filled with chosen fishes. For the Lord knows who are His, and with Him the number of His elect is sure. And when He finds not in Judea so many believers as He knows are destined to eternal life, He seeks as it were another ship to receive His fishes, and fills the hearts of the Gentiles also with the grace of faith. And well when the net brake did they call to their assistance the ship of their companions, since the traitor Judas, Simon Magus, Ananias and Sapphira, and many of the disciples, went back. And then Barnabas and Paul were separated for the Apostleship of the Gentiles.
AMBROSE; We may understand also by the other ship another Church, since from one Church several are derived.
CYRIL; But Peter beckons to his companions to help them. For many follow the labors of the Apostles, and first those who brought out the writings of the Gospels, next to whom are the other heads and shepherds of the Gospel, and those skilled in the teaching of the truth.
THEOPHYL; But the filling of these ships goes on until the end of the world. But the fact that the ships, when filled, begin to sink, i.e. become weighed low down in the water; (for they are not sunk, but are in great danger,) the Apostle explains when he says, In the last days perilous times shall come; men shall be lovers of their own selves, &c. For the sinking of the ships is when men, by vicious habits, fall back into that world from which they have been elected by faith.