5th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Today might very well be called Vocation Sunday. The word vocation comes from the Latin word "vocare" which means to call. In each of the readings today, someone is called and in each case it is someone who feels unworthy or unable.
In the first reading Isaiah has a vision of the heavenly Throne surrounded by angels and he is filled with fear. Isaiah says,
Woe is me, I am doomed!
For I am a man of unclean lips,
living among a people of unclean lips....
Then one of the angels--and angels are always sent by God--around the throne flies to him and touches his mouth with a flaming ember and heals him. "See, now that this has touched your lips, your wickedness is removed, your sin purged." Then Isaiah hears the Lord asking, "Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?" and answers the call, "Here I am,...send me!"
In today's gospel from Luke, chapter 5, we hear the story of the calling of the first Apostles, in particular, Peter. Now in the previous chapter Luke recounted that Jesus had already worked his healing powers on many people in Galilee. It was this reason that led the people to crowd around him at the lakeside. One of his cures had been Peter's own mother-in-law and so it's no wonder that Peter allowed our Lord to use his boat and followed his directions.
I love St. Peter. He is always impetuous, headstrong, and without guile. He is the prototype of all the great comic sidekicks in literature, from Don Quixote's Sancho Panza to Luke Skywalker's robots. "No, master," they always say, "we can't go there, we can't do that." In this case Peter thinks that the Lord is being a little impractical when He asks him to put out into the deep and lower his nets. "Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing,..."
Peter's astonishment at the incredible catch of fish reminds us of the fear that Isaiah felt. He falls at the knees of Jesus and says, "Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man." Jesus answers with the famous call, "Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men." I must confess that in this instance I prefer the old translation, where these fishermen are called to be "Fishers of Men."
Whatever the translation, they still responded to the call--"they left everything and followed Him."
Finally, in the second reading St. Paul reminds the Corinthians of his own calling. Recalling all those who had seen Christ after His Resurrection, he says.
Last of all...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.
Isaiah, Peter, Paul, they all recognized their unworthiness or weakness, but all came to realize that God's grace would give them the strength. As Paul said, "I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective.”
We would make a mistake if we believed that vocations are only for priests and religious. Peter, James, and John were fisherman. Paul although extremely well educated was a tentmaker by trade. Today's readings are for all of us. We all have our vocation or calling in life.
Another mistake would be to think that we're not ready or prepared. Who would ever enter into one of life's great callings if they had the slightest idea of the trails and tribulations that they would encounter on life's journey? Peter and Paul did not go through a long period of training or study before they were called. That would come afterwards. When our Lord appeared to them they recognized that they were not ready but they couldn't resist Him.
Finally, another mistake would be to look inside of us for the call. Today's readings tell us that the call will usually come from outside. Our Lord appears to Peter at the side of the lake and to Paul on the road to Damascus. We should not expect to hear some kind of inner voice. In another place in the gospels our Lord tells us that when we did the least thing for one of our brothers, we did it for Him. In the same way when we hear someone asking us to do something or to undertake some task, we might consider that the Lord is speaking through them.
I'll never forget my dear aunt Nan. She had no children of her own but when my mother died when I was only 11 she stepped up and became a virtual mother to myself and my two younger brothers. Didn't the Lord speak to her through her widowed brother and three young nephews. Like Isaiah she responded, "Here I am."
If today you hear His Voice, harden not your hearts.
Reading 1. Isaiah 6:1-2a, 3-8.
Reading II. I Corinthians 15: 1-11
Gospel. Luke 5: 1-11 (Fishers of Men).