February 8, 2019

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe Book of Isaiah is the source of the first reading this weekend. It was composed in a time when tranquility prevailed in the southern Hebrew kingdom of Judah, but dark clouds were forming on the horizon.

Isaiah, believing that God had given him the mission to call the people to obedience to the divine will, warned that disaster awaited if the wayward and listless did not reform, and if the nation did not return to God.

His message fell on deaf ears. No one wanted to turn away from the happy times and good living for the more restricted life that would pertain if all were faithful to God. People resented Isaiah despite, or perhaps because of his being apparently in somewhat a privileged position.

It was not just that the prophet demanded that people mend their ways. He wrote with determination and at times with the kind of fiery language displayed in this reading.

St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians provides the next reading. Paul recalls the death of Jesus and then his resurrection. He also reported that among those who saw the risen Lord were Peter, whom Paul calls “Cephas,” using the Greek term, James and even 500 of those who believed in the Gospel (1 Cor 15:5).

The reading also is autobiographical. Paul declares that he is an Apostle, having been called by the Lord. However, he calls himself “least” among the Apostles, since he, unlike the others, once persecuted Christ living in the community of Christians (1 Cor 15:9).

Unrestrained by this sense of personal unworthiness, Paul wholeheartedly accepts and responds to this calling. Through him, he devoutly believes God works the plan of redemption and mercy.

St. Luke’s Gospel supplies the last reading. This passage shows the fine literary hand at work in the composition of this Gospel. Each Gospel is a carefully prepared document to assure that readers understand well the message and person of Jesus. It seems that Luke here uses the Gospel of St. Mark as a source, but then he adds details drawn from a source seemingly used by St. John.

Of course, Jesus is the central figure in the story, but the next most important figure is Peter. In this story, Peter, a fisherman, was in his boat on the Sea of Galilee when Jesus embarked. The Lord began to preach to the people assembled on the shore.

Then Jesus told Peter to row into deeper water and lower the nets into the water. Peter mildly protests, but he does as told. The nets end up being so filled with fish that Peter and his companions have difficulty pulling them aboard.

Humbly aware of the Lord’s power, Peter confesses his own sinfulness. Recognizing Peter’s faith, Jesus tells him thereafter to fish for souls.


For weeks, since Christmas, the Church has been introducing us to Jesus. The great feasts of the Epiphany and of the Baptism of the Lord told us about Jesus.

Now, subtly but firmly, the Church tells us where we meet Jesus today. It is in and through the Church, in which reposes the memory and authority of Peter, given by Jesus.

We need God’s guidance. We cannot wander from God. The readings firmly say this.

Isaiah, Paul and Peter all saw themselves as unworthy of the mission given them by God. Yet fortified by his grace, they became instruments of redemption. They fulfilled holy tasks.

Each person who hears the word of Christ, and is healed and strengthened by his grace, has a holy task—even if he or she is unworthy. Each believer has a role in the work of salvation. God calls each of us, and God will give us all that we need truly to be saved from our sins and to serve him. †

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