February 5, 2010

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 chosen him to call the people to obedience to the divine will, warned that if the wayward and listless did not reform, and if the nation did not return to God, then disaster awaited them.

But no one wanted to turn away from the happy times and good living for the more restrained life that would be required if they all were faithful to God.

Isaiah, despite being, or perhaps because of being, in somewhat of a privileged position, was resented by the people.

It was not just that the prophet demanded that people mend their ways, but that he wrote with such determination, even fiery at times.

In this reading, Isaiah displays the fervor and power that are typical of the writing in all three sections of this ancient book.

St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians provides the next reading.

Paul recalls the death of Jesus and then the Lord’s resurrection. He reports that Peter, whom Paul calls “Cephas,” using the Greek form of that name, saw Jesus after the Resurrection, that James saw Jesus, and that even 500 of those who believed in the Gospel saw the risen Lord.

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 in the community of Christians.

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

St. Luke’s Gospel supplies the last reading.

This particular passage shows the fine literary hand at work in the composition of the Gospel of Luke, and by extension the other Gospels.

Here, Luke possibly uses the Gospel of Mark as a source, but then adds details drawn from a source possibly also used by John.

Of course, Jesus is the central figure in the story. But the next most important figure is Peter. A fisherman, Peter was in his boat with Jesus on the Sea of Galilee. The Lord began to preach to the people assembled on the shore.

Then Jesus told Peter to row into deeper water and put the nets in the water. Peter mildly protests, but does as he was told. The nets are so filled with fish that Peter and his companions have difficulty pulling the nets aboard the boat.

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


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

Now, subtly but firmly, the Church tells us where we in our time meet Jesus. 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 yet, fortified by God’s help, they became instruments of redemption. They fulfilled holy tasks.

They are examples for us. Each person who hears the word of Christ, and is healed and strengthened by Christ’s life in grace, has a holy task. Each believer has a role in the work of salvation.

Everyone is unworthy. Nevertheless, God calls us, and God will give us all that we truly need to be saved from our sins. †

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