February 5, 2016

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. Written before the Babylonian conquest, this prophecy was composed when the southern kingdom of the Hebrews was tranquil and prosperous—relatively speaking and with some qualifications.

Nevertheless, Isaiah felt that he was called by God to confront the people about their infidelity to God, or at least about their lukewarmness in responding to their role as God’s special people. The story, told in this reading, conveys by its drama and bluntness the totality required in Isaiah’s willingness to answer the divine calling to be a prophet.

Here, in this reading, Isaiah displays the fervor and power that are typical of the writing in 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, giving the details that Jesus was seen after the Resurrection by St. Peter, whom Paul calls “Cephas,” using the Greek term, St. James and even 500 of those who believed in the Gospel.

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

Still, God called him. Despite his sense of personal unworthiness, Paul wholeheartedly responds to this calling. He is God’s instrument. Through him, God works his 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 Luke’s Gospel and, by extension, the other Gospels. Here Luke seems to use the Gospel of Mark as a source, but then he adds details drawn from a source also used by John.

Of course, Jesus is the central figure in the story, but the next most important figure is Peter. A fisherman, along with his brother, Andrew, both of them living in Capernaum, Peter was in his boat on the Sea of Galilee when Jesus joined him in it. The Lord began to preach to the people assembled on the shore.

Then Jesus told Peter to row into deeper water, and to lower the nets into the water.

Peter mildly protests, saying that he and his associates had been fishing all night, but with no success. Nonetheless, Peter did as he was told. The result was that the nets were so filled with fish that Peter and his companions had difficulty in pulling the nets aboard.

Humbly, aware of the Lord’s power, Peter confessed his own sinfulness. Jesus swept beyond this admission, recognizing Peter’s faith instead, and called Peter thereafter to be a fisher of men.


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 urges us to respond to this entry of Jesus into our consciousness. How shall we respond?

The Church answers the question by putting before us three great figures in the tradition of holiness—Isaiah, followed by Paul, and then finally Peter.

Each manifested his unworthiness to be a part of the great and divine mission of salvation. Yet, fully realizing this limitation, God called them each to a particular task.

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 to play in the work of salvation, beginning with his or her personal salvation. Everyone is unworthy, but God calls us and will give us all that truly is needed to be a disciple. †

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