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Ordinary Time 5 (C)
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Readings for the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C

 

1. Isaiah 6, 1-8

  • In the year King Uzziah died – I saw the Lord.  There is history here, and there is also a breakthrough to One who is beyond history.  These are events on two different planes, and I don’t think I can say them with the same unbroken inflection.  One is a social marker like saying “in the year 2007,” and the other is a personal life-changing encounter.  This doesn’t just happen to prophets, but to me and to many others.  I should read the testimony as if we’ve been there, too.
  • All the readings today are records of encounters, and that of the prophet is the most fully detailed and evocative.  The Lord was seated on a high and lofty throne, with the train of his garment filling the temple.  Visionaries are very expressive when they report of places their listeners have not visited.  I have to be convincing, too, because I don’t want the assembly to shake their heads in skeptical rationality. 
  • Holy, holy, holy – is the Lord of hosts!  Let me be ascending as I repeat the word three times, and emphatic in my separation.  There will be no ‘holy Lord’ this time!  I want the congregation to remember where the words of the great eucharistic hymn originated.
  • Then I said, Woe is me, I am doomed!  Pause generously before I say it, to let the vision sink in.  If I have ever felt little in my own eyes, being in the presence of a pure and humble person or conscious of my worldliness, let it come out.
  • He touched my mouth with the ember.  “See.”  I can imagine the searing sound of the ember against someone’s lips.  That’s what my ‘see’ should sound like.
  • The I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send?  Who will go for us?”  As often happens, only the prophet heard it.  I will say it softly, unlike the public dedication of the well-known hymn that quotes those words.  God is not speaking through a mike to the prophet but directly to his heart.
  • Climax: Here I am; send me!  Unless we accept the call, the vision is stillborn.
  • Message for our assembly: What counts is our response to the vision.
  • I will challenge myself: To make the prophet’s vision and call immediate to the church, and to help it listen more deeply to this ancient report.

 

2. I Corinthians 15, 1-11

  • I have heard that this passage repeats the oldest Christian creed in our possession. That is what the apostle meant when he said: I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received.  Let me rehearse until I capture the kind of solemnity mixed with excitement that accompanied such a creed: Jesus is alive!
  • I am reminding you, brothers and sisters, of the gospel I preached to you.  The apostle’s message comes down to this, and like the preaching of any worthy revivalist it has to lead to change, to rebirth.  The Corinthians received and also stand and are being saved, if you hold fast. 
  • Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures  Each of these four articles was central to the witness of the apostles.  Let me find the voice to repeat the first creed, handed down to us today from many humble and faithful hands.  As I read I will pay tribute to them all in my mind and heart.
  • By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace in me has not been ineffective.  The context: Paul was not an original disciple but became one of the most public of the apostles in his testimony.  There had to be some superiority complex going around, just as there was in China for survivors of the Long March.  Those appearances seem to be a credential, which is why his own conversion experience, as someone late on the scene, could qualify him.  His defensiveness comes through here, and I could hint at this by the way I read.
  • Climax: The Lord appeared.  The sense of the original Greek middle voice ophthe is: “He showed himself” or “He let himself be seen.” 
  • The message for our assembly: All of this is “for us” as we say every Lord’s Day. 
  • I will challenge myself: To enkindle the pride in my faith that does justice to all those who preceded us in faith and brought us not just the written text but the life of faith, hope and love that brought it alive for us and made it credible.

 

Gospel. Luke 5, 1-11

  • Today’s Gospel passage – at least the part about the catch of fish – is considered by some commentators as an Easter appearance.  Accurate timing of events doesn’t matter very much to the evangelists.  The Gospels are not histories!  In their eyes Jesus is revealed by his resurrection as the divinity he always was, and everything he did had to be seen in the light of his ultimate act of love.  Luke was the consummate cutter and paster, as he admitted in the passage that we heard on the Third Sunday.  So let my own take be filled with Easter awe.
  • The crowd was pressing in on Jesus and listening to the word of God.  Imagine the hunger in that crowd.  Is my congregation that hungry?  Can I do something about it? 
  • He sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.  It is essential that he sit, as someone in authority.  Can I get that across?
  • Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.  Funny: a modern day evangelist would go back to shore and bid listeners to come forward.  Jesus is starting with the fishermen; or is he?  People on shore might just be watching, too. 
  • They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come to help them.  They came and filled both boats.  Listen to what Jesus has started: not just a big catch but all this collaboration with the future apostles James and John.
  • Do not be afraid.  From now on you will be catching men.  I hear a bit of slyness in the remark, and maybe even irony: which is more challenging?
  • Climax: Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.  How did Peter feel when he said this, grasping at the knees of Jesus?  Have I ever been in the presence of true unassuming holiness?  Can I repeat that feeling?
  • Message for our assembly: Are only a few of us called?  Or is everyone in our assembly being called?
  • I will challenge myself: To paint the marvelous details of the collaboration I am reading about.

 

From Word to Eucharist: We hear that we are all called.  Vatican II reminded us of this.  Paul told the Corinthians that we are called into one body.  That is what we shall put into action at the eucharistic meal.  And from there, the world!

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