Introduction: The central theme of today’s readings is God’s call to a person, and the positive response to this call which leads the person to discipleship. As in our own lives, God’s call has three steps: 1) the revelation of God Himself in the Old Testament, or of Jesus as the Messiah sent from God in the NT; 2) the recognition and confession of one’s unworthiness and inadequacy to receive this call; and 3) the word of reassurance from God, or Jesus, and a call to share in His life-giving mission. Today’s readings tell us that God has His own criteria for selecting people to be prophets and ministers. Presenting the special calls, or vocations, of Isaiah, Paul and Peter as life-changing events, the readings challenge us to examine our own personal calls and responses to conversion and discipleship.
Scripture lessons: Isaiah in the first reading and Peter in today’s Gospel express their unworthiness to be in the presence of God’s great holiness, and Peter and Isaiah both immediately receive their Divine calls. The Responsorial Psalm (Ps 138) gives us a prayer that could reflect the gratitude experienced by those who follow God’s call. Today’s second reading describes the call of another great apostle, Paul, who judges himself to be unworthy of the name or the call as he was a former persecutor of the Christians. It was by giving these three men a strong conviction of their unworthiness and of their need for total dependence on His grace that God prepared them for their missions. The Second Vatican Council teaches that we are all called to ministry by virtue of our Baptism into Jesus Christ.
Life Messages: 1) We need to pray that our encounters with the holiness of God may lead us to recognize our sinfulness. God, who calls us and commissions us for His service, wants us to realize His presence everywhere and in everyone, to repent of our sins, and to remain in readiness to speak and act for Him in our life circumstances as He shall direct us through His grace and His Holy Spirit. 2) We need to teach and practice expressions of reverence for the Lord. We need to express our reverence for God through appropriate bodily gestures. For example, when we come into Church, we need to show reverence for Jesus’ presence in the tabernacle by making a deep bow or by genuflecting and blessing ourselves with sign of the cross. Then we need to honor Him by listening to the word of God and by actively participating in the liturgy’s prayers and singing. This same sense of reverence can be expressed by keeping the Bible, God’s living word to us, in a prominent place in our homes and by kissing it each time we read from it. True reverence for God naturally leads us to the reverent, respectful love of our neighbors, as God dwells in them.
3) Each of us has a unique mission in the Church. This is why God has a different call for each of us. Each of us is unique, so each of us has a mission which no one else can fulfill. Let us accomplish this mission by radiating the love, mercy, and forgiveness of Jesus and by participating in the various ministries of our parish.
OT V [C] : Is 6:1-2a, 3-8; I Cor 15:1-11; Lk 5:1-11
Anecdote 1: “Ours is total commitment!” There was a story about the hen and the pig bragging to each other about their contribution and commitment to humanity. The hen bragged: “We hens supply thousands of eggs for the market every day. Ours is the best selfless gift.” Not satisfied, the pig countered, “And who lay down their lives so that people may eat bacon, lechon, barbecue, ham and sausages? Pigs. Ours is total commitment of our lives in the service of humanity!” In all the readings for today, especially the Gospel, the message is one – a Call from God and the Commitment expected from those God has called.
# 2: Divine calls answered: Agnes Bojaxhiu was born in Macedonia in 1910. At the tender age of 12 she strongly felt the call of God and knew she was called to spread the love of Jesus Christ. At age 18 she entered a convent and joined the sisters of Loreto. While teaching at a high school in Calcutta she was so moved by the extreme poverty she saw from her window that she sought and received permission to work among the poorest of poor in the slums. The story of her work became well known to all because this woman we know as Mother Theresa, now St. Teresa of Calcutta, continued to obediently answer God’s call to serve God’s people until her death. About 5 years ago a very successful attorney from Atlanta was sitting on the cloister porch at a monastery in New York. He had just spent three days in prayer, and quiet listening for God. He made a decision at that time to leave his comfort zone of high income, recognition in the legal community, power and prestige and enter seminary. He was ordained Deacon in this place in December and will be ordained Priest later this year. God said “follow me”� and in faith and obedience, this man did exactly that. There was a special blessing for me in all of that because I was sitting next to him on the cloister porch when he made and announced his decision. (Rev. Ed Fuller).
# 3: A call rejected: Reverend Billy Graham tells of a time early in his ministry when he arrived in a small town to preach a sermon. Wanting to mail a letter, he asked a young boy where the post office was. When the boy had told him, Dr. Graham thanked him and said, “If you’ll come to the Baptist church this evening, you can hear me telling everyone how to get to Heaven.” “I don’t think I’ll be there,” the boy said. “Why?” Billy Graham asked him. “Because you don’t even know your way to the post office! How can you show me the way to Heaven?” Today’s readings tell us about the calls of the prophet Isaiah, Paul, and Peter to God’s ministry.
# 4: Divine call daily executed: One day, author and educator Howard Hendricks was on a plane that was delayed from takeoff. As passengers became irritated and demanding, Howard noticed how gracious one of the flight attendants continued to be with each passenger. When they were finally in the air he continued to be amazed at her poise and control. When she came by his seat, Howard asked if he could write a letter of commendation to the airline on her behalf. “I don’t work for the airline,” she replied, “I work for Jesus Christ. My husband and I prayed this morning that I would be a good representative of Jesus Christ on this flight.” Do you have a career or a calling? You see, somewhere out on Lake Galilee, a handful of fishermen were transformed in such a way that they would eventually change the world because Christ had come and had given them a mission for eternity.
Introduction: The central theme of today’s readings is God’s call and people’s response. The Scripture readings present three of the greatest witnesses in the Bible—Isaiah, Paul and Peter—expressing their own worthlessness. A seraph cleanses Isaiah lips with a burning coal and Jesus has a cleansing word for Peter. When Isaiah had his vision and Peter had his epiphany, each experienced deep humility, fear, respect, and reverence—in short, awe. Today’s readings teach us that Christian spirituality is discipleship, which means a positive response to God’s call. Discipleship has three steps: 1) The revelation: The miraculous, catch of fish described in today’s Gospel was a revelation of Jesus’ identity as the One sent from God. 2) The recognition and confession of one’s unworthiness and inadequacy: “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” 3) The word of reassurance from Jesus and a call to share in his life-giving mission. Today’s readings are “epiphany-call stories” which tell us that God has His own criteria for selecting people to be prophets and ministers. Presenting the special calls, or vocations, of Isaiah, Paul and Peter as life-changing events, the readings challenge us to examine our own personal calls to conversion and discipleship. When faced with the awesome power of God, Isaiah, Paul, and Peter are all struck dumb by a sense of their own unworthiness. Peter in today’s Gospel and Isaiah in the first reading express their unworthiness to be in the presence of God’s great holiness, and Peter and Isaiah both immediately receive their Divine calls. The Responsorial Psalm (Ps 138) gives us a prayer that could reflect the gratitude experienced by those who follow God’s call. Today’s second reading describes the call of another great apostle, Paul, who judges himself to be unworthy of the name or the call as he was a former persecutor of the Christians. It was by giving these three men a strong conviction of their unworthiness and of their need for total dependence on His grace that God prepared them for their missions. The calls of these various ministers of God are set before us so that we can reassess our own call from God and our response to Him. The Second Vatican Council teaches that we are all called to ministry by virtue of our Baptism into Jesus Christ.
First reading, Isaiah 6:1-2a, 3-8, explained: In the late eighth century BC, God’s people in the Promised Land had become divided into a northern kingdom, Israel, and a southern kingdom, Judah. Among outside hostile forces, Assyria was the dominant power in the region. A fourth nation, Syria, was also vying for power, and trying to recruit Israel to support its ambitions. The kings of Israel and Judah started cooperating in political schemes to insure their nations’ safety, instead of relying faithfully on the Lord God to sustain them. This was the situation in which Isaiah received God’s mission to speak God’s word to the kings and people of Judah and Israel. Yahweh permitted Isaiah to experience His magnificence in a vision in the Temple of Jerusalem. Experiencing the glory of God, Isaiah at once confessed his unworthiness, calling out, “Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips.” In the presence of God’s holiness, Isaiah became painfully aware of his own sinful human nature. However, when cleansed by God, he was ready for His ministry: “Here I am. Send me!” God gave him the courage to speak His word, interpret His will, and call His people and their leaders to repent and return to God’s ways. “Today’s scene from Isaiah is recalled in every Mass. Before reading the Gospel, the priest silently asks God to cleanse his lips that he might worthily proclaim His Word.” (Scott Hahn).
Second Reading, 1 Corinthians 15:1-1, explained: Some Corinthian Christians questioned Paul’s authority and disputed the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. Paul silenced them by presenting the evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus. Then he recounted the story of how he had been chosen to be an apostle to the Gentiles by the Risen Lord who appeared to him on his trip to Damascus. But Paul confessed his unworthiness to be an apostle because of his former persecution of Christians and gave the full credit to God for his call to the ministry: “By the grace of God I am what I am.” That is, it was only by the grace of God that Paul was claiming the designation of “apostle” and only by that authority that he proclaimed the Gospel, toiling harder than the other apostles. He reminded the Corinthians that he had already passed on to them the traditional confession of Faith about Jesus’ death and Resurrection, which he had received personally from Christ Himself. Hence, the Corinthians should not doubt his teaching about the resurrection, lest they forfeit salvation and wind up having believed in vain. A real Faith not only accepts the content of God’s message but involves a total surrender of one’s self and all one has into God’s hands. Our response to God’s grace must be like that of Paul.
Gospel Exegesis: Epiphany on the sea: The story of the miraculous catch of fish described in today’s Gospel is similar to the post-Resurrection appearance of Jesus recounted in John 21:4-14. In both accounts, the apostles at first fail to recognize who Jesus is, then receive a revelation of his true identity. This prompts a full confession of Faith from Simon Peter to which Jesus responds by commissioning him as the representative of the disciples. In this sense, both narratives are Epiphanies in which Jesus reveals himself to the world as the Messiah —for Jesus does what only God can do. The point of this story lies, not in the miraculous catch, but in the confession of Peter and his commissioning by Jesus.
The fishermen and fishing: The scene is the Sea of Galilee (Gennesaret in Greek and Tiberias in Latin). This body of water is thirteen miles long and seven and a half miles wide. In Jesus’ time, there were ten prosperous towns situated around the lake. Most of the people residing in them made their living from the waters in front of them. Thus, one gets the idea of how rich the lake was in fish. The Sea of Galilee was the site of many manifestations of Jesus’ Divine power. In the incident in today’s Gospel, Jesus preached from Peter’s boat to a large crowd jammed together at the edge of the water. When the teaching had ended, Jesus told Peter to pull out into deeper water for a catch of fish. In matters of fishing, Peter was an expert, while Jesus was only a carpenter. Hence Peter, perhaps not wanting Jesus to look foolish, explained, “Master, we have worked hard all night long, caught nothing.” Peter might have added that fish come to the surface in the Sea of Galilee only at night, or that the presence and noise of people would frighten the remaining fish away. Instead he said, “Nevertheless, if You wish it, I will lower the nets.”
Hope against hope: That declaration of trust was what made the miracle that followed possible. We may assume that Jesus smiled a little, indicating that he understood Peter’s point and still wanted the fisherman to take the boat out into deeper water. So, Peter obeyed. This time, however, instead of pulling up an empty net, Peter and Andrew found the net was filled to bursting point, and they had to ask the help of their partners, Zebedee’s sons, James and John, to help them bring in the catch. Simon Peter understood the message very quickly. Confronted by the size of the catch, he recognized the presence of God before him and became convinced of his own pride and self-centeredness, that is, of his sinfulness. We find the same response in all three readings today. Isaiah, seeing the glory of God in his vision, says, “What a wretched state I am in! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips… and my eyes have looked at the King, the Lord of hosts.” Paul, not particularly known for his modesty, says, “I am the least of the apostles… I hardly deserve the name apostle.” Peter begs Jesus to go away. His simple confession —“Leave me Lord. I am a sinful man.” — marks a turning point in his life and becomes the model for our response to Jesus. Jesus seized the opportunity to proclaim Peter’s mission, a call Peter was able to receive because he had seen the tremendous power of God. Thus, Peter became the first person in the Gospel to acknowledge his sinfulness. He is also the first apostle to be called by Jesus. Today’s Gospel concludes with an inspiring image of commitment: “When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him” (Lk 5:11).
The abundance miracle: The miraculous catch of fish is a miracle of abundance and resembles other “abundance” miracles such as the sending of manna to Israel in the wilderness (Ex 16), the widow’s never-empty meal jar and oil jug (1 Kgs 17:8-16), the necessary supply of oil for the lamps for the rededication ceremony of the Temple (2 Kgs 4:1-7), and Elisha’s feeding of a hundred men with twenty loaves of bread (2 Kgs 4:42-44). Later in this same Gospel, we will see Jesus feeding five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish (9:12-17). The Gospel of John reports another abundance miracle, the wine Jesus supplied at the wedding in Cana (John 2:1-11). All these “abundance” miracles have two common characteristics: (1) they meet human needs and (2) they demonstrate God’s power. The spiritual outcome of this particular miracle was that the disciples, “left everything and followed [Jesus]” (v. 11).
Dimensions of discipleship: The Gospel reading today displays the three dimensions of discipleship: (1) the recognition of the power of Jesus, (2) the response of confession, and (3) the assurance of success when we follow God’s word. Peter’s commission is one which is repeated often in the New Testament (Lk 9:20, 22:32; Jn 21:1ff; Mt 16:16ff). Peter and the other disciples were given the privilege of sharing in Christ’s work of gathering people to God. As they shared in gathering the fish, so now they would share in gathering “lost” human beings. Simon’s response was similar to the responses made in Old Testament human encounters with God. As he stood before the burning bush, Moses confessed his disqualifications for leadership, particularly his inability to speak well. (Ex 3:11-4:17, esp. 4:10). Later in the Bible, when God came to Solomon in a dream, Solomon declared that he was not wise enough to govern God’s people and asked for an “understanding heart” (1 Kgs 3:7-9). Likewise, when God called Jeremiah, the prophet recognized the inadequacy of his youth to take on this mission (Jer 1:6).
Who are called as the fishers of men? It is not true that Christ’s invitation to become “fishers of men” is addressed only to the apostles and their successors (the bishops together with the priests and religious). Every Christian is commissioned to a ministry of love and justice by virtue of his/her Baptism. One of the documents of Vatican II, Lumen Gentium (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church ), in paragraph no. 31 describes all of us very clearly as, “the faithful who by Baptism are incorporated into Christ’s Body and are placed in the people of God and in their own way share the priestly, prophetic and kingly office of Christ and to the best of their ability carry on the mission of the whole Christian people in the Church and in the world.” In addition to this, Vatican II’s Apostolicam Actuositatem (The Apostolate of the Laity), no. 3 says, “Incorporated into Christ’s Body through Baptism and strengthened by the power of the Holy Spirit through Confirmation, the laity are assigned to the apostolate by the Lord Himself.” It is even stated that where lay involvement is lacking, “the apostolate of the pastors will frequently be unable to obtain its full effect; where lay responsibility is absent, the Church is incomplete,” (Apostolicam Actousitatem nos. 10, 21, PCP II).
Life Messages: 1) We need to pray that our encounters with the holiness of God may lead us to recognize our sinfulness. The Good News of today’s Gospel is that our sinfulness — our pride and self-centeredness – does not repel God. Our God is a God Who gives sinners a new start. It is important that we acknowledge our sinfulness. Our response must be modeled on that of the tax collector in the parable: “Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner” (Lk 18:13). The recognition of our inadequacy and sin is necessary for us, if we are to be willing and able to receive transformation through God’s grace. Isaiah, Paul, and Peter teach us that even the greatest person among us stands in need of conversion. God, Who calls us and commissions us for His service, wants us to realize His presence everywhere and in everyone, to repent of our sins and to remain in readiness to speak and act for Him in our life-circumstances as He shall direct.
2) We need to teach and practice expressions of reverence for the Lord. Today’s world desperately needs a “revival of reverence.” We need both to recognize God as God and to express that reverence for God through appropriate bodily gestures. For example, when we come into Church, we enter the presence of Jesus dwelling in the tabernacle. We need to remember that this is His house, a part of Heaven, and we need to express that remembrance by making a deep bow toward the tabernacle, or, if we are able to kneel, by genuflecting on the right knee before we enter the pew. We should offer him the same reverent recognition when we leave the Church and His Sacramental Presence. We might also remember to give a slight bow of the head whenever we hear, or say, the name of Jesus. The new regulation of bowing one’s head before receiving Communion is another beautiful act of reverence. This same sense of reverence can be expressed by keeping the Bible, God’s living word to us, in a prominent place in our homes and by kissing it each time we read from it. True reverence for God naturally leads us to the reverent, respectful love of neighbor. St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa), loved people because she saw Jesus in them. That was the same Jesus Whom she reverenced and experienced in the Holy Eucharist. We, too, will have many opportunities for daily experiences of Christ. So the heart of our mission as Christians is really to find Jesus hidden in our neighbors, and to accept his challenge to us – to love him, to have compassion on him, to practice justice toward him, to be kind to him there. Then it becomes easier for us to forgive injury as Jesus did, and to be reconciled to those with whom we have difficulties. Thus, our mission as Jesus’disciples is to seek, to find, and to respond to Him in all people and events.
3) Each of us has a unique mission in the Church. God has a different call for each of us. Because each of us is unique, each of us has a mission which no one else can fulfill. God will use all of us, and particularly what is unique in us, to bring this mission to fulfillment. Our response must be like that of Isaiah: “Here I am, Lord…send me.” “I’ll do it. I’ll play my part. I’ll speak to that neighbor, that coworker, that friend, that relative. I’ll talk to my daughter about the way she is rearing her children. I’ll keep my mouth shut and refuse to gossip or criticize my co-workers or my bosses. I’ll pray every day. I’ll learn to listen patiently to those in need. With Your help, I’ll do it.”
Joke of the week
1) Catching fish from the shop: A man had spent fruitless day fishing. He didn’t want to go home empty-handed. He decided to stop at a local fish market. “I’d like three good sized fish,” he said to the clerk. “But before you wrap them, toss them to me, one by one.” The clerk looked puzzled at his request, “Sir? That’s a strange thing to ask.” Smiling the man said, “This way I’ll be able to tell my wife truthfully that I caught them!”
2) “I am a fisher of men.” The Reverend Dr. McStuffed-Shirt encountered one of his less-than-faithful parishioners returning from a day’s fishing and engaged him in conversation. “Ah, Brother Jones,” he began in his best preaching tone, “You are a fine fisherman, but I am a fisher of men.” Jones, determined to get home after a long day, replied, “So I have heard. But I was passing your Church last Sunday, looked in the window, and noticed you had not caught too many…”
3) Priest Plays Hooky: The pastor was a fisherman, but he hadn’t fished in months. One perfect Sunday morning he couldn’t resist. He called up his associate priest and claimed he had laryngitis. The priest then headed out to his favorite spot. The hook hadn’t been in the water five minutes before he got a strike and landed the biggest fish he had ever caught – although he had seen bigger ones caught by others. A half hour later, he caught the biggest fish he had ever seen. Another forty-five minutes later he landed a fish that broke the world record. All this time St. Peter and God have been watching the priest from Heaven. St. Peter turned to God, and said, “How can you reward this priest? He lied. He doesn’t observe the Sunday obligation.” God smiled at St. Peter, and replied, “I’m punishing him.” St. Peter was confused, so God continued, “Well, after he finishes, whom can he tell his story to?”
4) Walking on water: Three ministers were out on a lake fishing one fine afternoon in a boat, a Protestant minister, an Episcopalian priest and a newly-arrived Catholic priest. They were sitting out in the middle of the lake and the Protestant minister said he had to relieve himself, so he got out of the boat and walked across the water to shore, relieved himself behind a tree. Then walked back to the boat. The Episcopalian priest did the same thing. The Catholic priest thought to himself, if they can do it, so can I. So he stepped out of the boat and started sinking. After saving him and bringing him back on the boat one minister commented: “We should have told him where the rocks are under the water!”
26- Additional anecdotes:
1) Call answered as a continuous process: There is a story about a sophomore who worked in the library at Princeton, New Jersey to earn money to help with his education. One night about closing time, he was walking around the empty halls of the library when he noticed in the very back corner amid an old stack of books, an old man reading and taking notes furiously. The old man was very intent. The librarian became a little curious, so he went back to the old man and said, “My, what are you studying so intently?” The old man looked up long enough to say, “Well, I’m a student of physics.” The young librarian said, “Well, last year I took a course in physics and I think I have all I need for an understanding of physics.” He then turned and walked back to his desk. You can imagine his chagrin a few minutes later when the old man checked out some books, and on his library-card was the name Albert Einstein. God’s call is a calling to a process, not to a single task. Today’s Scripture readings about the calls of Isaiah, Peter and Paul remind us that our calling is to a lifelong process of obedience, service and surrender to God in which we grow daily more like Jesus. There is nothing in the world more joyful than that. There is nothing in the world more challenging.
2)Impala problem: One of the few creatures on earth that can out-jump Michael Jordon is the Impala. This is an African deer with a supercharged spring. It has a vertical leap of over 10 feet and can broad-jump over 30 feet. You would think that the zoos of the world would find it impossible to keep such an animal enclosed. Not so! It’s rather easy. The experts discovered something about the Impala. It will not jump unless it can see where it is going to land. Therefore, a solid wall even 6 feet tall is a sufficient enclosure. Lots of Christians have the Impala problem. They won’t take a leap of Faith unless they have all the answers in advance about where the leap will take them. But God is looking for some bold believers who, even in the face of the unknown, will leap when the Spirit says leap, will fly when the Spirit says fly, will launch when the Spirit says launch, all to the glory of the Lord. Why must we be willing to launch out into the deep with the Lord? Because our Lord was willing to launch out into the deep for us. Today’s Scripture passages present Isaiah, Paul and Peter who dared to make a leap of Faith.
3) “Hop into my wheelbarrow. I’ll wheel you across!” There’s a wonderful story of a tightrope walker, who was challenged to walk a tightrope across Niagara Falls. Everything was in place. There were huge steel struts on either side of the canyon and a strong, steel tightrope. There were television cameras, reporters and a massive crowd. But there was no safety net. The tightrope walker appeared with a wheelbarrow, which he had decided to push in front of him across the rope. The crowd cheered him on, although some begged him not to make this foolish attempt. One voice in the crowd was more vociferous than the rest: “Go on! You can do it! I know you can! Don’t listen to these pessimists. I have complete faith in you.” The tightrope walker turned to the speaker and asked, “You have faith in me? You’re certain? You know I can do it?” The speaker emerged from the crowd and nodded. “I’m absolutely certain. I have no doubts at all. You can do it!” “OK,” said the tightrope walker. “Hop into my wheelbarrow. I’ll wheel you across!” Amazingly, the speaker climbed into the wheelbarrow. And the tightrope walker wheeled him safely across to the other side. What incredible, courageous, foolhardy faith! Today’s Gospel describes Peter’s leap to a much deeper and stronger Faith in Jesus and His ministry through Jesus’ response to Peter’s trusting obedience, His gift of a miraculous haul of fish at the Lake of Gennesaret.
4) “Can you balance a ball on the end of your nose?” There was a man who took great pride in being a former Navy Seal. And why not? This is an elite group. It takes a special sailor to qualify as a Navy Seal. This man tells about sharing his military exploits with his grandson’s kindergarten class. This former Seal regaled the children with his war stories. After he finished, hands shot up into the air all over the classroom. The kids were eager to ask questions. “So,” asked one little girl, “can you balance a ball on the end of your nose?” Well, to be sure, a Navy Seal ought to be able to balance a ball on the end of his nose. Life has a way of humbling us, doesn’t it? We think we are impressing people, and all they want is to see us balance a ball on the end of our nose. Our Scriptures for today all have one thing in common: Isaiah, Paul and Peter met God and were humbled.
5) Failure of Leonardo da Vinci. Failure is not a dirty word–and yet we sometimes act as if it is. Every great person fails at some time in his or her life. Leonardo da Vinci did. In addition to his incredible talents in painting and sculpting, da Vinci was also a mathematician, philosopher, master chef, architect, athlete, and inventor. But even great geniuses can experience failures, sometimes, great ones. One of da Vinci’s biggest blunders occurred when he was working in the household of an Italian nobleman, Ludovico Sforza. Sforza put da Vinci in charge of planning a banquet for two hundred guests. Leonardo intended to sculpt all the food into tiny artistic masterpieces. He created a fully automated kitchen in Sforza’s mansion in order to feed that many people. But the night of the banquet, everything fell apart. The conveyor belt da Vinci had installed broke down and started a fire. Next, the sprinkler system he had created kicked in to put the fire out. Soon, the whole kitchen was flooded. The banquet had to be called off. [Michael J. Geb. How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci (New York: Dell Publishing, 1998), p. 79.] Have you known failure? Have you felt you were a failure? Have you had nights when the fish just don’t bite? I have. I have felt I was a failure. I have been like Simon Peter toiling all night, giving my best, maybe working too hard, yet at the end of the day, my nets felt empty!
6) “Oh God, here am I, send me. Send me!” William Bausch tells the story of a nun who received some extra grant money. She worked as a chaplain in a women’s prison in Chicago. She went to the women and said, “I have some money that I want to spend on you and I’m going to give you some options: 1) I can hire an attorney to come and talk with you on how you can shorten your sentences; 2) I can hire a welder to come in and teach you to weld so that you can have a marketable skill when you leave the prison; or 3) I can hire a dancer and a painter to teach you how to dance and how to paint.” Ninety-five percent chose the dancer and the painter because, as they said, “They always wanted to express themselves, but never had the chance.” That puts God’s calling where it should be and that is in a positive light. The most fulfilling, the most expressive, the most joyful experience you will ever know in your life is walking in the middle of God’s will for your life. Hear the invitation, and say, “Oh God, here am I, send me. Send me!”
7) “Everything for sale” as Satan is going out of business: There is a legend that tells about the time the devil decided to close up shop in one part of the world and open up in another. A “going-out-of-business” sale was announced. One of the first customers, being quite fascinated with the various evil instruments on display, noticed that of all the devil’s tools, the highest priced one was called “discouragement.” “Why is this one so expensive?” he inquired. “Quite simple,” replied the devil. “It’s my favorite. With the tool of discouragement, I can pry into almost everyone’s life and cause all kinds of damage.” Today’s Scripture lessons tell us that God calls weak and sinful men like Isaiah, Paul, and Peter to His ministry and fills them with His Spirit to free them from all feelings of discouragement when this attack. All they have to do is to ask and receive His help.
8) Legal permanent resident: One hundred three miles of open water separates the most southern tip of Florida from the most northern coast of Cuba. It’s a stretch of water that has claimed hundreds of lives since the Cuban revolution. Flotillas of “boat people,” seeking freedom and family in the US, have created desperate “boats” out of anything that might possibly float long enough to reach US soil. The goal of these “boat people” is simple: hit dry land. As long as these refugees are in the water, they are Cubans. As of 1995 the US has agreed either to return rescued or captured “boat people” to Cuba or transport them to a neutral third country. But once these soggy sailors’ feet hit dry land they are instantly transformed. They have the right to stay in the US for at least a year. That qualifies them to get expedited “legal permanent resident” status and eventually even perhaps US citizenship. The moment a Cuban refugee has “dry feet,” a whole new future welcomes him or her. The first disciples Jesus calls in Luke’s Gospel are “dry feet” disciples. But they didn’t become dry-feet disciples until they were willing to be “boat people.” They launched into deep water at Jesus’ command. Once out there, they saw and experienced things over which they had no control. Things they knew with their hearts and souls were sure evidence of God’s providence and sovereignty.
9) The challenging invitation: Many years ago, the great explorer, Sir Francis Drake, was attempting to recruit a number of young men for an upcoming exploration. He gathered them around and told the group that, if they came with him, they would see some of the most marvelous things their eyes could ever behold – sandy white beaches, juicy fruits, foreign peoples, priceless treasures, and gorgeous landscapes. And he told them that this wild adventure could be theirs if they came with him. Not one of them enlisted for the journey. The next day a different group came out. Drake told them that if they came with him they would encounter storms that would terrify them to tears. Tiger winds would hammer them and blow them off course for months. Water would frequently be scarce. At times they would be so thirsty that their very souls would cry out for simply one drop of water. In short, danger would always be their constant companion. Drake concluded by declaring that if they could handle these things, the joys of exploration would exceed their wildest dreams. Every single one of them in the group joined Sir Francis Drake that day. Some did not even go home to say goodbye to their families! They just boarded the ship, eager for the journey. What is it about Jesus’ message that made the disciples eager for the journey? They were made eager because first, Jesus offered them a change. The paths that are offered to us must promise to shape us, build our character, change our world-view, if they are to have any appeal to us at all. If we are presented with a challenge that will change us, we will be eager for the journey.
10) Prompt response to God’s call: Dr. Paul Brand was a physician who volunteered in India as the first orthopedic surgeon to work with leprosy patients. He listed as his reference Henri Nouwen, a former professor at Notre Dame, Yale, and Harvard, who ended up devoting his life to the mentally handicapped in institutions in France and Toronto. Neither of these men had a low opinion of his own worth or abilities. In spite of that, and because of their relationship with God, they chose to serve the least and the lowest. (Philip Yancey, “Humility’s Many Faces,” Christianity Today, December 4, 2000). Isaiah writes: “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I; send me!'” That was Isaiah’s response, “Send me.” Paul’s response was: “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me has not been in vain.”
11) “We could change the world.” In James Goldman’s novel, The Lion in Winter, there is a scene where three sons wrestle for the right to succeed King Henry. John tells his mother Eleanor that his brother Richard has a knife. Listen as she captures the base instinct of humanity and then offers a better way: “Of course (your brother) has a knife. We all have knives–we are barbarians–we are the origins of war–we breed war. For the love of God,” she continues, “can’t we love one another–just a little? That’s how peace begins. We have such possibilities, my children. We could change the world” (James Goldman, The Lion in Winter, pp. 55-56). After Simon and Andrew, James and John had fished all night and failed to catch any fish, Jesus came to them and made life right. Jesus’ order to Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch,” is both a challenge and a promise. Challenge: We must never be afraid to try again. Promise: the long night passes into day and we live to put our nets down for another day, expecting the providence of God. We have such possibilities. We could change the world.
12) “I’ll do it myself. I’ll do it myself.” It was just after midnight on November 20, 1988. A 19-year-old Los Angeles woman apparently fell asleep behind the wheel of her car. The car plunged through a guardrail and was left dangling by its left rear wheel. That one wheel was all that prevented the young woman from falling to a certain death. A half dozen passing motorists stopped and attempted to help. One of them had some ropes in his vehicle. They tied the ropes to the back of the young woman’s car and hung on until the fire units arrived. A ladder was extended from below to help stabilize the car while firefighters tied the vehicle to tow trucks with cables and chains. “Every time we would move the car,” said one of the rescuers, “she’d yell and scream. She was in pain. ”It took almost 2 1/2 hours for the rescuers, about 25 of them in all, to secure the car and pull the woman to safety. “It was kinda funny,” L.A. County Fire Capt. Ross Marshall recalled later. “She kept saying, “I’ll do it myself. I’ll do it myself.” (http://www.holwick.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=679:1-samuel-18-6-12 every-crutch-kicked&catid=38:1-a-2-samuel&Itemid=11.) People are funny like that. “I’ll do it myself.” Against all evidence to the contrary, we somehow think we don’t need other people. And we think we don’t need God. We are going to meet three men in today’s Scripture, Isaiah, Paul and Peter, three men who had their lives radically changed by God. We’re going to see how God changed their lives, and, with His help, we are going to ask God to do the same for us.
13) “Atlas complex” You may have heard the expression, “He has an Atlas complex.” This usually refers to an individual who seems to have an exaggerated sense of his or her own importance. Or it may refer to the person who feels that he or she is the only one who can do a certain job, make important decisions, take care of himself/herself or other people. It is helpful for us to remember the Greek legend of Atlas. Atlas is the Titan of Greek mythology, guardian of the Pillars of Heaven who took part in the Titans’ rebellion against Zeus and the gods. The great and powerful Zeus won the battle of course, in part because he was assisted by his famous 100-handed monster. The punishment which Atlas received was the job of replacing the Pillars of Heaven and holding up the sky on his own shoulders [M. C. Howatson and Ian Chilvers, The Concise Oxford companion to Classical Literature (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), p. 72]. The story of Atlas is, of course, a myth. However, we both know that there are many people who go through life holding the weight of the world on their shoulders. Instead, let us learn to surrender ourselves to God, receive His strength and do what He commands us to do.
14) “But the fog is not on the maps.” Several years ago, two land surveyors were sent from a large city in Wales to survey the mountains in North Wales. For a week, they stayed in an isolated cabin in shepherd country. Every day they went out with maps, compasses, and charts checking the countryside and the valleys. Several days into the first week, an old shepherd came up to them and said, “Might be best if I go with you tomorrow.” They said, “No, there’s no need for that. We have our maps and charts. We’ll be fine. We have everything we need.” The old shepherd said again, “It might be best if I went with you tomorrow.” “No, we have our maps and charts. We know these hills just like you. We’ll be okay.” And the old shepherd said, “You may have your maps, but the fog is not on the maps.” There come times in our lives when all the charts, maps, and other resources are insufficient. There come times when we can only do God’s work in His power and in his strength. It is an awesome, humbling, and revealing experience to stand before the miracle worker as He reaches out and calls us.
15) “What fish?” A man was stopped by a game-warden in a State Park with two buckets of fish leaving a lake well known for its fishing. The game warden asked, “Do you have a license to catch those fish?” The man replied to the game warden, “No, sir. These are my pet fish.” “Pet fish?” the warden replied. “Yes, sir. Every night I take these here fish down to the lake and let them swim around for a while. I whistle and they jump back into their buckets, and I take ’em home.” “That’s a bunch of hooey! Fish can’t do that!” The man looked at the game warden for a moment, and then said, “Here, I’ll show you. It really works.” “OK. I’ve GOT to see this!” The game warden was curious. The man poured the fish into the river and stood and waited. After several minutes, the game warden turned to the man and said, “Well?” “Well, what?” the man responded. “When are you going to call them back?” the game warden prompted. “Call who back?” the man asked. “The FISH!” “What fish?” the man asked.
16) “Roo raf roo reep ra rums rrarm.” A cold winter day. An old man walked out onto a frozen lake, cut a hole in the ice, dropped in his fishing line, and waited patiently for a bite. He was there for almost an hour, without even a nibble, when a young boy walked out onto the ice, cut a hole in the ice next to him. The lad dropped his fishing line and minutes later he hooked a Largemouth Bass. The old man could not believe his eyes but chalked it up to plain luck. Shortly thereafter, the young boy pulled in another large catch. He kept catching fish after fish. Finally, the old man could take it no longer. “Son,” he said, “I have been here for over an hour without even a nibble. You have been here only a few minutes and have caught a half dozen fish! How do you do it?” The boy responded, “Roo raf roo reep ra rums rrarm.” “What was that?” the old man asked. Again the boy responded, “Roo raf roo reep ra rums rrarm.” “Look,” said the old man, “I can’t understand a word you’re saying.” The boy leaned over, brought his hand to his mouth and spat out a mess of bait. He said again, “You have to keep the worms warm!” You know, there may well be a lesson in that for us too. If we are going to “catch people” as Jesus said, we had better use attractive bait.
17) “Nevertheless!” What a glorious Faith word is “Nevertheless!” Are you willing to say it today whatever your circumstances may be? An 80-year-old man says, “Lord, I have cancer and my chances of beating it are almost nil. I really would like for my doctor to help me overdose so I can just exit as quickly as possible. What possible purpose could I still have on this earth? (But here comes that word) …”NEVERTHELESS, if You want me to model a Faith that not even cancer can touch, if You want me to cast my burden upon You and allow You to sustain me, if You want me to show all these younger people how to die as well as live, with courage and conviction. ..Then Lord, I will launch into the deep with You.”
Consider another example. A middle-aged couple is heartbroken. Their 19-year-old son is hooked on drugs. He even steals items from the home in order to pawn them and buy drugs. These distraught parents cry out to God in all honesty, saying, “Lord, we don’t deserve this misery. We gave the boy every advantage. He grew up in the lap of luxury. Sure, we made some mistakes; perhaps we were overly indulgent. But, who doesn’t make mistakes? We are tempted not only to kick him out of the house, but also to kick him out of our hearts. He no longer deserves to be called our son.” Then here comes that word again! “NEVERTHELESS, if You want us to persevere with that boy, we will try. If You will help us demonstrate tough love, we will. If You can break into his hard, cold, addicted heart, we will keep up our vigil of love and prayer.”
The Scriptural message should be abundantly clear. At crucial living, Jesus calls us to take risks, to launch out with him into the deep. Everything that is prudential, timid, and conservative tells us to play it safe. Dare we step up with Simon Peter and declare boldly, “NEVERTHELESS, I will launch out into the deep with my Lord!”?
18) Best Fantasy Film of the Year.” In the spring of 1978, the film, Oh God! was given an award. It was a film that portrayed the message that God cares about people, that God comes to people, and He wants people to be happy. Do you know the award that film received? “Best Fantasy Film of the Year.” To some people, it is a fantasy that God cares for us; that God loves us and comes to us in the ordinary affairs of our life. To some, it is a fantasy! Why? If we truly believe that God comes to us, speaks to us, calls out to us, then we, too, have to place the net where He tells us, in spite of the fact that we think we know better. That is what this Church is trying to do. When Simon saw the miracle and stood face-to-face with the miracle worker, he fell to his knees at Jesus’ feet and said, “Get away from me! I am unclean! Get away from me! I am a sinful man!” Confrontation with Jesus was not a fantasy for him.( https://youtu.be/ORgQ-i1eFdw)
19) Victor not vanquished: Many years ago a little boy in the U.S.A. was badly burnt in a school fire. So severe was the damage to his limbs and muscles that the doctors predicted that he would never walk again. To his good luck, however, that little boy had a mother, who, though illiterate, was staunch in her Christian faith. Against all odds she believed her son would recover and get well. Day after day, sometimes for hours, that devoted mother would massage the scarred, seemingly lifeless legs of her little boy, even as he cried with pain, and would say to him: “Don’t worry, my boy, you will not only walk someday, but you will run.” To the cynical and the pessimistic, that was mere wishful thinking, in fact absolute nonsense. But that noble mother firmly believed her son was going to be victor and not the vanquished. And he was – in 1934 he set the world’s record for running a mile in 4 minutes 6.7 seconds. His name? Glen Cunningham! –After spending an entire night fishing without success, the apostle Peter, a seasoned fisherman, was very disappointed and depressed. He was ready to brand himself a failure. Then Jesus who was not a fisherman stepped in and urged him not to give up but try another strategy. So Peter could choose between being branded a failure or hailed a success. And Peter decided wisely on the latter – he was going to be a victor and not the vanquished. In the words of a Yiddish saying, ”From success to failure is one step. From failure to success is a long road.” (James Valladares in Your Words O Lord, are Spirit and They Are Life; quoted by Fr. Botelho).
20) Strengths and weaknesses In a certain Church there was a man in the choir who couldn’t sing very well. The choir director suggested that he should leave the choir. Others felt that he should be given more time to improve. The choir director then decided to go to the pastor and complain. “You have got to get that man out of the choir or else I am going to resign.” So the pastor went to the man and said to him, “Perhaps you should leave the choir.” “Why should I leave the choir?” the man asked. “Well” said the pastor, “four or five people have told me you cannot sing.” “That’s nothing,” the man replied, “forty or fifty people have told me you cannot preach!” – Our lives are a mixture of strengths and weaknesses. We certainly try to maximize our strengths, but at the same time we may try to conceal our weaknesses so people can appreciate our strengths. We can even talk about the weaknesses of others, so people are not likely to notice ours. This weekend’s readings talk to us about ‘strengths’ and ‘weaknesses’. (John Pichappilly in The Table of the Word; quoted by Fr. Botelho).
21) Faith is a gift: The famous author of The Song of Bernadette, Franz Werfel, gave an enthusiastic graduation talk at Mundelein College for girls in Chicago about the Blessed Virgin. This was all the more remarkable since the students knew that he was a Jew. During the short question period after the speech, one student asked him, “Mr. Werfel, if I am not getting too personal, could you explain how it is that you seem to know so much about the Catholic Church and its teachings and still you are not a Catholic?” “Yes,” he answered. “I can explain. Faith is a gift, and I have not yet received that gift.”(Frank Michalic in Tonic for the Heart; quoted by Fr. Botelho).
22) Film: Fisher King: This excellent movie is an exploration of the way in which the central character, a shock-jock radio host, seeks for forgiveness, having unwittingly incited a man to commit a massacre in a restaurant. He meets someone who has suffered a breakdown as a result of witnessing the massacre and tries in all sorts of ways to free himself of his own sense of guilt. The man he has met (played by Robin Williams), is convinced that the DJ has been sent to bring him a silver cup (actually a sporting trophy), which he thinks is the Holy Grail. The Robin Williams character repeatedly calls him to this task, but he dismisses it as ridiculous. Finally, though, when Robin Williams falls into a catatonic state, the repentant DJ realizes that, simply because the man needs the “grail” to get better he will retrieve it. The film strikes me as relevant to the theme of “call” because of the way in which it is circumstance, which compels the DJ, eventually, to do something only he can do. The act he is called to is ridiculous, but it is the doing of it which is really important. In fulfilling his “call” by doing something out of simple love, the DJ not only heals someone else but finds the freedom he has been seeking for himself. (Anonymous; from Text this Week; Quoted by Fr. Botelho).
23) Called to go forth in his name: Charles Spurgeon was a British preacher who had an experience of sudden conversion to Christianity in 1950 at age 15. On his way to a scheduled appointment, a snowstorm forced him to cut short his intended journey and to turn into a primitive Methodist chapel where God opened his heart to the message of salvation. The text that moved him was Isaiah 45:22 “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God and there is no other.” It is estimated that after his conversion, in his lifetime, Spurgeon preached to 10 million people. By his death in 1892, he had preached nearly 3,600 sermons, and published 49 volumes of commentaries. Today’s liturgy of the Word invites us to explore our own possibilities. (A.K. in The Sunday Liturgy; quoted by Fr. Botelho).
24) “You will not only walk someday, but you will run.” Many years ago, a little boy in the USA, was badly burnt in a schoolhouse fire. So severe was the damage to his limbs and muscles that doctors predicted that he would never walk again. To his good luck, however, that little boy had a mother who, though illiterate, was staunch in her Christian faith. Against all odds, she believed that God could heal her son. Day after day, sometimes for hours, that devoted mother would massage the scarred, seemingly lifeless legs of her little boy, even as he cried with pain, and she would say to him: “Don’t worry, my boy, you will not only walk someday, but you will run.” To the cynical and the pessimistic, that was mere wishful thinking, in fact, absolute nonsense. The noble mother firmly believed her son was going to be victor not the vanquished. And he was – in 1934 he set the world’s record in running a mile in 4 minutes 6.7 seconds. His name? Glenn Cunningham! -“Launch out into the deep!” said Jesus to the crestfallen Peter after his failure in catching any fish during the night, and to us. “Be not afraid!” said a certain Jim Vorsas: “The Lord gives us friends to push us to our potential -and enemies to push us beyond it.” (James Valladares, in Your Words O Lord, Are Spirit and They Are Life; quoted by Fr. Botelho).
25) He can transform our weaknesses: There was a king who owned a large perfectly cut diamond. He was very proud of it and made it the national symbol. Unfortunately, the diamond one day got damaged and its beauty was marred by a long hair-like scratch. Its splendor was gone and its sparkle diminished. The king was very saddened. He gathered all the reputed jewelers for consultation. They all said that it had lost its splendor and value. In desperation the king sent our word throughout his kingdom, “Anyone who could repair the damaged diamond would be suitably rewarded.” Finally, just when the king was about to give up the hope of restoring the stone, a poor lapidary gem engraver came forward to restore it. “Sir” he said to the king, “this same scratch which has diminished the diamond’s worth will become its most beautiful asset.” The king entrusted the man with the stone and many weeks passed before his return. Finally, when the lapidary opened his velvet box to display his craftsmanship, the king gasped in amazement. There was the stone -more beautiful than ever, with a beautiful rose carved on it. Only the king could detect that on the rose’s graceful stem was the scratch that had once so ruined the diamond. Jesus is the master jeweler, who can transform the scratches, which dim and distort our lives into something that could shine and scintillate. (John Rose in John’s Sunday Homilies; quoted by Fr. Botelho).
26) “Do you know where you’re going?” Years ago, the British agnostic Thomas Huxley had to leave early one morning to go from one speaking assignment to another, so he got into a horse-drawn taxi to go from his hotel to the train station. He assumed that the hotel doorman had told the driver of the carriage that they were to go to the train station. So when he got in, he simply said to the driver, “Drive fast.” Off they went. After a short while, Huxley, who was somewhat familiar with the area, realized that they were actually going in the opposite direction from the train station. He yelled to the driver, “Do you know where you’re going?” Without looking back, the driver replied, “No, sir, but I’m driving very fast.” Obviously, it doesn’t do much good to go fast if you’re not going in the right direction! Yet, many people, even Christians, are like that. Their lives are busy, they are going full bore, but they haven’t stopped to evaluate where they ought to be going. In Luke 5:1-11, we see the Lord Jesus helping some fishermen get their lives aimed in the right direction. (Bible.org) L/19
Prepared by: Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604.