FIFTH SUNDAY: Year C, 10 February.

This Sunday’s GOSPEL EXTRACT [LUKE 5: 1 – 11] must be read against John’s version (21: 1 – 8) of a very similar (the same?) incident.

Bear in mind two vital facts. Firstly, Luke places the incident at the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry, and the first call of the disciples forms an integral part of this. Secondly, John situates the account after the Resurrection when Peter, as with the two disciples on the way to Emmaus, is despondent and somewhat disillusioned.

BETWEEN THE BEGINNING AND THE END THERE EXISTS A ‘LIFETIME’ OF DISCIPLESHIP.

In addition, do not overlook the fact that in John’s account Peter remains the leader. He tells the others “I am going out fishing.” There remains something important about Peter’s position (perhaps unknown to himself!?). “We will go with you, said the others.” They followed the leader! They took their cue from Peter.

THERE IS AN URGENT PLACE AND NEED FOR LEADERSHIP IN THE CHURCH – strong, brave, and courageous leadership. Leaders not content, as someone said recently, to merely wrap old formulations in new packaging!

See the difference between Peter’s reaction (Luke’s account) and response (John’s account). In our reading we are told that Peter says “depart from me, for I am a sinful man.” In John’s teaching we hear that Peter “wrapped his coat about him, and plunged into the sea.” What a difference? What a contrast?

So, two general matters on which we can focus our efforts. First of all (and you were warned!), the Season of Lent begins in three days time. Secondly, we are now almost six months into our Year of Faith. What sort of faith are we going to bring with us as we celebrate Ash Wednesday and commence our Lenten journey? Will we, as it were, plunge into the sea or retreat into the all to common Catholic complex of guilt – “depart from me, for I am a sinful man?” What is really needed is for each one of us to wrap our coats about us, wrap ourselves in real faith because, like Peter in today’s Gospel, we must hear and respond positively to Jesus’ call. Peter was faced with something of a dilemma. He was, in the face of an experience way beyond his wildest dreams, acutely aware of his limitations. The Lord was also aware of them. However, Peter was the man he wanted, the one he called. We are the individuals the Lord wants. We are those he has called. There is no room for false humility – nor any reason for the manufacture of copout excuses.

We will have noticed from OUR OLD TESTAMENT READING [ISAIAH 6: 1 – 2a. 3 – 8] that the prophet attempted the same excuse as Peter, but the Lord – as with Peter – saw through it and provided an answer which could not be gainsaid. The result in both cases was the same. The prophet, in response to God’s question “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us,” replies “Here am I! Send me!” Peter, with his companions, “left everything and followed him.”

I should imagine that, subsequently, both Isaiah and Peter adopted the Psalmist’s prayer as recorded in THIS SUNDAY’S [PSALM 138 or 137]. “I thank you Lord, with all my heart … for your merciful love and faithfulness … on the day I called, you answered me; you increased the strength of my soul … with your right hand you save me … discard not the work of your hands.” In so many, many ways this IS the GOOD NEWS {the Gospel} which has been preached to us, and which we have received – as Saint Paul reminds us today in the NEW TESTAMENT EXTRACT [1 CORINTHIANS 15: 1 – 11]. Like Paul we may well be able to proclaim that we are “unfit to be called … but by the grace of God I am what I am.”

So, what IS stopping us from plunging in? We must not risk taking refuge in cliches and caricatures of the essentials of our faith.

This week, in the Year of Faith and a few days before Ash Wednesday, I leave you with words I read some weeks before Christmas.

 

“When we lose track of our faith, we risk missing the wood for the trees .. . risk replacing the Bread of Life by consecrated hosts, repentance by confession, prayer by piety, theology by apologetics, and history by nostalgia. … (we must not lose sight of) the realities at the heart of our faith in its Catholic expression. There are deep realities at the heart of how Catholics see the world, follow Christ and respond to what God has done in him.”