Readings: Isa 6:1-2,3-8; Ps 137(138); 1 Cor 15:1-11; Lk 5:1-11
Theme: God calls, purifies and sends
From the famous passage of the call and commissioning of Isaiah, our first reading
highlights a call, a purification and a sending out on a mission. Isaiah tells us he had this
experience in the year King Uzziah died. King Uzziah was the son of King Amaziah of Judah,
who ruled for 52 years. He was one of Judah’s greatest kings, although God disciplined him
for disobedience towards the end of his life (cf. 2 Chr 26:16-21). The verb to see, ra’ah, with
the description of Lord sitting upon a high throne, his robe filling the hekal, that is, the temple,
palace or sanctuary, implies that Isaiah saw a vision of the heavenly temple. There is no
reference to an earthly temple throughout the narrative. In that temple, Isaiah sees seraphs with
six wings. Saraph in Hebrew means ‘to burn.’ These were the fiery creatures around the throne
of God, ‘the burning ones,’ which in Hebrew are also described as angelic beings. These
angelic beings called out to one another, ‘holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts, His glory fills
the whole earth.’ This song of the angels is what we sing at Mass before we approach the Lord
in Holy communion.
When Isaiah saw this sight, he knew he was in the presence of the divine, and his
reaction was one of repentance. ‘I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell among people with
unclean lips.’ Yet, he has seen the King, the Lord of Hosts. Isaiah knew what the scripture says,
that no man shall see God and live (cf. Exo 33:20). Peter will repeat the similar words in the
gospel, ‘depart from me Lord for I am a sinful man.’ Then one of the seraphs, holding live coal,
touched Isaiah’s mouth, in that way purifying him from his iniquity. Nothing unclean shall
come into the presence of God. But God had called Isaiah to experience this heavenly vision,
and He purifies those He has called into His presence. They cannot stand before him on their
own because all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (cf. Rom 3:23). As soon as
Isaiah was purified and the Lord asked, ‘Whom shall I send?’ He did not hesitate to take on the
mission. The Lord has prepared him. We find a similar experience in the gospel.
In the gospel, Jesus calls his first disciples by the lake of Gennesaret to purify him and
send them out to become fishers of men. This chapter begins a new pericope with the
word egeneto, and it happened, which means Luke was beginning a new storyline about Jesus.
This time Jesus was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, which is another name for the Sea of
Galilee. And many people wanted to listen to the word of God and were pressing around him.
Then he caught sight of two empty boats because the fishermen who owned them were washing
their nets. So he got into one of the boats, and it was Simon’s. He sat in it and taught the crowd
from the boat. When he finished speaking to the crowd, he spoke to Simon, ‘put out into the
deep place and let down the nets for a catch.’ Amazingly, a carpenter is telling a professional
fisherman what to do. That was why Simon said, ‘master, we worked hard all night and caught
nothing.’ As experienced fishermen, they knew the best time for fishing. With the water
disturbed and so many people around the shore, they were likely to net any fish. But Simon
was humble enough to take the counsel of Jesus. Note, he called him epistates, that is, master,
commander, one recognized as having authority. He must have seen the authority behind the
proclamation of the word of God by Jesus.
When they put out the net, they netted so much fish that their nets began to tear and had
to call their companions to assist them. At this, Simon Peter fell to his knees, asking Jesus to
depart from him for he is a sinful man. Just as the prophet Isaiah acknowledged his sinfulness
before God, Peter confesses his worthlessness and sinfulness before the Lord. Earlier, Peter
acknowledged that Jesus had authority. But, now he calls him Lord, Kurious, in Hebrew
Adonai, which the people called in place of the name of God Yhwh, which they never
pronounced. Simon recognizes that he is in the presence of the divine. But Jesus did not detest
Simon for confessing his sinfulness. But instead, he called him to follow him. Peter will learn
from him and be purified for the mission of catching other men for God.
In the second reading, Paul is an example of one who knew how to catch men for God.
St. Paul tells the Corinthians to accept the good news of the death and resurrection of Jesus for
their salvation and be open to God’s grace leading us in our everyday life. But Paul reminds
them that God calls, purifies, and sends those who proclaim the good news of salvation to the
world. Paul could be considered unworthy of such privilege since he was a persecutor of
Christians. So he said, “by the grace of God, I am what I am, and his grace to me has helped
me to toil even harder than the others; it is not I, but the grace of God in me.” So, God called
him and empowered him to proclaim the Good News to others with His grace.