CHNetwork Q&A Discussion Home Forums Bible Study February 10, 2019 • 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time

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    David W. Emery
    @David W. Emery

    Sunday, February 10, 2019
    5th Sunday in Ordinary Time
    Liturgical Color: Green
    First reading: Isaiah 6:1–2a, 3–8
    Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 138:1–2, 2–3, 4–5, 7–8
    Second reading: 1 Corinthians 15:1–11
    Gospel: Luke 5:1–11

    This week, our readings examine the calling and conversion of three men: in the first reading, the prophet Isaiah; in the second, the Apostle Paul; and in the third, the Apostle Simon Peter. As well they should, each in turn protests that he is not worthy.

    1. During a majestic vision of God as Pantocrator (“Lord of All”), Isaiah cries out, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” Why is Isaiah “lost” (or “doomed,” according to the NABRE)? Because his eyes have beheld God, something the ancients believed would bring about immediate death. In fact, Christians today still believe that an unworthy human, facing God, will be condemned. This is what the Judgment is all about, is it not? Yet, from the moment that the angel’s live coal from the altar of God cleansed his lips, Isaiah gave himself over completely to the will of God: “Here am I! Send me.” Not because of his own justice, but because of his acceptance of what God had done in pardoning him.
    2. Paul, in relating various appearances of the risen Christ to bolster the faith of the Corinthians, recognizes that God had treated him far more mercifully than he deserved: “For I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective.” In other words, why should God have spared this man who was torturing, imprisoning and killing Christians, thinking them to be cursed heretics? At least he had the presence of mind to ask: “Who are you, Lord?” and receive the reply: “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” (Acts 9:5). Jesus thus accepts the title of Lord. Upon his conversion, Paul’s gratitude was expressed as a total dedication to the Lord Jesus.
    3. Peter, the fisherman, had been hanging around Jesus for a while now, listening to him speak. He had great reverence for him as a prophet like John the Baptist. So here he was, listening on the beach while Jesus preached to a crowd from his boat. After Jesus had finished, he instructed Peter to take his boat out again and lower the nets. Peter knew that the time for catching fish was at night. But this man was a prophet, so Peter did as he said. The catch was unbelievable, and Peter, overwhelmed, saw the hand of God in it: “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” To which the Son of God replied, “Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men.”

    Notice that each man, in his own situation, addressed the Unknown One as “Lord.” The evangelist Luke makes a point of using this title both for the Most High God and for the Son of God, Jesus Christ. In all, the title is found 82 times in his Gospel, the vast majority of them with divine connotations.

    First Reading

    The seraph (angel) who cleanses Isaiah’s lips with a live coal from the altar is doing two things: first, he is reassuring Isaiah that his sins are indeed forgiven, so that he can become God’s prophet to the Israelites; second, he demonstrates that the origin of that pardon is God Himself, by referring it to the altar of sacrifice, which was erected in the sanctuary according to the precept of Moses, which God had given him for the whole nation to observe. In other words, it is not the angel who brings forgiveness, but God Himself. Isaiah is purified by the fire of the Lord, signifying the action of the Holy Spirit (compare Acts 2:3).

    Note, too, the detail that the seraph uses tongs to retrieve the live coal from the fire on the altar. He does this, not because the coal is hot (angels are unaffected by material properties), but because he is dealing with holy things. God, not he, is the agent of pardon. Again, Isaiah is not simply told that his sin has been forgiven, but he receives the live coal, signifying the burning away of evil in the holocaust being offered on the altar. These details point to Christ’s self-oblation on the cross and his establishment of the Christian Sacraments.

    The seraphim in attendance on the Almighty “called to one another” in an antiphonal song. That song — “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory” — has trinitarian significance, according to many Fathers of the Church. For example:

    Because the seraphim use the title Lord singularly in this song, but repeat “holy” three times (in reference to the Trinity), we know they are referring to the one essence of Deity. The praise “holy, holy, holy” properly indicates the Trinity, and the appellation “Lord of Hosts” indicates the oneness of the divine essence. Furthermore, the seraphim, in their song, praise the eternal essence for having filled both heaven and the entire earth with his glory. This happened through the incarnation of our God and Savior; because after the appearing of the Master, the nations received the illuminating ray of divine knowledge. – Theodoret of Cyr, Commentary on Isaiah 6.3, cited in Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture

    Second Reading

    Paul discusses the Resurrection. Something that struck me: 1 Corinthians 15:3–5 is “a ‘symbol,’ or creed, of the Christian faith that is founded on apostolic testimony (Catechism of the Catholic Church 186, 638). Should Paul’s readers reject any of these basic tenets of the gospel, their faith will prove ‘vain’ (1 Corinthians 15:1–2)” (Ignatius Catholic Study Bible). Even in the earliest days of the Church, the Creeds and Tradition were the rule of faith. The New Testament would come later, but it would not abrogate what was already established. This manifestation of the Church’s Tradition is the meaning of Paul’s vocabulary: “I delivered… I also received.” It is a solemn declaration that this is the Christian faith from the very beginning, in an epistle which predates even the written Gospels.

    III. The Meaning and Saving Significance of the Resurrection

    651 “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” The Resurrection above all constitutes the confirmation of all Christ’s works and teachings. All truths, even those most inaccessible to human reason, find their justification if Christ by his Resurrection has given the definitive proof of his divine authority, which he had promised.

    652 Christ’s Resurrection is the fulfillment of the promises both of the Old Testament and of Jesus himself during his earthly life. The phrase “in accordance with the Scriptures” [cf. 1 Corinthians 15:3–4 and the Nicene Creed] indicates that Christ’s Resurrection fulfilled these predictions.

    653 The truth of Jesus’ divinity is confirmed by his Resurrection. He had said: “When you have lifted up the Son of man, then you will know that I am he.” The Resurrection of the crucified one shows that he was truly “I Am,” the Son of God and God himself. So St. Paul could declare to the Jews: “What God promised to the fathers, this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus; as also it is written in the second psalm, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you.’” Christ’s Resurrection is closely linked to the Incarnation of God’s Son and is its fulfillment in accordance with God’s eternal plan. – Catechism of the Catholic Church

    Some of the Corinthians objected to this doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, first of Jesus Christ, then — at the end of the world — of the entire human race, on the ground that the Greek understanding of immortality did not include these things. They could understand that the soul is immortal (Plato had held to this), but a resurrection of the body was, to them, inconceivable. According to the commentaries, this is why Paul begins this first epistle to the Corinthians with an exposition of Christ crucified and ends it with Christ risen and glorified, followed by the consequent resurrection and glorification of the saints — the members of his Mystical Body.

    In this passage, Paul catalogues a number of appearances of Christ alive after his resurrection. Jesus appeared alive to Peter (Luke 24:34) and the rest of the apostles on Easter Sunday (John 20:19–23). Paul catalogues a total of six appearances (1 Corinthians 15:5–8), most of which took place within the 40-day interval between the Resurrection and the Ascension (Acts 1:3; Catechism of the Catholic Church 641–642)” (Ignatius Catholic Study Bible).


    “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.”

    Man’s efforts count for little when measured against circumstances and the will of God. Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John had been out all night on the water, fishing with their nets, and had come up empty. Nothing to sell, no return for their toil. And a skimpy dinner table that day. The miraculous daytime catch which followed Jesus’ speech to the gathered crowd was something none of them anticipated, and as Simon Peter observed, it was undeserved. Jesus gave it to the, not out of pity, but because they believed in Him. In fact, His command to Peter was the occasion of an obedience out of pure faith — a faith that had no material backing. Everything tangible pointed in the other direction, but Peter chose to obey, because this was Jesus, the prophet, and he was unexpectedly rewarded.

    This is what the spiritual masters call “bare faith” or “naked faith.” (There is another kind of “bare faith,” which also goes by the moniker of “nominal faith.” That’s not what we’re talking about here. Instead, we’re talking about the kind of faith which is bold, which takes a stand for the good and the true and refuses to back down in the face of pressure or any “evidence” to the contrary. Somehow, the faithful one “just knows” the right answer and is willing to pay for his decision to follow it. No expectations, just do the right thing.)

    How many of us can claim to be working on that level in our religious life?

    “If you were to fall into the temptation of wondering, ‘Who’s telling me to embark on this?’ we would have to reply, ‘Christ himself is telling you, is begging you’” (St. Josemaría Escrivá, Friends of God).

    5:3. The Fathers [of the Church] saw in Simon’s boat a symbol of the pilgrim Church on earth. “This is the boat which, according to St. Matthew, was in danger of sinking and, according to St. Luke, was filled with fish. Here we can see the difficult beginnings of the Church and its later fruitfulness” (St. Ambrose, Expositio Evangelii sec. Lucam, in loc.). Christ gets into the boat in order to teach the crowds — and from the barque of Peter, the Church, he continues to teach the whole world.

    Each of us can also see himself as this boat Christ uses for preaching. Externally, no change is evident: “What has changed? There is a change inside our soul, now that Christ has come aboard, as he went aboard Peter’s boat. Its horizon has been expanded. It feels a greater ambition to serve and an irrepressible desire to tell all creation about the magnalia Dei (Acts 2:11), the marvellous doings of our Lord, if only we let him work” (St. J. Escrivá, Friends of God, 265). – Navarre Bible Commentary

    “If only we let Him work!” Who? The Holy Spirit. We have to give Him leave to do His work within us. Yes! We have to give Almighty God permission, because he will not violate our free will — the freedom He Himself gave us to receive Him or turn away, during each moment of our lives. Because often, it comes down to that: either we do or we don’t give Him that permission, so that He can work his marvels — in front of us, to dazzle our eyes, perhaps… but mostly within us, where we can’t see what’s happening until much later, after the work is done.

    According to an apocryphal tradition, Isaiah the prophet was martyred by being sawn in two like a log of wood by his idolatrous enemies (Martyrdom of Isaiah, ch. 5). On the other hand, we know that St. Paul was beheaded in the outskirts of Rome about the year 67. And St. Peter was crucified, also in the outskirts of Rome, in the year 64. But all three, for their unwavering faith in God and their steadfast willingness to leave all things for Him, are in eternal glory with their beloved Lord. When the time comes, will we be able to say the same about ourselves? Why not start now, so that, come what may, we will be faithful to our Lord as they have been?




    Thank you David. I used to think that faith was a one off choice, a decision made and the deal done. But the challenge to be faithful is a repeated challenge, a question that’s asked over and over again. God gives us countless opportunities to choose, or reject, Him. And its only with His help that we can keep choosing Him and grow in faith.



    You are right in that, Katherine. God gives us choices over and over again, and so does Satan who keeps tempting us away over and over again. Every day there are choices to be made, circumstances to be met, crises to deal with, and so our faith either grows or wanes with each one.

    The live coal touched to Isaiah’s lips got me thinking about the Lord who touches our own lips every time we receive Him in the Eucharist. If the live coal from the altar was a holy thing, how much more holy is Christ himself.  It is Christ which makes the altar holy!  Week after week, or for some, day after day, our lips are touched by the Lord who forgives sins and who then sends us out after the Mass to do his bidding.

    Oddly enough, another passage from 1 Corinthians 11, hugely impressed my son when we were Protestants, so much so that he refused to take communion in our Protestant congregation because nobody could adequately explain the theology behind this verse to him. He chose to err on the side of caution and refuse communion. And truly, it can only be understood in a Catholic theological framework for it to make any sense at all.

    27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 31 But if we judged ourselves truly, we should not be judged. 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are chastened so that we may not be condemned along with the world.

    It is speaking about the bread and wine being something other than bread and wine. It speaks about us discerning and recognizing that it has become a holy thing, the Body and Blood of Christ. To eat and drink it unworthily is to bring judgment against ourselves or if we judge ourselves first, it brings us great grace and blessing.  That reminds of of Isaiah and the coal brought to touch his lips. He was a man who had judged himself as unworthy and therefore had been accepted as worthy, and so the coal from the altar, a holy thing, brought him strength and blessing.



    Jennie, you put that so beautifully.

    I only have a couple of months left to wait until I can receive communion, receive Jesus.



    Katherine, I am REALLY excited for you even though I have never met you. Lol!  I hope that is not too strange a thing to say.

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