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February 10, 2013 - Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Is 6:1-2, 3-8; 1 Cor 15:1-11; Lk 5:1-11

February 7, 2013

God's Call in Ordinary Circumstances


February is a low time of the year for many people. Often it is a time when we simply go about fulfilling the mundane chores of life. Liturgically, we are still in Ordinary time. However, this week's Scripture readings invite us to be alert for a life-changing experience that might happen when we least expect it. We ought not let our guard down, for God can come to us in the everyday routine of our lives and call us to conversion and discipleship.


The first reading tells a very familiar story, the call of Isaiah. While going about his daily religious duties in the Temple, Isaiah experienced a theophany. He had a vision of God's glory and became frightened. He felt inadequate to be in the presence of God, since he knew he was a sinful man. But God cleansed his lips with a burning coal and purged his sin so that he might proclaim the word of the Lord. Although Isaiah felt unworthy, he still responded enthusiastically saying, "Here I am, send me!" Interestingly, Isaiah's prophetic ministry lasted over forty years (around 783-743 B.C.E.) during a very turbulent and volatile period of Israel's history.


Like Isaiah, Paul was also called when he was going about his everyday business. Being a zealous opponent of the followers of Christ, he sought to silence the believers, even with violent means. When least expected, on the way to Damascus, Paul discovered that Jesus was not dead but alive. The revelatory experience changed his life around and convinced him to become a passionate advocate of Jesus as the Messiah. According to his own testimony in the second reading, Paul did not deserve to be an apostle, for he was "one born abnormally" and therefore "inadequate." But by the grace of God, he was able to toil harder than most and become the greatest apostle and missionary of all time. Furthermore, his letters continue to be a source of inspiration for countless Christians.


In the Gospel, we are told that Peter and the other fishermen had been fishing all night and had caught nothing. When Jesus appeared on the scene, the disciples were washing their nets, which indicates that they were giving up fishing for the day. Although being a professional fisherman, Peter listened to the suggestion of a carpenter. By casting nets "into the deep water," Peter caught a huge haul of fish. Realizing that he was in the presence of someone holy, Peter quickly said, "Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man." Despite Peter's inadequacy and frailty, Jesus still called Peter to discipleship. From then on, Peter would no longer just fish in the Sea of Galilee, but rather he would be fishing for people.


The call stories of Isaiah, Paul, and Peter are probably more dramatic than those of most of us. However, their life-changing experiences happened when they were least expected. We, too, ought not underestimate the power and grace of God who is constantly at work in each one of us. God can visit us in the everyday routine of our life and call us to discipleship. May we always be attentive and ready to respond to God's invitation to follow and live accordingly.


vanThanh Nguyen, SVD

Associate Professor of New Testament Studies


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