5th Sunday C

The first reading (Isaiah 6:1-8)pictures Isaiah in the Temple (about 700 years BC). Either he has a vision, or the singing and smoke-filled dim atmosphere heightens his prayerful state and he feels the call from God to be a prophet – or this is a developed anecdote retold by his followers and eventually recorded. It is from this account that we have our chant of “Holy, holy, holy …” The presence of God in the Temple was signified by an empty slab between the huge statues of the seraphim (angels).  Isaiah, feeling this presence, inevitably becomes aware of his unworthiness and that of the people to which he belongs. But God purifies from sin and Isaiah is then bold enough to accept the task that he feels called upon to undertake, in the words which we have adopted for one of our hymns “Here I am Lord,” a common response to God in the Old Testament, classically in the story of the call of Samuel.

In the second reading (1 Cor 15:1-11) Paul is gently reminding his readers of the central beliefs that he taught them originally, and chiefly that of the resurrection of Jesus. The verses following our reading seem to make it clear that some of them didn’t really accept this doctrine. It is likely that they had the notion that the body was quite separate from the soul and that it was of little value relative to it. Later in the Church there would often occur heresies that had this Manichean tendency; it is like being quite different on Sundays from how one is for the rest of the week, or like separating the secular from the religious in our lives, or even like imagining one can love one’s neighbour without doing anything about it. Clearly, the Resurrection shows us that this is not the way Christians should think or act. Part of the text of our reading still influences the creed that we say: “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures; that he was buried; and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.”

After the visit to Nazareth which we read over the last two Sundays, Luke comes then to the place in his gospel where he recounts the calling of the first fishermen (Luke 5:1-11); he chose to elaborate what he read in Mark, and precedes it with Jesus preaching from Simon’s boat and with the story of the miraculous catch of fish similar to a story which is told in John 21, where also we hear of Peter, after denying Jesus at the time of His arrest, being made the figurative shepherd of the early church. Luke also wants to make this point about Simon Peter and ends with the figurative phrase about becoming “fishers of men.” At the time Luke is writing, there has been an expansion of the followers of Jesus and a need for some structure among the leaders and followers; the miraculous catch of fish could be taken as a figurative tale of this expansion.

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