Gospel Reflections by Father Gerry Pierse, C.Ss.R.

C - 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time


Is 6:1-8 • 1 Cor 15:1-11 • Lk 5:1-11

Where "Down" Means "Up" and "Up" Means "Down"

       When we installed a shower heater in the Retreat House we ran into some trouble. It has an element in it that heats up. If a lot of water passes over the element the water does not get very hot. If there is little water it will get very hot. Since we got it, almost every new user has blown the safety mechanism that cuts off the water when it gets to a scalding temperature. When they feel the water getting hot they turn the switch down, when what they should do, to make the water cooler, is to turn it up.

       This to me is a good analogy of what happens often in our dealings with God. What we instinctively do or expect is the reverse of the divine way. We see this especially in the choice of leaders. We would expect God to choose the best and only the best people for leadership positions. Yet, the people that God chooses, and the Bible makes no attempt to conceal the fact, are often the most unlikely ones. Moses was a hot headed murderer before he was called to lead the people. David, the Royal Psalmist, was first of all a spoiled child and later an adulterous autocrat.
In today's readings we see God call Isaiah to be his prophet who says "What a wretched state I am in! I am a lost man, for I am a man of unclean lips." Then there is St. Paul who can never forget that he was persecuting the Church when the Lord called him. Then, of course, we have Peter! One would think that impetuous coward would be the last person for Jesus to choose. Why were they chosen?

       They were called not because they were perfect, not because they were shining examples of high standards, but rather because their sense of the need for God's grace kept them on the edges of life and away from the smug infertility of those who feel that they have got it all together.

       Today's story about Peter is a classic example of God's unpredictability and Peter's missing the point. Jesus preaches from Peter's boat and then asks him to pull out to make a catch of fish. In matters of fishing Peter was an expert and Jesus a dumb carpenter. "Master," Peter points out, "we worked hard all night long and caught nothing." He knew that fish came to the surface in the sea of Galilee only at night and if you did not get them then you would never get them. But to humor the celebrity he agreed to take Jesus out to fish. When he does, their nets are filled to bursting point and they have to ask the help of other fishermen to bring in the catch.
Peter got the point very quickly. He immediately saw his own pride and self-centeredness in the presence of Jesus. He begged Jesus to go away and put distance between his sinfulness and Jesus' holiness. But here again Peter got it wrong. It was only when he felt sinful and empty that Jesus could call him and fill him and make him a fisher of people. Up to this point he had been too full of himself to allow God in. Now he is told that sinfulness is not a barrier to keep God out: it expresses a real need for God to come in. Peter is the first person in the Gospel to acknowledge his sinfulness; he is also the first person to be called by Jesus.

       The Good News of the gospel is that God does not get nervous at the news of our sinfulness. He can handle sinners. Our God is one who gives sinners a new start. The scribes and pharisees liked to keep people prisoners of their sins but not so for Jesus. He moves Peter from protestation of sinfulness to the work that is ahead of him. It is important that we acknowledge our sinfulness but then to get up and live again - trusting not so much in our own goodness as in that of God.

       Prayer is a time for being before God as we truly are. We do not have to be good, as so many think, to enter into God's presence. When we are there, not denying our sinfulness or wallowing in our failures, the Lord raises us up to be humble fishers of other people. For the Lord, the humble are exalted and the exalted are humbled. Indeed, for Jesus, "up" often means "down" and "down" often means "up."

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Taken from Sundays into Silence - A Pathway to Life. Copyright © 1998 by Claretian Publications

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Sundays into Silence

A Pathway to Life

by Gerry Pierse, cssr
380 pp., PhP 299, U$ 19.95

“The best word I can find to describe this book is integration. In these reflections on the gospel readings for year A, B, and C of the liturgical cycle, Fr. Pierse integrates the richness of the word of God with experiences and stories from life in the community. He shows how through silence, the word can bear fruit in service and sacrament.” (R. J. Cardinal Vidal)

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