5th Sunday Ordinary Time C

This is What You Believe

On December 8, 1982, the American College in Louvain, Belgium, celebrated the 125th anniversary of its foundation. (This college is a religious residence for U.S. candidates for the diocesan priesthood.) Officials of the college invited many important personages to take part in the special Mass of Thanksgiving. The Vatican accepted the invitation to be represented; so did the U.S. government. Even more exciting was the fact that Belgium itself was to be represented by no less than the King and Queen, King Baudoin I and Queen Fabiola.

Careful planning was necessary if all was to go off well – not only the reception and the dinner, but the Mass itself. The faculty planner of the liturgy, an excellent musician who appreciated church music past as well as present, announced to the students that although the Mass would, of course, be in English, the Congregation would be asked to sing the creed in Latin – the ancient Credo III in Gregorian chant.

The students, still too young to have remembered the old Latin Mass, took a dim view of having a Latin Credo. They doubtless knew that recent popes had urged Catholics of all nations to learn at least the basics of the Latin Mass and its chant for special celebrations; but they assumed that liturgical Latin had lost its relevance by 1982. Of course, the faculty won, and all College participants were given copies of the Creed and taught how to sing it. It came surprisingly easy.

As it turned out Credo III was a high point in the Mass. Not only the Italian papal delegate and the American staff and students sang it with feeling. Belgian-born King Baudoin and his Spanish-born Queen chimed in with the chant that evoked for them old memories. Furthermore, Mrs. George Schultz, the Catholic wife of the U. S. Secretary of State, also sang out the old familiar tune vigorously without even looking at the music.

“This is what we preach,” says St. Paul today and “this is what you believed” (2nd reading). The Creed we pronounce at each Sunday Mass is truly a “profession of faith”. It states the main articles of Catholic belief. We can profess that belief in any language. But it is still nice to recite or sing it in Latin on occasion, especially at international gatherings. Latin remains a truly international tongue. Then are indeed fulfilled the psalmist’s words, “In the presence of the angels I will sing your praise … All the kings of the earth shall give thanks … when they hear the words of your mouth.”

-Father Robert F. McNamara

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C253: Are today’s stories from Isaiah 6, Luke 5, and 1 Corinthians 15 about religious vocations, or is there a different linkage?

Today we have three remarkable stories of universal vocations embedded in our readings. Each story either states explicitly or alludes to a three-step process. First, God makes his presence known to us. Second, we recognize our sinfulness in his presence. Third, we are prompted to take action.

Isaiah sees the Lord and “the burning ones” (Seraphim); he recognizes his sinfulness (“unclean lips”) and is purified by heavenly fire (tongs, embers touch his lips). Peter knew he was in the presence of divine power when he saw the miraculous catch of fish that resulted from obeying Jesus, and he acknowledged his sinfulness to Jesus. Paul tells the Corinthians that the Risen Lord appeared to him last, and that appearance resulted in Paul’s recognition of his own sinfulness in persecuting Christians.

Then all three are prompted to take action. “Who will I send” said the Lord; “send me,” said Isaiah, and he becomes a great prophet. The Lord tells Peter that he will make him a fisher of men, and he leaves his fishing career and follows Jesus. Paul was given grace by the Lord to be the apostle to the Gentiles. All responded to this calling.

The same Spirit of God that moved Isaiah, Peter and Paul to take action in serving God, now dwells within you and me, from our baptism. He is calling us to Holiness and offering us the means to attain it (the Sacraments). He is also calling us, the baptized, to continue His mission by spreading the Good News. Has your response to the Lord’s call been all that it ought to be?

KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! The gift of God’s empowering Holy Spirit is given to us at our baptism (CCC #1226). Thus the Christian faithful, now constituted as the People of God, share in Christ’s priestly, prophetic and kingly office – and because of that fact, they are called to exercise the mission which God has entrusted to the Church (CCC #871). Lay Christians have the right and duty to work so that the divine message may be known throughout the world (CCC #900); this includes evangelization (#905). You are called to be the “leaven of the world” (CCC #940).

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Q566: Why did Peter feel so helpless and unworthy in the Gospel story today?

One cannot fail to see the connection between the First Reading (Isaiah 6:1-2a, 3-8) and the Gospel (Luke 5:1-11). One can feel so inadequate, like both Isaiah and Peter felt. However, obedience to the Lord always results in overflowing abundance. With the Lord, everything is possible. When he calls a person to discipleship, to follow him, there is no possibility of lacking anything to accomplish the purpose for which you are called by the Lord.

Today’s readings are really stories about responding to our own call to obedient faith, while we are still sinners. St. Paul speaks of the obedience of faith in the Book of Romans. The connection is that faith comes from hearing. We listen to the Lord, and listening also means obeying (the root of the Latin word obedire means both to listen and to obey).

Jesus is always inviting us out into deeper waters. He is calling us to trust in him. I suspect that every person who has been asked by his or her pastor to help out in some ministerial role has felt a sense of inadequacy. “Who, me, be a Lector? I’m not skilled in scripture.” “Me, teach the kids religious education? I’m not a teacher.” The list of “Who, me?” responses is endless. Yet, consider this: that call from your pastor is really a call from the Lord to join him out in those deeper waters! He provides for all of our needs when he calls us for a specific task.

Have you ever said “no” to your pastor, or to someone who has his delegated authority (for example, a head of a ministry such as Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion or Lectors or Religious Ed)? Why did you say “no”? Can you see that this invitation was more than just a suggestion? If you have rejected a call to assist, or if you have not recognized that it was really a call from the Lord, you can still make your present-day response a positive one, even though it has been delayed.

KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! All of us feel insignificant and inadequate to the task when faced with a call from the Lord (CCC 208). That is normal; but the next step is to say ‘Yes’ to the Lord’s invitation, like Peter in today’s gospel and like Mary’s response in the obedience of faith to the angel Gabriel (CCC 494).

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Hear the Word of the Lord

Today’s readings show us three men called by God to proclaim his message. They are appalled at the call. “Woe is me . I am doomed.” “Leave me Lord. I am a sinful man.” This often happens when one experiences a call from God. Our inadequacies and sinfulness seem to loom all the larger. But the mission is not dependent on our worthiness but on God’s grace. We are all called to participate in the process of proclaiming God’s word, but in a much less dramatic way than Paul and Peter. We are called to do this by the way we live our lives. While the faith tradition is handed down, it is preserved yet reshaped by the way it addresses the needs of the present time.

Lord, give us the grace and the will to proclaim your word. Help us to live in ways that reflect our faith, lives full of self-giving concern for others.

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