LORD, HAVE IT YOUR WAY
(A biblical reflection on the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time [Year C] – 6 February 2022)
Gospel Reading: Luke 5:1-11
First Reading: Isaiah 6:1-2a,3-8; Psalms: Psalm 138:1-5,7-8; Second Reading: 1Corinthians 15:1-11 (or 1Corinthians 15:3-8,11)
The Scripture Text
While the people pressed upon Him to hear the word of God, He was standing by the lake of Gennesaret. And He saw two boats by the lake; but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, He asked him to put out a little from the land. And He sat down and taught the people from the boat. And when He had ceased speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at Your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a great shoal of fish; and as their nets were breaking, they beckoned to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men.” And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him. (Luke 5:1-11 RSV)
“Holy, holy, holy ……” is spoken to God and “let down your nets,” is spoken by God. These two brief proclamations merit bold print in today’s liturgy. The author of the first reading, Isaiah, is recording a transitory vision he experienced while at prayer in the Temple. The angels huddled around the throne of the Almighty, and chanted in Hebrew the triple holy: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory” (Isaiah 6:3). This was the only way the language could express the superlative form of the adjective – by repairing the positive three times. We recognize this sublime prayer as the introduction to the canon of the Mass, still retained in the original Hebrew form.
In comparison to the vision, Isaiah saw himself as very unholy. Isaiah said; “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!” (Isaiah 6:5). Then, Isaiah welcomed a lip-cleansing ceremony by the application of a burning coal (Isaiah 6:6-7). Following his searing purification, he could boldly proclaim readiness to serve God – “Here am I! Send me” (Isaiah 6:8). Isaiah is both attracted to God’s adorable holiness and overjoyed that he can share in it. The Church helps us appreciate the sacred nature of God through word and sacrament, encouraging us (like Isaiah) to imitation.
The second statement is found in the Gospel as a command of Jesus to Peter. The chief apostle was hesitant to comply, for the best time for fishing had passed with the cool hours before dawn. Being a “professional” fisherman, he protested what seemed bad advice. Like a seasonal fisherman Himself, Jesus patiently waited for Peter to lower the nets after he had exhausted all the reasons why he should not. Amazed at the abundant catch of fish, Peter “the expert in fishery” learned a lasting lesson about trusting the sacred word of the Lord.
Indeed, it’s difficult for us to follow faith’s advice in daily life, especially when we feel competent and well informed. Whatever the case may be, we must humbly learn with Saint Peter that our knowledge of catching fish is nothing when compared to His, Who made the fish.
These two statements originated centuries apart. Fortunately for us they are now united in the same liturgy, since they complement each other. This is the connection: if we can truly proclaim the holiness of God, believe in His profound love for us and appreciate His smiling wisdom, then with full confidence we can lower the nets at any time or to any depth He requests.
The events of life will continue to puzzle us, with accidents and diseases sidelining some, while others are blessed with good fortune. God’s ways are not our ways, but His ways are best. We’re on the road to holiness when at His gentle invitation we can lower the nets willingly and say to the Master, “have it Your way”
Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, teach me to let go of my own plans for my life and the lives of others. I want to believe that You have a better plan for all of the things I do. Whenever I am disturbed and upset, because things are not going the way I want them to, let me back off, let go, and remember that You alone are in charge of my life. I have determined to entrust everything to You. I trust You, because of the fact that You have loved me. Amen.
Jakarta, 5 February 2022
A Christian Pilgrim