5th Sunday C
Sunday 6th February 2022
The Gospel Paraphrased
There are many fine translations of the Gospels readily available. This paraphrase is not meant to replace them. Rather the intention here is to offer a more contemporary rendering so that you can imaginatively translate the Gospel in your own situation.
This Sunday's Gospel Paraphrased
It happened that as Jesus stood by the lake of Gennesaret, the people were thronging up against him, trying to hear the word of God. He noticed two boats lying on the shore. The fishermen had gotten out of them and were washing their nets. Jesus stepped into the boat belonging to Simon and asked him to push out a little from the shore. Sitting down, Jesus taught the people from the boat.
When he had finished speaking, he told Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon said to him, “Master, we have worked hard all night and didn’t catch a thing. But, since you say so, I’ll lower the nets.” And when they had done this, they caught such a large catch of fish that their net was breaking. They signalled their partners in the other boat to come and help. The catch filled their boat as well. In fact they were both almost swamped.
Seeing this, Simon fell at Jesus’ knees saying, “Leave me! I am a sinful man, O Lord.” For he was overcome with awe, as were his companions, at the catch they had taken. So also were James and John, Simon’s partners. Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid. From now on you will catch people for life!” Bringing their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.
The Psalms are the ancient prayers of the Jewish people, here paraphrased into contemporary language.
This Sunday's Psalm
Ps 137: 1-5, 7-8
God, I will praise you with my whole heart.
Before the powers of heaven, I will sing your glory.
I worship in your holy temple,
praising your name for your kindness and truth.
Your name is glorified above all names.
On the very day I called, you answered my plea,
strengthening me in the depths of my soul.
All the kings of the earth shall praise you, O Lord
when they hear what I have to say.
Yes, indeed, they will sing of God’s ways.
Great is the glory of God.
You will stretch out your hand to save me.
You will work all things for my good.
Your mercy is forever.
Do not neglect the work of your hands.
Words cannot contain our desire for God but they help direct our minds and hearts towards God's love and express our needs.
This Sunday's Prayer
Loving God, you have called me to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. When he calls me to launch out into the deep, may I trust his command. When he works through me, may I bow down in awe. When he calls me to follow him, may I joyfully leave all and follow him in love.
The Commentaries Summarised
As a Church we are in a web of wisdom that comes to us both from tradition and contemporary writers. This section offers a summary of some commentaries on the Gospel. Also below is a list of the books and articles that have been consulted in compiling this Sunday's "Pray As You Can" and which could be used for further reading.
This Sunday's Commentary
In contrast to Matthew and Mark’s Gospels, Luke has significantly different sequence for the early ministry of Jesus. In those other synoptics, and indeed in the Gospel of John, the call of Simon and the first disciples takes place before Jesus begins his preaching ministry proper. But in Luke, Jesus has already had success in the Galilean countryside, rejection in Nazareth, and even more success in Capernaum and the Judean countryside before he calls his first disciples. Rather, it is on the lake of Gennesaret, when he is virtually being pushed into the water by the eager crowds that he gives the dramatic sign that transforms the lives of Simon Peter and his companions. It seems almost a chance encounter, as Jesus steps into Simon’s boat. In asking Simon to push out from shore, he makes Simon a captive listener. Simon’s attitude of listening and openness continues even when Jesus gives the order to go fishing again. Respectfully, Simon gives the practical reasons of an experienced fisherman but he is still open to the lead of this charismatic preacher.
Simon’s response at the overwhelming catch is in the biblical tradition of one experiencing the mystery of God. Like Isaiah, he feels his profound inadequacy which he names as ‘sinful’ though no sin has obviously taken place here. Short of walking on water, Jesus can hardly depart. But Jesus takes no notice of Peter’s humble stance, or rather, he probably sees it as a most necessary attribute for one who is to become a fisher of ‘people’. The word Jesus uses for ‘catch’ is a Greek verb for ‘catching’ that is not going to end in death, as in ordinary fishing, but rather in further life. This is so fitting for this section of the Gospel that has so much abundance – large eager crowds, overflowing catches of fish, the ready response of faith that is prepared to leave everything to follow this alluring preacher.
Christian conversion is promoted by conversation. This section is a response to and a development on the knowledge gained from the commentary section.
This Sunday's Exposition
A sense of one’s sinfulness isn’t necessarily a bad thing – so long as it is the right sense of sin. There is a sense of sinfulness in which we brood on our sins and failings, going over them and making ourselves worse for the reflection. This is like people who continually pick at their sores and thwart their healing. Maybe there is a sense of security in going over the same things, over and over again. There is another sense of sinfulness in which we honestly face our failures and admit that we have allowed evil to influence our lives. While this involves shame, it also can lead to conversion. This involves some sense of insecurity as we do not know what change repentance and conversion will bring in our lives.
But there is another sense of sinfulness that really isn’t sinful at all. It comes when we have encountered profoundly the mystery of God. Simon Peter certainly had done nothing wrong when he made that miraculous catch. Indeed he had done everything right, even in advising Jesus about the practicalities of fishing. But, in the face of such an enormous catch he is overwhelmed with awe and filled with insecurity. He misnames the experience, calling himself a sinful man. What else could he have done – what words are there for such an experience? While he may get the words wrong, his actions show that his heart understood both the miracle and the call of Jesus. He left everything and followed Jesus. The security in the depth of his heart could override the insecurity of life on the road with a strange new preacher.
Reflection is an essential element of our growth in Christ. As we reflect over what we have learnt and ponder it in our hearts, we come to recognise the presence of God in our lives.
This Sunday's Reflection
When Jesus told Simon Peter to launch out in to the deep, he wasn’t telling him to do anything he didn’t know how to do. All he asked was for him to do it at a time Peter deemed inappropriate. What did Peter risk? Losing a few hours’ sleep and making a fool of himself. I don’t think the lack of rest would have particularly bothered Peter – looking like a fool probably did. Most of us dread that. And yet that fear is one of the greatest dampeners on coming to the fullness of life Jesus promises. How often do we hold back from something that stretches us just a little – because we might look like a fool? Simple things like greeting a stranger at church, becoming a catechist, writing a letter to a politician, asking forgiveness, offering forgiveness, approaching someone who is difficult, even starting a new skill. We tell ourselves we can’t do it – not because we can’t but because we can’t be sure of what might happen if we tried. We can’t be in control. But we will never know the surprise ‘catch of fish’ if we do not risk when we hear the call to launch out into the deep. You will never die of making a fool of yourself but if you never risk doing so you will never live.
Looking at art works or movies is a great way to open ourselves to the meaning of the Gospels. Seeing can bypass our preconceived notions, giving us new vistas of enlightenment. With painting or sculpture one needs to sit quietly and absorb the dynamics of the piece. The drama of movies more easily engages us and offers a way to conversation about the Gospel with other members of your family.
This Sunday's Visual Meditation
The purpose of mulling meditations is to offer a few ideas that one can mull about while doing other occupations. There are many things we do in our day that do not require our full attention - some things which are largely done on automatic pilot - like driving a car or peeling the potatoes. While we give these our attention, part of our mind is still at work mulling on other things and unless it is given something positive to feed on, we easily feed on negative thoughts. Personally I find mulling time the most likely time for God to get through to me. Because I am not so conscious of myself, God gets through the cracks and opens my heart to look at life differently.
Two practical times for mulling can be when exercising and when driving. Some small preparations for integrating such prayer into these exercises can be helpful.
As you do your preparatory stretches, pray the line of the Psalm "I praise you God for I am wonderfully made!"
Similarly when doing your concluding stretches use the prayer of St Clare "Praised be you, my God, for creating me!"
Have some music that you find helps you turn you mind and heart to God and play that for the first 10 minutes or so of your trip.
This Sunday's Mulling Meditation
As you go through this week, mull on the work that you are gifted to do. Ask yourself do you set limits on what you think God is capable of doing through you? Mull on what you could do if you had a bit more courage and trusted in the word of Jesus.
In the Letter of James, we are told that the Scriptures are like a mirror in which we can see ourselves. In this type of meditation we take a piece of Scripture, hold it before us and consider what echoes within our heart. These echoes help us to see who we are before God and how we are loved. What usually echoes in us are situations that we are dealing with in our lives. When something strikes us, we do not actively try to solve the situation or work it through. Rather we sit holding it in God's love. The point of such a meditation is to make space within the situation for God's love to be. In 'sitting with' such a situation, painful or sad, we come to recognise the love of God that is at work on our lives. The suggestions for Mirror reflections can also be used for Exercise reflections but wouldn't be advised for Driving Prayer as often some degree of emotion or distraction might rise in such prayer.
This Sunday's Mirror Meditation
Rest in the love of your God.
Recall some time when you have been profoundly moved by the presence or God, or a work of God. Sit with that experience for some time. Focus on yourself in the situation, then focus on the awesomeness of God.
Can you notice a contrast between the two: perhaps how too much fixation on one’s smallness leads to paralysis, while wonder before God leads to a sense of peace and buoyancy?
As you rest in this love, ask God what he wants you to do with your life in the best few days.
Rest in the love of your God.
Suggestions for the Programme
The elements of the programme can be used in any way that helps your prayer. The suggestions below are fairly simple ways of using this programme.
Become conscious of your God
Hymn or poem
Reading of Gospel text
Mulling over a reflection
Become conscious of your God
Reading of Gospel text and reflection
The programme can also be used for Staff Prayer. How you may put together such a prayer would be influenced largely by the size and dynamics of your staff. For example, a smaller staff group might be able to use discussion of a movie as a way of exploring the meaning of a Gospel.
A painting illustrating the Gospel could be displayed on an interactive board
Reading of the Gospel
Invitation for share reflections
Reading of part of the Gospel
One or two of the mulling themes
Time for reflection
- Shepherd Me, O God by Marty Haugen
- All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name by Edward Perronet
- Let all mortal flesh keep silence Traditional
- Here am I Lord by Daniel L. Schutte