First reading: Is. 6:1–2a,3–8
In the year King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, with the train of his garment filling the temple. Seraphim were stationed above.
They cried one to the other, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts! All the earth is filled with his glory!” At the sound of that cry, the frame of the door shook and the house was filled with smoke. Then I said, “Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” Then one of the seraphim flew to me, holding an ember that he had taken with tongs from the altar. He touched my mouth with it, and said, “See, now that this has touched your lips, your wickedness is removed, your sin purged.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” “Here I am,” I said; “send me!”
Second reading: 1 Cor. 15:1–11
I am reminding you, brothers and sisters, of the gospel I preached to you, which you indeed received and in which you also stand. Through it you are also being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures; that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures; that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. After that, Christ appeared to more than five hundred brothers at once, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. After that he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one born abnormally, he appeared to me. For I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective. Indeed, I have toiled harder than all of them; not I, however, but the grace of God that is with me. Therefore, whether it be I or they, so we preach and so you believed.
Gospel: Lk. 5:1–11
While the crowd was pressing in on Jesus and listening to the word of God, he was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret. He saw two boats there alongside the lake; the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, he asked him to put out a short distance from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Simon said in reply, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.” When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come to help them. They came and filled both boats so that the boats were in danger of sinking. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him and all those with him, and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners of Simon. Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him.
In other words Fr. Dionisio M. Miranda, SVD, Divine Word Seminary, Tagaytay City
In a simpler age, words were more transparent—they meant what they said directly, dispensing with the need for interpretation. In our digital age, communication necessitates careful attention to coding, encoding, and decoding. Some words no longer mean what they say. Truth has become a matter of perspective. Fake news has become normal. In his message for World Communications Day 2020, Pope Francis warns us against promoting stories that destroy and urges us to favor only those that unite and promote life. Unlike the human word, God’s word by nature offers us unity and life, and today’s readings suggest at least three different insights into the sacred word.
The first reading directs our attention to the unclean word. The man of unclean lips engages in lies, half-truths, propaganda, and fake news. Pope Francis once compared such a man with the serpent in the Garden, whose forked tongue was the epitome of deception. His master is not the Lord of Truth but the father of lies. In response, Scripture offers a remedy, symbolized by the angel who cleanses the lips of the liar by touching it with an ember from the altar. Even in secular settings where the truth is the key concern, a witness is required to swear by everything one holds sacred—to speak the truth and nothing but the truth, to avoid misleading ambiguities, to pronounce a clear Yes or No as needed.
The second reading concentrates on the good word. The Gospel of Jesus’ incarnation, his ministry, his passion and death, and his resurrection is the foundational good word, with the capacity to lead to eternal life. As many gospel hearers continue to discover, the words of Jesus have the simple force of natural truth by awakening persons to the truth of themselves; many times the good word also leads beyond, opening the hearer to the saving Truth of God. But we should not confuse the holy with the magical; the holy word does not transform by itself as magic is supposed to do. The power of the good word can only be released by one’s conscious decision for the truth. That is why it is possible to blunt the power of the word, as evidenced by the many times the gospel is refused, whenever people prefer the untruths they have become comfortable with and cannot live without.
The Gospel focuses on Jesus’ authoritative word. Every time Jesus preached, he always invited them to believe and be a part of God’s kingdom. He even performed many miracles and mighty deeds, although he held no illusions that narrow minds, closed hearts, and unworthy deeds would never find them convincing enough or adequate to force a change of life direction. Jesus wanted believers to take him at his bare, unsupported word, for the truth inherent in the message, rather than to acquiesce uncritically solely on the basis of his claimed authority as Son of God. Conversion happens precisely in the meeting of the natural and revealed word. Every Christian has had moments of intuitive surrender, when we acquiesce to God’s word against our rational instincts, when we truly believe in the existential sense. Today more than ever we need to have more of such faith-responses, because it is these which expand the space for Christ to enter into our lives.