Isaiah 6:1-2a, 3-8
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Luke 5:1-11 [75C]
In the Gospel reading for the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, we hear Luke’s account of the call of the first disciples. Unlike the other Evangelists, Luke places a spotlight on the call of Simon Peter in this call narrative. As the author of the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles (Luke–Acts), Luke is not just telling the story of Jesus, he is also telling the story of the early church. Since Peter is a central figure in both the life of Jesus and the life of the early church, Luke viewed the call of the disciples as a prime opportunity to introduce and highlight Peter.
Luke knew Mark’s version of the call of the disciples (see Mk 1:16-20). It was a rather matter-of-fact report of Jesus calling the set of brother fishermen, Peter and Andrew, James and John, to follow him. Mark offers few additional details beyond all four responding positively to Jesus’ invitation. In Luke’s retelling of the call, Andrew is not mentioned at all, James and John play a very minor role, a miraculous catch of fish is added, and the interaction between Jesus and Simon Peter is the main focus. Luke portrays Peter as a humble and trusting man, well aware of his own limitations. In the various ways in which he redacts Mark’s call narrative, Luke actually transforms the “call” of Simon Peter into a “commission” narrative. Jesus not only invites Peter to follow him, he commissions Peter—“From now on you will be catching men.” Indeed, throughout Luke–Acts, and especially in Acts, Peter emerges as the lead apostle in the early church “catching men” to follow Christ. Luke reports that Peter was bringing in literally “thousands” of believers into the Church (see, for example, Acts 2:41).
Writing about twenty years after the martyrdom of Peter around the year AD 85, Luke bore witness to a growing church rooted in Jerusalem and expanding all the way west to Rome. The miraculous catch of fish associated with the call and commission of Simon Peter in today’s reading served as a metaphor for the impact that Peter would have as an apostle of Christ and as an evangelizer for the good news—as Peter ventured “into deep water” he caught such “a great number of fish” that “their nets were tearing.”
In his First Letter to the Corinthians, Paul preserves a “received” tradition about the Resurrection appearances of Christ. Dated to the spring of AD 55, First Corinthians offers us the earliest attestation of witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection. First among those listed as witnesses to the resurrected Christ is Cephas (Peter). (“Cephas” is the Aramaic name for Peter and it translates literally as “a rock.” Aramaic was the native language of Jesus and Peter.) Since First Corinthians was written only about twenty years after the death and resurrection of Jesus, it is reasonable to conclude that from the very beginning, Peter was recognized as having a prominent place in Jesus’ life and in the life of the early church.
The first reading recounts the call of the prophet Isaiah. The call of Isaiah is dated to the year 742 BC, the year in which historians date the death of King Uzziah. Isaiah reports a view of the unseen order as part of his call, as well as his own fear and anxiety and shortcomings. Like Peter, Isaiah reacts to the call with humility and eagerness. In this way, all Christians see in Peter and Isaiah a model response to the call of Christ.
Dr. Daniel J. Scholz
Isaiah 6:1-2a, 3-8