Reflections on life, meaning and purpose

Sunday Scripture readings, Feb. 6, 2022: Extreme living

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

1) Is 6:1-8
Psalm 138:1-8
2) 1 Cor 15:1-11
Gospel: Lk 5:1-11

In “Life Below Zero,” a popular reality television show, viewers follow the lives of men and women who choose to live in the Alaskan wilderness, close to or above the Artic circle. Their daily way of life is harsh as they face extreme challenges as subsistence hunters who must survive off the land for the food they eat and for their livelihood.

One sees them hunting for caribou, moose, seal, birds or fish as they showcase their hunting skills, knowledge of the environment and virtues like patience and prudence. But even these fearless subsistence hunters return empty-handed from a hunting or fishing trip or a scouting expedition.

Failure is a daily part of their rugged existence, and they often reflect on how it strengthens their sense of being called to live this extreme way of life.

On this Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, we reflect on the call we receive to live as disciples of Jesus Christ. In the Gospel, Jesus sees two boats on the lake and fishermen washing their nets after a night of hard work when they failed to catch anything.

Jesus gets into Simon’s boat. He is about to work a miracle, but Jesus does not stay at a distance from those he calls. Rather, Jesus enters close to the heart of their lives, into the boat of their livelihood.

Jesus commands Simon Peter to “put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Simon Peter recalls his failed fishing trip as he responds to Jesus saying, “But at your command I will lower the nets.”

Simon Peter’s trust in Jesus bears good fruit in a great catch of fish to the point that their nets are tearing. The fishermen are rightly astounded by this miracle of Jesus who then calls them to follow him and sends them on mission saying, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”

Luke concludes this miracle story by telling us simply that the fisherman left everything to follow Jesus as his disciples.

This same personal call of God is heard by the prophet Isaiah in the first reading. God first cleanses the prophets’ lips as a seraphim angel touches his mouth with a burning ember.

Once purified of sin, the prophet responds to God’s voice calling, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” Cleansed and called, the prophet responds, “Here I am … send me!”

Similarly, the apostle Paul preaches the core Gospel of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection and recalls how God’s grace changed his life when Jesus appeared to him and called him to discipleship.

By virtue of baptism and confirmation, we are cleansed of sin and called to be disciples of Jesus Christ. God speaks to us in his word and gives us his divine grace and presence in the Eucharist.

So, it is fitting that we join the psalmist who says, “In the sight of the angels I will sing your praises, Lord,” as we pray, “speak to me, Lord.”

Reflection Question:

How does Jesus call you to live daily as his disciple?

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Sullivan is a professor at The Catholic University of America.