"Breaking Open the Word" :
James Cavanagh is the director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-Area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. His weekly column, "Breaking Open the Word," is syndicated by the Denver Catholic Register, official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Denver. Click here to visit the Office of Evangelization & Catechesis for the Archdiocese of Denver.
All faithful are called to ‘put out into the deep’
Synopsis: The Church is missionary by her very nature (“Ad Gentes,” 2). From the very beginning the Church has been called to “put out into the deep” of the world. The calling of the Church and of each one of us originates in our encounter with the living God. This is the idea behind the choice of the first reading where Isaiah describes his calling. He describes a vision where he saw the Lord “seated on a high and lofty throne” in his Temple surrounded by the heavenly host. Struck with awe and his sense of utter unworthiness, he prostrates himself before God. An angel appears who touches his lips with a burning coal, which signifies the divine message he’s called to proclaim. At first Isaiah is reluctant, but by the end of the reading he responds in confidence: “Here I am. Send me.” In the second reading St. Paul recounts his calling. Like Isaiah before him, he felt wholly unworthy of his office, calling himself “the least of the apostles.” He then outlines the basic Gospel message, or kerygma, which forms the nucleus of the creed that we say every Sunday. Finally, this week’s Gospel describes the calling of Peter, James and John. After witnessing the miraculous catch of fish, Peter falls at Jesus’ feet saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man” upon which Jesus calls Peter to follow him and commissions him to be “a fisher of men.” In each case, the calling and sending of Isaiah, Paul and Peter was not based on their qualifications, but on God’s election and grace. The reading mirrors the pattern of the Mass, which begins with the word of God and ends with the following of Christ.
Key verse: “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch” (Luke 5:4).
Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Confirmation … gives us a special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith by word and action as true witnesses of Christ, to confess the name of Christ boldly, and never to be ashamed of the Cross” (No. 1303).
Pope Benedict XVI: “After the blessing, the deacon or the priest dismisses the people with the words: ‘Ite, missa est.’ These words help us to grasp the relationship between the Mass just celebrated and the mission of Christians in the world. In antiquity, missa simply meant ‘dismissal.’ However in Christian usage it gradually took on a deeper meaning. The word ‘dismissal’ has come to imply a ‘mission.’ These few words succinctly express the missionary nature of the Church” (“Sacramentum Caritatis,” 51).
Life application: This week’s readings remind us of the well-known axiom: God doesn’t call the qualified; he qualifies those he calls. One of the aims of Vatican II was to highlight the role of the laity in the life and mission of the Church. In fact, an entire document was devoted to the apostolate of the laity, whose activity, it says, is “directed to the evangelization and sanctification of men and to the penetrating and perfecting of the temporal order through the spirit of the Gospel” (Decree on the Laity, 2). Inspired by God’s word and strengthened by the Eucharist, we are sent out into the world to proclaim the Gospel in word and deed.
James Cavanagh is director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. Cavanagh’s column is distributed by the Denver Catholic Register.
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