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Go Out to the Whole World

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Fifth Sunday of the Year. Fr Edward Booth shows how the miraculous haul of fish in today’s Gospel foreshadows the Apostles’ universal mission.

Those experts who are concerned to trace direct relationships between the Gospels – that of Saint John as also all of the synoptics – whilst they might find echoes of other incidents from other passages in the synoptic gospels – feel that they need to treat this as a completely re-edited passage of Luke. That has the advantage that it brings a reader very close to the life of the Capernaum fishermen-disciples, with the vocation which Our Lord was communicating to them, and makes them very conscious of the passage of their own thoughts step by step. Luke wrote with the experience of the years which he had spent as a companion of Paul in Asia Minor and the Greek mainland, and then in the special condition of seeing Paul through the waiting period for his trial in Rome. Here Peter was already installed: the chief of the Apostles and designated of all the Churches, but still somewhat remote from the detailed progress of the other Apostles' missions. It is said that the Apostles had an understanding not to encroach on the territories and populations already being evangelised and charismatically constructed, especially in the cities of the world originally Greek and Roman, where the Romans had under Octavius Caesar, later designated as Emperor Augustus, conquered the Greeks and had taken over their territories. This was delicately managed as the Roman power extended to the East. Rather as the conquered Egyptians had Egyptianized the Greeks, in some respects the Greeks had Hellenized the Romans. Because of its wide extent the previous Greek territory, which extended as far overland as India and even to the south of Egypt, to Nubia and Meroe, and the cultured nature of their settlements, Greek had become the lingua franca of large parts of the Roman domains. So it was over a widespread domain, already fairly unified by the widespread use of Greek, that these convert disciples of Jesus who were Galilean fisherman, were being prepared to evangelise, with some contact with the remining Greeks, but using Aramaic more as their common language with their Eastern neighbours.

As a prophetic sign Our Lord performed a miracle to show the wide extent of the new horizons within which they would work, but later in his final words Jesus confirmed the universal nature of the mission which he, God and man, would be giving them, whilst often using the Jewish communities as a starting point for their work. This universal range of their mission in which they were to plant a structure of centres in the cities of the Greek-Roman world was factually confirmed by the gift of tongues received on the celebration of the Jewish Feast of Pentecost. The crowd of diaspora Jewish pilgrims who had come to Jerusalem heard the Apostles rushing from the house where fear had caused them to stay out of sight, hearing them speaking in the languages of their far flung homes (whether one language spoken and miraculously understood as each, or by multilingual discourses passing from one to another, the result would have been the same).

This was the promise which Jesus gave them by the lakeside at the beginning, as he had given them the firm promise that their miraculous catch of a large shoal of fish, which had been as much as their nets could hold, was an image of what they would eventually be achieving with men. There was a rising plausibility throughout their missioning with Our Lord of the true universalism of what they were achieving, under God and with God in their extension of the Kingdom of God on this earth. This was even true of the seeming failure in the crucifixion of Christ and his painful death, against which even nature itself protested. Amen.



Isaiah 6:1-2,3-8|1Corinthians 15:1-11|Luke 5:1-11


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