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Jaime L. WatersFebruary 01, 2022
Photo from Unsplash.

Venerable Henriette Delille answered God’s call to care for people who were poor, sick, and in need of education. A healer and teacher to those enslaved and free in New Orleans, Delille recognized and responded to the needs of her community, founding the Sisters of the Holy Family as one way to answer her call. According to tradition, Delille had a religious experience, perhaps a divine encounter like the ones we hear in today’s first reading and Gospel. “On the flyleaf of a book centered on the Eucharist, is a profession of love, in her own handwriting. Written in French: “Je crois en Dieu. J’espère en Dieu. J’aime. Je v[eux] vivre et mourir pour Dieu,” meaning “I believe in God. I hope in God. I love. I want to live and die for God.”

“They left everything and followed him.” (Lk 5:11)

Liturgical day
Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time (C)
Is 6:1-8; Ps 138; 1 Cor 15:1-11; Lk 5:1-11

What can you learn from Henriette Delille’s life and ministry?

How can biblical call narratives inspire your work?

What can you do to support communities who are most in need?

Scripture includes several call narratives in which people experience a divine interruption of ordinary life and are called upon to do extraordinary work. In the first reading, Isaiah sees a vision of God. Divine glory is depicted vividly with royal images such as a lofty throne in the temple and seraphim, hybrid winged creatures, attending to the Lord. When Isaiah is called while seeing this awesome vision, his response mirrors many other call narratives, with initial reluctance and him declaring himself unworthy.

Isaiah receives divine assurance and is symbolically purified with a burning ember so that when he speaks he delivers God’s word. When the Lord ponders who to send to prophesy to the people of Israel and Judah, Isaiah eventually responds, “Here I am. Send me!” Reluctance turns to willingness as Isaiah feels supported and capable of doing his prophetic work.

The Gospel reading from Luke also focuses on divine callings. Jesus calls some of his disciples while they are fishing in the Sea of Galilee. Luke highlights many people who were present for this event, a contrast to Isaiah’s solo vision. “The crowd was pressing in on Jesus,” and he enters Simon’s boat so that he can teach the community while aboard the boat. Simon supports and facilitates Jesus’ missionary work even before his formal call.

After teaching the crowds, Jesus instructs Simon to lower his nets. Despite the unsuccessful fishing day, when Simon listens to Jesus’ instruction, he brings up an overabundance of fish in his nets. Because of this, Simon is amazed and falls on his knees, showing his recognition of Jesus’ power.

Like Isaiah, Simon also proclaims his inadequacy: “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” Jesus addresses Simon and also James and John with him, saying that they would fish for people. This encounter is the formal beginning of their discipleship in support of Christ’s ministry. The abundance of fish symbolizes the overwhelming love of Christ and the countless people who would be welcomed into the early Christian community.

As we reflect on Henriette Delille and today’s readings, we can be inspired to look at the world and think about how we can contribute in meaningful ways to improve the lives of others and draw nearer to God. Delille, in serving disenfranchised communities, addressed complex inequalities, cared for the needs of the most vulnerable and encountered God in the process. Her profession of love shows the connection she made between service and faith. Similarly, Isaiah’s prophetic career was filled with powerful oracles, sermons, and symbolic actions in his life that were meant to strengthen his community and connect him closer to God. The disciples, those named and unnamed, similarly responded to Christ’s preaching and ministry and followed him. While all of these people likely experienced moments of fear and uncertainty, they eventually answered their calls. What can you do to respond to the needs of the world?

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