HANDED ON – Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C; Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (RC)

February 6, 2022

Revised Common Lectionary
Isaiah 6:1-8 (9-13)
Psalm 138
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Luke 5:1-11



Lectionary for Mass (RC)
Isaiah 6:1-2a, 3-8
Psalm 138:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 7-8 (1c)
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Luke 5:1-11

As you look back on the course of your life so far, can you name some of the people who have helped to shape your beliefs? If we sat down to make a list, most of us would probably mention parents, family members, teachers, pastors, and other adult leaders. We might also recall friends, colleagues, authors, journalists, and other media sources. The list might look a little different for each person, but all of us have to some degree been influenced by others in developing beliefs that guide us through life.

In today’s Epistle reading Paul reminds the Corinthian community of the fundamental belief that Christians share: “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures” (1 Cor 15:3-4).

This kernel or core of Christian faith, sometimes referred to by the Greek term kerygma (“proclamation”), is found not only in today’s reading but also in other New Testament texts. Freshly anointed with the Holy Spirit along with the other disciples, Peter centered his first two sermons on this core teaching (Acts 2:14-36 and 3:11-26). The four Gospels can themselves be understood as longer versions of the kerygma, proclaiming the good news of Christ’s death and resurrection with extended introductions that illuminate the meaning of his saving work.

Paul goes on to remind the Corinthians that they did not receive the faith directly; rather, it was “handed on” (15:3) to them through his proclamation. The good news of Christ’s dying and rising was made known beyond the first group of disciples through the testimony of those who witnessed appearances of the risen One. Paul provides a list: first Cephas (Peter), then the twelve, then a gathering of five hundred persons, then James and the other apostles, and finally Paul himself. The gospel proclamation is sure because there are trustworthy witnesses whom Paul can cite by name.

We too have received the good news through the testimony of others. We stand in the line of generations who have passed down their witness to the crucified and risen Lord. Can we identify the persons who handed on the good news of Christ to us? Whose testimony nurtured the beginnings of our faith?

As we recall those through whom we have come to faith, today’s reading from 1 Corinthians also offers us the opportunity to refocus our attention on our fundamental belief in the dying and rising of Christ into which we were baptized and which we celebrate each time we gather for the Lord’s Supper. That mystery not only grounds our faith but gives meaning to our own life and death and calls us to pour out our lives for others as Jesus did.

It is not enough to receive the initial seed of faith through the testimony of others. Throughout our lives we are to nurture it, listening and responding as God continues to speak through the persons and events of our lives.

A Hymn for Today: “Here I Am, Lord”

Today’s Hebrew Scripture reading recounts one of the great call stories in Scripture. Isaiah receives his commission to be a prophet while at worship in the Temple, where in a vision he finds himself in the presence of the Holy One. After confessing his sinfulness and being cleansed by a burning coal on his lips, Isaiah hears the question, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Without hesitation he responds, “Here am I; send me!” (Is 6:8)

Composer Dan Schutte was a Jesuit theology student in 1979 when he wrote this text, based on the call of Isaiah, for the ordination of a deacon. The hymn is dialogic in structure. Each verse invites the response of the community by drawing on God’s question to Isaiah, “Whom shall I send?” While Isaiah is called to “[m]ake the mind of this people dull, and stop their ears, and shut their eyes” (6:10), Schutte draws on other biblical texts and images for verses in which God seeks those who will bring the Holy One’s light, word, and life. The refrain sung by the gathered assembly recalls Isaiah’s willing response but draws as well on the reply of the boy Samuel who was awakened three times from his sleep (1 Sam 3:1-10). The community’s response begins with “Here I am, Lord,” and concludes with the commitment to “hold your people in my heart.”

Carl P. Daw, Jr., FHS, suggests in his note for this hymn in Glory to God that its meaning “becomes clearer if a leader or small group sings the stanzas, with the congregation joining in on the refrain.”

I, the Lord of sea and sky,
I have heard my people cry.
All who dwell in dark and sin
My hand will save.
I, who made the stars of night,
I will make their darkness bright.
Who will bear my light to them?
Whom shall I send? Refrain

Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go, Lord, if you lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart.

I, the Lord of snow and rain,
I have borne my people’s pain.
I have wept for love of them,
They turn away.
I will break their hearts of stone,
Give them hearts for love alone.
I will speak my word to them.
Whom shall I send? Refrain

I, the Lord of wind and flame,
I will tend the poor and lame.
I will set a feast for them.
My hand will save.
Finest bread I will provide
Till their hearts are satisfied.
I will give my life to them.
Whom shall I send? Refrain

Text: Based on Isaiah 6; Daniel L. Schutte, b. 1947. © 1981, 2000, OCP. Used by permission under OneLicense #A-729857
Tune: HERE I AM (Schutte)

Image Credit: Christ Appears to the Apostles behind Closed Doors, Duccio di Buoninsegna, ca. 1255 – 1319

“Word and Song: A Lectionary Reflection” is written by the Executive Director of The Hymn Society, Rev. Dr. Mike McMahon. For his full bio, click here and scroll down to the “staff” section.

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