7 February 2016
Isaiah 6.1-2, 3-8
1 Cor 15.1-11
A certain man was called by the General Manager of a big company to be told that he was to be appointed assistant general manager. However, instead of being delighted with this good news, he said that he did not consider himself worthy of this, as he had not continued his education after high school. Besides he had to be honest and say he had spent a month in prison when younger for drunk and disorderly conduct. The General Manager assured him that these did not affect the decision of the Board of Directors.
We could call this 5th Sunday, “Good Excuse” Sunday. In each of the three readings Isaiah, Paul and Peter feel they have very good excuses for not accepting God’s call. None of them feels worthy or capable enough. Isaiah’s reply is “What a wretched state I am in, I am a man of unclean lips”. Paul says that he hardly deserves the name of apostle, being the least of the apostles at a time when nobody even himself remotely expected this. Peter tells Jesus after the miraculous catch of fish: “Leave me Lord, I am a sinful man”. Each one knows that he is in the presence of the Holy One and believe that they are totally unworthy of God’s choice of them. They experience what we might call ‘Spiritual Inferiority’
This, of course, is the whole point of today’s readings. God chooses us because He is good and not because we are worthy. Jesus does not deny what Peter says about being a sinful man but he calls him nevertheless in the hope that Peter will realise that the work Jesus is entrusting to him could never be accomplished by man or woman without the powerful help of God’s Spirit. It will take Peter, as it does all of us, a whole lifetime to realise how totally we need God’s help. So here Simon as he was then called gets a new name, Peter, a new job and a new image and all three take time to complete their transformation. At baptism is it any different for us?
This is indeed Good News for each of us this Sunday. In that we are baptised we too, like Peter, are called to witness to God in the world. We may immediately reply that we are not worthy and that we are sinners, maybe even great ones –another case of spiritual inferiority !! But God considers us worthy and that is all that counts. It is not Isaiah, Paul and Peter who choose God. It is the very opposite and that is what matters. Maybe we don’t want to be called. Maybe we can see the demands involved. We might prefer to opt out. If that is our choice then God will leave us free to do if we wish. But we will never have the deep peace and joy we seek if we search for it in other places apart from God.
God sees the marvelous potential in each of us. Some of the great saints, like Teresa of Avila, Charles de Foucauld etc lived mediocre or in the case of the latter very sinful lives early on. But God then touched them and they responded. Do we not pray in the part of Eucharistic Prayer ll after the consecration ‘we thank you Lord for counting us worthy to stand in your presence and minister to you’ If God considers us worthy who are we to object? We each have different roles to play in God’s desire to bring about his kingdom of truth, peace, justice and forgiveness here on earth be it as parents, children, priests, religious etc.
Peter had worked hard all night and caught nothing. Jesus asked him to try again. He could have objected saying he was exhausted or that there were no fish where they had failed to catch any. However, he responded to Jesus and tried again. Look at the result. Sometimes we too may get tired of trying to be good Christians. We may get bored, disillusioned with what we sometimes see going on in the church. We may want to give up on ourselves or on others who disappoint or even betray us. To all of us Jesus says, ‘try again’. I am with you. I count you worthy. You have great potential. But we must like Isaiah, Paul and Peter realise deeply that we cannot succeed alone. Like Peter we may fish all night in darkness, but Jesus invites us to call on his help. He is the Light of the World and he will make our efforts fruitful in his own way and in his own time.
In the gospel today Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom (verses 1-3) and fishing, the daily work of these people (verses 4-7) are interrelated. It is an important lesson for us. The gospel must be proclaimed on the basis of people’s lives – yours and mine. Ordinary lives. Ultimately of course it is only out of our own personal understanding of who God is that we will witness to here and now. If we think God is out to punish us and send us to hell which is totally false then that is the God we will reveal to others. If my experience of God is of someone who loves me passionately and unconditionally, chooses me to work for him despite my failings and sins, knowing that I am forgiven, a loved saved sinner, then that is the God I will witness to.
“Lord Jesus, we thank you for counting us worthy to stand in your presence and serve you. We might easily want to say, ‘depart from me Lord. I am a sinner’. But realising that the power comes from your Spirit and not from us we can confidently face life, assured of your love for us knowing that we are always held in your loving embrace. Are we not your children? Amen.”
Fr. Jim Kirstein, SMA