10 February 2013
Isaiah 6.1-2, 3-8
1 Cor 15.1-11
A certain man was told by the General Manager of a big company 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 the company had examined his educational background and also knew about his prison experience. Still the Board of Directors considered him capable of this new job.
We could call today “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 because of his persecution of Christians.
Peter tells Jesus after the miraculous catch of fish: “Leave me Lord, I am a sinful man”.
Each of the three knows that he is in the presence of the Holy One and they believe that they are totally unworthy of God’s choice of them. They experience what we might call ‘Spiritual Inferiority’.
This, of course, is whole point of today’s readings. God chooses us because he is good not because we are worthy. Jesus does not deny what Peter says about being a sinful man but he calls him 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. All three take time to complete their transformation.
This is indeed Good News for each of us this Sunday. In that we are baptized, 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. Perhaps 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 so 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 ‘giving thanks that you have held us worthy to be 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 plan to bring about his kingdom of truth, justice and forgiveness here on earth, be it as parents, 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 will make our efforts fruitful in his own way and in his own time. When Jesus was not with them, they caught nothing. But when he was with them, what a difference? Not only a catch of fish but a great abundance. Their obedience was rewarded.
Ultimately of course it is only out of our own personal understanding of who God is that we will witness to others 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 to serve you and others. Amen”.
Fr. Jim Kirstein SMA