All three readings today share one common thread: an experience of God’s majesty and power, a call to mission and conversion, and the need for God’s grace and encouragement to change and to accept the invitation.
Isaiah in today’s First Reading experiences a vision of God’s glory and thinks he’s about to die, and die as a sinner. Throughout the Old Testament a basic principle was that anyone who looked upon the Lord would die. The Lord sends the angel to purify him and then invites him to be his prophet. When Our Lord calls you to do something great with your life (and being Christian is something great to do with your life), a natural reaction is to feel your unworthiness, your nothingness in comparison to Who is asking something of you. Isaiah today needed to know that the Lord would “have his back.” Isaiah wouldn’t be working alone and unprepared: the Lord had him purified and would be with him on his mission.
Paul in today’s Second Reading recalls the core of the Gospel: that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead, and his own close and personal encounter with the Risen Lord. When he recalls his own encounter with the Risen Lord on the road to Damascus, he also recalls his unworthiness to be commissioned as an apostle, but by God’s grace he’s made capable of carrying out his mission. Paul persecuted Christians and was convinced they were abandoning their religion. Then the Risen Lord appeared to him, struck him blind, and gave him “quiet time” to process what had happened. One of the most humiliating experiences anyone can have is realizing that you were completely wrong about something, compounded by the fact that you know everyone’s going to find out you were wrong. Worse still, Paul received a special revelation that he had actually been hindering Our Lord’s mission and not really embracing the mission Our Lord had sown in his heart. Paul sees his mission of being an apostle as a great work of Our Lord’s grace, not just his own merits.
In today’s Gospel, upon seeing the miraculous catch of fish that makes him go from calling Jesus “Master” to calling him “Lord,” Peter acknowledges his sinfulness and unworthiness for what Our Lord is asking him. Throughout the Gospel we see faith and fear mixed in the man who would become, after Jesus’ Resurrection, the leader of the Apostles and the vicar of Christ on earth. After a long night of fishing an itinerant rabbi asks to use his boat and take advantage of the natural acoustics of being out on the water, also giving his listeners a better view. Was Peter hoping Jesus would give him something? Was he performing an act of charity? The Gospel account isn’t clear, but he let Our Lord into his boat and, in a certain sense, into his world. As Peter soon found out, Jesus expected something much greater from him. We don’t know if he listened to much of Our Lord’s teaching as he sat in his boat, since he was tired after a long night of fishing, but Jesus encouraged him to cast out the nets and Peter responded with trust, even if maybe he was just humoring him. The amazing catch was a response to Peter in a language he could understand. In that moment he realized Our Lord was asking him for far more than a shuttle service, and that he was not just another itinerant rabbi. Suddenly Peter knew that Our Lord understood his world too. Peter knew his weakness, but Our Lord knew it too. In the end, even though it presented a few more hurdles, Peter’s weakness did not prevent either of them from accomplishing their mission.
Our Lord wants to step into your world, just like he stepped into Peter’s boat. He wants to build the bridge between yours and his. However, he expresses this by way of invitation, and, no matter what your anxiety and concerns, accept his invitation and he will help you succeed. It was not easy for Isaiah, Paul, or Peter either, but it will be more fulfilling than you could have ever imagined possible.
Readings: Isaiah 6:1–2a, 3–8; Psalm 138:1–5, 7–8; 1 Corinthians 15:1–11; Luke 5:1–11. See also 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C, 22nd Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday and 1st Week in Ordinary Time, Monday.