February 7, 2016 [5th Sunday in OT]

February 7, 2016 [5th Sunday in OT]


Being called by God can certainly take us by surprise.  Paul had his famous encounter with the risen Christ while on the way to Damascus.  For Simon Peter, it came after an unsuccessful night in the middle of the ordinary business of fishing.  And no doubt Isaiah was quite thrown off by his vision of the Lord and the cry of the angels.  For one struggling pre-med student, it was a literal “wake-up call” when the alarm clock went off on an average winter morning my freshman year of college. 


But one need not have a dramatic “moment” in order to receive a mission or a vocation, for indeed God calls each of us.  He calls us in special ways through religious life, the single life, or the Sacrament of Marriage.  But the Lord also calls to each of us through the sacraments: through baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist.  God speaks to us through Scripture and through prayer.  And so whether we think it makes for a compelling story or not, we are indeed called, and so we must answer the call, just as Isaiah and Paul and Peter did.


And yet, as we see in our Scripture readings today, there’s at least one big “sticking point” in our ability to recognize and respond to God’s call: this being the obvious difference and distance between ourselves and God, and between where we’re at and the great mission God calls us to.  God is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving, and all-present; and we are…well…just us.  Even though God sent His Son as one like ourselves to redeem us and bring us to everlasting life; even though Christ comes to us in Word and Sacrament; and even though we may know that God loves us; we still can’t escape our smallness before Almighty God.  And yet acknowledging this allows us to be open to God’s power and glory, allowing God’s grace to flow even through such fragile earthen vessels as ourselves, so that the words of St. Paul can be ours, that “by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective.”


For me, to be a priest and pastor, with all that that entails I be and do, I feel not good enough, too dumb, certainly too sinful, unfit and unworthy pretty much all of the time.  But ultimately those feelings don’t really matter much.  God’s love is pure gift to us.  God’s revelation is pure gift to us.  God’s call is pure gift to us.  What matters is the response: “Here I am, Lord; send me!”  In spite of all our weaknesses and limitations, despite our sins and failings, in the midst of our smallness and unworthiness, “Here I am, Lord; send me!” 


Like St. Paul, none of us are fit to be called apostles.  And it’s really not a bad thing to remember that.  But in the end, it’s not about what we deserve or earn or do on our own, but what the Lord does in us and with us through His grace, leading us and making us more and more the people we were created to be as members of the Body of Christ.  The enemy (the devil) wants to convince us that we are not and will never be good enough, and so shouldn’t even try.  Surely this was the kind of temptation that Isaiah and Peter faced, but God gave them what they needed in order to respond.  The angel burned away the wickedness and sin from Isaiah’s lips, pushing him to not hang on to his fear and unworthiness.  And we too are offered—and can receive—forgiveness and freedom from our sins. 


Considering our Gospel passage, Bishop Robert Barron asks, “Will you cooperate with Jesus once He decides to get into your boat?”  Jesus tells Simon Peter, “Do not be afraid.”  It is easy to be fearful, especially when we realize that responding to God’s call carries with it many unknowns, but undoubtedly means that things in our life will change.  But our faith rests in the dying and rising of Christ, and so we believe that following the call of Christ will lead us to salvation and new life.  By sharing in the mission and the ministry of Jesus, we go out to our brothers and sisters, helping to build up the Kingdom of God.  Called and strengthened by God, we are able to “put out into deep water,” be transformed, and say, “Here I am, Lord; send me!”