Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time (February 10, 2019)
What a wonderful set of life-vocation stories in today’s Scriptures.
Isaiah experiences (sees) the Lord of hosts in the Temple. He is humbled: “Woe is me, I’m doomed. I’m a man of unclean lips.” The ember carried by the seraph removes his wickedness. And Isaiah is ready to go forth: “Here I am, send me!”
Jesus has confronted Paul on the road to Damascus. Paul acknowledges that he is not worthy to be an apostle. And yet he preaches faithfully: “By the grace of God I am what I am.”
Peter reluctantly puts out into deep water at the command of Jesus – and witnesses nets so full that they are breaking. He kneels before Jesus in great humility: “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” Jesus gently tells him not to be afraid: “From now on you will be catching men.” Peter and his mates leave everything and follow Jesus.
Each of these encounters with God became life-changing. Isaiah will speak God’s word for his lifetime, whether he is accepted or rejected. Peter and Paul engage in “catching men” for the rest of their lives until they are ultimately killed for their preaching.
How many times in their lives as apostles would they be asked again to ”put out into deeper water and lower your nets”? Often their security was not to be found near the shoreline but with Jesus in the deep water.
Jesus’ invitation always seems to be “put out into deep water.” As we grow older, the invitation to let Jesus live in us more fully leads us into the deeper waters of our own life and that of our community. We can only fill our nets with the grace of God when we’re willing to leave our own security and trust in the invitation to come deeper.
Like Isaiah, the Lord will remove our sins and failings that keep us close to shore and prepare us to go deeper. Like Peter, we will hear Jesus gently tell us: “Do not be afraid.”
May our willingness to put out into the deep with Jesus lead us to be able to say with St. Paul: “By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective.”