C Cycle – 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time 22
Lk. 5: 1-11
As Jesus stood on the shore of Lake Gennesaret with a large crowd pressing upon him as he taught them. Imagine the scene as the crowd surging toward him pushing him closer and closer to the waters edge. He noticed the fishermen; their boats beached on the shore as they tended their nets, not paying attention to him. Not until he asked them to put out onto the lake so he could continue to teach the people from their boat. This story does not tell us what he was saying to the people. That part of the story is not important because Luke after his careful study of the events included it because it teaches us something about our own response to God.
It shows us how we fail to pay attention to the ways God is speaking to us because we are so busy with everyday life it distracts us. It shows us how God revelations come to us each day are ignored and dismissed until we are spoken directly to by God. The invitation that day was just a simple one, let me get in your boat and will you sit with me while I speak. When we respond to that first nudge, the instant we allow Jesus to enter our lives, we hear and listen as he speaks to our hearts. Again, his words to the crowds that day are not important, they were not so powerful or compelling enough to grab the attention of Peter, Andrew, Janes and John to immediately move them to embrace him as messiah.
It seems they had no impact or so little impact they are not recorded for us. What is recorded shows us how we can be in the presence of Christ without responding to his presence. Without expectations we will never receive from Christ what he came to provide for us. Luke is revealing to us how we can open ourselves up to receive the more God desires to reveal to us and do within us. Experiencing the transforming power of Christ comes to us as we begin to distinguish his voice from the many voices clamoring for our attention each day. For the more we allow Jesus into our lives the more he will speak to our hearts and invite us to go deeper and respond to him more fully.
That moment to go deeper is the day we are changed from practicing our faith to living our faith. This is what Paul is speaking about in today’s second reading (1Cor.15:1-11} as he reminds the Corinthians to hold fast to the gospel he preached and believed enough to stand firm in its message of love and forgiveness. Paul reminds the people of Corinth of how he persecuted the Christians and how he did not deserve forgiveness. But despite his sinfulness God offered him grace and it is that grace which is available to all who respond to the presence of Christ.
We hear that same sense of unworthiness in the words of Peter as he responds to the miracle of that impossible catch of fish. He realizes that the man in his boat is not an ordinary man. His experience opened his eyes to the message of Jesus that day offering salvation to him. The gospel tells us Peter was seized with fear. Another translation of that passage has Peter saying to Jesus “…depart from me Lord for I am a sinful man.” He is revealing to us our own response as we realize how unworthy we are to stand in the presence of God.
I can imagine everyone who lives on the day of their death will feel the filth of their sins hang on them as polluted rags as they stand before Christ. Every one of us will have our sinfulness revealed on that day of judgment, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). We will realize the good we have done is not enough to merit salvation. It does not matter how hard we have tried to be holy; we know we have not done enough. But that is exactly why the scriptures were given to us by God to help us believe in God’s promise that it is his will that none should perish.
Jesus shows us how God’s forgiveness works as he responds to Peter’s sense of unworthy. Jesus’s response should give us all hope. He ignores Peter’s vision of himself, and he reveals his vision of who we are called to be. It is the same message we hear in the first reading (Is.6:1-2a, 3-8) as Isaiah sees that vision of Christ on the throne. He like Peter knows his failures and sinfulness. He responds by acknowledging he is a sinner living among sinners.
Isaiah voices for us the error of believing we can do things to make ourselves worthy of God’s grace. That is the critical moment in our ability and our willingness to become disciples. That moment we realize it is nothing we do but holiness is entirely dependent on God’s grace and the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Isaiah’s awakening to that fact allowed him to be touched by an angel and a hot ember cleansing him of all his sin and allowing him to commit his life to serving God. Pauls’ moment came on the road to Damascus when Christ cleansed him of his sins and the Spirit transforms him into a faithful disciple who had an enormous ability to help others experience God’s mercy and forgiveness.
Peter, on this day knows he is inadequate but is told by Christ he would be more than adequate if he responds to his invitation to be a disciple. We know Peter, had his moments of great insights and moments of complete failure to grasp the deeper meanings of Christ’s mission. But the important thing for us is to understand we too must respond to the call to go deeper and to not let our sinfulness be a hinderance to his working within us to change us. Peter in this story is at the beginning of his responding to the invitation of Christ. We are also being invited to go deeper and allow Jesus to show us our destiny. It begins by not looking at our unworthy but instead depending on the Spirit and Christ to change sinners into great believers and disciples.