This weekend we hear the first call story in Luke’s Gospel.
Peter has much to teach us about how to be a better disciple of Christ.
Peter provides the perfect example of how we are to cooperate with God, with Jesus, and with the Holy Spirit in our lives. It starts with being open to this encounter.
The prophet Isaiah starts us off with a focus on who are called to be ministers of God’s word.
God does not seek the perfect. He seeks us with all our imperfections.
Remember, Jesus doesn’t call the qualified. He qualifies the called.
The prophet Isaiah describes his own prophetic call, “I am a man of unclean lips.” In other words, I am not qualified to speak for God.
But the Lord purifies his lips, “your wickedness is removed, your sin purged.”
When the Lord asks, “Whom shall I send?” Isaiah answers, “Here I am (Lord)… send me!”
Isaiah’s words, of course, come from a dream.
In it, Isaiah comes face-to-face with God and says “Yes” to doing God’s will in the world.
If only we would always say “Yes” when we are called by God. Imagine the world we’d live in?
This reading is the perfect set up to Peter’s encounter with Christ.
Imagine this fisherman cleaning his nets after a fruitless night of fishing, exhausted, resigned to the fact he would take nothing home to his family or to the market to sell to provide for his family.
Along comes Jesus who had been doing miraculous things throughout Capernaum just a few miles away from the lake. His healings attracted a large crowd.
Jesus knew if he could be on a boat close to shore it would be easier for the crowds to hear his voice (because sound travels better across water).
Peter is minding his own business, when Jesus walks up and asks to use his boat to address the crowds.
After Jesus is done speaking to the crowd, probably as a way of saying “thank you” and to call Peter into his ministry, Jesus asks the fisherman to put out to deep waters for a catch.
Now, it’s the middle of the day. Any fisherman knows that lake fish are not usually as active in the heat of midday. Usually only in the early morning and at sundown.
Peter heard Jesus’ preaching before the crowds. He knows there is something special about this man Jesus. But his reaction is all too human to Jesus’ request.
Really? You want me to do what?
Then the miracle happens, and Peter is gob smacked.
When Jesus hops into our boat get ready for a wild ride.
Jesus uses the experience to call the future leader of his Church.
The reluctant, self-admitted sinful man prostates himself before Jesus and says, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”But Jesus won’t take no for an answer, and tells Peter, “Do not be afraid.” Then calls him to follow him and become a fisher of people.
What can we learn from Peter’s encounter with Christ?
1. Be prayerfully aware of the times Jesus is near – especially in our encounters on the peripheries
How many times have I encountered Jesus in the poor and marginalized? The encounters are too many to count. And I am always astonished at how Jesus is made manifest in serving others on the peripheries.
2. Be humble
None of us is perfect. None of us is worthy. Yet, Jesus calls us all the same. Remember that.
3. Be honest about our weaknesses and know Jesus wants to work through our weaknesses to further his ministry
Jesus may have called Peter to lead the Church because Peter was so conscious of his own weaknesses. Are we conscious of our own weaknesses?
4. Be open to leave old ways behind and allow something new to change the entire direction of our lives
Jesus knew the only way to get Peter to say “Yes” to following him was to use fishing as a metaphor for ministry. Fishing is all Peter knew. What do we know best? How is Jesus using what we know to call us to do more to extend his ministry to those around us?
5. Be prophetic in proclaiming Jesus to the world and to our friends and family
This is a hard one for most Catholics. We bristle at the idea of proselytizing. But Jesus wants us to proclaim him more by our actions than just our words. The early Christians understood this. Do we today?
When we read of Peter’s encounter with Jesus, we need to be honest about the feelings that may be holding us back from doing more for Jesus in our lives: unworthiness, fear, fear of change, fear of intimacy with Jesus.
In his book, Jesus: A Pilgrimage, author and Jesuit Fr. James Martin reminds us, “Jesus does not come to drive people away, but to call us to join him, if we are willing to follow, no matter who we are – single, married, or vowed; rich or poor, old or young; liberal or conservative; lay, clergy or religious; gay or straight.”
Fr. Martin goes on to say, “This is an important message to those who, for whatever reason, feel as if their churches are saying to them, ‘Go away’… Christ’s message is not only a call to conversion, but one of inclusion, a message that welcomes us into the community and restores us to it. Even if you are made to feel unworthy, and are tempted to say (to the Lord), ‘Go away!’ Christ says, as he did to Peter, ‘Join me in my great mission.’”
Jesus wants us (like Peter) to focus on our future with him with hope and trust, not backwards on our past with fear.
How is Jesus speaking through our lives today?
Do we hear his call?
Are we doing all we can to support his mission of love?