So as to be more available to the graces of the liturgy’s readings,
we might imagine Jesus’ counting the catch of fish which Peter and his companions
have hauled in. Peter is kneeling along side the net and Jesus puts the fish
down, which he was examining and turns towards Peter. Jesus puts his fishy
hand on Peter’s shoulder and says, “You are the one I really wanted to catch.”
We are praying with personal invitations and personal responses in today’s
readings. The Holy is calling directly to the human and the human experiences
its humanness, its earthiness.
After the response, we hear of a second invitation which purifies
or clarifies the nature of the first invitation. We pray for the grace to
respond to God’s summons and not to react to our own self-negativity. Jesus
did not and does not come to examine us, but excite, enliven and empower
us. We can pray for the grace of spiritual honesty. God’s call is a true
revelation of God’s love and that love touches our humanity in Christ. We
pray past our false humility which would say that we are not worthy, we are
dirty or too much of the earth. We pray to listen to God’s truth overcoming
our personal estimation.
“I WAS JUST MINDING MY OWN BUSINESS.” Isaiah and Peter both can say this
when asked what got into them. Our First Reading is the call and response
narrative between God and Isaiah. Presumably, he was praying privately or
culticly in the temple area outside the Holy of Holies. God’s call to people
in the Sacred Scriptures does not depend on being in the exactly right or
holy place. Moses was tending sheep and Amos was tending sycamores. This
prophet finds out he is such by his experiencing the holiness of God within
the un-cleanness of his lips. His “lips” indicate his entire sense of himself.
In this private vision, Isaiah feels “doomed,” because to have a vision of
God means death or drastic change and either one is not a desirable option.
As with most “Call Narratives” in Scripture, those approached and invited
have very good excuses to protect their privacy. Isaiah tries to get out
by acknowledging that he has “unclean lips.” The excuses are the truth, but
God seems to play a trump card. The Seraphim, or servant angels surrounding
the royal throne of God, fly down with a burning coal and purify as well
as inspire God’s called. Isaiah has stated his truth and God has not denied
that truth but makes a counter proposal.
The story does not end there. Now that Isaiah’s excuses and his past have
been dealt with, there is a future. The vision of God is accompanied by sound.
A voice asks a “leading question,” “ Whom shall I send?” Freed
from his negative excuse Isaiah replies simply, “Here I am, send me.”
The Gospel relates the call and response between Jesus and Peter. There are
elements in these eleven verses which form a “Picture-Prologue” of Luke’s
entire Gospel. Jesus is teaching; Jesus does some act which invites a response.
Jesus invites himself into the emptiness of the human condition and brings
about fruitfulness. These actions themselves become the foils or situations
inviting a further and deeper response. For Luke, this invitation is from
a worldly or material fullness to emptiness or poverty which in turn flowers
out into a spiritual completeness. For Luke, leaving things, leaving privacy
will result in having more and that within community.
Jesus’ words are accompanied by revelational gestures. He teaches then reaches
out into the emptiness of Peter’s fishing life. Jesus asks for a simple act
of faith by lowering their nets where they had caught nothing.
Now Jesus was really talking Peter’s language by their catching lots of big
ones. Peter’s response was a statement of his personal truth and Jesus does
not deny what Peter professes. If Peter wanted privacy and a self-controlled
life, he should never have let Jesus into his boat, into his life. He invites
Jesus to depart and Jesus asks Peter to depart with him, but to leave his
fullness, his catch of fish, behind. Peter and his fellows depart from their
isolation and begin following Jesus into community and availability. Jesus
caught more than fish; he caught fishers for the Finder.
The big question for us as people called has to do with what is God going
to take from us? If we let Jesus too close he will see what we’re holding
on to and he will want us to drop it or hand it over. We fear emptiness.
So allowing Jesus into our boats might result in two things. If he sits down
next to us, we’re going to feel inferior, unworthy, and dirty with fish-stink
all over us. If that were not enough, we are sure he is going to ask something
of us, which is going to change us from privateers to volunteers. We would
like to know what he is going to take and what is he going to ask. If we
know that then we are more likely to jump up and say, “Here I am, send me,
but only according to previously-agreed-upon terms.”
Poverty, community, availability, mystery: these are the elements of Luke’s
understanding of Jesus’ invitation to us. As we walk through the remaining
chapters of this Gospel we will be invited often to let Jesus into our boats
and we will pray with our excuses, our “yeah buts,” and his gentle insistence.
The beauty of Jesus is that he has come to stay. He has come not to take
away anything, but sin. He has come to give until our boats are almost sinking.
For all this, we still hold fast to our excuses as well we should.
“Give praise to the Lord for his kindness, for his wonderful deeds
towards men. He has filled the hungry with good things, he has satisfied
the thirsty.” Ps. 107 7-8