Homily for 10 February
We have two calls today. The church offers us the call of Isaiah in the first reading to help us reflect on the call of Simon and the other disciples in the Gospel.
In the first chapters of Isaiah the scene is set for us. It is about 740 years before Christ, the people have grown corrupt; they participate in grand liturgies, acts of worship in the temple and neglect, even persecute, the poor, the widow and the orphan. The grandiose temple worship enables them to think that all is well between God and them. But God exposes the sham and calls them to repent. In the call of Isaiah we hear of one individual in this society mired in corruption who accepts God’s judgement and is sent as messenger of repentance. In the call, Isaiah sees the heavenly worship conducted by the bright seraphim.
So that is the scene in the first reading – the glorious angels worshipping God in the heavenly court. In the Gospel Peter is not transported to heaven. No, he is on a lake, in a boat full of fish. Angels… fish.
I have no doubt, however, that Isaiah would gladly have swapped the vision of glory to be in the boat with the fish and with Jesus, the Son of God, higher than the angels; heaven is present on earth – in the ordinary. Peter does not really know this Jesus yet, he has a whole journey of faith ahead of him. Jesus reveals how God chooses to work in our world. With Peter he starts in Peter’s boat and the fishing so familiar to Peter. When Jesus, the carpenter, says to Peter, ‘Put out into the deep and fish’ Peter, the man who knows fishing well, says, ‘We have been out all night… we are the experts landlubber.’ But then you hear the beginnings of faith, ‘But if you say the word, we’ll do it again.’ The Christian life rarely begins with mystical visions. Mostly it begins and continues with simple faith, letting Jesus direct the very ordinary decisions we make.
I was reflecting on this ordinariness just a few days ago while standing at the altar holding the host – very simple – just wheat. It could all be more dramatic, but it is so ordinary. We wish the Lord would work the way we think he should work – a bit more splendour. The Christian journey is rarely about clear victories or successes. Why do we the things we do, make sacrifices which seem pointless? Simon, James and John two thousand years ago left their boats behind. It only makes any sort of sense because of the one who loved us first and who calls us to follow him. We do it because we walk with Jesus as disciples have done for two thousand years. We do it trying to be faithful to the one who calls us to follow him. The rest is in his hands.
Trust in Jesus, let him take us by the hand, guide our life; we may not see visions of angels, but he will give us the consolation of seeing something of his grace and power in our lives. It is our simple faithfulness which helps us catch people for him; it is through the small things that he works. And through it all we never ever stop saying with Isaiah and Simon, ‘I am unworthy. I am a sinner.’ That confession too is a grace, that too opens us to the slow patient work of Christ who never stops saying to us, ‘Do not be afraid.’ He has called us to follow him, the one who never goes back on his choice, on his word. Praised be to him for ever.