Fifth Sunday of the year

It may happen that at work you are asked and challenged to do something that does not quite fit your job description, something you had not ‘signed up for’. If you have ever felt unequal to a task at work, and  you wonder why you were chosen for a particular job because you felt you lacked the qualities or qualifications necessary, that you were called way above your station, that you were being stretched, then today’s readings are for you.

 Why would you feel this way?  Was it because you were afraid of failure,  of letting someone down (including yourself), afraid too of what you considered to be unrealistic expectations, that you wouldn’t measure up, and that you would fail very publicly. These are quite natural feelings in the face of a new challenge. We may be tempted to say: ‘who, me? I can’t do it’, ‘you must be desperate!’ or ‘why ask me, ask someone else’.

The readings this Sunday are about three people who were called and challenged in the midst of their workdays to do something more. Peter, Paul and Isaiah feel totally unsuited to teh task at hand, and what’s more, before God completely unworthy. They are honest and humble about their sinfulness. All they see is their failings, defects and deficiencies.

This does not stop God’s initiative. In the Gospel, Jesus knows Peter through and through and what’s more, Peter knows that too. Peter realises with the miraculous draught of fish that He is in the presence of God. Having first addressed Jesus as Master, he kneels before Him calling Him ‘Lord’. Their relationship has changed.

Peter’s best efforts without Jesus produce nothing. Peter having fished in the familiar waters and knowing the movements of the shoals of fish and where and what spots were the most likely to produce a catch, is left wondering at the fruitless search all night. But what Peter could not do with all his know-how, skill and experience, this ‘land-lubber’ carpenter from Nazareth, this rabbi, and now ‘Lord’, could accomplish at a single word.

After the dark of night, in the light of dawn, Jesus approaches and at Jesus’ word, they catch a draught beyond their wildest dreams. Can you imagine their excitement and astonishment? Amidst it all Peter is struck by Jesus’ authority, and his own unworthiness in His Presence. With Jesus, the miraculous happens, but with the human effort of casting the nets. The human factor is still required for God to accomplish the miraculous. God in His wisdom uses the weak.

What is this to us? Does this story mean anything? Or the story of the call of Isaiah, or Paul on the road to Damascus? What might God want of ME? Does God want something of me? Is he asking something of me, some calling, some task, to take another step forward, the next best step, and not to be afraid of what is being asked of us, because of who is asking it.

We are asked out of love which makes all the difference …it is God, Jesus who asks us, do we dare refuse? What can we refuse those we love?

Just as an employer or supervisor might decide to pick you for a certain task, it is usually not a spur of the moment decision on their part. They have deliberated, perhaps with others, and considered you suited for the  task at hand.

Have we confidence in ourselves alone, and our own abilities? Probably not, but with Jesus, with God, ‘all things are possible’.

Peter had no earthly idea what was ahead, what was going to happen, even that he was called to leadership and martyrdom. What mattered was here and now what Jesus wanted. Jesus had proved Himself to Peter, but Peter did not think he could prove anything to Jesus.

Peter leaves everything after him, even the draught of fish. The call - and the response is - total. It displays Peter’s total commitment, and there is no going back, no back-sliding.

Can I do the same?  What is the state of my relationship, or my commitment to Jesus?

Jesus is asking something of me and of you.

As with Peter Jesus sees something in all of us that we may be unaware of ourselves.

1.    The first is NOT TO BE AFRAID – the most common statement in the Bible. He is calling you closer to Him than you have been before. Peter was not making excuses, he was making a statement of fact –this is who I am, depart from me, what could you possibly want of me?

2.    The second is to make a step of faith or trust, to leave behind the nets is perhaps symbolic of leaving behind all the things that have entrapped us. It is at once and the same time to acknowledge our sinfulness and yet not to be afraid of our sin. TO TURN TOWARD JESUS CAN BE SUMMED UP IN ONE WORD – CONVERSION.

3.    And then to see what happens.

Lent is nearly upon us. We think of the things we give up for a time, but it is ultimately about freedom. To leave behind and detach ourselves from the nets and traps of sinful habits and compulsions, to be truly free from the past and its mistakes, and to live a new kind of life, one that Jesus wants. It is freedom for others, as it was for Peter who was the first Pope.

Can this be a Lent this year be the one that will make all the difference? Can we see that Lent is always in springtime, that the lengthening days and the emerging snowdrops and daffodils give new hope and promise? That Lent is a new springtime in our lives, to leave the dark night of winter behind. That our lives can take on a new direction - that the failed New Year resolutions can now become Lenten ones.

If you have a deep down feeling that you are called to something more, that you are somehow unfulfilled, that there must be more to life than having things, then this may be your opportunity for a new outlook, a new direction.

 Can we at least, if nothing else make a resolution to devote more personal prayer each day – 10 to 15 minutes, to listening to what God and instead of telling Him all the time what we want? May our daily prayer this Lent include the simple but important question: 'Lord, what do want of me?'

 Let us make this the best Lent yet!

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