By Paul Dion, STL
I am here to tell you that is is not easy being Catholic. Here I am in the middle of bringing a presentation to 50 catechists in our parish to life when my telephone rings. The editor of this illustrious "Catholic Lifestyle Magazine" cheerily asks, "What does capax veritatis, capax Dei mean?" Huh?
I have to admit that I had to ask his indulgence while I conducted a 30 second search on "Google". I have to confess, I pride myself on knowing my unknowns. I get back to him in 45 seconds, we talk about it and during the conversation he asks, "Do you know what the Gospel for Sunday is?" GULP! NOPE...
I can see the Cheshire Cat grin over the telephone. It's about the miraculous catch. Oh...
Yeah, you're right, I am quite a blessing to you, right? OOOOpppsss!!
LUKE, 5; 1 - 11
So I came back to the desk and decided to give the story a second look. It was there just as it always is. And there are the apostles in their fishing boats coming off a night's work with empty boats. "Skunked!" Not a thing! They raise their heads from their work and there is their new friend, Jesus, the Temple guy with the pretty mother and the carpenter father whom they have yet to figure out. But he is quite a preacher. He was run out of town last week. He sure knows his Bible, this guy. Not only that, He's not afraid to sock it to 'em. Here He is again with a bunch of people following Him again. Strange how first they run Him off and then they come back asking for more.
"Hi, guys. Would you mind if I came aboard Simon's boat so that I could talk to these folks?"
No, no. Make yourself comfortable. There sure isn't any fish residue and smell around these boats this morning.
So Jesus talks to the people for a while. They shuffle off and He is alone with the guys.
"Simon", says he, "bring your boats out a little further, just over there a bit and throw your nets over the side and prepare for a good catch."
Now, folks, picture this. They have just recently come to know this man. All he knows about fish is that it swims in water and is edible. They are successful pros at this game and they have just come off a hard night's work with nothing to show for it. Not even breakfast. And now this carpenter who is perhaps better at prayer than at construction is telling them what to do. Simon speaks out, as usual and says, "We've worked all night and we have caught nothing." That's the polite, Bible version.
Jesus, all freshly primped for a new day, bathed and combed and ready for the world must have this look in his eyes because ol' Simon continues by saying, "...but, at your command, I will lower the nets."
The rest, as they say, is history. The catch is so great that they have a hard time bringing it in.
Simon says, " Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man."
Jesus says, "Don't be afraid. From now on you will catch men."
Then, Simon and the sons of Zebedee left their nets and their boats behind and followed Him.
Isaiah, 6; 1 - 8 The first reading
The story of the call of Isaiah is rather similar. Isaiah is praying in the Temple. He has a vision of God surrounded by angels. He shudders and says, "I am doomed for I am a man of unclean lips." (I like this line. It reminds of me of myself. Dirty mouth!)
One of the angels takes a hot coal and puts it on Isaiah's lips and says, "now that this has touched your lips, your wickedness is removed and your sin is purged." God then asks, "Whom shall we send? Who will speak for us?" Isaiah, full of grace now says, "Here I am. Send me!"
I read this and I can't help but think of Saul of Damascus who gets thrown off his horse and flat on his bum by God before he sees the light. This morning we hear Paul (Saul's God-given name) say to the Corinthians, "Last of all, as to one born abnormally, He appeared to me. For I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle because I persecuted the Church of God. But by the grace of God, I am what I am and His grace to me has not been ineffective."
(I Cor.; 8 - 10)
Through these writings today, God calls all of us. He tells us that we are all a part of his plan. He counts on us to spread the word. He counts on us to tell the Divine Truth. All three of these characters in the Bible readings to day were sinners, just as we are. All three of them responded to the gift of faith and to the gift of mission.
Let's look at our lives and see how many times we have wondered if the "Carpenter" has any business to tell us, Mr. Engineer, Mr. Accountant, Mrs. Doctor, Mom, etc. what to do. We fussed a bit and finally caved in saying, "What do I have to lose?" Lo, and behold, there came along benefits that we had a hard time imagining. The three Bible stories we have just read are all about the same challenge that God directs to us. Three people leave their normal lives behind in response to the gift of faith. Life with God is not easy. The demands are really far out.
Think about it. Shepherds leaving 99 behind for one stupid loner? The second son comes home and the father throws him and the whole village a party? Crooked tax payers paying back ill gotten gains four times over? Sell all that you own and follow me?
Hey, this Gospel language is not new stuff. God's been saying it for centuries. Recall the story of Father. Abraham, "do what I say and you'll have descendants more than the stars of the sky." Abraham says, "Excuse me, I'm 99 years old. How is that going to happen?" "Noah, build an ark." "Moses, take my people out of here." "Judith, take off your mourning and go into the enemy camp to save your city. " "God, if you give me a son I'll give him back to you forever. " (Yahweh gave her her son, and Hannah gave him back to Yahweh, no strings attached, for life.) His name? Samuel, King David's grandfather.
So, we have to look inside ourselves. We have to leave our boats and our nets. We have to leave our intellectual smugness. It's not easy, but we have to hold out our hand, offer it to Jesus and walk with Him, keeping the immortal words of the apostle Thomas in mind, "Boys, if He says that we are going to Jerusalem, we go to Jerusalem with Him, to die with Him." (John, 11;16)
That is the challenge that people all over the world faced in today's Bible readings.
Are we up to it?