By the Rev Msgr Harry Entwistle
Sunday 10th February, 2019
Today’s readings are about the call to proclaim God’s message and the commissioning of the one called.
The commissioning of the prophet Isaiah took place in the Temple in the year that King Uzziah died. Uzziah ascended the throne when he was 16 yrs old and was a good king on the whole, but contracted leprosy in his final years and that was considered to be a curse from God. In the atmosphere of resulting hopelessness, Isaiah has a vision of the power and majesty of God. Here is a king who never dies, but in whose presence, Isaiah acknowledges and confesses his unworthiness and imperfection.
Isaiah then experiences God’s mercy when one of the angels touches his lips with a burning coal and declares his sins to be forgiven. It is forgiveness that bridges the gulf between God and the sinner and when God asks for a messenger to go and preach to the stubborn people and warn them of the disaster that would fall on them, Isaiah responds, “Here am I, send me.”
No matter how powerful God is, he has chosen to require a little help from human friends. God needs human help and humans need God’s grace and wisdom in order for them to offer that help. This is the way God has chosen, and such is his power that no matter how unworthy or incapable we may feel, every one of us can make an effort and use that effort to God’s glory.
Jesus took the same pathway when calling and commissioning his disciples and apostles. Today’s gospel reading is often described as the miraculous haul of fish, but it is in fact the miraculous haul of Peter. It is his call and commissioning. On the day of this event, Peter was forced to do three things that he never thought he would. Firstly he accepted advice about fishing from a carpenter; secondly, he made a confession of his unworthiness, just as Isaiah had done, and thirdly he left his home and his family in order to be a fisher of men.
He also encountered God’s glory, majesty and authority in Jesus, that despite a muted protest, he responded to Jesus’ command to go fishing and ended up kneeling among the slimy fish saying, “Depart from me for I am a sinful man. O Lord.” It was his obedience that led him to faith, and that is something we need to learn.
Too often today we want to know God’s plan for us before we respond, or we say, “I find it difficult to believe in God or to accept what the Church teaches,” while doing nothing about building up our faith and trust through prayer, attendance at sacraments and committing ourselves to a local faith community and contributing to its life. The trend of parish hopping or being an event attender does not grow deep roots or create stability. Only when that happens are we likely to experience the presence of the risen Christ in our lives and be able to proclaim Jesus and the resurrection like St Paul and the other apostles did.
Perhaps we need to start by following Jesus’ command to Peter. First, ‘push out from the shore,’ – don’t let your lives be earthbound, dominated by things of this world and the here and now. Spend more time with God reflecting on eternity.
Secondly, ‘Launch out into the deep,’ – be still in God’s presence and enter into his depths, and experience his love, forgiveness and joy. Learn to be alone with him in the deep.
Then, ‘Let down your nets,’ – accept the grace, peace and strength that God provides for you. Then you can join Isaiah, Peter and Paul in saying, ‘Here I am. Send me.’
Monsignor Entwistle is the first Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross. Educated at St Chad's Theological College, he was ordained a priest in the Church of England Diocese of Blackburn in 1964. After reception into the Roman Catholic Church, he was ordained to the priesthood in St Mary's Cathedral, Perth on 15 June 2012.