5th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Three Invitations

All three readings today have a similar theme.   They all recount individuals being called to the service of God.  In the first reading, when the Lord said to Isaiah - who lived some 700 years prior to Christ’s birth - “Whom shall I send?”, he replied, “Here I am, send me.”   

Likewise, in the second reading, St. Paul recounts that after Jesus had appeared to many other individuals, He appeared to Paul himself.  And finally, in the gospel, Peter, James and John are convinced Jesus is the Messiah after their boats are overwhelmed and their nets are splitting because of the number of  fish they caught.

Each of these three stories tells of different ways in which the loving presence of God changed people’s lives.   A burning ember on the lips of Isaiah, Paul being knocked from his horse and Peter, James and John having their boats almost sink under the weight of the fish they caught.  Each of the stories tell of the unworthiness each of the characters felt with the call to mission.

The important point common to all three stories is that it’s not the call the counts.  It’s how each person, Isaiah, Paul,  Peter, James or John react to their calling.   These men accepted the invitation - despite their sense of unworthiness - and if we do the same, then our lives are can be as fulfilling as theirs.

There is a hunger in the human mind and heart for certainty in every aspect of life. We want to be sure; we want to be safe: we want to be successful. In the midst of this day-by-day struggle, there is also the search for religious truth. Our mind asks about the existence of God, about the meaning of life and death, about life after death. We wonder about the Bible, about the existence of Jesus, about the authenticity of the church, about the meaning of the sacraments.

Confronted by the challenges of life today and a culture often in opposition to the Gospel, modern-day disciples of Christ can easily resort to moralistic preaching.  But to be a church in witness requires an experience of the surprising, forgiving and overwhelming love of God.  Only then can we all say, “Here I am, send me.”

The truth is, God has called each of us.   Maybe we didn’t hear his voice as did Isaiah, or experience some life-changing conversion like Paul, or witness a miraculous sign like the first apostles,  but in reality neither do most other people.  Sometimes we don’t remember or don’t even recognize God’s invitation.

In a world that is increasingly more fragmented, without trust and torn apart, giving ourselves over into God's hands, learning to follow Christ, to find God in our daily lives and to truly live the life of discipleship is no easy feat. It is only when we allow our own ordinariness and unworthiness to be transformed by the hand of God, that we will be able to enter into the grace-filled living to which people of every age have been called..

Those who were called in today’s readings faced many difficulties.  At times they were under intense pressure.  We too are called: we walk the same walk they walked.  The pressures and the difficulties we have are real.  They knew what it was to be consumed by a cause, a purpose, a force larger and more powerful than themselves. We too are all destined to be consumed in one way or another – consumed by the message, by the mission to love and serve Him and one another.

Isaiah said “Here I am, send me!”   Paul said, “But by the grace of God I am what I am and His grace to me has not been ineffective.”  And the reply of Peter, James and John was simple but eloquent.   When they brought their boats to the shore, "they left everything and followed Him".

We should too.