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 certainty. Our mind asks about the existence of God, about the meaning of life and death, about life after death. Inevitably we are faced with a choice that requires a leap of faith. Faith is not an intrinsic property of human nature. It is more fundamental.
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 the different ways in which the loving presence of God chllenged people’s lives. A burning ember on the lips of Isaiah, a brilliant light blinding Paul and Peter, James and John having their boats almost sink under the weight of the fish they caught. Each of the stories tells 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 and John - react to their calling. These men accepted the invitation despite their sense of unworthiness and despite their fear of the unknown.
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 community in witness requires an experience of the surprising, forgiving and overwhelming love of God. It requires a leap of faith. 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. Maybe we didn't 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. There is no guarantee of success for those who accepted God's invitation, at least not in the usual ways we measure it.
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.
Any transformational experience requires a giving up of something, both tangible and intangible, to make room for something new. Those who were called in today’s readings faced many difficulties. At times they were under intense pressure. They knew what it was to be consumed by a cause, a purpose, a force larger and more powerful than themselves.
Isaiah responded “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 too are called. We walk the same walk. The pressures and the difficulties we have are real . And the choice we face requires that same leap of faith.
How do we respond?