5th Ordinary – Year C – Unworthy minister
A certain church there was a man in the choir who couldn’t sing very well. The choir director suggested that he should leave the choir, but others felt he should be given more time to improve. But the choir director went to the pastor and complained: “You’ve got to get that man out of the choir or else I’m going to resign.” So the pastor went to the man and said to him, “Perhaps you should leave the choir.” “Why should I leave the choir?” the man asked. “Well,” said the pastor, “four or five people have told me you can’t sing.” “That’s nothing,” the man replied, “forty or fifty people have told me you can’t preach!” Today’s readings show us how God can make use of the most unlikely people to fulfil the divine purpose.
Deacon Martino Nguyen Ba Thong (St. Francis in Harrisburg)
5th Week in Ordinary Time -Year C (2004)
The first reading is on the call of Isaiah, the second on the call of Paul, and the Gospel on the call of Peter and his coworkers. How did these people feel when they realized that they were in the presence of God. They all felt unworthy of God. Isaiah said: “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips!” (Isaiah 6:5). Paul felt himself unfit to be called an apostle, because he persecuted the church of God. (1 Corinthians 15:9). And Peter fell down at Jesus’ feet and said, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” (Luke 15:8). Initial feeling of personal unworthiness could be a sign that a soul has seen God. That is why humility is said to be the first and primary virtue in authentic spirituality. The feeling of personal worthiness and competence, not to talk of the feeling of self-righteousness and spiritual superiority, could be a sign that the soul has neither seen nor known God.
When the soul confesses its sinfulness and inadequacy before God, God reaches out and absolves the sinner and renders him or her competent to serve Him. In the case of Isaiah, one of the seraphs touched his lips with a burning coal taken from the altar of the temple and said to him, “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out” (v. 7). In the case of Simon Peter, Jesus said to him, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people” (v. 10). We see that their qualification for the work of God does not come from them but from God. It is not their personal achievement; it is God’s grace. That is why Paul could say, “But by the grace of God I am what I am” (v. 10).
Beyond the feeling of personal unworthiness, there is another quality that the three people who are called to do God’s work in today’s readings have in common, and that is the availability to do God’s will and the readiness to follow His directives. As soon as Isaiah hears the voice of the Lord asking, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” his immediate response was: “Here am I; send me!” (v. 8). In the case of Peter and his partners, we are told that “they left everything and followed him” (v. 11) without looking back. And Paul threw himself with so much zeal into God’s work that he worked harder than all those who were called before him, though as he is quick to point out, “it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me” (v. 10). Merely feeling unworthy and incompetent does not make us into people that God can work with. We must add to that the availability and willingness to go out there and do as the Lord directs us.
When we follow the guidance of the Lord in our lives, we achieve results that will blow our minds. This is what we see in Peter’s miraculous catch of fish. He and his men toiled all night long and caught nothing. They were relying on their own competence as seasoned fishermen and following their own minds as to where and how to throw the net. The result, in one word, was failure. But when they followed the Lord’s guidance which, humanly speaking, did not make much sense (fishermen did not set the net in broad daylight), the result was an astounding success.
Today, as always, the good Lord continues to ask: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” The Lord still needs messengers, men and women who, like Isaiah, will proclaim the Good News of God’s love in the temple, or who, like Paul, will announce it in foreign lands to the ends of the earth, or who, like Peter, will speak up for God in the workplace and bring their coworkers and business partners to know and follow the Lord. If we feel unworthy and incompetent for the work of God, know that it is only people who feel that way that God can use. All that remains is for you to take the risk and say, “Here am I; send me!” The Lord himself will see to it that He renders you fit for the job He wants you to do for Him, as He did with Isaiah, with Paul, and with Peter
Father Martino Nguyen