In the beginning

Column: God gives each of us whatever we’re lacking

by Father Mike Stubbs

How would you react if you saw a miracle take place? Would you blink your eyes and wonder if you were dreaming?

Would you feel strengthened in your faith, with any doubts in God’s power cleared up? How would you react?

In Sunday’s Gospel reading, Lk 5:1-11, Jesus performs an impressive miracle. Simon Peter and his partners, James and John, have been fishing all night long, but have caught nothing. They have climbed out of their boats and are cleaning their nets. They have called it quits.

Nonetheless, Jesus instructs them to put out into deep water and lower their nets. They comply, and catch so many fish that their boats are in danger of sinking from the heavy load.

Simon Peter’s reaction to Jesus in the Gospel story might strike us as a bit strange. When Simon Peter witnesses the miraculous catch of fish, he calls out to Jesus, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”

We should note that Simon Peter, in confessing his sinfulness, does not mention any details. He is not admitting his guilt for specific sins, but simply acknowledging his unworthiness in the presence of the divine. He is awestruck by what God has done.

In that, Simon Peter follows the example of other biblical figures who respond to a call from God by claiming their unsuitability. We encounter one such figure in the first reading, Is 6:1-2a, 3-8. When Isaiah sees a vision of God’s glory, he agonizes: “Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips.” Nonetheless, God calls Isaiah to be a prophet.

Similarly, when God calls Jeremiah to be a prophet, he protests: “Ah, Lord God, I know not how to speak; I am too young” (Jer 1:6). Jeremiah becomes a prophet anyway.

These reluctant prophets are perfectly correct in pointing out that they are unworthy of the mission that God wishes to entrust to them — that they lack the sufficient qualifications to carry it out. As far as God is concerned, that does not matter. On one’s own, no human being would be qualified.

But God steps in to supply whatever is lacking. God gave Isaiah insight, and Jeremiah courage, to proclaim the word. Similarly, God will enable Simon Peter to haul in a huge number of converts. The miraculous catch of fish anticipates the vast crowds that Simon Peter will draw to the Lord.

We only need remember the results of Peter’s speech in Jerusalem on the first Pentecost: “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand persons were added that day” (Acts 2:41).

Jesus Christ calls each one of us to follow him. We may feel unworthy and incapable, but that does not matter. God will supply whatever is lacking
in us, to accomplish our mission. The specifics may vary, but we all can contribute our bit for the sharing of God’s abundant love with all the world.

About the author

Fr. Mike Stubbs

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