THEME: THE GRACE OF GOD WILL SUSTAIN YOU!
First Reading: Isaiah 6:1-2, 3-8, 17-19; Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Gospel: Luke 5: 1-11.
When I was growing up, especially during my secular education at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, I had a lot of remarkable experiences, which put me on the edge ahead of my peers. I also had a very strong desire to become a great man with many innovative achievements. At some point, in my 3rd year, when I assumed the position of a Taskforce Chairman, Student Union Government, and subsequently, in my 5th year when I became the Chief of Keggite Club International, I was carried away by a life of waywardness due to youthful exuberance.
However, when God called me to the priesthood, which I never dreamt of becoming, I was shocked to the bone marrow, because I found myself UNWORTHY to be called into such sacred ministry. I wanted to run away from it by trying to get married in 2008, but the disturbance was too much for me. Consequently, when I encountered the Power of God, my life was transformed, then the Almighty God gave me this message: “I am not calling you to partake in my Salvific Mission because you are righteous, but there are great potentials I deposited in you before your birth which I want to use in the world.” At this point, I succumbed, resigned from my reputable job and entered the seminary.
In the First Reading, when God called Prophet Isaiah, he saw himself as unworthy servant for the work of God, and thus exclaimed: “Woe is me! I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts” (Isaiah 6:5)! He was aware of his frailty and unworthiness and was frightened by the mission that was to be entrusted to him. But his uncleanness did not stop God from calling him, rather God purified and empowered him for His prophetic mission. Hence, he responded: ”Here am I, send me” (Isaiah 6:8). This shows that God is capable of purifying people to make them fit to transmit His message. He does not call the qualified but qualifies the called (Romans 8:30).
Similarly, in the Gospel, Peter and his companions were frustrated after toiling all nights, but could not catch any single fish despite their prowess in fishing. But as soon as they encountered Jesus Christ (Power of God), with faith and obedience to His commands, they caught many fishes to the extent that their boats began to sink, and their nets were breaking.
Astonishingly, Peter exclaimed immediately he experienced such miraculous achievement, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5:8). But Jesus Christ, reassured Peter and said to him, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people” (Luke 5:10). Remarkably, Peter’s sinfulness did not hinder him from becoming God’s instrument, rather Jesus Christ purified and empowered him for His prophetic mission of drawing strayed souls back to God.
In the Second Reading, St. Paul confessed his unworthiness and unfit to be called an Apostle after recalling how he once persecuted the Church of God. However, God still called him, purified and empowered him for His prophetic mission. Subsequently, he made great exploits in his missionary journeys more than others, not by his own human efforts, but by the special Grace of God (1 Corinthians 15:10). This implies that, our achievements in life cannot be realised solely by our own personal efforts without the grace of God.
Meanwhile, the three different ministers of God (Isaiah, Peter and Paul) in today’s readings were called differently, but their responses were the same; one of total surrender, one of humility, one of unworthiness and one of responsibility. Their deep sense of unworthiness allowed God Himself to work with them, which paved the way for the grace of divine call to be effective in their lives. Their sinful nature did not make God to change His mind, rather what was necessary was their responses and readiness to change.
Furthermore, the fact remains that willingness to render service to God and to humanity is what God wants from us. The awareness, “I am Unworthy”, is indispensable for the Lord to continue His work of salvation in us, and through us, for the miraculous draught of fishes to occur, for the mystery of the Kingdom of God to embrace us, for the Holy Spirit to work in us with the Power of the Cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We only need to ask ourselves whether we are responding to His call or ignoring it. Just as God is ready ‘to remove our wickedness and purge our sins’ through the Sacraments of Penance and Holy Eucharist, we must be ready to leave everything hindering us from heeding His call.
Finally, we observed in today’s readings that God does not require one’s capabilities or qualifications before calling the person or entrusting him or her with any responsibility. What He wants is one’s availability and readiness to obey His commands, then He gives the person His grace. Furthermore, until Jesus Christ intervened, the fishermen were trying to do it on their own, but caught nothing. The moment Jesus Christ stepped in, miracle ensued.
Therefore, we must always surrender our worries, challenges as well as predicaments to Jesus Christ in prayers (1 Peter 5:7) in order for us to experience miraculous achievements or breakthroughs instead of struggling to solve them only with our human efforts, even if we are experts or have the resources (Zechariah 4:6). Only the grace of God or the presence of Jesus Christ (Power of God) can solve any difficult situation in our lives, our human efforts are limited. So, we might have been working tirelessly to achieve success, or to solve any difficult problem, or to stop any vice, but to no avail, I assure us today, when we allow Jesus Christ to step into the situation and put our trust in Him, He will definitely save us.
May the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be made manifest in your life so as to enable you to achieve great success, and also to partake in the prophetic mission of drawing strayed souls back to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
Peace of Christ be with you…
Rev. Fr. Ben Okala, C.S.Sp.