“Discovering vocation does not mean scrambling toward some prize just beyond my reach but accepting the treasure of true self I already possess. Vocation does not come from a voice out there calling me to be something I am not. It comes from a voice in here calling me to be the person I was born to be, to fulfill the original selfhood given me at birth by God.” ― Thomas Merton: (1915 – 1968: was an American Catholic writer and Trappist monk)
Gospel Text: (LK 5:1-11)
While the crowd was pressing in on Jesus and listening
to the word of God,
he was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret.
He saw two boats there alongside the lake;
the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets.
Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon,
he asked him to put out a short distance from the shore.
Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.
After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon,
“Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.”
Simon said in reply,
“Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing,
but at your command I will lower the nets.”
When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish
and their nets were tearing.
They signaled to their partners in the other boat
to come to help them.
They came and filled both boats
so that the boats were in danger of sinking.
When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said,
“Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”
For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him
and all those with him,
and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee,
who were partners of Simon.
Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid;
from now on you will be catching men.”
When they brought their boats to the shore,
they left everything and followed him.
In today’s Gospel passage, we hear the beginning of St. Peter’s vocation. It might seem that the focus of this passage is the miraculous catch of fish, but Peter’s response is greater. Reflecting on the Word of God, you yourself are challenged to allow this same dynamic to work in your own life. Every Christian has to do this, but each in his or her own unique way, because each member of Christ’s Body is created uniquely, and meant by God to pursue his or her vocation within a unique setting in salvation history. As each human person is unique, so is the role of each human person within God’s economy of salvation.
The problem in our lives in the twenty-first century is that we don’t want this sort of call from God. It’s not that God is ignoring us, as we sometimes accuse Him of doing. It’s not that God doesn’t want to have anything to do with us. Rather, it’s that we don’t want Him in our lives. Sure, we want to follow God, but at a distance. Every one of our sins in effect says, “I want there to be a comfortable distance between me and God. I don’t want Him too close to me.” If we can admit this, then it’s a lot easier to understand how today’s Gospel passage is not just about Jesus calling Peter, but is also about Jesus calling you, each day throughout your life, not just in your youth.
The words which sum up today’s Gospel challenge are, “Be not afraid.” The words of Peter which sum up his response are these six simple words: “Lord, I am a sinful man.” These six words come from a humble soul. Each of us needs to make his or her own not just these six words, but the virtue that animates them.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us: “Faced with God’s fascinating and mysterious presence, man discovers his own insignificance” [CCC 208]. This isn’t the last line of the Catechism, of course. Despite our relative insignificance, God freely chose to sacrifice His only-begotten Son for our salvation. God never says, “Clean up your act, and get back in touch with me when you’re worthy of my attention.” God reaches down to us in our sinfulness, and pays His full attention to our sinfulness.
God’s care and concern for us in our sinfulness is part and parcel of our vocation. The manner in which God deals with us in our sinfulness is, so to speak, vocational training. That is to say, in each Christian vocation and state of life, dealing with the sins of our neighbors—not to mention our own—is part of what God calls us to. He calls us to do to our neighbor as He has done for us.