By Bishop David McGough
Fifth Sunday of the Year Isaiah 6:1-8; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Luke 5:1-11 4 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying: 'Whom shall I send? Who will be our messenger?' I answered, 'Here I am, send me.' " With these words the prophet Isaiah accepted what the Lord asked of him, allowing his life to be moulded by the God whose spokesman he became. The broader context of this vision demonstrates that would-be prophets, no less than ourselves, are sometimes reluctant to accept responsibility for what they are. Our calling is less dramatic than that of the prophet Isaiah, but it is, nonetheless, real. In baptism we became one with Christ, called to a life that witnesses to his kingdom and its values. The most powerful witness is to be found not so much in our words as in the choices that we make. We choose to uphold the sanctity of life, the dignity of the individual, the unchanging values of family life. These, and many other aspects of contemporary life, demand not only our opinion but also the witness of our lives. How do we respond to the Lord's invitation, "Whom shall I send?"
It is only too easy to lose ourselves in the crowd. There are many others, more holy, more capable than ourselves, who will speak in our name. Ours is an age that treats with great suspicion any faith' based conviction. We are reluctant to be identified with those whose values are rooted in faith and can, by our silence, abandon the Values that form our society to the prevailing political climate.
The call of the prophet Isaiah described a call that both accepts and enables our natural reluctance to stand by God-given conviction. Few of us are saints. We are aware that we live inconsistent lives. We rightly condemn in ourselves the hypocrisy that claims God in one part of our lives while neglecting him in others. Sometimes we allow this to stifle our witness. The prophet expressed this universal perception of our sinful nature. A truly Christian witness is not based in the perfection of our individual lives, but in the truth that God communicates to our hearts. The more we are engaged with God, the more keenly we will experience our own unworthiness. In Isaiah's vision God takes the initiative as the burning coals purge Isaiah's iniquity. There will be times when the particular circumstances of our lives draw us to a particular choice for God and his ways. Sometimes we will allow our failure and mediocrity to dissuade us from such a choice. This, in itself. is a call to sunender our sinfulness and inadequacy to God's healing forgiveness. When we allow ourselves to live through this experience, it is His Spirit within us that enables us to respond: "Here I am, Lord, send me."
The call of the first disciples echoes many of the elements that we have seen in the call of Isaiah. Jesus invited the disciples to play their part, to put out into deep water. Peter spoke for the futility frequently experienced in our human endeavour: "We worked hard all night long and have caught nothing." The burden of the exchange highlighted the emptiness of what we attempt by ourselves. With Christ, the disciples netted so much their nets began to tear. For Peter, this was a moment of conversion: "Leave me, Lord, for I am a sinful man." This is the humility that opens the way to our effective witness. "Do not be afraid; from now on it is men that you will catch."