All Christians by their baptism have a vocation. The vocation could be to priesthood, to religious life, or lay life, but it is a call to doing something for God. For me, both Isaiah and Peter illustrate how we respond to that call.
Isaiah was in the court of the most high God with angels singing the same “Holy, Holy, Holy” we sing at Mass. He was in the presence of God and he was very, very afraid. He thought he was doomed. Then an angel touched his lips with an ember and he was told his wickedness was taken away. Then he heard the Lord say “Whom shall I send?” Isaiah said, “Here I am! Send me!”
That is the same statement we make as Christians. Now let us look at the fifth chapter of the Gospel of Luke, verses 1 through 11. Here we are not before the throne of heaven, but, rather, with Peter, an average working man in Israel. Peter was a fisherman. He was doing his usual work. He had fished all night with his crew and caught nothing. All of a sudden this Rabbi Jesus guy asks to use the boat as a preaching platform. Peter thinks “why not?” and allows it.
After the sermon Jesus tells Peter to go into deeper water and cast his net. Peter must have thought, “Hey, carpenter, I don’t tell you how to make furniture, don’t tell me how to fish.” Nonetheless he cast his net into the deepest part of the Sea of Galilee, and caught so many fish his nets almost burst. Peter remembered all the bad things he did, and saw Jesus as being a good person, so he fell on his knees and said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man.”
But Jesus didn’t depart. Instead he invited him to become a fisher of men. Then Peter did something amazing. He abandoned his boat, his means of income, and the life lived by his family for, perhaps, generations, and followed him with no concern as to how he would make a living or what would happen to him. Absolutely amazing! An important thing to remember is that Peter and all the apostles still made mistakes after making their decision to follow Jesus. So did Isaiah, who is a good model for Christians.
There are three things that we can see in the circumstances that confronted both Isaiah and Peter: the presence of God, fear and trembling at the presence of God, and the acceptance of a mission.
For Isaiah the presence of God took the form of God’s throne, surrounded by angels. That this was the presence of God was hard to miss. For Peter it took place in a more commonplace setting. Our experience is usually more like Peter’s, where God enters into our daily lives. Maybe He will enter in at our place of work, or our school, or our home. The one thing I can guarantee is that you will be aware of the Presence of God. The only thing that you have to do is be open to that Presence.
The other thing I can guarantee is that the Presence will scare you. Let me tell you that as someone who took 30 years to become a priest. You realize the enormous power of God. You also realize that you have a role in that power. When you realize your role, all of your fears of incompetence or failure come to the surface. You feel like saying, “Now God, you know I am weak and can be an idiot. Are you sure you want me?”
The answer is “Yes.” God has a plan for you, a plan that only you can accomplish. When you realize this, that it is your life mission, the reason you are on the earth, you say, “Lord send me.”
Where will he send you? I don’t know. The fun is in finding out.
— Father Mike Van Cleve
Father Mike is a priest for the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston