Reflection for the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
In this weekend’s Gospel we hear of two very personal first-encounters with God. The first is Isaiah (Is 6:1-2, 3-8), who comes face-to face with God, either in a trance or in a dream. He recognizes Him and is terrified because, as he confesses, “Woe is me; I am doomed, for I am a man of unclean lips…yet mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts.”
In the Gospel, Luke 5:1-11, Jesus, who is a stranger to Peter, invites Himself into Peter’s boat and performs a miracle that would stun any fisherman: a catch of fish (after a completely fish-less night) that is so huge that a nearby boat is called to assist them lest their net would break and all would be lost.
Peter, like Isaiah, immediately recognizes that Jesus is, at the very least, a prophet, and quite possibly the long-awaited Messiah. Peter’s immediate response to the unexpected visit from God? “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”
In both encounters, God responds with encouragement and assurance: to Isaiah; Your wickedness is removed, your sin is purged. And to Peter: Do not be afraid…from now on you will be catching men.
We should be prepared to meet God face to face. It can happen in prayer, during a holy conversation with a friend, at Holy Communion or in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, when tragedy strikes, or in moment of intense joy. But sometimes when we encounter the Sacred, sins that might have lain unnoticed for a long time are suddenly brought front and center, and the sense of our profound unworthiness that follows can frighten us into thinking, “If You only knew me, God, You wouldn’t want to come near me.”
Yet Jesus does not reveal Himself to us because we are good. He Himself tells us, ‘I have come not to seek the righteous but sinners.’ Our Lord wants us to recognize our sinfulness, bring it to Him, and allow Him to lead us to conversion. We cannot predict what form that conversion might take, but we know it will be tailor made for us. And the design will be all His.
With Isaiah and Peter we open our hearts to the wonder of Encounter and the mystery of conversion.
It will be a glorious happening.
May God be praised.