5th Sunday of the Year ( c ) 2019
Isaiah is so right about human nature in today’s first reading; we so often see the worst in ourselves. “What a wretched state I am in! says the Prophet, I am lost for I am a man of unclean lips”. So many people could and do say that today. They wouldn’t use the words “unclean lips” they would more likely say simply “a sinner”: “I am lost for I am a sinner”. Indeed, isn’t that what Peter says in the Gospel. He falls as Christ’s feet and says, “Leave me Lord, I am a sinful man”. Peter felt the full weight of his sins when he was in the presence of Christ. It was if a light had shone into his heart, showing Peter all that was dark. Peter felt so uncomfortable he asks the Lord to leave: “leave me Lord, I am a sinful man”.
The presence of priests can also make priests feel uncomfortable. How often have I gone into a crowd of people, and someone will say, “watch your language lads, here’s the priest”. People can feel uncomfortable in the presence of a priest or a nun. Not that they would say “I am lost, for I am a sinner”. The truth is that we are all sinners. We all have “unclean lips”. When someone asked Pope Francis at the beginning of his pontificate how he would describe himself, he replied, “I am a sinner”. He wasn’t being pious or modest, he was telling the truth. No one is without sin except God and our Blessed Lady.
God chose Peter and the others not for their holiness, because they weren’t holy. Peter was a man who worked with his hands; he lived to fish; literally, this is how he learned his living. He didn’t, we can presume, go to university, and he probably was too busy to go to the synagogue each day. Peter was like so many people; he was painfully aware of his shortcomings and even his sinfulness. But Christ didn’t turn away from him. He didn’t tell Peter that he had made a mistake, that he would look for someone else, someone more holy. No, he was satisfied and more than satisfied with Peter’s words: “I am a sinful man”.
This self-acclaimed sinner was to become the rock on which Christ built his Church. The Apostle to inspire all the others. Christ wasn’t looking for perfection, for sinlessness, he was looking at the heart, at the potential as to what this person could become. And he does the same for us too.
The Lord calls each and everyone of us, from the moment of our baptism, to be his followers. It’s no good saying, “what me? You must be joking. You’re having a laugh”. The Lord isn’t laughing. He’s serious. If he waited to choose those who were without sin, then he would be waiting till now and the end of eternity. Instead, he choses us; pathetic sinners that we are, with all our faults and failings, to be his followers. He entrusts to us the task of telling others about the Good News. For the truth is, if we don’t who will?
And don’t say, “well, that’s the priests job”. Have you noticed we are getting fewer and fewer. Some priests are now running, not just one, not just two, but three Churches. No, if you don’t see this as your responsibility then the Good News of Jesus Christ will not be heard. We are in this together. If you feel very ordinary, even if you feel terribly unworthy, so much the better.
So, yes, like Peter, like me, you are sinners: welcome to the human race. Jesus didn’t leave Peter as he asked him too, but instead he called him to be his disciple. We too are called to be Christ’s disciples; he needs you, the Church needs you; the world needs you.