I wonder whether you have ever had the experience of feeling totally out of your depth or ill equipped to do a job you have been asked to do? I also wonder whether you might have ever had those awful feelings of being inadequate and not good enough? My third wondering is this: have you ever inwardly groaned and asked ‘why me?’ I suppose the last question is the easiest to answer with a straightforward ‘why not you, or even me.’
When I began feeling the not so gentle pull, or was it a push, towards ordination I asked of myself, and God, all three questions. God, in his wisdom, didn’t even bother responding. Instead what He did was let the feelings of being pushed and pulled grow. At times the feelings were so acute and painful that like Peter I wanted to say – in fact I didn’t want to say, I said, ‘Go away from me, Lord.’ The bizarre thing was that God didn’t go away: he stayed, remained and kept pushing and pulling. Out of my experience of discerning my calling I learnt that God is a persistent old something or other. I also learnt that God is persistent for a reason: He wants all of us, you and me, to join in with his plans, his mission, his purpose. In fact this is the very definition of mission: joining in with God’s plans and God’s plan is conversion. God wants all of us, the members of his one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church to help in the process of ‘catching people.’ God wants, in the words of our benefice collect, for his church to grow both in number and in holiness. He wants our metaphorical nets to be full to overflowing, and we, you and me, our His fishermen.
But here is the good news. Mission and evangelism isn’t the preserve of just one person. The onus isn’t solely on you or me. It’s a joint effort. Listen again to the words of the gospel: ‘So they signalled to their partners in the other boat to help them.’ God doesn’t want us to sit in splendid isolation aimlessly dropping our lines into the water. He wants us, his people, to work together as colleagues, partners and, yes, friends.
The amazing thing about God, about Jesus, is that he identifies and commissions ordinary people, people like you and me, to be His partners in mission. He asks all of us to help ‘catch people.’ He asks us to be humanity's safety net. He asks us to catch people through sharing our stories, our gospel testimonies, and by acts of loving kindness. He asks all of us who are members of his ‘One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church,’ to be his friends, colleagues and partners. Divine partnership and Godly friendship are the very essence of what it means to be catholic and apostolic.
When we say yes to God’s invitation to be God’s partners in mission I can promise you that something truly amazing happens. It happened to the prophet Isaiah who came before God and said: ‘Woe is me. I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among people of unclean lips, yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts,’ it happened to Peter, and it happened to me. What happens is that the questions I asked at the beginning of this homily recede and dissipate. They cease to be the real questions. They recede and dissipate because what happens is this: God reaches out and touches us. He touches our hearts, enlarges our minds and anoints our lips: this is truly what happens. And, when this happens, we start to become individuals in community who partner with God in ‘catching people.’
To catch people is our noblest calling, to partner with God is our greatest privilege, to be touched and anointed by God is the very source of our liberation. Like Isaiah and like Peter, all we need to do is to say ‘yes.’
Let us together, in partnership, be God’s people catchers in this place,