Wandering into – and through – the mission field: It’s not an exercise meant to boost self-confidence, I’ve decided. (An insight, perhaps, that qualifies me for a DMO degree – Divine Master of the Obvious).
Or perhaps it’s not obvious at all. For we are treated this week to a front row seat, as three separate scriptural characters stumble upon a seemingly simple tidbit of self-awareness.
In the lead-off position, there’s the great prophet Isaiah:
Then I said, “Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips,
living among a people of unclean lips;
Next, we hear from St. Paul, the most prolific of the letter-writers in the Christian scriptures:
For I am the least of the apostles,
not fit to be called an apostle,
because I persecuted the church of God.
But by the grace of God I am what I am,
and his grace to me has not been ineffective.
Last but not least, St. Peter comes to grips with an authentic sense of his overall incompetence:
When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said,
“Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”
For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him
Is this all coincidence – the fact that demonstrably weak and broken individuals are chosen to do mission work…that we are asked to use our “unclean lips” to share the Good News? I don’t think so. It’s often the case that we find ourselves curating Holy Hauls, and ministering in ways that far exceed our paygrades.
Happened several times to me, in fact, just this past week: Monday morning, attempting to teach theology to three class periods of high school juniors; Wednesday evening, learning about the seemingly intractable challenges on the Rosebud Reservation (where alcoholism runs rampant, and unemployment rates hover around 80% for the Likota Sioux); and yesterday, at Menard, listening to the pleas of a desperately lonely man…and then trying to find words that would comfort, a spiritual assurance that might salve his debilitating sorrow and stem his thoughts of suicide.
Like Peter, I know that I am not worthy of the trust that the Lord seems to put in me in such situations. I don’t feel confident at all…not in the least bit competent to bear Christ’s grace, to bring Christ’s healing to a brother or sister in need.
And that’s precisely the point, Jesus says in reply. This much really ought to be obvious by now.
“It’s not about you. It’s about Me.
So leave your broken self behind, and follow Me.
Do not be afraid. Just follow Me.”
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.