Fishers of Men (Ravenna)
“Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”
By Fr. Steve Dos Santos, C.PP.S.
When I was ordained a deacon, then Bishop Allen Vigneron began his homily saying, “Steve, it is good that you picked as your first reading the call of Jeremiah, where Jeremiah tells God that he’s not worthy, because, you’re not worthy.” After a brief awkward moment, he went on to say “None of us are.” A light-hearted moment with an important theological point.
The lesson (Arch)Bishop Vigneron was making is that God calls us not because we are qualified but because it is a grace he wants to give us. All three readings today mention unworthiness in some way. Isaiah acknowledges his faults, which God fixes. St. Peter, responds to the miraculous catch by acknowledging his unworthiness, and Jesus invites him to come along anyway. St. Paul’s self-description as “one born abnormally” is his way of saying that this doesn’t make sense. We could add our Congregation’s founder, St. Gaspar, to the chorus, as he would often end his letters with the request “pray for me a miserable sinner.”
This acknowledgment of our unworthiness is an important step in the Christian walk. There’s an honesty and a humility to it that is so important. Left to our own devices, we could never save ourselves, or live a holy life, or dare to be in relationship with the creator of this ever-expanding universe. Yet despite our unworthiness, all of these are possible because of God’s crazy loves for us.
Acknowledging our unworthiness is a touchy area, so we have to be careful. When looked at through a negative lens, it becomes ugly and unhealthy; we become perpetual Eeyores. The negativity can paralyze us. But when viewed through a positive lens, we realize that God’s love for us is bigger than we first believed, and that our imperfection doesn’t scare drive God away. It also becomes the reason for loving those we encounter, along with all of their imperfections. God loves me in my unworthiness, so I’m called to love others in theirs.
God knew the imperfections of everyone he has ever called throughout salvation history. He knew Moses’ hot temper, and David’s pride. He knew Peter would deny him, and Saul had persecuted the Church. God has always chosen the unworthy to be his own. Every person there has ever been is unworthy of the love God has shown them.
(Arch)Bishop Vigneron was right. I was unworthy and almost 17 years later I’m still unworthy. Yet God loves me anyway. God desires to be in relationship with me, and wants me to serve Him. The same is true for you. So today, let us take a moment and get in touch with our own unworthiness, acknowledging that despite all that we are not, God loves you and me enough to shed His Precious Blood for us. May that experience of love, help us to better love those around us.
Originally from Alameda, Calif., Fr. Steve Dos Santos, C.PP.S., served for several years at St. Agnes Parish in Los Angeles. He is now the vocation director of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood.