The Year of Faith calls us to the renewal of a deeply personal relationship with Christ our Risen Lord. Precisely because such a relationship is rooted in the power of Christ’s Resurrection, it will always be experienced as a call to become committed disciples.
It is at this point that many of us hesitate. We can be followers of Christ at a distance, but, knowing our frailties, doubt that we can become the kind of disciples who change the world.
The call of the Prophet Isaiah examines our natural reluctance to consider ourselves as active participants in the building of God’s Kingdom. As the narrative unfolds, Isaiah’s first reaction was an overwhelming sense of the holiness that stands between God and the creature: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts. His glory fills all heaven and earth!”
We cannot contemplate the beauty of God’s holiness without at the same time becoming acutely aware of our own shortcomings. Still less can we number ourselves among the saints, who, down the ages, have struggled to live out the pattern of his holiness. The Prophet Isaiah mirrored our feelings perfectly: “What a wretched state I am in! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have looked at the King, the Lord of hosts.”
Far from being an obstacle to faith, such a contrite and honest acceptance of what we are became its very foundation, in the case of Isaiah. We cannot change ourselves, but humble contrition enables God’s forgiveness to transform the lives that we consider so unworthy of his love. Isaiah experienced the transforming intensity of that love in the burning coal: “See now, this has touched your lips, your sin is taken away, your iniquity is purged.”
God’s forgiveness is more than the cleansing of past sin. It equips us to become the instruments of his future. “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying: ‘Whom shall I send? Who will be our messenger?’ I answered. ‘Here I am, send me.’”
Let us never doubt that we have a part to play in God’s saving will for world in which we live. We say this, not because we are worthy, but because we can entrust that unworthiness to his holiness.
Luke’s account of the calling of the first disciples powerfully underlines the same point. Like the disciples after a poor night’s fishing, we can feel that our lives are powerless to change anything. Such impotence, surrendered in trust to the Lord, becomes the occasion of his grace. “We worked hard all night, but, if you say so, I will pay out the nets. When they had done this they netted such a huge number of fish that their nets began to tear.”
Reflecting our many uncertainties, Peter was overwhelmed with his own unworthiness in the presence of God. “Leave me, Lord; I am a sinful man.”
The pattern of Isaiah’s call was repeated. Humility enabled the power of God to transform his life. “Do not be afraid;
from now on it is men you will catch.”
St Paul, who described himself as the least of the apostles, attributed all that he was to the power of the Risen Lord at work within him. That same Risen Lord enables us to take our place in the year of faith.