Saturday, February 9, 2013

More than Enough to Win

A reflection on Sunday's readings (2/10/2013)
They may be found here, or if you go to mass! 

Coach Tom Thibodeau of the Chicago Bulls has battled a lot of injuries on his team the past two years. Reporters constantly ask him what he can do to win the next game—should they trade for a new player? Should they attempt something different and new? Thibodeau responds, without fail, every single time with this phrase: “We have more than enough to win.” He can say this because of the simple mantra he teaches his team every day, every practice: know your role, know your job, do your job. In the context of today's Scripture readings we can see these words as a great spiritual insight. With God we have more than enough to win.

When we look to Isaiah, today's first reading, he beholds the face of God and immediately laments. He cries out that he is a man of unclean lips in a land of unclean lips. Then God takes the initiative. His seraphim came and purged Isaiah's sin. Notice that it did not say Isaiah was blameless, but when he recognized his sins the Lord came to him. God strengthened him, but with that new strength God calls out 'Whom shall I send?' Isaiah leapt up, ready to do God's will. God does not leave us to our own devices when we respond to Him, but this works in two ways. When we turn to God we recognize our weakness and seek strength. In that newfound strength, however, God does not let us rest—he puts us to work. We pray to Him so we can know our job. He gives us the strength to do our job.

St. Peter is our model, as he so often is, in the Gospel reading. The Gospel writer adds a bit of a wrinkle that makes it different from Isaiah in an important way. Peter, his brother, and their companions had been working all day. We see how Peter was already predisposed toward Jesus because when he came to them Peter allowed Jesus to use his boat. Peter was a good man ready to serve the Lord. But then Christ asks a bit more of him: “Cast your nets into deep water.” Here we see, simultaneously, Peter's strength and weakness. He replies that 'I've been working hard all day, but at your command I will do as you say.'

He says, in a way, “I thought I was doing it right, but have nothing to show for it.' He believed himself full, but his net was empty. When he listened to Jesus his nets were not only full for himself but for everyone around him as well. This is when it strikes Peter: his nets were empty when he was empty—that is to say that his was empty until Christ was a part of it. Christ was not with him as a thought, or as some disinterested person. Christ was with Peter in his work and, with Christ, Peter had more than enough fish. In fact, the boats “were in danger of sinking.”

Peter's life before Christ may have been empty but with Christ it's almost too much to bear.

Peter, feeling that weight, falls to his knees. He recognizes his emptiness. His confidence turns to contrition the moment he witnesses Christ's power. He says “Depart from me for I am a sinful man.” Jesus, however, in showing Peter what he would accomplish with Him said 'Do not be afraid.' Then he gave Peter his job, “You will be catching men.” Then Peter, emptying himself and leaving everything behind, follows Christ and gains everything.
Don't just sit there. God has work for you to do too!
Brothers and sisters, we see in both the Old Testament and the New that God did not radically change Isaiah or Peter—he did not change who they were. They were not transported to another world nor were either of them told to simply sit in fear of their unworthiness before God. They were made to recognize what they weren't—perfect, sinless; they were shown what (or rather, who) they had—God; then they were sent to do their job—preach God to the whole world so they might do the same. In our studies and in our work we must do the same. We must not separate God from our work, for if we do not accept God into our work then our nets will be empty. When we do, however, we'll have more than we know what to do with., and that's all for the better. Do not be afraid of the work before you, do not be afraid of your sinfulness, nor be afraid of what you lack—if you find Jesus Christ and stay with him you'll have more than enough to win.