Each of these three readings deals in one way or another with someone’s experience of having been called by God, interrupted by God, and set by Him to the accomplishment of some task, the playing out of some role in the midst of his people.
Isaiah’s experience was a deeply mystical one. St Paul was practically mugged by God. His life was interrupted whilst on the road. Finally, Peter, in the Gospel reading, is called in an almost theatrical way.
In the face of all that we may think, “wouldn’t it be nice if the call from God in our lives could be so clear, so obvious. So unmistakably divine!” Well, it is. Clarity, so many times, is not so much a function of the one who speaks, as it is of the one who listens.
If we are uncertain in the face of God’s call because we don’t think we have the ability to respond to that call, then that uncertainty is of our own making. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Peter, Paul and so many others all became certain of their call and their mission only when they stopped concentrating on their own weaknesses and began to concentrate on God’s strength. So many times in Scripture God calls and human beings respond with something like, “I can’t do it”. And so many times in Scripture God’s response to that is, “Of course you can’t. Nobody can”.
The disproportion between our abilities and what we are asked to accomplish in our prophetic roles is far greater even than the disproportion between Peter’s ability as a fisherman and the catch he finally makes. The great thing is that God doesn’t really ask us to do very much at all.
Rather, he asks us to let him do it through us. Our contribution to the prophetic process is no great wisdom or exceptional skill. Our contribution is rather an openness to truth, a willingness to learn and grow, a sense of responsibility and a generous spirit. Each of us can muster that. And if we do, each of us can be absolutely certain that we are doing precisely what the Father calls us to do.
That certainty grows, through reflection on questions like ‘what sort of influences, experiences, people, have been formative in my life? To which of the needs of God’s people has my experience of life made me more sensitive? What sorts of strengths and virtues in others have moved me to rejoice, and what sort of weaknesses or failings have made me angry?’
To the extent that we begin to answer questions such as these, we begin to see with clarity what we have been sent to do. We begin to see a continuity, a connection between where we have been, where we are, and where we are going.
God’s will for us is not at all a puzzle to be solved. He speaks clearly, and that is how we must listen.