Beginning with the Prophet Isaiah today, we have laments in every age about our imperfections. He starts us off by describing a vision of God seated on “a high and lofty throne” with angels all around and proclaims, “Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips!” What follows is testimony to God’s willingness to choose him – even in his weakness – and to cure him. (IS 6:1-8) Similarly in the second reading, St. Paul acknowledges that he was not fit to be called an apostle because he had been diligent in persecuting Christians. “By the grace of God,” however, he acknowledges that “I am what I am and God’s grace has not been ineffective.” (1COR 15: 1-11). Finally we have Simon Peter doubting the effectiveness of the directive Jesus gives to the fishermen who have been all night at their task and caught nothing. Perhaps his saving grace was that although he expressed his doubt about going back out “into deep water” and lowering the nets again, he said to Jesus, “but at your command I will lower the nets.” You know the story (LK 5: 1-11). The nets were almost breaking with all the fish! Peter’s response: to fall at the knees of Jesus and say, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” In each of these cases, the imperfect servant comes to know a sort of greatness in humility.
The lesson in each of these readings is captured in Psalm 138, tucked in the center of it all. “Your right hand saves me…your kindness, O Lord, endures forever…” Lynn Bauman’s translation of this psalm gives a beautiful expression of encouragement to us, letting us know that in spite of our human frailty God is just waiting to give us what we need.
For when I spoke your sacred name, your word of answer swiftly came as source of all the strength I know within. O peoples of this earth, know this, you too can hear this voice and speak the name. You too can know the music of this song revealing God’s beauty in fullest splendor. For though God is high beyond this earth, as swift as wind God stoops to hold the lowly close, the proud afar…(Ancient Songs Sung Anew, p.354)