we installed a shower heater in the Retreat House we ran into some
trouble. It has an element in it that heats up. If a lot of water
passes over the element the water does not get very hot. If there
is little water it will get very hot. Since we got it, almost every
new user has blown the safety mechanism that cuts off the water when
it gets to a scalding temperature. When they feel the water getting
hot they turn the switch down, when what they should do, to make the
water cooler, is to turn it up.
to me is a good analogy of what happens often in our dealings with
God. What we instinctively do or expect is the reverse of the divine
way. We see this especially in the choice of leaders. We would expect
God to choose the best and only the best people for leadership positions.
Yet, the people that God chooses, and the Bible makes no attempt to
conceal the fact, are often the most unlikely ones. Moses was a hot
headed murderer before he was called to lead the people. David, the
Royal Psalmist, was first of all a spoiled child and later an adulterous
In today's readings we see God call Isaiah to be his prophet who says
"What a wretched state I am in! I am a lost man, for I am a man
of unclean lips." Then there is St. Paul who can never forget
that he was persecuting the Church when the Lord called him. Then,
of course, we have Peter! One would think that impetuous coward would
be the last person for Jesus to choose. Why were they chosen?
were called not because they were perfect, not because they were shining
examples of high standards, but rather because their sense of the
need for God's grace kept them on the edges of life and away from
the smug infertility of those who feel that they have got it all together.
story about Peter is a classic example of God's unpredictability and
Peter's missing the point. Jesus preaches from Peter's boat and then
asks him to pull out to make a catch of fish. In matters of fishing
Peter was an expert and Jesus a dumb carpenter. "Master,"
Peter points out, "we worked hard all night long and caught nothing."
He knew that fish came to the surface in the sea of Galilee only at
night and if you did not get them then you would never get them. But
to humor the celebrity he agreed to take Jesus out to fish. When he
does, their nets are filled to bursting point and they have to ask
the help of other fishermen to bring in the catch.
Peter got the point very quickly. He immediately saw his own pride
and self-centeredness in the presence of Jesus. He begged Jesus to
go away and put distance between his sinfulness and Jesus' holiness.
But here again Peter got it wrong. It was only when he felt sinful
and empty that Jesus could call him and fill him and make him a fisher
of people. Up to this point he had been too full of himself to allow
God in. Now he is told that sinfulness is not a barrier to keep God
out: it expresses a real need for God to come in. Peter is the first
person in the Gospel to acknowledge his sinfulness; he is also the
first person to be called by Jesus.
Good News of the gospel is that God does not get nervous at the news
of our sinfulness. He can handle sinners. Our God is one who gives
sinners a new start. The scribes and pharisees liked to keep people
prisoners of their sins but not so for Jesus. He moves Peter from
protestation of sinfulness to the work that is ahead of him. It is
important that we acknowledge our sinfulness but then to get up and
live again - trusting not so much in our own goodness as in that of
is a time for being before God as we truly are. We do not have to
be good, as so many think, to enter into God's presence. When we are
there, not denying our sinfulness or wallowing in our failures, the
Lord raises us up to be humble fishers of other people. For the Lord,
the humble are exalted and the exalted are humbled. Indeed, for Jesus,
"up" often means "down" and "down" often