The call to service

Ervin TanReflections

The Calling of the Apostles Peter and Andrew (from Duccio’s Maestà), c. 1308–1311
Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Public domain

The call to service

In a recent homily, Father Adrian Danker, SJ expounded on the story of the call of the first disciples. Similarly, God has entered our lives, calling us forth in love to serve Him and be His faithful stewards.

In St Paul’s teaching to the Corinthians, he reminds us of our great mission: to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ and to preach what the apostles preach (1 Corinthians 15:1-11). At every diaconate ordination, this is echoed in these words to the deacon-elect: “Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practise what you teach.” Their vocation reflects a call to mission, to a way of life – a life of service, which is not only for the clergy, but for everyone. Paul himself preaches a God who is with us, who loves and saves us. He preaches with words, and even more, with his life. It is one of selfless service that began with Paul’s “yes” to the Lord. Many of us also want to say “yes” to the Lord. We want to echo Isaiah: “Here I am, send me”. (Isaiah 6:8) We want to make our Christian life count for something and follow Jesus because Christian discipleship makes our faith come alive and makes life matter.

Unworthy disciples, faithful stewards

However, if we are completely honest with ourselves, we recognise that we struggle to do this. Like Isaiah, we know how wretched, lost and unclean we are, not just because of our sinfulness, but because when we look into the face of God, we encounter His immeasurable goodness and love. For many of us, this mercy overwhelms us. That is when the Evil One attempts to seduce us, tempting us to think that we are never good enough. In the Gospel (Luke 5:1-11), as Jesus calls His first disciples, His words and actions remind us that we are more than good enough. He challenges us to stay with Him, to recognise our worth and then to live His call to serve Him. We see this invitation clearly when we see how Jesus steps into Peter’s boat without asking for permission, and takes Peter’s place at the helm. He then sets Himself up with authority to teach God’s people. Much like what He did in Peter’s boat, Jesus sets Himself up in people’s lives as their Good Shepherd, calling them to be His faithful stewards.

Responding to God’s love and generosity

The miracle of the surprising and plentiful catch is a reminder to hear God’s Word, to trust and follow it. Jesus can make so much good out of the emptiness of our lives. Peter’s wasted night of fishing is transformed into an abundance of fish that overflows and spills into the other boat because he listened, trusted and followed Jesus’ instruction. Jesus did not take possession of the boat, rather it is his collaboration that makes his faith, life and service come alive and flourish. Yes, when we partner Jesus, the empty nets in our lives will be filled, often with excess beyond our imagination. There will be fish for the catch, food for nourishment and life in abundance instead of emptiness. What we lack, Jesus provides, and it is often more than what we need. This miracle of providing an abundance from nothingness is God’s assurance of His promise to be with us and for us.

“Today, Jesus is stepping into the boats of our lives for He has chosen us to be stewards of His Kingdom who serve with Him.”

For when much is given, much is expected

Many others are in need of this abundance. Jesus calls us to share His goodness with others generously and selflessly, through lives of service. Today, Jesus is stepping into the boats of our lives for He has chosen us to be stewards of His kingdom who serve with Him. He lovingly values us as worthy, even when we consider ourselves unworthy. However fragile and broken we might be, we allow Jesus into our hearts every time we participate in the celebration of the Eucharist. He values us and invites us to brave the stormy seas, carrying others to safety. To Him, we can be His vessel to carry the lifesaving cargo of the Good News to all peoples. Jesus desires to transfigure us so that we may joyfully serve others. His instruction to Peter is also directed to us, “Put out into deep water and pay out your nets for a catch.” Let us cooperate with Him.

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