“Depart from me, Lord for I am a sinful man”. When St. Peter experiences the Presence of God through Jesus Christ on the Lake of Gennesaret, when he truly encounters the Lord, he has a humbling moment of unworthiness, a moment when faced with what little or weak faith he has had, realizes he shamefully isn’t ready to encounter the Redeemer. While today’s Gospel is yet another true to life love story of a loving Lord who has mercy and redeems it is also a point for many of us to deeply ponder in our hearts and in our own lives. This hope-filled confession is what endeared St. Peter to me as a 31 year-old convert and gave me cause to ask him to be my patron saint. I have grown to love St. Peter more and more as I reflect upon his life, relationship with Jesus and how he aspired for holiness despite his own weaknesses. As I journey with men discerning priesthood, I know what he could offer would benefit many, maybe even most of the young men discerning.
Unworthiness is often one of the first stumbling blocks and barriers to good vocational discernment. We often begin to contemplate and consider God calling us to a religious vocation and then run away from the calling because of a sense of our unworthiness. In a sense we are and always will be unworthy; we simply need to get over it. In another sense, is it really our place to determine our worthiness if the Lord is calling us, especially given today’s Gospel among other signs?
What did Jesus do when Peter asked Him to leave him be? He called him more deeply into the mission! Perhaps he could have consoled him or said “there, there…” or honoured his request, but he did nothing of the sort and instead he gave him a sense of what his meaning in life would be and the purpose of that life. Peter was called to be holy; to strive for holiness which would mean that he would need to take on the mission of Christ. It would soon be revealed that he would in fact lead that mission. Jesus did not leave him in any way, rather drew closer to him.
He does the same for us, and this is a fact that cannot and should not escape us. Often it does. Sometimes it is a low sense of self-esteem or self-worth; a lacking we might have to see ourselves the way God sees us. This happens through a lifetime of others breaking us down. Sometimes it’s through or by our own sense of sinfulness. We struggle with some sin or the same sins over and over again, and become disheartened; we give up (or want to). In all cases, when good vocational discernment ends, or a faith journey ends because of any of these things: it is a sad day indeed!
Be filled with hope; with the virtue of hope! St. Peter (who wasn’t quite a saint yet when this account took place) continued to grow in holiness, faith and love day by day. He worked hard to fulfill the mission. He confessed so often that nearly every account in the Gospels is something of a confession – but one thing he did not do (and neither should we) is give up. Let’s use St. Peter as our model today and every day. May we never give up, knowing that the God of love will NEVER give up on us either.