Earlier this week, a friend of mine—a 47-year old surgeon—was honored because of his role as a Catholic medical missionary. After 10 years serving in Kenya, he has now been in Sudan for the last four years, the only medical doctor for hundreds of miles, he has performed nearly 1,000 surgeries on the poor, the war-torn injured and dying.
When war broke out, he was advised by his superiors to flee, but he did not. His answer, “what should I do? Just leave them? This is when they need me most, and this is when I need God with me most!”
The archbishop of the Sudan traveled to New York this week to give witness to this young man’s generosity to the Sudanese, his selfless and tireless missionary work for a people who have nothing. And yet, the doctor’s response was that he was merely doing what he could, and God was doing the rest, the great, the ministry.
In all three of our readings today, we witness that God is doing all of the work: through Isaiah who allows the Lord to send him; through Paul who, though weak, still responds to God’s invitation; through Peter who, though ‘a sinful man’, still follows the command of the Master to “put out into the deep”.
All three of our scriptural characters acknowledge that they are not well-suited for the tasks for which God is calling them, but apparently, they needn’t be. The only skills they must possess are humility (the willingness to admit their weakness), openness to be sent, and then simply going…all with the Lord Himself.
So it is, then, with us. We do not need to be perfect, nor wise, nor powerful, nor handsome, nor an orator, nor rich, nor talented. No, all we need do is listen for the invitation to serve God and then humbly submit ourselves—give ourselves—to His service.
Here in our parish, we’re blessed to have so many generous parishioners to serve in our liturgical ministries. But it happens every so often that, when I invite someone to consider serving as an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, they kindly respond, “oh, I’m not worthy to do that.” Well, to be honest, I know! In fact, none of us—especially I—is worthy, but that’s not a requisite for our ministry. If it were, God would have no one to serve…moreover, if I was worthy, then I’d really have no need for God! But thank Goodness, God provides where we lack; God strengthens where we are weak; God encourages when we are afraid…all we need do is open ourselves to Him, hear His invitation and, “put out into the deep”.
My surgeon-friend knows full well his weaknesses, his inabilities, his faults, but instead of simply throwing in the towel and abandoning Goodness and virtue, he simply places himself in God’s hands and gets to the work of ministering to others…all the while allowing God to work through him and into the blessed lives of others.
This week, may each of us find ways to discover God’s gentle invitation to further trust Him, to freely open ourselves to Him and to generously serve Him. May God bless you as you hear Him.