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Do you remember your last annual performance review at work? Some of you are now retired and don’t miss that stress at all. Some of you are too young to know that feeling, but if you have experienced semester exams at school, then you have some sense of preparing for a review. Experts say that months before we go into the actual performance review, we should ask the supervisor or manager two questions: (1) Tell me one thing I'm doing well and should continue doing. (2) Tell me one thing I could do that will help me be more effective. Essentially we are proactively seeking the mind of the supervisor to look for information that will help us to grow and develop professionally.
Wouldn’t it be helpful for us to do ask similar questions to God so that we would know how we are doing spiritually? How would we respond if all of a sudden we were in the presence of Almighty God, who knows every detail of our life--the good, the bad, the proud moments, and not so proud moments-- who asks us, “What did you do with your life? How did you love?” Perhaps we would respond in the manner as did Isaiah, Paul, and Peter in the readings today. In the First Reading, young Prophet Isaiah was before the presence of God, and he felt ashamed and unworthy to be there. Paul, in the Second Reading, retold the story to Corinthians of how he was the least worthy apostle because he persecuted the Church. In today’s Gospel, Peter realized how unworthy and sinful he was when he realized that he was in the divine presence of Jesus.
I pondered those questions this week. I imagined myself standing before God and having my life review. I may wear these clerical clothes of a priest, but before God, I know who I am-- a sinner who received tremendous mercy and forgiveness. Jesus’ priesthood was given to me as a gift; I didn’t earn it, and I don’t possess it; it’s His priesthood and not mine. Everyday, God is asking of me, ‘Paul, how are you using My gift of priesthood? Are you using this great privilege to bring others closer to Me? Are you using this gift to love others?’ Pondering these questions was very meaningful to me. So now I ask you, have you ever pondered similar questions? God has given each of you a unique gift; it’s not yours, but His. Are you using that gift to bring others closer to God or solely to bring glory and comfort to yourself?
Jesus is asking us to go deeper in our faith, just as he commanded Peter in the Gospel, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Our tendency is to limit our life to what is shallow, superficial, and safe. When we live on the surface of life, we hear Jesus’ voice as just another voice in the crowd. Yet, Jesus is commanding us to the deep water of faith-living where we avail ourselves to silence and contemplation in order to appreciate the presence of Christ in our life and put out of our life all self-serving distraction.
At times, we may not trust Jesus as we should and not be willing to lower our nets. Like Peter, we think we know better than Jesus. In commanding us to lower our nets, the Lord affords us the chance to demonstrate our confidence in God’s merciful wisdom. When we symbolically lower our nets through trust, then Jesus lifts us out of ourselves, and gives us the graced ability to respond to the will of God in a way that exceeds our natural capacity.
I suggest a simple spiritual exercise for this coming Lent. Ask Jesus the following two questions daily: (1) Lord, when have I trusted you today and lowered the nets on your command? (2) Lord, when was I filled with fear and refused to cast my nets on your command? Do not be afraid of your failure. God permits you to see your sins and failures only to bring about in you a deeper confidence in his mercy and compassion.
-Fr. Paul Yi