Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Perfection is not a prerequisite. “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man,” says the first pope, St. Peter, in today’s Gospel. The prophet Isaiah proclaims himself a “man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips,” while St. Paul describes his being called “last of all” to serve and preach the Gospel. At no time does the Lord require our perfection as prerequisite for calling us to serve.
This radical method is entirely contrary to our first instinct, to successful business best practices, to almost everything we would anticipate. Under any ordinary circumstance, we seek out the most qualified candidates. We hide our flaws and share the best part of our resumes. On social media, only our best photos are shared, and if ever we share a bad photo, it comes with a caption meant to inspire. In so many areas of our lives, perfection is a prerequisite, though it is virtually impossible to attain. In society, we expect perfection from public figures such that when one fails, we virtually erase them from our collective memory. How often we find ourselves paralyzed by our own imperfections, wishing we could make a difference while convinced that our flaws, sins, or failures are an insurmountable obstacle.
God never sees it that way. He chooses Isaiah even though he is imperfect. He chooses Paul who once persecuted His Church! Jesus chooses the simple fisherman Peter, a sinful man, and gives a great mission. When God calls us it is not because of our qualifications but rather because of what He desires to do in and through our lives. The simple fact is that God has created each of us with some purpose in mind and He sends us out into the world to accomplish it, to bring His light to the world. We are all entrusted with a mission to share the story of His love and mercy. When we look at our lives and fear that our flaws take away our ability to be witnesses, we need to be reminded that Paul was the greatest of sinners, Peter begged Jesus to depart from him, Isaiah did not believe himself to be capable…yet they all allowed God to work in their hearts and so bring His message to the world. The Lord desires to do the same in you. What is more, when we allow God to call us in spite of our imperfection, He begins the merciful labor of bringing us closer to perfection. When we say yes to the Lord who calls, He makes us more than we could ask or imagine. That Isaiah, Paul, and Peter became such effective witnesses says nothing about their goodness, but rather demonstrates the greatness, mercy, and glory of our Heavenly Father who wills to do so much through the weak vessels that we are!
A family in our parish recently suffered a terrible tragedy. Last Sunday, they attended Mass. Throughout the liturgy, they struggled to hold their emotions in. As Mass ended, a woman seated behind them, not knowing anything of the reason for their great sorrow but sensing that they were in pain, tapped them on the shoulder to offer a hug. It was a simple gesture that brought great comfort to a family in need. This woman was attentive to God at work in her own heart. Her imperfect knowledge of the situation, the New England instinct to keep a respectful distance, and the natural social hesitation to approach total strangers served as no obstacle to what Jesus wanted to accomplish in that moment. For it was there, in the back pews of St. Pius X Church, that Jesus wanted to show what can happen when we say yes to Him. Her “yes” helped a family continue on, and reminded them that they are part of a parish family that loves them. The truth is that every day we are presented with similar invitations and opportunities – people in need who we can serve, a prompting from Christ in prayer that we can answer. He does not prompt us because we are perfect, nor does he give us these opportunities because of our skills. Rather, our God chooses to be glorified in our humble works. Never be afraid to place your gifts and talents, your imperfections and flaws, at the service of our Lord, for through them He is calling you to be part of His eternal work of love. Perfection is not a prerequisite.