In this morning's Gospel according to Luke, Peter makes his first appearance and states, "Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man." No doubt these words are his spontaneous response to the the miraculous catch of fish, and in time these words will gradually sink in. But the full import of his self-understanding as sinner will hit him with full force only when Jesus looks at him in the courtyard of the High Priest's house. Then come the bitter tears, and gradually Peter comes to understand what love there is in Jesus' willingness to forgive his great betrayal. More and more Peter realizes that it is precisely as a sinner that he can trust in the love of the One who said, "I have not come to call the righteous but sinners." It was only in falling so low, that Peter could believe in such love.
The Gospel is not about greater than life-sized heroes. It is about broken men, whose being chosen is unpredictable and unmerited, men so well exemplified by Peter. Indeed each of our vocations is not intended to turn our lives into striving for some unattainable goal of personal perfection, but rather to proclaiming Christ's message by our example of love and service. And so we can make our own those words of Saint Paul, "I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle... But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective." We too are what we are- sinners; but God's grace has not been ineffective in us, nor will it ever be.
The Miraculous Draught of Fishes, late 17th - early 18th century, Nicholas Dorigny , 1658 – 1746, etching and engraving on paper after a tapestry cartoon by Raphael, 1483 - 1520, Victoria and Albert Museum. Text excerpted from Father Gabriel's homily at this morning's Mass.