Monday, February 8, 2010

I Am Not Worthy: The Calling of Isaiah, Paul, and Peter through the State of Metanoia

Synopsis: Lk. 5:1-11

While the crowd was pressing in on Jesus and listening to the word of God, he was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret. He saw two boats there alongside the lake; the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, he asked him to put out a short distance from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.

After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Simon said in reply, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.” When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come to help them. They came and filled both boats so that the boats were in danger of sinking.

When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him and all those with him, and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners of Simon. Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him.

Homily of the Celebrant: Fr. Emmanuel “Manny” Colmenar

Father Manny compared this Gospel with the one accounted by Saint Mark, where the former is the elaboration of the latter (and the latter being the older Gospel account). The perlocutionary force that is embedded with Jesus’ command to Peter, Andrew, James Zebedee (Jesus had two apostles named James; he is also called James the Greater), and John was “Come, follow Me.” “Halikayo, sumunod kayo sa Akin.”

The priest has elaborated some verses in the Gospel. First was where Jesus preached—on Simon Peter’s boat (let me use Simon with Peter for this part of the reflection for he was not yet named by Jesus). He (the homilist) mentioned that the call of Jesus is the call for all—the call to love one another that is ascribed to the level of God’s love for us.

After this, he asked what the process that the first apostles experienced was. The first point was that God always makes the first contact. Jesus asked Simon Peter to distance a bit from the shore and asked him to throw his nets. Frustrated, and because he is conversing on a Carpenter-turned-Rabbi who has no experience on catching fish, he did so.

Second point was that God appears to us when we are on our ordinary state, and sometimes, at the point of boredom and deterioration of eagerness. To relate, Simon Peter was at the lowest point of his life before following Christ; so he took the chance of having a catch; and a catch, an enormous catch, he had. At this point God surprised him, which made him call the Zebedee brothers (James and John) aboard another boat to help them carry the nets after seeing that they are failing due to the number of fish that were caught, that also made their boat heavy and almost sunk.

The priest also cited saints who experienced the same remorse feeling-cum-surprise miracle Simon Peter felt:

Saint Francis of Assisi was once a knight and fought against Perugia. Defeated, imprisoned, sick, and discouraged by God to fight, he left his wealth, and even his stubborn father to become a servant of the Lord, and eventually, became the founder of the Order of Friars Minor (Fransiscans), which was founded alongside the Order of Preachers of Saint Dominic de Guzman, having acquaintance with him.

Saint Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), was wounded in the leg by a cannonball at the Battle of Pamplona, part of the Italian War of 1521-1526, as a knight. After recovery, though maintaining the militaristic organization of his order, he, now a priest, chose the first people who would be Jesuits.

Saint Augustine of Hippo was the classic of the three conversion examples, where by the prayers of her mother, Saint Monica, and the inspiration of Saint Ambrose of Milan, changed his life for good.

The last point is that when we cannot take the stress and the boredom anymore, God steps in to make you alive and happy again by giving Him the chance to work with one’s challenges. One example was the priest’s student at the seminary that was changed by one incident: Once a drug addict, he went to a rock concert and got high. At his wee point, he saw a vision of God flashing his life, where if he continues to be a dependent on drugs, he would die away from Him. Coming back to his senses, he became ashamed and shocked of what he saw in that nightmare and what he saw when he woke up; piles of non-locomotive bodies in the concert area. Presumed dead, he was the only survivor of a tragedy that happened when he got high. These made him decide to go to the seminary to renew his life and forget his past. At first, he was not accepted, but as he tried again and again, he was admitted, and eventually, ordained priest.

Among other examples, there was one point: When we give ourselves to God, He will never leave us. Going back to the Gospel, Simon Peter was astonished by this miracle that he knelt at the foot of Christ. As the Lord replied “Do not be afraid… I will make you a fisher of men,” this was the start of his conversion from a sinful fisherman to becoming the first Pope (More of this in the reaction).

“They left everything and followed Him.” After this miracle, as they go back ashore, they left their boats and nets to follow Him with nothing but first-hand proof and renewed faith. We are then, challenged to leave everything that is excess, and then we follow. God wants us to go back to Him by making our life better on earth by giving our lives to Him.


Do you ever felt that whenever we find someone or something boring, there came its significance? When we get fed up by him/her/it, we soon realize that there was some kind of worth?

All of us are called to serve, though some have greater responsibility than others. And even the gravest of sinners have the chance to be the greatest of saints provided that they turn back to God, through the state of METANOIA or change of heart; and to serve Him with everything we do.

The Gospel for this week would focus on:

1. My extension of the Homily;

2. The calling of Isaiah (First Reading: Is. 6:1-2a; 3-8);

3. Jesus’ appearances after the Resurrection with Paul’s personal apparition (Second Reading: 1 Cor. 15:1-11);

4. The connection of the three readings with its main connecting points;

5. What is metanoia and how it is felt;

6. How could we realize a change of heart that we would cope with Christ’s mission of fishing men to Him; and

7. A personal insight about metanoia.

The sons of Jonah (Peter and Andrew) and the sons of Zebedee (James and John) were the first to follow Christ as apprentices, which later became the cream of the Lord’s crop: Andrew, though the least recognized in the “First Four,” was the patron of the Orthodoxy, our closest brothers in the faith, and by far, the most reliant; James was martyred in Jerusalem and became the patron of Spain; his brother John was the last Apostle to die, and is due to old age, because of the fact that he was the “apostle whom Jesus loved” for he took care of Mary even during her Son’s passion; and Peter became the Prince of the Apostles due to his resilience and courage to face the challenges his Lord have predicted that was not seen in his brothers in faith; thus becoming the first Vicar of Christ. Leaving behind everything that they were, the four remained with Jesus until their last breath, where they are taken up to Heaven to be with Him as their Lord and Friend for eternity.

On to the second point: The First Reading tells about the calling of the prophet Isaiah, which was unworthy to be God’s servant until one of the Seraphs (the highest rank of angels; the Throne Guards) approached him and cleansed his mouth. By this he was ready to accept the Lord’s mission to him; very speculating, though, that only Isaiah was called in a different manner. All the other prophets are called and were left with no choice but to serve Him, which was their delight. God’s approach to Isaiah was different: Instead of an imperative, He interrogated His calling to Isaiah, and because of having purged from sin by the ember the Seraph have put on his mouth, he had more than enough courage to say “Here I am, Lord! Send me to Your people!” Relating to our experiences in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, God forgives us through the priest, whom He assigned His loving forgiveness to them.

Paul, on the other hand, accepted that he was the “least of the Apostles”—maybe not even worthy of being called one. He knew his weaknesses and assets and prayed that these may turn into something productive. And Paul’s prayers were answered. Indeed, he has equaled the works of the first Apostles, if not surpassed them….

Humility, eagerness, and determination: three factors that was relevant with the three main characters of this week’s readings. One is humility. The fishermen were having a hard time catching fish, and that could be enough. And everything else would be self-explanatory. Another was about the initiative to rise up and move on from where he fell. Still another is the will to go beyond where he is supposed to stop, and started what is called service above and beyond self. Isaiah was called by God because it was his destiny; Paul sees himself as the Temple of the Holy Spirit that he was determined to serve the Lord out of his gratitude of enlightening him to life everlasting; and Peter’s first act for Jesus became the start of his apostleship.

Now, what is metanoia?

Etymologically, metanoia came from the Greek word metanoiein, which is further divided into the prefix meta-, meaning after or with (such with the word metaphysics—the study of things beyond physics), and noein, which is to think, which also came from the word nous—the mind. Based on etymology, metanoia means a change of mind, or a sudden 180 degree turn from something. Based on Theology and on Scriptures, metanoia is not only the change of mind, but also the change of heart. Anchoring from Aristotle’s belief and Saint Thomas Aquinas’ affirmation that nothing comes to the mind without passing through the senses, metanoia could only be felt when a person feels that everything is going to crash and burn, or has already crashed and burned. In this, he has run out of honor and dignity to himself that he is left with no one to turn to but God. Thus, resulting to a creation of a new mindset that even if how useless he was, there is still a God who would wait for him accept him home if he wants to, somehow akin to the parable of the Prodigal Son. The story of the seminarian in the homily, who survived a tragedy from a rock concert that altered his life forever, is one example among myriads of stories (personally, this was a shocker when I heard of it). Metanoia, then, is a self-realization of what someone has done, particularly a wrong deed, that comes automatically at any place and at any time. Why automatic? When we think of the wrong action we have done, moments after execution, and we would like to do it again, the Holy Spirit, due to His nature as the Fire that inspires the soul, without noticing Him, makes us think otherwise. Then comes a presentation of thoughts—negative and positive—of what would be the consequences of continuing the wrong and of thinking of the right, respectively.

Going back to the Gospel, after Peter was stunned of the feat Jesus made in his former profession, he did not only said “Leave me, Lord!” but also thought of following Him, though this thought is contradictory to what he has said. Why? It is the nature of man to befriend someone when he is convinced enough that he is a person he could accompany with; especially this situation: Peter was in the presence of the Lord who made miracles in his sight. In his amazement, he has said “Leave me, Lord! I am a sinner!” instead of “Allow me to follow You, Lord…” which was his initial thought. It is obvious that he was afraid of hearing things from prophets that would be against him and would lead his downfall; but not with Jesus. He forgot what Peter’s sins were because of the latter’s humility and self-shame, and even made him a follower and gave him a new profession—a fisher of men. No one knows what Peter was when he was still Simon; perhaps an abuser of the Law, a ranting boss-figure to his brother Andrew, an excessively proud man—all that we could do about Peter’s life before his calling is to speculate and assume. But that is not what is important. What is important, rather, is that how we could realize a change of heart and how we could be fishers of men. I myself need advice on this other than the Lord. It is right that we could not please everyone in what we do; but it is also not enough that we please God alone. What we could do is to gain the trust of people so that we may have a good partnership with them. And above all things, prayer and application of prayer are the fundamental and always the best solution.

At this point, I have analyzed, somehow, why metanoia is the message of the Gospel. I would like to emphasize that it is not only Peter, or any other saint, who experience it. There are a lot of good decisions I have made, and all of it would never happen if I have not thought twice about it. Changing the way we are is easy, if we permit it to be changed. But let me remind the reader that change does not come overnight; it is painstakingly processed inside of us and because of our human nature, we still have to seek God for true wisdom and happiness, and all that is essential for us.

God always makes the first contact, and we must respond to Him every time He calls us. He is everything. Just imagine a very caring Father giving us everything that we need. Just imagine a supportive Brother who boosts our morale every time we are down. And just imagine an unseen Guide who repairs our soul when it is broken. If the only thing that is permanent is change, then metanoia is permanent because it is the change of the soul; it is the 180 degree turn from everything evil to all that is attributed to God. Therefore, metanoia is change.

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