“Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man.” cried Peter; falling to his knees; realizing, as he witnessed the miracle of the catch of fish, that Jesus is the One sent by God. In that moment, when God’s glory and true holiness was revealed in the light from within Christ, Peter was confronted with the realities of his imperfect life. In the light of Christ revealed: Peter saw his sins and came to understand how his life, to that point, was spent in sin and sadness. With sorrow and regret Peter deemed himself unworthy to be in the presence of the Lord.
How frail and failed we humans are when true perfection is revealed in the light of Christ. In His light our sinfulness stands out in sharp relief. Our unworthiness becomes all too apparent in contrast to the sweet holiness of Jesus; causing us to tremble and fall under the weight of our offences against God. We too, like Peter feel unworthy in His company and wish ourselves banished from His holy presence. In our humiliation and shame we too say, “Depart from me Lord, for I am sinful and unworthy: as if our unworthiness would contaminate Him.
But it is in His love we find perfection. It is through Christ that we gain what was lost through Adam. He is our Good Shepherd; returning the lost sheep to the fold, we are the son who was dead, now returned alive to the Father’s embrace.
It is only through God’s mercy and grace and in the love of Christ that we, who are unworthy, are raised up. Our redemption is made manifest, not by anything we do, but when the Holy Spirit captures our hearts, so the love of Christ can find fertile soil to grow and expand. It is in giving ourselves over to His love, surrendering ourselves to His will and opening ourselves up to live in close and familiar rapport with Him - that we fulfill Jesus’ command to love God above all and one another, as we love ourselves.
The most zealous persecutor of Christians, - through the love of God, was brought to say, “I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” Saint Paul was spent by God as he carried the Good News of Christ to the Gentiles.
Who better to bring a sinner to the Lord than another sinner? Paul confessed his great sinfulness as a persecutor of Christ. No one was more unworthy of God’s grace than he - who aided in the martyrdom of Stephen, denounced and condemned Christians; forcing them to blaspheme the name of Christ. No enemy of Christ was more infamous than Paul or showed more zeal and passion in oppressing Christ and Christians. The name of Saul brought terror to Christians.
It was through this sinful man, - through this most unworthy person that God brought the Word of salvation to the Gentiles. Tirelessly he persecuted Christ and his followers, and tirelessly he preached the Word of God, persistently spreading the Good News to pagans and suffering most cruelly for speaking of Christ. His miraculous conversion changed him from terrifying persecutor - to great fisher of men. It was only through these trials and tests of suffering that Paul would gladly say, “The Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the proclamation might be completed and all the Gentiles might hear it.”
In these two Apostles we find God’s love and glory. In these two sinners we find God’s truth in using the weak things of the world to bring about His kingdom.
In Peter we find the Rock upon which Christ built his Church and in Paul we see the glory and power of God. In them we see all man’s failures and weakness gathered up and purified in the love of Christ.
So, (let us) be filled with joy and hope in the Risen Lord, that we who are unworthy, as were Peter & Paul, will find redemption in the love of God, who makes worthy and useful - to His purpose, - sinners. By His mercy and grace will are lifted up and given a place in His heavenly kingdom. Amen.