In our second reading today, St. Paul, still addressing the community at Corinth (we’ve been hearing excerpts from his letter to them for a few weeks now), writes of handing on to them what he also received, that is, the Good News: “that Christ died for our sins…that he was buried; that he was raised on the last day…” After detailing many who actually saw the Risen One, he says that he too saw him, last of all, because as one who persecuted the church he is “the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle”. He goes on to credit God’s grace for who and what he (Paul) is, for the effectiveness of his ministry, and for the toil he has put in to preach the Gospel.
His frank humility brings to mind the prophet Isaiah in the first reading. After seeing a vision of the Lord on his high and lofty throne with angels “stationed above” crying out “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts! All the earth is filled with his glory!” Isaiah believes he is doomed for being a sinner who has seen the Lord God. But one of the seraphim touches his lips with a burning coal from the altar and says “your wickedness is removed, your sin is purged.” He then answers the call of God “Here I am, send me!” Angels are God’s servants of course and are therefore agents of grace for the prophet Isaiah and for St. Paul.
Then, in the gospel, after Jesus fills the nets of fishermen who labored all night with no catch, Simon Peter recognizes that this is miraculous, and like Isaiah says “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” But Jesus tells him not to be afraid because from now on he (and the other apostles) would be catching people – again, by the grace of God.
Isaiah with his unclean lips. Paul who sought out and killed Christians. Simon Peter, a simple fisherman. All of them recipients of God’s grace, but always with a task of bringing the message of salvation to their people, to God’s people.
Is it any different with us? I think not. We are to “hand on what we also received” by the grace of God, the Good News of Jesus Christ. Here’s one way of putting it: “Your Creator loves you. Your life has meaning, and you’re going to live forever. If you can find a better deal, take it!”