Hunting Each Other Down

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Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying,
“Whom shall I send?  Who will go for us?”
“Here I am,” I said; “send me!”

This first-person account of a prophet-in-the-making comes from Isaiah (Is 6:1-2a, 3-8), who, moments before, thought of himself as among the least-worthy of humanity.

“Woe is me, I am doomed!
For I am a man of unclean lips,
living among a people of unclean lips.”

If those are the qualifications for prophecy, sign me up. In fact, I’m already a contractor. You, dear reader, have been the quarry of this blog for ten years now. My mission has been to make you a hunter—and to be responsive to God’s aim at me through the crosshairs of others. That’s how God hunts—through a contagion of millions of unworthy souls like you and me.  

That realization was reinforced in me after reading another unworthy soul’s writing. His appeared recently in the Op-Ed section of The Wall Street Journal, under the Headline “The Hound of Heaven in Slow Pursuit.”

Writer and attorney Mike Kerrigan tells the story of Father John Bartunek who believes God called him to the priesthood to capture the soul of his own “unchurched” father. Kerrigan heard Father Bartunek tell his story during a homily introducing the congregation to a poem titled “The Hound of Heaven,” by English Poet Francis Thompson. In it, a soul who spends his sad life fleeing God is finally cornered and God explains why he hunted down this “Strange, piteous, futile thing”:

Human love needs human meriting: How hast thou merited—of all man’s clotted clay the dingiest clot? Alack, thou knowest not how little worthy of any love thou art! Whom wilt thou find to love ignoble thee, save Me, save only Me?

Kerrigan came away from Father Bartunek’s homily with this revelation: “Ceasing our own flight from God is good, but better is turning in love and pursuing all who still flee, that they too might find rest.”

“SEND ME,” in other words—the least worthy of anyone—to become one of God’s hunting dogs. Or, if you prefer, a fisher of men, as Paul became to the Corinthians, for whom he describes in Sunday’s second reading how this last and least of Christ’s disciples was cornered and caught (1 Cor 15:1-11):

Last of all, as to one born abnormally, he appeared to me. For I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective. Indeed, I have toiled harder than all of them; not I, however, but the grace of God that is with me. Therefore, whether it be I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

Sunday’s gospel reading (Lk 5:1-11) shows Simon Peter confessing the same lack of merit after Jesus fills this unworthy fisherman’s net to the breaking point.

When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”

Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”

And what about me—this lowly writer whose blog you’re reading now? Am I a hunting dog or a fisherman? If any of my posts over the past decade have inspired you to be a bit more attentive to the sounds of God’s pursuit, I’ve done the job for which he sent me.

Is he now sending you?

–Tom Andel

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