in Ordinary Time
Feb. 9, 1992
Isaiah 6: 1-8
1 Cor 15: 1-11
Luke 5: 1-11
Holy Cross, Fairfield
“Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” (Is 6: 8).
It’s unusual for all 3 readings to be as closely linked as todays are. Week by week the OT reading is deliberately linked to the gospel, but the NT reading ordinarily follows a particular book sequentially. Today’s passage from 1 Corinthians opens a discourse on the resurrection, parts of which we will hear on the next 3 weekends. But in passing St. Paul touches on the central theme of the 1st and last reading, viz., God’s call.
God calls Isaiah, Paul, and Simon Peter for special missions, to be prophets and apostles. All of them are immediately aware of their unworthiness. “Woe is me, I am doomed!” Isaiah exclaims as he beholds the heavenly vision, “for I am a man of unclean lips” (6:5); he is just as sinful as the rest of Israel. Paul laments his past, for he persecuted the Church of God (1 Cor 15:9). Simon Peter begs Jesus: “Leave me, Lord, for I am a sinful man” (Luke 5:8).
|The Miraculous Catch of Fish: Tapestry by Raphael in the Vatican Museums|
No one whom God calls to be one of his intimate friends or to be an apostle or prophet, a priest, a religious, a missionary—no one is worthy of God. Everyone whom God calls is sinful and, alas, remains a sinner, as even the saints have frequently testified.
But human imperfection and unworthiness don’t stop God. God has chosen to work with human tools, imperfect tools, in order to save all of us and in order that his own power and goodness may be the more evident. He comes to Isaiah, who’s afraid he’s about to die, and he purges away his wickedness. He bestows his favor, or grace, on Paul, overcoming the hatred in his heart, filling him with love, rechanneling his zeal. It’s not Paul’s doing but God’s: “by God’s grace I am what I am” (1 Cor 15:10). Christ reassures Simon: “Do not be afraid. From now on you will be fishing for men” (Luke 5:10).
All of us, when we look at God’s ministers, see defects and faults. God calls human beings, not angels. God is in the process of saving his priests and religious, as well as the rest of his people. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves not to lose faith in God or in God’s Church because of the sins of individuals. Follow St. Paul’s advice and correct us when it is necessary. For instance, he writes to the Galatians: “If a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual would restore him in spirit of gentleness” (6:1). Be patient with us.
When God calls someone, it is an act of grace. Whatever the defects of a priest, a sister, a brother, or anyone with a special calling, the grace of Christ will still work thru the person. If the person cooperates as Christ’s instrument of grace, grace will gradually have its sanctifying effects in that person.
If God is calling you to be one of his apostles or prophets, fear not for your unworthiness or weakness. God calls whomever he wishes, in order that his work of salvation may be made known. Have confidence in the power of God’s love, not only to work thru you but also to transform you as it did Isaiah, Paul, and ever so gradually, Simon Peter.
And may God’s grace work in and thru all of us, according to our particular callings.