We are preparing to celebrate the Word Made Flesh and to be awake, turned on, available to hear and see all that is present in the Eucharist. God is waving all around us and sometimes we are tuned in and enlivened by that interior resonating. The wonderful reality is that God speaks to us according to our each individual way of listening. God gets our attention in very special ways, our personality ways. We can prepare for our next liturgy by practicing our listening skills. There might be some wavings we are missing. We would not want to miss what is good for us to hear.
I just turned off my radio and it is quiet now here in my room. My receiver is not electrically active. I assume that the radio waves are continuing and perhaps passing right through me, but I am not receiving them.
I was walking across campus this afternoon and I had had a very short night's sleep and got up too early this morning. It has been a busy day and I caught myself drifting off a bit. And so while walking I began wondering if I were really awake or just kind of not totally there. There could have been all kinds of things waving past me this afternoon and I probably missed many. My receiver was down; not turned off totally, but just slow.
We might give to this Sunday's Eucharistic celebration the name, Excuse Me Sunday. We will hear from the opening verses of the prophesies of the man called in our First Reading, Isaiah. There seems to be some kind of liturgy going on. The prophet is in the very "holy of Holies" and something special happens. He has a vision of the throne of God and claims to see the Lord. Amid the holy smoke and terrifying chanting of the attendants at the throne, Isaiah declares his unworthiness and unclean state to have seen the Holy One. He makes the assumption that he is going to be condemned.
The opposite happens. The fire-carrying spirits descend with a burning coal and touch his unclean lips. He hears their words that his lips are clean and then hears the Lord ask whether or not there is anybody whom the Lord can send. This seems to be a simple announcement and so Isaiah responds that he is available, but for what he does not inquire.
The verses which follow this encounter and response reveal something more terrifying which ends the vision. We do not hear these lines today, but I will tell you the rest of the story anyway. Isaiah has confessed that he lives among people who, like him, has 'unclean' lips. He is to be missioned to make devastating pronouncements to Israel. "Make the ears of this people fat, its ears dull; shut its eyes, so that it will not see with its eyes, hear with its ears, understand with its heart, and be converted and healed."
Isaiah is going to have to say hard things to Israel "until the towns have been laid wasted and deserted, houses left untended, countrysides made desolate, and the Lord drives the people out." Isaiah, after hearing this, would feel even more the 'woe is me' from his first response to seeing the Lord as King.
Peter, too, has a very good excuse in today's Gospel. He had been fishing with his friends and had caught nothing. Jesus is presented as knowing where the fish are to be had and so Peter takes the bait and becomes hooked. After being assured that the netful of fish were ashore, Peter kneels down and states his truth that he is a sinful man in the presence of obviously, a holy man. Jesus, it is important to note, does not deny Peter's truth. In a manner to which Peter will become accustomed, Jesus invites Peter to follow Him and Peter will find out even more clearly, just how sinful he is and how compassionate Jesus will be revealed.
It does seem that our human excuses do not work, especially those of being unworthy, unclear, un-callable. Other prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures and others from the Christian Scriptures have had similar negative or puzzling responses to God's call and intimacy. Our Blessed Mother had a real good one when invited to be the mother of Jesus; she was not married. Perhaps, as with Isaiah, intimacy brings out our best and our worst. In relationship with God, our worst brings out God's merciful best.
There are glaring hard lights and glowing soft lights. A candle is such a soft, warm display. The closer one gets to the light, certain things will be revealed which remain hidden when at a distance. The Christian challenge is whether or not the light of Christ is harsh or gentle. To be honest, it is usually defined by how one looks at her/him self. If we have high expectations of our responses to God, we will most likely believe that God has equally high or higher expectations of ourselves. If so, then the candle becomes a spotlight.
Peter expects his excuse will allow him to return to his fish-finding. Perhaps he projected on to Jesus what he felt about himself, especially after having caught nothing all night. In the light of such holy goodness, Peter found himself worse off than he had thought. The Light projects Himself into and around Peter and his self-image. Peter leaves everything to follow Jesus, except his truth which he will experience even more accurately, but in time, more gently.
"Give praise to the Lord for his kindness, for his wonderful deeds toward men. He has filled the hungry with good things, he has satisfied the thirsty." Ps. 107, 8-9
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