|February 6-7, 2016, Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C|
All three of our readings today talk about the experience of being called as a disciple. We hear Isaiah react in utter fear when he realizes that God is calling him to be his prophet. Paul writes to the church in Corinth reflecting on his unworthiness to even be called an apostle because he had been persecuting the church before Christ called him to be a disciple. And then Peter is just overwhelmed by what he has seen in the past few days. He had seen Jesus cast out a demon, cure his mother-in-law, and healed all who were brought to him. And now Jesus even commands the fish in the Lake of Gennesaret! At the thought that Jesus is calling him to be his disciple, Peter's sense of his own sinfulness makes him fall at Jesus knees, and beg to be release from that call. What a set of readings to reflect on as we realize that Christ is calling each one of us to be his disciple in mission.
All three of these stories, as well as all the other scripture stories of God calling people to be His prophet, His disciple, His partner in bringing creation to completion can be summarized in three points:
It is pretty easy to state these three ideas. But I find it much harder to actually apply them to my call to be a disciple.
It is pretty clear to me after years of discussing this with people that almost everyone has a really difficult time truly understanding that God has chosen human beings to bring about the salvation of the world. Like Isaiah and Paul and Peter I cannot imagine how someone as imperfect and sinful as I am could ever be an effect part of bring salvation to the world. But that is God's plan, and while all human beings are called to this task, God has given a special role to those of us who are baptized. In fact that is exactly what baptism is; it includes us in the body of Christ who has come to save the world. The is the sole purpose of the Church - to be the body of Christ that brings the kingdom of God to fullness here in this world. That is not the job of the Pope or the bishops or priests or religious ed teachers or even deacons. That is the job of the baptized and all those other roles exist for the sole purpose of assisting the people of God in carrying out their mission.
When I start to grasp what God has called me to in baptism, it literally scares the hell out of me. It pulls out of the depths of my being all the shortcomings and weaknesses and sinful aspects in me. The only other experience I can think of that comes close is that of falling deeply in love. The moment I start to realized that I am head over heels in love with this other person I have two conflicting emotions: I feel elated, euphoric that I love this other person and this other person might possibly love me back; then I immediately am struck with abject fear that if this person ever finds out who I really am, she will not have anything to do with me. How I resolve that tension will determine what kind of a relationship this becomes.
If history is any indicator, the typical human response when the other person is God, is to go with the fear. We shrink back and pretend we never heard the call. If we persist in this fear, it is tantamount to blasphemy because it says that we don't think God can do what He says He will. Our persistence borders on pride that we know better than God how to save the world. God always comes through. He always has and always will. All we have to do is accept that call and start moving forward. God will take care of the rest.
What a wonderful challenge to us as we enter our Lenten retreat. What better theme to have in our prayer and fasting and works of charity than to resolve to answer God's call to be His disciple in mission. The bulletin today is full of opportunities here in the collaborative and elsewhere to help us respond to this call. I would point out as an extra special opportunity the collaborative's 24 Hours for the Lord the weekend of March 5 and 6. You will be getting a full description of the various events that you can take advantage of in realizing that God does not need us to become perfect in order to be an effective disciple. Let his angel brush your lips with a burning coal so that you can proclaim his word as lector or helping out with GIFT or just sharing your faith with family and friends and enemies. Participation in parish and collaborative ministries is a wonderful way to get started as a disciple in mission. Please take this call as seriously as Isaiah and Paul and Peter. The kingdom of God here on earth, yes, the very salvation of the world depends on us.