As the Church moves through Ordinary Time, Christian believers are guided to assess their own discipleship and consider how they can deepen in their love and service to the Lord Jesus.
As a help in this spiritual work, the Church draws from the Sacred Scriptures every Sunday of the liturgical season and emphasizes some particular aspect of what it means to be a Christian. It is important for believers to know the purpose of Ordinary Time and to welcome such direction every Sunday as we all seek assistance in living the Christian way of life.
This Sunday, the Church gives us the call of the prophet Isaiah from the Old Testament. The prophet saw the majesty of God. He heard the angels cry out, “Holy, Holy, Holy.” He knew the sins of his age, as well as his own sins, and did not consider himself worthy to be in God’s presence or to carry his message to his people.
Isaiah tells the living God: “Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips.”
And yet, God called him. He purified Isaiah’s lips and then invited him to be his prophet.
The Old Testament reading points us to the Gospel account of the call of Simon Peter.
The Lord Jesus comes to the shore of the Sea of Galilee and, although a carpenter, begins to give fishing advice to life-long skilled fisherman. Simon Peter, however, listened to the Lord and did as he was asked. When the nets almost tore because of the amount of fish within them, the future chief apostle was humbled and told the Lord: “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”
Simon Peter saw the power of God and realized his own sinfulness and lack of power. The Lord Jesus, however, did not heed to the request. Rather he called Simon Peter to follow him, saying: “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”
In both instances, the one who was chosen showed a profound self-awareness and a deep humility. Both Isaiah and Simon Peter knew their own weaknesses and sins. They knew they were unworthy of a call to serve God and yet – in his sheer goodness – God summoned them and entrusted them with his message.
The spiritual posture of these holy ones can be a great help to us in our own call to follow the Lord. Similar to Isaiah and Simon Peter, every baptized Christian is also called and sent out to share the Lord’s message. In order to remain faithful, both in content and in our hearts, we cannot lose the spirit of humility.
Against the threat of self-righteousness, there is no greater remedy than a good dose of an awareness of our own sinfulness.
Having absolute truth entrusted to us can be a struggle. In our fallenness, we can easily allow absolute truth to bloat our hearts and become absolute power over others. Such a course of action would be a total betrayal of truth itself since truth – when rightly ordered – nurtures love and peace. When carried well, truth compels humility with us and calls us to give a deference to the dignity of others. Truth shows us our own fallenness and summons us to constant conversion.
In the second reading from Mass today, Saint Paul reflects this meekness when he describes his own vocation to share the message of God: “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.”
As Christians who have been given divine truths, we are to speak the truth in love, which is never boastful nor arrogant. We are to keep intimidation and condescension at bay. We are to preserve a healthy suspicion of ourselves, realizing that we can speak truth while simultaneously betraying it in our hearts. Truth demands meekness in ourselves and a kindness to others.
Today’s biblical wisdom for this Sunday of Ordinary Time is clear. The invitation to our discipleship is also transparent. God calls us in our brokenness and desires to bless others through our humility. If we forget these, we have lost our way.
Follow Father Jeffrey Kirby on Twitter: @fatherkirby.