5th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Fr. Francis)
Today’s reading present three men, Peter, Paul and Isaiah. All called by God. All appear to be unlikely choice to perform the mission they were given. Each one, though, was the perfect choice. Simon, was a fisherman. He knew the sea. He knew where to find fish, at least most of the time. He was a big man, an ox of a man. He was the leader of the group, but that was a small group of four fishermen consisting in himself, his brother, Andrew, and the two Zebedee kids, James and John. He was probably illiterate. Yes, the New Testament lists two letters attributed to him, but he could have dictated these to a Christian scribe. Simon was just a good, hard, blue collar worker we would say, an everyday laborer. He was the least likely to lead an international movement. He had never been outside of Galilee and Judea. But this man, Simon, the Son of a man named Jonah, was called by the Lord to lead the Church, personally bringing the Gospel message all the way to Rome. He was the least likely to do this. But Jesus called him. He gave him a new name, Peter, the Rock.
And Peter was the perfect choice. God made him the perfect choice. Saul of Tarsus was brilliant. He wasn’t just literate; he was scholarly. He was a student of Gamiliel, one of the most important rabbinical teachers of the ancient world. Saul knew the scripture and the Jewish practices better than most people of his time. He was passionate for the Hebrew religious law. He was more enthusiastic than most Pharisees. He would hunt down the followers of Christ, convinced that their way of life was polluting the Holy Land of Israel. Saul was certainly not someone you would choose to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. What is more, he is the last person you would expect who would argue that the gentiles did not have to first become Jewish before becoming Christian. But Christ called Saul as he traveled on the road to Damascus. He was given a new name, no longer Saul, now Paul. Least likely?
No, Paul was the perfect choice. He was the perfect choice to spread the Good News. God made him the perfect choice. 700 years before Peter and Paul, a man was chosen to be a prophet for Israel. His name was Isaiah. The main focus of his prophecy was on the holiness of God. The “Holy Holy Holy” that we sing during Mass is taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. But Isaiah was certainly not the person anyone would expect to proclaim God’s holiness. He was a man with unclean lips. What did that mean? In our days when we accuse someone of having a dirty mouth we mean that his language is vulgar, offensive and abusive. Perhaps Isaiah was filthy that way. Or perhaps he was a liar, a violator of the eighth commandment. Or perhaps he was someone who was not thoroughly devoted to Yahweh and even ate food that the Jewish people were not allowed to eat, such as pork, shell fish and food sacrificed to pagan gods. These are some of the ways that his lips might have been unclean. Yet, those lips were chosen to proclaim the holiness of God.
Today’s first reading tells us that God purified these lips. God made Isaiah the perfect choice. God does that. He did that for Peter, Paul and Isaiah. He does that for us. He makes each of us the perfect choice. So the brand new Mom and Dad bring their baby home from the hospital. Do you parents remember that day? Everyone was excited. Then they left. And your baby was colicky. Where were those people at 2 am in the morning? Like the guy in the commercial, the Dad said to himself, “I’m a sports car kind of guy; not a van guy.” As she rocked the baby all day, and all night, the Mom said to herself, “I don’t know if I’m ready for this.” Both Mom and Dad said to themselves, not to each other, and certainly not to their own parents, “I can’t do this.” But God called them, called you, to be parents. He even gave you new names, “Mommy and Daddy.” There are no better parents for your child, your children, than you. God made you the perfect choice. Your wife, your husband, has been severely ill. Worse, one of your children is chronically ill.
You are continually going back and forth to the hospital, back and forth to the doctor. You are exhausted, physically and emotionally. “I can’t do this,” you say. “I’ve always hated hospitals. I get squeamish just at the site of blood.” But God has called you to be a care giver. He’ll give you the strength to get through it all. You might just be a teenager, but you have so much pressure. School work can be tough. It can be boring. Some subjects are fun and come easy. But then there are those that drive you up a wall. You can’t seem to get it right. You are on a team or in a club, and there are high expectations placed on your back. And then there is the constant drama with your friends. Who is not talking to who and why? On top of all this put peer pressure. Others tell you that you are the only one who doesn’t drink, doesn’t take drugs. They are lying, or at least they don’t know everyone else, but still they put pressure on you to join them in their self-destructive behavior. You have all this pressure and you say, “I can’t do this. I can’t be a committed Catholic.” You are correct, alone you can’t, but with God you can. He has called you to bring the message of his Kingdom to those who have rejected him. He has called you to develop into the man or woman who will lead his people. He even gave you a new name at your baptism.
He calls you His Child, His Son, His Daughter. Think about this, God doesn’t just call you Liz; He calls you His Daughter Liz. He doesn’t just call you Bill. He calls you His Son Bill. You can do this, and I can do this. We can be Christians thoroughly committed to spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We can do this because the One who has called us gives us the power to complete his mission. All of us have times that we are convinced we are the least likely to perform a role that God has set for us, perhaps as a parent, perhaps as a care giver, certainly as a committed Christian. We all might think that we are the least likely to serve God. But we are wrong. Like Peter, Paul and Isaiah, we might think we are the least likely, but God has called us. In His mind, with His help, with His Divine Mercy, we are each the perfect choice.
Fr. A. Francis HGN