The theme of Sunday’s readings revolve around “Being Called.” Let’s dig in! We also hear a lot about the angels, and the 9 choirs of angels. This visual explains the 9 choirs:
There are 16 prophets in the Old Testament (who have books titled after their name). Four are major – Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Isaiah; Twelve are minor – Hosea, Amos, Zechariah, Zephaniah, Haggai, Malachi, Nahum, Ezra, Nehemiah, Jonah, Habakkuk & Joel (our Ash Wed. reading). “Major” or “Minor” refers to the length, scope, and depth of the book, not its importance. Hmmm… there are 4 major prophets … 4 gospel writers; there are 12 minor prophets … 12 disciples, 12 apostles. Coincidence? Maybe. Maybe not.
1st Reading: Isaiah 6:1-2a, 3-8
(The 1st Reading is Old Testament. It always links to the Gospel.)
Isaiah is by far one of the most difficult books in scripture. It was so tough that even St. Augustine, doctor of the Church, admitted he did not understand what he was reading. So he put it aside. See? Even saints don’t get Isaiah! Don’t feel bad if you don’t either.
St. Jerome, another doctor of the church, explains: “No one should think I mean to explain the entire subject matter of [Isaiah] in one brief sermon, since it contains all the mysteries of the Lord. It prophesies that Emmanuel is to be born of a virgin and accomplish marvelous works and signs. It predicts his death, burial and resurrection from the dead as the Savior of all men. I need say nothing about the natural sciences, ethics and logic. Whatever is proper to Holy Scripture, whatever can be expressed in human language and understood by the human mind, is contained in the book of Isaiah.”
Scholars have remarked on Isaiah’s eloquence and poetic style, calling him “The Shakespeare of the Bible.” They often refer to it as “The Fifth Gospel” because of the book’s scope. The kicker is, Isaiah doesn’t write in chronological order. He jumps around, and frequently. This is why we don’t see God call him until chapter 6 (chapters 1-5 serve as The Prologue). Isaiah is divided into 2 parts, chapters 1-39 concern judgment (bad news, Israel, you’ll undergo judgment because you turned from God); chapters 40-66 concern restoration (good news, Israel, you’ll eventually be restored and brought back).
Last week God called Jeremiah. He said he was too young to be a prophet. Now God calls Isaiah. He says he is unworthy, “Woe is me! For I am lost; I am a man of unclean lips.” Seraphim are angels are in the highest of the 3 “choirs of angels”, and are sometimes called “burning angels.” With a purifying fire, they flew in and touched Isaiah’s mouth with burning tongs. Why? To cleanse Isaiah from sin and prepare him for the 79 years of the tough work that lay ahead. Fortunately, we too can experience being cleansed of sin through the sacrament of reconciliation. (Purgatory also contains a purifying, cleansing fire like the one in this reading.)
Today’s reading is full of liturgical meaning in what is said, smelled, and heard. In Isaiah’s vision of God, we hear the same words we recite at Mass: The seraphim sing their angelic proclamation, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of hosts.” During Mass, an authentic experience of Heaven on Earth, we join the choirs of angels singing this same proclamation. Truly, at Mass, we are among the angels in Heaven and they are among us. So much of our Mass – including the Holy, Holy, Holy – comes straight from the book of Revelation. We can see this in action when the priest says, ” And so, with Angels and Archangels, with Thrones and Dominions, and with all the hosts and Powers of heaven, we sing the hymn of your glory, as without end we acclaim: “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts. [Right here, right now,] Heaven and Earth are full of your glory…”
Next, Isaiah notes the house was filled with smoke. Smoke signifies the presence of God and is a medium through which prayers travel (incense). The reading ends with Isaiah answering God’s call much like Samuel did, “Here I am’, I said, ‘send me!”
Response Psalm 138: “In the sight of the angels I will sing your praises, Lord”
(The Psalm is a “response” to what we heard in the 1st Reading)
This psalm of David is one in which angels figure prominently, making it a fitting response to our first reading. “I will give thanks to you, O Lord, with all my heart, for you have heard the words of my mouth…when I called you answered me, you built up strength within me.”
2nd Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:1-11
(The 2nd reading is usually from Paul’s letters. Speaks to how the early church was built after Christ’s death and resurrection).
It’s our last week in Corinthians for a bit. Corinth is Paul’s 2nd of 3 missionary journeys, around 51 A.D. We’re getting to the end of his letter now, and he is addressing the subject of Christ’s resurrection. Some followers lacked confidence in this reality, and were fracturing the Church in Corinth as a result. The fracture was likely unintentional, but just like in our present day, we need a shepherd to help us distinguish the voices around us. Their shepherd was Paul. Basically, if the resurrection never happened, Paul says, they’re all teaching in vain. So here, Paul defends the doctrine of the resurrection for 58 verses. Today we hear 11 of those 58 verses.
Paul takes on a pastoral tone. He’s their father in faith and they need to be re-taught. (Have kids? You can relate.) He starts by reminding them in simple terms, “I both delivered to you– and received myself from the risen Christ (on the road to Damascus) – the Truth of the gospel.” And here is that Truth. He tells the story of the resurrection. He names those to whom Christ appeared. He reminds them he was not an apostle, but quite the opposite – a persecutor of the Church and of Christ! And yet – just as Christ chose Peter, (who denied him 3 times on the way to the Cross) to lead His Church – He chose Paul for a significant role, too: Missionary. Amazing, isn’t it? Peter and Paul messed up big time, and God saw right through to their hearts and molded them to be His own. He can mold us too, we just need to give him our hearts of flesh to work with and let Him do His work in us; a heart of stone cannot be molded.
What are you chosen to do for God? If you haven’t killed men who believe in Christ, you’re doing pretty well compared to Paul. Never think you are unworthy to take on a task for God. God works through imperfect people. He has built His Church, His beloved Bride, through generations of imperfect people. But in that Church He abides. He can do amazing work through His imperfect children. When He calls us, Let us reply as Isaiah did: “Here I am, Lord, send me!”
GOSPEL – Luke 5:1-11
(The Gospel is the highest point of the Liturgy of the Word. That’s why we stand.
We are about to hear from and be instructed by Christ Himself.)
This week we’re in the early part of Luke. At this point in the gospel, Jesus has just performed 2 healings. Now He’s ready to call The Twelve. God called Isaiah in the first reading, now Jesus calls the 12. In both cases, the one who is called tells God why he shouldn’t be called. Isaiah says he’s not worthy, and here Simon Peter sees Jesus’ miracle of catching an abundance of fish, and he replies: “Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man.” Do you give God reasons why He shouldn’t call you? I know I have. How foolish we can be to think we are worth so little to God. How much are you worth to your parents, your spouse, your children? How much more are we worth to our Creator? How He longs for us to respond when He calls.
We all know this reading. Jesus goes out into the boat with the 12. He needs to get away from the crowd that presses against him. He does teach them for some time, but then turns his attention to the 12. Jesus tells Simon (Peter) to lower the nets. What do you suppose Simon Peter was thinking? He was exhausted. He’d been up all night fishing in the dark. They had caught nothing! Sounds like a ridiculous request. But we catch here a glimpse of Simon Peter’s early faith, the mustard seed. He models for us what Mary said to the servants at the wedding at Cana: “Do whatever He tells you.” Simon then pulls in so many fish that they have to load both boats until they are in danger of sinking. Simon was in shock (“astonished”). Jesus assures him, as He does us: “Do not be afraid.”
What is God asking you to do that seems ridiculous? Unreasonable? Foolish? Can you throw our your net at His command and “do whatever He tells you?” Even if it defies logic? This is difficult indeed. But when Jesus tugs at our hearts to be His hands and feet and voice, we must respond with faith as Peter did. We must go out, go forth, and even if the proverbial water looks empty of fish and we’ve been up all night … we must cast that net anyway.
Be Not Afraid.
Jesus, I Trust in You.