Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)
In every story or incident, people say, there are always two sides. I believe there are at least three: the story of the person concerned, the other person’s (or other people’s) story, and the media’s story. The declaration of the person concerned and the story of the other person are almost always subjective. The story of people in the media will always have subjective flavor to the story, but generally, takes the essence of entertainment and sensationalism. But there’s still another side of a story: the side of faith, marked by the mystery of life and conformed to the will of God. God’s reason for an incident is very much different. We constantly need an open mind and a reflective heart to understand God’s grace taking effect in us and being able to guide, support and guard us wherever He wills to take us. One difficulty, though, is that we think we are always right, and we want God to obey us.
Sacred Scriptures teach us that God is in charge, and that God wills and chooses how He wants us to live happily with Him and with one another. When God chooses a person for something or for a mission, He also leaves the person to exercise his freedom. God chooses and sends somebody only to proclaim His love for His people. God does not choose and send anybody for selfish reasons. He does so, that our relationship with Him will have meaning and be effective practically and truthfully with the members of our families and with our neighbors. Thus, when we understand our purpose and hear God’s call, and realize that “holy is the LORD of hosts!” (Is 6:3) (and that) “All the earth is filled with his glory!” (Is 6:3), our only worthy response is Isaiah’s declaration: “Here I am, send me!” (Is 6:8).
Surely, we are what we are by the grace of God (1Cor 15:10), not for any merit of ours. We learn this from our readings today. Isaiah saw the glory of God in the Temple, and in response for being forgiven of all his sins and wickedness, he accepts being sent to God’s people so that he could prophesy to them. Peter, after being sent to go deeper for a catch, and realizing Jesus’ power and generosity for that catch, “fell at the knees of Jesus and said, Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man” (Lk 5:8). St. Paul himself declares: “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” (1Cor15:9-10). Here, we cannot overlook Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, She declared: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38).
We have seen the glory of God, and we see it everywhere. We breathe in it and we live in it. What holds us back when He calls us to proclaim His presence and live a life of holiness? What holds us back to go deeper, and foster our relationship with others, especially with the needy? What holds us back even as we believe and hope in Him? Many times we are afraid to let go of our favorite sins. We are apprehensive of the future that we do not want to leave our comfort zones. Our hearts are calloused by anger and indifference that we cannot forgive other people and our past. Our bodies have been softened excessively by affluence that we care less about the plight of the poor and the suffering. But Isaiah, Paul and Peter also had weaknesses. They had to confront themselves, and abandon themselves to the power of God. They were sent, and became devoted to God’s call, and were given all the necessary strength and wisdom they needed.
When we abandon ourselves to Jesus and become devoted to Him, the whole world brightens up, and our life is enhanced by the grace of Him who learned to obey and to suffer, and who can give hope. We glorify the Lord, as well as promote God’s glory in the world. Thus, we walk in His ways. In his Introduction to the Devout Life, St. Francis de Sales said: “The bee collects honey from flowers in such a way as to do the least damage of destruction to them, and he leaves them whole, undamaged and fresh, just as he found them. True devotion does still better. Not only does it not injure any sort of calling or occupation, it even embellishes and enhances it …. Therefore, in whatever situations we happen to be, we can and we must aspire to the life of perfection” (Liturgy of the Hours, January 24, Vol III).
In every Mass that we celebrate Jesus proclaims: This is My Body…. This is My Blood…. Take, all of you…. Do this in memory of Me. He makes Himself present to fill us with Himself, so that we can be generous to others for what we have and for what we are. We celebrate the Eucharist for He calls us, gathers us and sends us to a broken world that needs healing, forgiveness and hope. Jesus shows us that every act of generosity and every honest effort of kindheartedness will be rewarded a hundredfold, as well as transform the world. Despite our limitations, and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we can also say: “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets” (Lk 5:5).