5th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C

February 10, 2013


It was definitely a religious experience of an extreme kind … awesome enough as to make Isaiah cry out: “Woe is me, I am doomed!” Jews of old then believed that no one sees God and still live! But Isaiah saw more than just God. He saw himself too, warts and all … “I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King the Lord of hosts!”

Isaiah was honest about what he saw in himself. No use pulling the wool over everybody’s eyes. No use denying it. But once he got to admit and accept what he was, something beautiful happened … For himself. For the people. For us all.

Isaiah himself without much fanfare tells us how: “I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?’ ‘Here I am, send me!’”

In the last two reflections over the past two Sundays, I have ranted about how difficult it is now to be a preacher of the Word. The world is saturated with words. Ideologies swamp us. Political doctrines overwhelm us. Political parties and politicians keep on making promises and making claims to unprecedented greatness. So many narcissists around us appear to think and behave like they are the best thing that ever happened to the world, to the Church, to our nation!

I have one confession to make. I, too, on top of everyone else, feel unworthy, undeserving, unprepared. Many of my colleagues feel the same way … at a loss about what else to do and how to do what little we can do, to reach out to the world of the young, the so-called “hooked-up” generation, who are always connected 24/7 but never attached; always informed, but never attuned; always on-line, but never toeing the line of doctrine and praxis.

Discouraging, you might say? You bet! But today, the Lord has one big reminder for you and me, via a question that begs for an answer from you and me: “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?”

Isaiah, the unprepared prophet … Isaiah, the unworthy man with unclean lips … Isaiah, the man who felt himself doomed … he stepped up to the plate and swang his bat to the best of his ability!

And did God do the rest? Yes … and this is the good news for you and me, who may still be doubting the power of God to do wonders in us, through us, and for us.

I say more … wasn’t it Paul the Apostle who also admitted to being some kind of a klatz? “I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God.”

So here comes another clumsy, weak, and inept guy! Welcome to the club!

Wait! There’s more bad news/good news for you and me …

Nowadays, people have microphones and loudspeakers, digital platforms and cyber pulpits; tarpaulins and huge banners all around, the whole year round. Well, talk about being poor and not having enough resources … The Lord had only two boats of lowly fishermen. He borrowed one of them and boarded it – by all standards, a cute and creative way to avoid the pressing crowds! He begged the owner, Simon, to put out a little away from the shore. The tired and despondent fishermen had toiled all night catching nothing. And then, here comes this upstart preacher who, not only borrowed his boat, but also now teaches him fishing for dummies: “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Fishing for Dummies? Not a very funny lesson for people who have worked all night and got nothing! What was this man trying to tell us?

But I see in all this precisely what Isaiah also saw … that being a prophet has nothing to do primarily with being powerful and prepared. Instead it has to do with God calling us and equipping us with what it takes … that it all has to do with God doing for us what we in our mortal, limited power can never even hope to do on the human plane.

Take heart, fellow workers in the Lord’s vineyard! Times are difficult. Preaching and teaching are not exactly a boat ride at Disneyland. Truth is hard enough to accept, and it is even harder to accept what those who deny the truth about themselves heap on all of us, bearers of saving truth – rejection, condemnation, unsavory labels, curses and all!

But four words are all that matter for you and me today … “Do not be afraid.”