Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
This year is the 25thyear of my ordination. As I look back, I have no idea where 25 years have gone. It all is a haze. Yet, I have very vivid memories of every one of these years. It has been a great life. It has been a wonderful life. It has been a daunting and challenging life project. It has demanded everything in me. Yet, it has been an awe-filled life. If I get another chance at life, I would do it all over again. Simply put, I am in awe!
For a Christian, one of the dominant paradigms from which to reflect on life is, “the call.” From our conception until we die, in our origin and pilgrimage toward our destiny, we believe we are called. In fact, all of life is a response to, an accomplishment of, the realization of a call.
There are two call stories in today’s scripture readings, that of Isaiah and of Peter. If you did not already realize, they are both struck with awe. I would like to reflect on these call narratives and the practical implications from the perspective of ‘awe.’
- An Awesome God and An Awesome Call. In the first reading and in the gospel reading we find Isaiah and Peter in total awe. First, they are in awe of God. In pure awe Isaiah cries out, “Woe to me, I am doomed!” Peter simply fell at the feet of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man." They were awe struck because God isawesome! This is what we have to look forward to when we enter eternity – the awesomeness of an awesome God. God is so awesome that we will remain awe struck for eternity. Second, there is awe in this – that God calls. Both Isaiah and Peter are awestruck by the fact that God called them. They thought of themselves as unworthy! But the fact that God called them in spite of their unworthiness leaves then awe struck. As I look back at my life, I too am in total awe. I confess, I have never had an experience as intense as Isaiah or Peter, but there are times I too have fallen on my knees and said, “Depart from me, O Lord!” I hope you have too!
- God’s Call Enhances the Dignity of the Human Person. When it comes to the meaning of human existence, multiple paradigms exist. For us Christians, the most meaningful one is - life as a response to God’s call. In other words, we do not believe that human beings are accidental, instinctive, biological creatures floating the earth like mosquitoes. On the contrary, we believe that God’s call gives human life its dignity. God’s call gives human life its ultimate meaning. Of course, our human dignity comes from the fact that each human person is created in the image and likeness of God. However, the fact that God also calls us further enhances the dignity of the human person. In other words, when we stand in the presence of each other, we must stand in total awe! I cannot stress enough the need for us to reflect on the dignity of the human person. Contrary to the awe in which we are invited hold each human person, today, we are in a crisis of human dignity. The child abuse crisis in the church and the subsequent crisis in handling child abuse cases by the bishops is a problem of human dignity. The number of high-profile politicians, celebrities, clergy, and powerful individuals accused of treating women and even nuns as mere tools is a crisis of human dignity. Racism and the ways in which it is manifesting itself in our nation today is a crisis of human dignity. The ways in which human life is made expendable from conception to natural end is a crisis of human dignity. The way immigrants and refugees are demonized, villainized, detained, and treated is a crisis of human dignity. Families belong together, and so, the separation of children from their families is a crisis of human dignity. The scandal of poverty and misery in a world that has 1 percent own most of the world’s wealth is a crisis of human dignity. The pervasiveness and power of pornography is a crisis of human dignity. Let me say this – as a Christian, not giving any human person their God given dignity is a grievous sin.
- Our Human Dignity Compels Us to Respond. Since our human dignity comes from being created and called by God, the realization of our human dignity must become our singular pursuit. Like Isaiah, like Peter, responding to the call not only gives meaning to our lives, but it also enhances the dignity we claim for ourselves. Do not let life pass you by without discerning your call. Do not life go by without responding to God’s call. Be it your marriage, be it your family, be it your work, be it your life-pursuits, be it your relationships, be it your friendships, be it your leisure – pursue it with dignity – the same awesome dignity that our awesome God has given us. When we stand face-to-face with God let us not be found wanting in discerning, pursuing, and realizing our call.
- Satish Joseph