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Commentary to the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Fr. Joseph Pellegrino, SJ - Sat, Feb 9th 2013


To Serve the King

The scene is set. Isaiah remembers exactly when it was–the year that King Uzziah died. He remembers what he saw: God on a throne seated in the Temple. He has royal robes on. The train of his garment is so large that it filled the Temple. There were angels there. Seraphim called out, “Holy, holy holy is the Lord of hosts. The heaven is filled with his Glory.”  They were so loud that the walls shook, the massive metal door of the Temple shook. And the smoke from the incense. The smoke filled the House of God.

And then the questions from God Himself. “Whom shall we send?  Who will go for us?” 

“Here I am,” Isaiah says, “Here I am. Send me.”

“Here we are,” we call. “Send us.”  And through the grace of our Baptism brought to completion by our confirmation, we have been sent out by God Himself. Whatever it is that we do, we are to do it in the service of God.

What does this mean?  What does it mean to say that we are called to serve God in every way possible. Well, some of you are married, others are hoping some day to marry. Here’s what serving God means: it means that it is not good enough just to be husbands.  You must be the best husband possible, emptying yourself for your wife, serving God by serving your wife. Put her first. Women should always come first. They are God’s gift to men. They are the sacred vessels of life. Love her, and love God by loving her. For you girls, you women, don’t just be wives. Be the best wife the world has ever seen. Give yourself not just to your husband, but to your God. Serve God by serving your husband.

Some of you are parents, or are hoping some day to become parents. It is not enough to give birth, and to sustain the life of a child.  You have been called to serve God through your children. Be the best parent possible. Give your life for your children. And in this way serve God who created your children with you and your spouse, endowing  them the unique reflection of his love.

We are called to serve the King of Kings. We don’t just perform a job. We are called to serve the Lord. If we are priests, we must be the best priests possible, using our particular gifts for Him. If we are auto mechanics, we must be the best mechanic possible serving God by taking caring of people’s cars, keeping them safe. Some of you are doctors, and lawyers, and nurses and school teachers, etc. We don’t just need doctors and nurses and school teachers, and lawyers and accountants, etc, etc. We need the best doctors and nurses and school teachers and so forth. Whatever we do in life, we must do it the best possible way because we are doing it in service to the Lord.

Right now many here are students. Some find study easier than others. That doesn’t make any difference. You must be the best student you can be, developing your own talents. Your teachers are telling you that you have to work hard to succeed in the world. I am telling you that this is only a part of the story. You must work hard, not just to succeed in the world, but to serve the Lord.

We only have one shot at life. We only get one life. We need to make the very best of our lives. We need to serve God in every aspect of our lives.

Some of you might be asking yourselves, as I often ask myself,  “Am I good enough?” All three readings this week answer that question.   Isaiah was not good enough at first. Then an angel touched Isaiah’s mouth with the ember from the fire. He was made clean. In the second reading Paul reminds us that he started off by persecuting Christians. He was mean. He would round up men, women and children and bring them to the Jewish authorities in Jerusalem. He watched and approved as an innocent and meek Stephen was stoned to death by a mob. Paul was a spectator at the lynching, but he cheered on the mob and left excited to find the mob’s next victims. But despite all this Jesus transformed Paul into an apostle. “I am who I am,” St. Paul says, “through the Grace of God.”  In the Gospel, Peter wants Jesus to leave him because he is so aware of his own sin. Jesus basically says, “No way. I have work for you, You will be catching men.”

And Jesus says to you and to me, “Stop hiding behind your human failures. How dare you say that I cannot send you?  I am God. I have work for you to do. I will cleanse you. I will send you.”

We have work to do. We have been sent by the same God who sent Isaiah, who empowered Paul, who made Peter a fisher of men.

We need to stop limiting ourselves to the here and now. We need to do the work of God. Every part of creation has its own truth and goodness and beauty, including the summit of creation, human beings. The problem is that many of us, many people, refuse the recognize the dependence of creation on God. Creation without the Creator fades into nothingness. People who attempt to live separated from God condemn themselves to meaningless lives. When Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn,” He was not referring to those who have lost loved ones, He was referring to those who mourn the waste of life that could be eternal, that could be spiritual, that is meant for God. So you hear about a girl or guy who has given up, is controlled by addiction, is abused by society, and you feel so bad for her or him. You want to do something to help, even if you can do no more than pray every day. You are doing a lot. Blessed are you who mourn.

We are called, we are sent, to lead people to meaning, to lead people to God. Whatever it is that we do in life, from something as major as marriage and parenting, to something as minor as finishing a school worksheet, we do it in service to God. Every action of our lives has purpose not just for ourselves but as beacons of hope for those who are seeking the Lord. We are the light that is meant to be set on hilltops so all can see. We are the Light of the World. We pray today for the courage to respond to the Lord’s summons with every action of our lives.

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