In the year King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, with the train of his garment filling the temple. Seraphim were stationed above. They cried one to the other, "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts! All the earth is filled with his glory!" At the sound of that cry, the frame of the door shook and the house was filled with smoke. Then I said, "Woe is me, I am doomed! For 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!" Then one of the seraphim flew to me, holding an ember which he had taken with tongs from the altar. He touched my mouth with it, and said, "See," he said, "now that this has touched your lips, your wickedness is removed, your sin purged." Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?" "Here I am," I said; "send me!"
Refrain: In the sight of the angels, I will sing your praises, Lord.
1) I will give thanks to you, O Lord, with all my heart, for you have heard the words of my mouth;
in the presence of the angels I will sing your praise;
I will worship at your holy temple and give thanks to your name. (Refrain)
2) Because of your kindness and your truth; for you have made great above all things your name and your promise.
When I called, you answered me; you built up strength within me. (Refrain)
3) All the kings of the earth shall give thanks to you, O Lord, when they hear the words of your mouth;
And they shall sing of the ways of the Lord: "Great is the glory of the Lord." (Refrain)
4) Your right hand saves me. The Lord will complete what he has done for me;
Your kindness, O Lord, endures forever; forsake not the work of your hands. (Refrain)
I am reminding you, brothers and sisters, of the gospel I preached to you, which you indeed received and in which you also stand. Through it you are also being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures; that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures; that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. After that, Christ appeared to more than five hundred brothers at once, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. After that he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one born abnormally, he appeared to me. For 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. Indeed, I have toiled harder than all of them; not I, however, but the grace of God that is with me. Therefore, whether it be I or they, so we preach and so you believed.
While the crowd was pressing in on Jesus and listening to the word of God, he was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret. He saw two boats there alongside the lake; the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, he asked him to put out a short distance from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Simon said in reply, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.” When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come to help them. They came and filled both boats so that the boats were in danger of sinking. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him and all those with him, and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners of Simon. Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him.
Copyright 1970, 1986, 1992, 1998, 2001 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc. Washington D.C. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
Copyright 1970, 1997, 1998 Contraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc. Washington, D.C. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
The English translation of some Psalm responses, some Alleluia and Gospel verses and the Lenten Gospel Acclamations, some Summaries, and the Titles and Conclusion of the Readings, from the Lectionary for Mass copyright 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc., Washington D.C. All rights reserved.
The poetic English translation of the sequences of the Roman Missal are taken from the Roman Missal approved by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops of the United States, copyright 1964 by the National Catholic Welfare Conference, Inc. All rights reserved.
Resources: (Order these or other resources at a discount through the Homiletic Resource Center.)
- Days of the Lord, Volume 6, pp. 35-39. The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN, 1991.
- Good News, by Rev. Joseph T. Nolan. Liturgical Publications, Inc., 2875 South James Drive, New Berlin, WI 53151.
- Catechism: #'s 2794-2796 (Our Father in heaven), 787-795 (Church as the Body of Christ) & 797-801 (Church as the Temple of the Spirit). United States Catholic Conference, Washington, DC: 1994. [As recommended in A Homily Sourcebook (The Universal Catechism), by N. Abeyasingha. The Pastoral Press, Washington, D.C.: 1993.]
- The Risen Lord. From The Letters to the Corinthians, by William Barclay. Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, KY 1975.
- The Conditions of a Miracle. From The Gospel of Luke, by William Barclay. Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, KY 1975.
-Show Me the Fish!. From Dynamic Preaching, Seven Worlds Corporation, 310 Simmons Road, Knoxville, TN 37922.
- The Call, from More Telling Stories, Compelling Stories by William J. Bausch, pp. 161-165. Twenty-third Publications, Mystic, CT: 1993.
In our readings today we encounter three men who were called by God in very different ways to do things which they felt unworthy to do: Isaiah, Paul and Peter. In the first reading, Isaiah goes to the temple to pray and mourn the loss of the good King Uzziah when God comes to him in a vision. He is afraid and cries out "I am a man of unclean lips". He feels unworthy of God's call, but is purified by an angel and then answers the Lord's call by saying: "Here I am, send me!"
In all of the Scriptures, this is one of the most classic examples of the use of these words as a response by those who are called by God to serve in a special way, but it is by no means the only one. In the Book of Genesis, God called Jacob in a dream and he responded "Here I am". When God called out to Moses from the burning bush, he too responded with the words "Here I am." Then there is that wonderful episode between Eli and Samuel when Samuel believes that Eli has called him three times when actually God is calling him. Each time he answers "Here I am."
In the second reading, Paul alludes to his conversion to Christianity when he was blinded while on his way to Damascus to persecute Christians, as is recounted in the book of the Acts of the Apostles. It is in relation to this very event in Paul's life when the words "Here I am" are used as a response to the Lord's call for the only time in the New Testament. Paul spends three days in Damascus before the Lord appears to Ananias in a vision and he responds to his call with the same words "Here I am". In this reading, Paul goes on to say: "By God's favor I am what I am. This favor of his to me has not proved fruitless. Indeed, I have worked harder than all the others, not on my own but through the favor of God."
And then in the gospel, Jesus calls his first disciples: Peter, James and John. Now we need to put this gospel into its proper context and point out that this is not the first time that Simon and Jesus have met. As Luke recounts just a few verses prior to the beginning of today's passage, our Lord goes to Simon's house and heals his mother-in-law. So even before this encounter by the Sea of Galilee, Simon is very familiar with our Lord's miraculous powers. And we also have to realize that fisherman catch most of their fish before dawn because the sun's rays will drive the fish deeper in the water. Now Jesus continues to teach the crowds from Simon's boat as the three men finish cleaning their nets. Notice also that our Lord does not have the men immediately put their boats out onto the lake again after their fruitless efforts, but waits until morning is well underway. In addition, the boats do not venture too far onto the lake since Simon is able to call out to James and John to help him. Both of these facts make the catch all the more improbable.
So what is the point of all this for us? Let me begin with a story.
- Max Anders, in his book titled GOD points out that in the 1940 version of The Mark of Zorro, there is a remarkable "chase" scene in which Zorro is fleeing in the dead of night from a band of Spanish army officers. Racing at breakneck speed through woods, over creeks, along narrow paths, Zorro is finally cornered on a bridge suspended about twenty feet over a river. In one of the most remarkable stunts Anders had ever seen in a movie, Zorro turns his horse toward the railing on the bridge, which is about four and a half feet high, and spurs him. The horse jumps over the railing, into the river below, with the rider still on him. It swims downstream in a hail of bullets from the bridge, and once again, Zorro makes a cunning escape. Max Anders questioned how in the world did that stunt rider get that horse to jump over that railing into the black abyss below? He says that is one of the most unnatural things a horse would ever do. A horse would be almost as likely to dance ballet or swim a back stroke as to jump into a black abyss. He learned the answer from those who train horses. The secret is that the rider must never ask the horse to do anything that hurts it. The rider first gets the horse to do little stunts that seem dangerous, but the horse does not get hurt. So the trainer graduates to major stunts. After years of training, the horse learns to trust the rider, because nothing traumatizing has ever happened to him in the past. As a result, he will do almost anything the rider asks of him in the future. Obviously, this rider had spent a lot of time working with that horse, and a high degree of trust had developed. The horse never hesitated. Over the rail and into the river. Max Anders says that if you know anything about horses, it will almost bring tears to your eyes to imagine the amount of work and trust that had to have gone into such a bold move.(1)
For Peter, the point was that he came to trust our Lord when he healed his mother-in-law, so that when Jesus called him to discipleship, he was ready to leave everything and follow him. It is the same with us. If we learn to trust in the Lord early in our lives, then we will be prepared when he asks us for even more, just like the horse in our story. My wife and I know that in the last few years, the hand of God has been more evident in our lives than ever before (not that he wasn't present before, but it has hit us like a ton of bricks in the last few years.) If you had told us just a few years ago that I would move from Trenton to Point Pleasant, transfer my preaching faculties from Holy Angels Parish in Trenton to St. Mary of the Lake in Lakewood, preach on a weekly basis, have a web site, be retired from my full-time government job of 28 years and launch a commercial web site to help support my family, I would have told you that you were crazy. And when I retired in 1997 at the ripe old age of 51, many at work thought I was crazy, since I still have a family to care for and one child to put through college. But I felt ever so strongly that God was calling me to do this and that he would take care of everything.
In my earlier review of the uses of the phrase "Here I am" in the Scriptures, I neglected to mention a few other occasions when these words are used. In Isaiah is this verse: "Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my spirit." (Isaiah 42:1) And in the great Messianic Psalm 40 is this verse, which Paul would later ascribe to Christ himself: "So I said, "Here I am. To do your will, O my God, is my delight and your law is written upon my heart." (Psalm 40:8) In other words, it is not only our ancestors who responded to God's call with the words "Here I am", but the only Son of God who responded to the Father's call with those very words.
There is one last point: God stands ready to answer our calls for help if we but ask him. Isaiah puts these words into the mouth of God: "I was ready to respond to those who asked me not, to be found by those who sought me not. I said: 'Here I am! Here I am!' to a nation that did not call my name." (Isaiah 65:1) And lastly comes this verse from Isaiah: "Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say: 'Here I am!'".
As we have seen in the last few weeks, the Spirit of God is alive in the world. If our lives are a mess and there appears to be no relief, perhaps it is because we have only been relying on ourselves. The first step in resolving our situation is to realize that we don't have all of the answers. We have to throw up our hands in helplessness and turn to the God for help. We have to have the faith and trust in God to realize that only he can guide our lives according to his plan. Once we have done that, we can turn over our lives to him in prayer. And if we pray to God for help and our prayers appear to be going unanswered, then we have to have the faith and trust once again to realize that there is a reason in the Divine Plan why these prayers are apparently fruitless.
Isaiah, Paul and Peter put themselves, as unworthy as they felt they were, into the hands of God. And God used each of them to accomplish wondrous things. Why should we believe that it is any different for us? If we place ourselves totally and completely in his hands, the Spirit of God will work in and through us to accomplish his will and do wonderful things. The one thing God asks of us is that we answer his call to service in faith, love and trust with the words of the psalmist which epitomized Christ's life: "Here I am, Lord, I come to do your will".
1. GOD, by Max Anders. Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995. (Quoted in Show Me the Fish!, from Dynamic Preaching, Seven Worlds Corporation, 310 Simmons Road, Knoxville, TN 37922. [Dynamic Preaching is modestly-priced subscription service ($45 by disk or in print) may be purchased through the Homiletic Resource Center or by clicking the link above. But I highly recommend it, if for nothing else than the great illustrations it contains every week!]
(Copyright 2007 by the Spirit through Deacon Sil Galvan, with a little help from the friends noted above. Permission is freely granted for use, in whole or in part, in oral presentations. For permission to use in writing, please contact the human intermediary at email@example.com.)
- Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves,
Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people won't feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.
by Marianne Williamson from A Return To Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles. (Harper Collins, 1992). From Chapter 7, Section 3.
Lord Jesus, you call us to do the Father's will. Lord, have mercy.
Christ Jesus, you call us to follow your way. Christ, have mercy.
Lord Jesus, you call us to work wonders in your name. Lord, have mercy.
Celebrant: Because they had left everything behind and followed him, Jesus told his disciples that they would be rewarded a hundred fold. Therefore, confident that he will intercede for us, his followers, we bring our prayers and petitions to the Father.
Deacon/Lector: Our response is "Lord, hear our prayer."
That all priests, deacons and religious who have answered the Lord's call to service in a special way may be strengthened in their vocation, we pray to the Lord.
That all leaders of the nations of the world will realize that they are servants of the people they rule, we pray to the Lord.
That more men and women will respond to the call of the Lord to the priesthood, diaconate and religious life with a hearty "Here I am, send me", we pray to the Lord.
That all Christians may faithfully live the vocation to which they have been called as followers of Christ, we pray to the Lord.
That the Lord will grant all caregivers strength and patience, we pray to the Lord.
That all of our brothers and sisters will be treated as our equals in the sight of God regardless of their race, color, nationality or religion, we pray to the Lord.
That all of those who have contracted the Corona virus will be healed, that those who have died will be welcomed into the loving arms of their Savior who suffered for them and that their grieving families will find strength in their faith, we pray to the Lord.
For all of the intentions we hold in our hearts and which we now recall in silence. (Pause) For all of these intentions, we pray to the Lord.
Celebrant: Gracious Father, you sent your Son to do your will and to call us to a life of service. Grant us the grace of your Spirit to accept your will in our lives in faith, trust and love. We ask this in the name of Christ, your Son and our Lord. Amen.