5 Epiphany, Year C: Fearful Love

SUNDAY’S READINGS | February 6, 2022

Isa. 6:1-8 (9-13)
Ps. 138
1 Cor. 15:1-11
Luke 5:1-11

We are not here, in this life, to count days and accumulate pleasures, to consume as much as we can for as long as we can in a mindless and empty pursuit of transient and trivial enjoyments. We are not, despite what we are told day and night, merely consumers. Rather, we are called into being and called to be someone with a deep and generous mission. Who issues the call?

“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings; with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.’ The pivots on the threshold shook at the voices who called, and the house filled with smoke” (Isa. 6:1-4).

A high throne surrounded by winged seraphs who call to one another, the shaking of the foundations, the house filled with smoke, and the world full of glory tell us that from the heights of the highest heaven down to the earth and the abyss, God is God, everywhere and always. God is the one who calls out to us, and, given his tremendous and inexhaustible power as compared to our low estate, we may feel we are incapable and unworthy.

When the prophet Isaiah observes the vision of the throne high and lifted up, he cries out, “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among people of unclean lips” (Isa. 6:5). Speaking of his calling and conversion, St. Paul says, “Last of all, as to one untimely born, [the risen Lord] appeared to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God” (1 Cor. 15:8-9). When the disciples, after fishing all night in what seemed an empty sea, obey the word of Jesus and drop their nets one more time, and then suddenly draw up a net-tearing and boat-sinking catch, Peter, seeing the miracle, falls to his knees and says, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man” (Luke 5:8). Indeed, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31). Fearful — because wonderful, awesome, and beyond all knowing.

The hand of God has formed you, and into that hand you fall. Now, together with me, look! “Who on the day before he suffered took bread into his sacred and venerable hands,” as said in an older Eucharistic Prayer (Sarum Use, my translation). The holy hands of Jesus holding bread and then the cup, nail-pierced later in bloody love for the world, show the Most High God as the God of all mercy. “Blessed are you who look into the depths from the throne of the cherubim” (Prayer of Azariah, v. 32). The hand of God reaches out to us in love right down to the marrow of our being.

We may feel small and unworthy. We may sometimes feel our lives as a vast emptiness, a formless void, an exhausting night of finding nothing. But the truth is otherwise. God sets us out over waters boiling with fish, though we do not know it, and tells us to pull up the nets. Really, God says, “I have caught you in my trap of love. Now, go out and catch people with the hook of the gospel. Tell of love’s redeeming work and the advent of a new humanity.”

Look It Up: Psalm 138:7

Think About It: All the above in one half-verse.

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