by Bishop Thomas Gumbleton
Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace
In today’s three lessons, obviously we have three examples of God’s call to people to carry on God’s work, especially the prophetic ministry to proclaim God’s message. In the case of Jesus, we call it the Good News, the Gospel. Each of these calls are distinctive and yet very similar. Isaiah was in the temple praying. Obviously, he was a man who was holy, committed to God already. During his prayer he has this extraordinary experience of God’s presence.
He hears the seraphim, angels crying out, “Holy, holy, holy is the God of hosts. Heaven and earth are full of your glory.” Isaiah was overwhelmed. The word “holy” means separate, apart, other, transcendent. God is totally “other” and Isaiah feels his total unworthiness to be in this presence of God. He proclaims, “I am a man of unclean lips and come from unclean people, sinners.”
But he’s reassured, and one of the angels takes a coal and touches his lips to purify him, cleanse him of his sinfulness. At that point Isaiah then hears God saying, “Whom shall I send?” Isaiah is now ready. “Here I am Lord. Send me.” It is a beautiful account of a conversion, of a call, and of a readiness to do God’s work. The second lesson doesn’t give it in detail, but we know the story. Paul adverts to his conversion. He had been one who had persecuted the Christian community, the disciples of Jesus. He was trying to destroy them.
But as we recall, as he was on his way to Damascus to take Christians and bring them back for trial and imprisonment, he was knocked to the ground and experienced the presence of Jesus saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who?” Saul says. “It is I, Jesus, whom you persecute.” Paul realized that Jesus was present in that community of disciples. Jesus is alive, he’s in their midst, and Jesus is calling him....