Reflection for Sunday – February 6, 2022

Readings: Isaiah 6: 1-2a, 3-8; 1 Corinthians 15: 1-11; Luke 5: 1-11 
Preacher: Margot Van Etten

What do you do when you come face to face with God?

Isaiah, Peter and Paul are unanimous: “I am unworthy!” Isaiah despairs. Peter says, “Go away.” Paul still, decades later, declares himself least worthy of those called to be apostles. (Killing Christians does not seem to be a good job qualification.) None of them can stand comfortably before God.

A few weeks ago I had a micro Isaiah-in-the-temple-moment in the church (minus the vision of glory). The Prayers of the Faithful had just begun, calling for change in all human hearts: towards the poor, homeless and refugees; towards the wounded Earth and all beleaguered creatures who live upon it; towards power, wealth and war.

Suddenly I was overwhelmed with a sense that despite my puny but persistent efforts in the face of all this suffering and woe, I was helplessly enmeshed in all the harms my ancestors brought since they first landed on these shores, by the culture grown from seeds they planted, and by the systems of oppression and despair their unwitting actions had left to bind us, our children and all in this nation and on this planet. That shook me mightily, and Isaiah’s word in today’s first reading echoed in my mind: “Woe is me, for I am a person of unclean lips in a nation of unclean lips.” 

While I’m gloominating, the priest begins preparation of the gifts. In the silence, a reminder of different words…

“I saw also that there was an ocean of darkness and death; but an infinite  ocean of light and love, which flowed over the ocean of darkness … the infinite love of God…”

George Fox’s words might be a longer riff on St. John: “the light shines in darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…”

This is at the heart of our faith. The light, God’s incredible, unconditional, unlimited love, pierces the dark clouds and dispels them. Ultimately sweeps them away. Resurrection is as sure as the bursting up of green buds every spring. The song of God’s love hums just under every event, every moment of our lives, if we but have ears to hear it.

What is God’s response to the cry, “I am not worthy,” in each of these stories? First, healing. Forgiveness.

Then, a call. 

Follow me. Go and speak my words to my people. Go forth and spread the Good News to everyone.

And so, our readings today issue a call to each one of us. We are called to be prophets of that light, that infinite love. To carry that light amid the gloom that encircles so many pandemic-weary people today. So many fearful and angry people. So many people facing uncertainty. We, as followers of Christ, possess the secret of joy. Of hope. We simply must share it with those who are hanging on by a thread on our chaotic times. How could we not?

But first, we have to make sure our own vision of the light is clear, our own listening for the song is focused enough to hear. We need to take those moments of slowing down and noticing the little love notes that God scatters through our day. The fleeting beauty of sunlight sparkling on snow. The purring of a cat. A baby’s smile. The moments of sheer happiness that sometimes overtake us. The “coincidences” that occur and enrich our lives (or prevent us from harm).  The call from a friend, the phrase in a homily, the poem or story that strike us suddenly with the goodness in our lives. All those things that are so easy to overlook but are the true gifts of our loving God. Being present. Just as we want to be present during that great moment when God’s love is communicated to us in the Eucharist, so we want to be present on all the moments then God seeks to communicate light and love to us.

And then, we bring that light to the world around us. We become a healing presence to the people we encounter. Sure, sometimes we might be called to challenge (with love!), to communicate the vision of God’s compassion and call for justice. But most often our presence is our prophetic voice. The way we live and interact with others is our message.

God’s call to us today—really, God’s invitation—is to see the Light. And then to be the light. Look, listen, be present to whatever way our Lord speaks to us. Then, through us, God will do the rest. God is the Light. We just need to clear the way so it can shine.

Margot VanEtten
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