February 6, 2022
So much in our world is corrupt by sin. And we also are contaminated by sin. But our sense of unworthiness, far from excluding us, prepares us for our mission.
- The root of the Hebrew word ‘holiness’ means consecrated, set apart, separated. It inspires a reverent fear of the Lord, of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Its goodness is overwhelmingly powerful and transcends everything.
- Through God’s manifestations, Isaiah, Peter and Paul felt their unworthiness of God’s holiness.
- Isaiah felt he was a man of unclean lips. Due to Peter’s unworthiness, he fell down at Jesus’s knees and Paul felt unworthy to be called an apostle.
- Two unhealthy senses of unworthiness: to hide our sense of sin and not recognize it, or to focus excessively on our sins.
- The important thing is the experience of our unworthiness does not disqualify us, but it is actually necessary to prepare us for our missions. It opens us up to the grace and mercy of God to act in us.
- Holy Communion is God’s grace and God’s mercy to be given to us, even though we are unworthy, to transform us and prepare us for our mission.
When Isaiah, Peter and Paul each experienced God and His holiness in their own unique ways, they all reacted the same way, by realizing and sensing their own unworthiness. But that opened them up to the grace and mercy of God, which acted in them, so they could respond to His call, to their individual mission that God had for each of them.
When each of us feel a call from the Lord, and we feel unworthy, it is important to experience our unworthiness and realize that doesn’t disqualify us, but it prepares us and mobilizes us so we can say “Here I am Lord, send me.”
We live in a world in which almost everything has been corrupted by evil, contaminated by evil, even things that should be holy, have been corrupted. And so, it’s easy to become cynical in our world. And we see that even in readings today, the Israelites, who have been chosen to be the people of God, they have been corrupted, and the prophets are often denouncing that corruption. We see it in the Gospel in the time of Jesus. The Pharisees, who consider themselves the holy ones, we see how corrupted they had become how the chief priests and scribes, corrupted and even in the Church at the very beginning in Judas, we see that even at that level of the corruption, and so through the history of the Church, and even monks and nuns, and priests and bishops, and cardinals, and even many Popes, terrible examples of corruption. And we see this, sadly, even into our own day. And so, we have a reading from the prophet Isaiah, Isaiah is in this corrupt world. And so that’s why what he experiences is so surprising, this is in fact that the passage we have today is his vocation. So, in the midst of all this corruption, then Isaiah writes, “In that year, in the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord.” So very simple words, but an extreme, extraordinary mystical experience. “I saw the Lord.” And how did he see Him, he said, “He was sitting on a throne high, and lifted up” so as a high throne, but it was also elevated. In this train, “the train of His garment filled the whole temple. Above Him stood the Serafin” so that among the most sublime of the angelic spirits, “above Him stood the Seraphim, each had six wings. With two he covered his face and respect for God’s presence. With two he covered his feet.” And so they’re veiling themselves in God’s presence, “and with two he flew, and one called to another and said, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God of host, the whole earth is full of His glory’.’’ And so, this is, of course, is where we get the passage we sing in Mass, we sing it here in Latin, Sanctus, Sanctus, Santus, that triple repetition of holy is a Hebrew word of expressing the supreme holiness, the greatest of all holiness. And the Lord of hosts the Lord, we could also translate the Lord of Armies. And he says, “the foundations of the threshold shook, at the voice of Him who called, and the house was filled with smoke,” so His voice is so strong that even the temple is shaking in this mysterious smoking cloud, which hides around the presence of God. And so, Isaiah has this extraordinary experience of the holiness of God. Isaiah has often been called the Prophet of the Holiness of God. Holiness, the word for the Hebrew is a word for holiness also meant, consecrated, that means, set apart, set apart from what is profane. And so, this holiness inspires a fear of the Lord, of the gift of the Holy Spirit. That is the fear of the Lord. And it’s not a fear that comes from encountering evil, like the pagan gods who are demonic spirits. But it’s actually a fear, a reverent fear, which come from so much good, from an infinite majesty, of goodness, of truth, of beauty, of love, where there’s no evil, no lies, no ugliness, no selfishness, and it’s so powerful. It’s goodness is overwhelmingly powerful, that transcends everything. And so, Isaiah responds with reverence and awe. And that’s important because today we often see there’s been a loss of a sense of awe and reverence and adoration before the sacred mysteries, to recognize that God is God and we’re not. What we pray in the Our Father that Jesus taught us, “hallowed be thy name”, holy sanctified, be thy name” So in a world in which so much is corrupted and contaminated, and even when it should be holy, often seems hypocritical. Like, the Pharisees but again, as I say it’s also in the Church. Here, Isaiah is experiencing the one who is completely and authentically holy, which there’s no contamination, no corruption at all. And His Holiness is so powerful, that it’s completely triumphant, nothing can dirty, His holiness. It’s completely distinct and separate. That again, the root of the Hebrew word holiness, comes from the word which means separated. And so, Isiah has this experience, but also, Peter, in a very different way, has an experience of God. So, Peter is out on the boat, in the Gospel today, and they’ve been fishing all night, and they hadn’t caught anything. And then Jesus asked to use Peter’s boat to preach from and they did. Jesus tells Peter to put down a net. And so if there’s one thing that Peter was an expert of, it was fishing on the Sea of Galilee. And so, when there’s this miraculous catch of fish, that’s what astonishes Peter. Jesus preaching from his boat, that’s probably good, but really astonishing him was a miraculous catch of fish, that Jesus could catch fish when he couldn’t catch anything. And so, Peter is overwhelmed, now that convinces him of the Divine Presence so close to him. And so, he’s sensing that presence of God. And Paul also has a manifestation. St. Paul, in the passage, in reading today, he’s talking about these apparitions of the risen Lord, including to himself. And so, we have three separate examples of these manifestations of God, and of God’s holiness. And so, what is the reaction of Isaiah, of Peter and of Paul, to these experiences? So, Isaiah, says, “Woe is me, for I am lost”, so his first expression is woe, woe is me, for I am lost. Why? “Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips, from my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” So, he senses in his unworthiness, his uncleanness, and the uncleanness of all his people, that he can’t withstand, to be in the presence of God, God’s holiness, the Lord of hosts, the Lord of Armies. And Peter, has a similar experience, a similar reaction. So, when Peter sees this miracle and senses the presence of God and Jesus, Peter, fell down at Jesus’ knees. So, it is an attitude of worship. But what does he say? He says, “Depart from me for I am a sinful man, oh, Lord, depart from me, I’m not worthy to be this close to You, depart from me, because I am a sinful man.” And when St. Paul has his apparition, when he was on the road to Damascus, so that’s what he’s talking about. He has this that manifestation which is the apparition of Jesus. And Paul, writes here in the passage we have today. Paul says, when he appeared to Paul, he says, “I am the least of the apostles not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God.” So, Paul, who had felt he was serving God, as a Pharisee. And he considered himself very holy, and a task he was on was a very holy one, in his arrogance, and cruelty. And now Paul realizes so painfully that he was completely wrong. And how sinful it was what he was doing. So, all of them, when they experienced God, all of them experienced also their own unworthiness. Have you ever felt unworthy? So that’s what all of them are experiencing, their unworthiness. Because this manifestation of God, God’s light, reveals our own sinfulness. It’s like, you know, it’s like a light coming through a window. When that light comes through a window, it also makes us see all the dirt and smudges on the window. So that’s very painful when we sense that in ourselves, when that light shows us all in our life that is sinful. But it’s also a very great grace, because it’s a grace of truth, which helps us have humility, and also helps us realize our own need for mercy. St. John Paul, quoting Pope Pius the 12th said that “perhaps the great sin of our time is the loss of a sense of sin, a loss of the sense of sin, for without the sense of sin, we can’t, repent and turn back to the Lord.” And so, each one of them and their experiences of God, it helps them have a healthy sense of their unworthiness, because there’s a healthy sense, and there’s an unhealthy sense, because the devil has two tactics. One is the either try to hide our sense of sin so we don’t recognize it. And there’s a lot of that, that loss of sense of sin, people just do all sorts of terrible things without even thinking about it. But then if a person gets to know Jesus, then he changes his tactic, and tries to make them focus excessively on their sins. So, think of the example say of a mirror, you have a mirror in front of you. So, when you look at the mirror, so that it’s a way of looking at yourself, you know, like maybe this morning, we looked in the mirror to see what we looked like. And so, think of a difference between then a window, a window, and outside the window is our Lord standing outside looking in. And so, when you look at the window, you might also notice the smudges and dirt on the window, but your focus is not on the smudges and dirt, you just want to clean those and get those off, so you can see Jesus more clearly. So that’s a difference between looking at the mirror that has been focused on our own sinfulness. And looking at Jesus. And we’re looking at Jesus, when we’re aware of Jesus and His light is coming into our life. It also makes us aware of what separates us, what distorts the image of Jesus in our lives, which is our own sin. But we’re not focused on the sin. But we just want to get rid of that sin so we can see Jesus more clearly. And so, we see that happening in each of these readings today, each one of them and their experience, they become aware of, the presence of God makes them aware of their own unworthiness, but so that they can become closer to God. So, Jesus when Jesus reveals His love for each one of us, that makes us aware, more aware of our own sins, but not to be focused on our own sins. But simply like again, say the dirty window, simply to clean the window. so you can see Jesus more clearly, to remove the obstacles to Jesus. But our focus is not on the obstacles, it’s on Jesus. Our focus is not on the window, but it’s just wanting to clean the window to see to Jesus. So, often when we feel a call, and I hear this often, people say a person senses a special call from the Lord, but they say, but I feel so unworthy. And we are unworthy. But the important thing is the experience of our unworthiness does not disqualify us, but it’s actually necessary. It’s necessary to prepare us for our mission. So, a healthy experience of our unworthiness does not paralyze us, but it mobilizes us, and that’s what we see here in the passages today. So, how do they respond? Isaiah, what happens to Isaiah? He says, “Woe to me, because I’m unclean and I’m with an unclean people.” And then it says, “then one of the Seraphim flew to me, having in his hand, a burning coal, which he had taken with tongs from the altar.” So this tong is so burning, the word seriph means burning, but this coal so burning that even a Seraphim takes it with tongs from the altar and heaven, and what does he do with this burning tong? Isaiah says, “He touched my mouth. And he said, Behold, this has touched your lips, your guilt is taken away, and your sin forgiven.” So what has happened? Isaiah has become aware of his unworthiness. And then God through this angel, the Seraphim is sending a transforming grace of purification. And we have the great Sacraments of Baptism and Confession, Reconciliation, to help us be reconciled to God and purified. But that’s not the end of it. Then what happens? Then Isaiah says, “And then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” So, remember, Isaiah has just felt that he was unworthy. But now because of this grace, of this burning ember touching him, and taking away his sin, now Isaiah responds, “here I am, send me”. So, from a sense of unworthiness, now he feels able to respond to this call, here I am, send me. And so, this is Isaiah beginning of his vocation. And what do we see with Peter? So, Peter just said, “Depart from me, Lord, because I’m a sinful man.” So, what does Jesus not say to Peter, He doesn’t say, No, you’re not a sinner. You’re not a sinful man. Don’t be so hard on yourself. He doesn’t say that. He doesn’t deny that Peter is a sinful man. But He doesn’t leave him. So, He said, Yeah, you are a sinful man. But what does he say? “Do not be afraid. Henceforth, you will be catching men,” after Peter has recognized his own unworthiness instead of leaving him. So, Peter realizes he’s unworthy. But Jesus, of course, already knew that Peter is unworthy. Now that Peter has recognized it himself, now Jesus is calling him henceforth to be catching men. “And when they had brought their boats to the land, they left everything and followed him.” So, look at the difference. So, Peter said, Leave me because I’m sinful. And then because of Jesus’s response, now, Peter, now he knows that he’s a sinner, but now he’s going to follow Jesus, He accepts to follow him. And St. Paul also says, By the grace of God, after talking about his apparition, “by the grace of God, I am what I am. And this grace toward me was not in vain.” So, St. Paul also realizes that he’s a sinner, but God’s grace has acted in him. So, in each one of these, each one of them has experienced God and His Holiness, and that made them aware of their own unworthiness. But that opened them up to the grace and mercy of God, which acted in them. So, then they could respond to His call, respond to their mission. So that sense of unworthiness didn’t paralyze them, but it again, it made them humble and open, so they could respond to His call, to the mission God gave them. And so, for us here at this Mass, the scripture’s always a revelation of God’s holiness. And in Mass, of course, we’re going to chant those words which come from this very experience of Isaiah, Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, Holy, Holy, Holy, recognizing God’s holiness. And right before Holy Communion, we’re going to say, “Lord, I am not worthy.” I am not worthy. We’re recognizing my unworthiness. But Isaiah had this ember that the Seraphim brought from heaven. But we are preparing not for an ember from the altar in heaven. But we’re preparing for something even greater, which is the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord in Holy Communion, not simply touching our lips, but coming in, to dwell in us. And so that this is the grace of Holy Communion, the grace, God’s grace and God’s mercy being given to us even though we’re unworthy. Being given to us to transform us and prepare us for our mission. And so, we recognize with Isaiah, with Peter, with Paul, that each one of us is being called. Today with our Blessed Mother, in this Mass, we also can respond, “Here I am, send me.” Amen