5th Sunday Ordinary Time
Fr. Mark Gatto
Have you ever had a powerful experience of God? We just heard two accounts of mystical experiences of being in the presence of the Holy.
The Prophet Isaiah in the Temple in Jerusalem. He describes an experience of the holiness of God. He hears the Seraphs calling out, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts,” Today when we celebrate the Eucharist we make this same acclamation in the Sanctus, “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts,” as we prepare to be in the presence of the Holy God in Holy Communion.
Isaiah is overwhelmed before the sense of the transcendent, holy God. He feels so unworthy in the presence of the Holy One. But, the Seraph touches his mouth with a fiery coal taken from the altar and he is told that his guilt has departed and his sin is blotted out. With this experience of encountering the Holy God, the Prophet Isaiah hears the call sending him out to be an instrument of God. Isaiah responds with a prayer that each of us could use every day, “Here am I, send me.”
The second mystical experience of being in the presence of God takes place in the Gospel. Peter experiences the Holiness of God, not in the Temple, but in the presence of Jesus. Like Isaiah,
Peter’s first reaction is a sense of being unworthy. “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” Jesus answers him, “Do not be afraid.” Then Peter is given a mission, he is sent out. He leaves everything and follows Jesus and is told that from now on he will be catching people.
There are two things we can learn about our own personal encounter with the Holy God. First, do not give in to the sense of guilt, the sense of being a sinful person, that makes you think that you could not be welcome in the presence of God. The Lord will speak in your heart, Do not be afraid, your sin is blotted out.
Secondly, we need to listen to where God is sending us. Where are you and I being sent to be an instrument of God. Perhaps within your own family. Is there need to bring healing, to bring peace, to bring forgiveness, to bring hope, right within our own home, within your family?
Perhaps where you work or where you study? Is there someone who is hurting, someone who is discouraged, someone who is alone? You may be the one person being sent by God to bring hope and healing and peace.
Take a moment of silence right now, close your eyes. Imagine yourself in the presence of the Holy God. Imagine yourself in the presence of Jesus. At this moment, where would you be sent to be an instrument of God? Where may you be sent to bring the presence of the holy God to others, through your kindness, your forgiveness, your goodness?
When Peter and the Apostles come ashore, they had been fishing all night. They had caught nothing. They would have been discouraged, they would have been without hope. Jesus sends them out saying, “Put out into the deep.” Jesus gives them hope, they do go out again and make an incredible catch.
The church today has many reasons to be discouraged, to be lacking in hope. The constant negative news about residential schools and abuse cases. The past two years of Covid restrictions which has led to isolation for many and a struggle for us to be together. Many of our parishioners that I have not seen for much of these two years. We need to hear Jesus sending us out, “Put out into the deep.”
What gives you hope in these times? I sense that many of our priests are also struggling in these days. What is my greatest source of hope and encouragement? Where do I as a parish priest experience the presence of the holy God in my life? One definite place is Sunday morning in this parish. When I am greeting you the people of our parish. Saying hello, speaking with you, and then praying together in the Eucharist. By the end of Sunday Masses, no matter how I was feeling before Sunday, I always feel a sense of hope, a sense of encouragement. I sense the presence of the Holy God, the presence of Jesus, through you. Also, through many parishioners not able to come out now when I speak with them by phone.
Holy, Holy, Holy, we are to open our hearts to encounter the holy God like Isaiah and like Peter. Do not give in to fear or guilt that keeps you away from God. Then be ready to be sent out to be an instrument of God. Make your prayer the prayer of Isaiah, “Here am I, send me.”