The first reading and the Gospel for the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time are truly spectacular, as they reveal the Most Holy Trinity breaking into the lives of two people, Isaiah and Peter. This forever changes them and transforms the hearts of all who prayerfully reflect upon the revealed word of God that comes through them.
God, in a dramatic way, comes to reclaim all the people created in His own image and likeness. That means God is on our case, and in His time, He will catch up with us with His transforming call.
The first reading comes from the sixth chapter of Isaiah, but I believe it’s the driving force for everything that Isaiah has written, including the five preceding chapters.
Isaiah is in the temple in Jerusalem worshiping, when suddenly his eyes are opened and he gets a glimpse of the Most Holy Trinity, with the Lord seated “on a high and lofty throne, with the train of His garment filling the temple.”
This was totally unexpected by Isaiah, but carefully planned by God to reveal to Isaiah the holiness of God, and God’s desire to share this holiness with mankind. It’s a vision of heavenly worship that the Trinity wants to share with mankind to replace mankind’s sinfulness. In the case of Isaiah, it had instantaneous results.
He witnessed the seraphim crying out: “‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts! All the earth is filled with His glory!’ At the sound of that cry, the frame of the door shook and the house was filled with smoke.”
This beautiful vision of heavenly worship smoked out Isaiah’s sinfulness. “Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”
Precisely when Isaiah is overwhelmed with the holiness of God, he is made aware of his sinfulness. That “Woe is me” cry calls forth from God one of the seraphim who flew to him, holding an ember he had taken with tongs from the altar.
“He touched my mouth with it, and said, ‘See, now that this has touched your lips, your wickedness is removed, your sin is purged’.”
Once His holiness had cleansed Isaiah, God could use Isaiah as a prophet of His mercy. “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?’ ‘Here I am,’ I said; ‘Send me!’”
Fast forward to a parallel scene in the Gospel. “While the crowd was pressing in on Jesus and listening to the word of God, He was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret. He saw two boats there alongside of the lake; the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets… Then He sat down and taught the crowd from the boat.”
Apparently during this time the fisherman continued to clean their nets, so Jesus designed a teaching specifically for them.
“After He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.’ Simon said in reply, ‘Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.’”
You almost get the impression that Peter said to Jesus: “We’re professionals. We know what we’re doing. There is nothing out there!” However, Peter adds: “but at your command I will lower the nets.”
With the humongous catch of fish, Peter’s eyes were opened to the holiness of Jesus and so “he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, ‘Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.’ For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him and all those with him, and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee…”
Peter immediately realized that not only was he outdone in fishing, but more so in holiness. Now, Peter was willing to give up his profession and follow Jesus in a new profession.
Something dramatic took place in Peter’s life. God said, in effect, “Now that you realize that I can reveal to you your own sinfulness and that I can use you in spite of your sinfulness, you will be my witness to the world that my mercy is far greater than mankind’s sinfulness.”
So, what are we waiting for? You and I are standing before the Holy Trinity, who invites us to open our hearts to God’s infinite light, love and mercy. In showing us His holiness, and replacing our sinfulness with infinite goodness, He will use us as messengers of His mercy.
His overflowing joy in our hearts tells the world that God is alive in us and is the source of infinite goodness, light, and mercy that He wishes to share with all sinners.
Notice that when God revealed to Isaiah and to Peter their sinfulness, they didn’t run. They stayed to accept His acceptance of them as sinners, ready and willing to be transformed.
For both of them, this was a turning point in their lives, but God continued to call them to deeper and deeper repentance.
What do these two experiences say to you and to me? Notice that both of them were willing to spend time in the presence of the Lord. Both of them gave God permission to show them how He was calling them into a deeper freedom from sin. When you give God quality quiet time, He will lead you into a deeper peace.