Friday, August 12, 2022

Homilies

Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M.
/ Categories: Homilies

Send Me

Homily for Saturday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

The book of the prophet Isaiah is one of the longest books in the Hebrew Scriptures, sixty-six chapters long. The primary theme of this prophet is the promise that God made to King David; namely, that a descendent of David would remain on the throne of Israel until the end of time. As we chart the political upheaval of the kingdom through the writings of Isaiah, it becomes plainly evident that either God’s promise was an empty promise or that our understanding of that promise is faulty. I’m sure that all of you realize that it is this second explanation that we hold true, for God never forsakes a promise. Indeed, a descendent of David has inherited the throne of Israel in the person of Jesus.

As we listen to the passage that describes how God called him to be a prophet, we are immediately introduced to his masterful way of couching his writing in literary figures of speech. He begins with a paradox, a figure of speech that makes his point by employing a powerful negative image. “In the year King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne with the train of his garment filling the temple.” The paradox lies in the fact that while Isaiah was gazing upon the Lord in the temple, King Uzziah was hidden away in a dark room in his palace, dying of leprosy. No one was admitted into his presence; no one saw him in his misery. By contrast, God’s court or throne room is filled with light by the presence of seraphim poised above God’s throne.

Isaiah was a priest who spent his days in the temple of Jerusalem. We should not, therefore, be surprised to find him in the temple as God calls him to the life of a prophet, one who carries the Word of the Lord with him wherever he goes. His vision of God is life changing. The vision of the Lord enthroned in glory stamps an indelible character on Isaiah’s ministry and provides a key to the understanding of his message. The majesty, holiness and glory of the Lord took possession of his spirit and, at the same time, he gained a new awareness of human pettiness and sinfulness. The enormous abyss between God’s sovereign holiness and human sinfulness overwhelmed the prophet. Only the purifying coal of the seraphim could cleanse his lips and prepare him for acceptance of the call: “Here I am, send me!”

This vision of the Hebrew Scriptures stands in comparison to the passage that we read in the Gospel today. Both passages relate the fact that God uses human beings as his messengers. Isaiah’s experience in the temple prompts him to volunteer. “Send me!” The Gospel is a continuation of the instructions that Jesus gives to his Apostles as he sends them forth. Isaiah recognizes the danger that is implicit in his mission, and Jesus warns the Apostles that they are going forward like sheep among wolves. Yet he counsels them to put their fear away and reminds them of God’s loving mercy and providential care. We know for historical fact that both Isaiah and the Twelve will die the death of martyrs. Isaiah’s death even finds its way into the Christian Scriptures in chapter eleven of the letter to the Hebrews.

At the end of every Eucharist, the presider sends off those who have been surrounding him at the altar with the mission to preach the gospel and to glorify God. It is essentially the same mission which Isaiah received and which the Apostles also received from Jesus. Just as they were protected by God, so too can we expect to be surrounded by God’s mercy and providential care.

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