In Isaiah’s call to be a prophet, in today’s first scripture selection, we read of his sinfulness, his weakness and feelings of inadequacy.
As we each grow through the years in our connection to God, we are bound to begin reflecting on our place in God’s eyes as Isaiah did. We eventually recognize we too are weak, fragile, selfish and scared. These realities can lead us to sin to protect ourselves and to cover up our inadequacies. We buy too much stuff. We strive too hard for status, power and money, hurting others along the way. We slip into fogs of pleasure in sports, Netflix, gambling, sex, drugs, alcohol and a myriad of “mind candy,” drifting from being our best, most noble selves and away from God.
Becoming conscience of our faults is a grace filled moment. It can be the beginning of our total dependence on God to guide our lives.
The writer of this section of Isaiah experiences this awakening. Creation is awesome and its creator is even more awesome, surrounded by singing celestial beings who can do nothing but be in awe of God. Turning to earth the writer sees nothing but weakness, sin, inadequacy. Violence, chaos, misery are everywhere…just like today.
But God takes charge, instructing a seraphim to sterilize the lips of the common, sinful man, immediately transforming him into an instrument of healing and transformation of the human race.
Isaiah’s job as a newly minted prophet will be just as difficult at the jobs of Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel. He joins the ranks of the ridiculed outliers, the fringe wackos. Mainstream society will reject this prophet’s message as it has done the messages of all preceding and subsequent prophets, including Jesus himself.
In a world where human skills, achievement and consumption measure “success,” the message of an Isaiah or Jesus has been relegated to the edges of conscientiousness, compromised, modified and diluted to fit society’s norms.
But a deep prayerful reading of today’s scripture selections challenges this domestication of our faith. Isaiah is readied for his part to play in salvation history. Paul admits he is “not fit to be an apostle,” but, only by the grace of God, plays a pivotal role in opening Christianity to the whole world. Jesus shakes up the apostles, especially Peter, and readies them for lives of passion for building the reign of God.
God seems to say, “Okay, yeah, you are human and weak and sinful. But I can handle that. Just surrender all you got to me, and by grace I will transform you in ways you can’t imagine into a magnificent, loving, transforming human being who will do greater works than even awesome prophets like John the Baptist did. You ready to toss that fishing net to the other side of the boat? You ready to surrender yourself totally to me? If so, expect trouble, but also expect a life with more peace and joy than you can ever imagine.”
You ready to be transformed?
Jim Wayne is a board member of the Passionist Solidarity Network (PSN), and author of The Unfinished Man. He lives in Louisville, Kentucky.