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Bible Reflections View Comments

Nothing and Everything Before God
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, February 10, 2013
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One of the gifts of the Spirit received at confirmation is that of reverence or “wonder and awe at God’s presence.” In some translations of Scripture, this phrase appears as “fear of the Lord.” The alternate translation makes it clear that this is not the sort of trembling fear that might be inspired by a bully or an abusive authority figure, but rather the awesome, breathtaking power of a manifestation of God’s grandeur. Think of a natural wonder such as the Grand Canyon, an erupting volcano, a spectacular waterfall and you can get a hint of what this suggests.

Our readings today describe people who were extraordinarily sure of themselves and their missions. Yet all three recognize their complete unworthiness in the presence of the Holy One. Isaiah’s call to be a prophet begins with a vision of the heavenly court. He is both awed and bolstered by God’s transcendence. While confessing his own sin and the sin of his people, he confidently responds to the summons with, “Here I am, send me.”

Paul, having experienced a total conversion of his beliefs and activities, places himself on a par with the apostles who journeyed with the Lord throughout his time on earth. And yet he knows that even though he was chosen by God for a special mission to the gentiles, in the divine sight, he is nothing. He summarizes his ministry in these words: “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective.”

In the Gospel, Peter, the professional fisherman, recognizes the hand of God in Jesus’ miraculous catch of fish. And in that bright light of faith, he knows that his own skills pale by comparison. He clearly recognizes that the power that created and sustains the universe is now calling out to him from the shore telling him how to catch fish. And Peter is willing to leave behind everything he knows in order to follow this man.

Who we are in the eyes of the world, or even in our own eyes, can’t compare to the incredible paradox that before the Almighty God was are as nothing, and yet this same God tells us that we are loved and loveable simply because we are called into being by divine love. Many of us struggle with questions of personal self-esteem and professional competence on a daily basis. We know that there are many ways in which we can improve our day-to-day human lives. We can’t let those feelings and efforts get in the way of recognizing who we are when we come into the presence of God.

When we’re in right relationship with the God of the covenant, the God of Isaiah and Peter and Paul, we might be surprised at the way the rest of our priorities fall into place. God’s grace makes our often feeble efforts more effective than we could possibly imagine, not because we’re that good but because God is that good.

We tend to mix up feelings of self-worth with worthiness before God in ways that can cloud not only our growth as human beings, but also our growth in faith. For many, this can be a good topic for self-reflection and prayer. For some, professional counseling may be necessary to heal and correct past injuries.

As we approach the season of Lent, such an undertaking might be a good discipline for the season. Because the point of being called by God is to do his work. We need to let go of anything that might keep us from doing that.


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John Paul II: “Open wide the doors to Christ,” urged John Paul II during the homily at the Mass when he was installed as pope in 1978. <br /><br />Born in Wadowice, Poland, Karol Jozef Wojtyla had lost his mother, father and older brother before his 21st birthday. Karol’s promising academic career at Krakow’s Jagiellonian University was cut short by the outbreak of World War II. While working in a quarry and a chemical factory, he enrolled in an “underground” seminary in Kraków. Ordained in 1946, he was immediately sent to Rome where he earned a doctorate in theology. <br /><br />Back in Poland, a short assignment as assistant pastor in a rural parish preceded his very fruitful chaplaincy for university students. Soon he earned a doctorate in philosophy and began teaching that subject at Poland’s University of Lublin. <br /><br />Communist officials allowed him to be appointed auxiliary bishop of Kraków in 1958, considering him a relatively harmless intellectual. They could not have been more wrong! <br /><br />He attended all four sessions of Vatican II and contributed especially to its <em>Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World</em>. Appointed as archbishop of Kraków in 1964, he was named a cardinal three years later. <br /><br />Elected pope in October 1978, he took the name of his short-lived, immediate predecessor. Pope John Paul II was the first non-Italian pope in 455 years. In time, he made pastoral visits to 124 countries, including several with small Christian populations. <br /><br />He promoted ecumenical and interfaith initiatives, especially the 1986 Day of Prayer for World Peace in Assisi. He visited Rome’s Main Synagogue and the Western Wall in Jerusalem; he also established diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Israel. He improved Catholic-Muslim relations and in 2001 visited a mosque in Damascus, Syria. <br /><br />The Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, a key event in John Paul’s ministry, was marked by special celebrations in Rome and elsewhere for Catholics and other Christians. Relations with the Orthodox Churches improved considerably during his ministry as pope. <br /><br />“Christ is the center of the universe and of human history” was the opening line of his 1979 encyclical, <em>Redeemer of the Human Race</em>. In 1995, he described himself to the United Nations General Assembly as “a witness to hope.” <br /><br />His 1979 visit to Poland encouraged the growth of the Solidarity movement there and the collapse of communism in central and eastern Europe 10 years later. He began World Youth Day and traveled to several countries for those celebrations. He very much wanted to visit China and the Soviet Union but the governments in those countries prevented that. <br /><br />One of the most well-remembered photos of his pontificate was his one-on-one conversation in 1983 with Mehmet Ali Agca, who had attempted to assassinate him two years earlier. <br /><br />In his 27 years of papal ministry, John Paul II wrote 14 encyclicals and five books, canonized 482 saints and beatified 1,338 people. <br /><br />In the last years of his life, he suffered from Parkinson’s disease and was forced to cut back on some of his activities. <br /><br />Pope Benedict XVI beatified John Paul II in 2011, and Pope Francis canonized him in 2014. American Catholic Blog Lord, may I have balance and measure in everything—except in Love. —St. Josemaría Escrivá

 
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