Sunday, February 7, 2010
The Miraculous Draught of Fishes by Jacopo Basano (Click for larger version)
I am what I am - by the grace of God...
(Scriptures for today's liturgy)
In my work as a pastor I meet so many people
who tell me they feel they just don’t measure up in God’s eyes:
that they’re not good enough, don’t do enough,
don’t love enough, don’t give enough.
And, of course, they’re right -- about “not doing enough.”
There’s always more for each of us to do.
But that’s not the end of the story of how we stand before God.
And it’s not the beginning of that story either.
The fact that I’m not yet doing enough
- and the reality that I’ll probably never do all that I possibly could -
doesn’t for a moment change who I am in God’s eyes
and in the eyes of God, I am never worthless,
no matter how great my failings…
in the eyes of God, you are never worthless…
no matter how great your failings…
In God’s eyes each of us is, always, the beloved…
Most folks have a hard time with this.
Isaiah had a problem with it, too.
After actually seeing God with his own eyes, his first words were
“Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips…”
And the Lord’s response?
He sends an angel to cleanse Isaiah’s lips
with the sweet kiss of an ember glowing with mercy.
Peter had the same difficulty.
After hauling in, with the Lord’s help, the greatest catch he’d ever made --
Peter falls on his knees and says,
“Get away from me, Lord -- I’m a sinful man!”
And the Lord’s response?
Jesus says, simply, “Peter, don’t be afraid of me…”
In both these scriptures
the Lord is calling someone for a particular task:
Isaiah to be a prophet, Peter to spread the gospel.
But in both stories the Lord has to break through
how Isaiah and Peter see themselves
so that they might begin to see how God sees them.
The greatest mistake any faith or religion can make
is to lead its followers to believe
that there could be moments when God doesn’t love them,
or to believe that God’s love must somehow be earned.
The first error denies the nature of God for God is love.
The second error denies the nature of human beings
since nothing we do
can earn, merit or deserve God’s love.
God’s love is a pure gift, freely given, to all, always,
because God is love.
On Thursday, our Youth Minister, Andrea, and her husband Ben
became the parents of a baby boy: Johannes Neal.
Little Johannes has done nothing to earn his parents’ love for him:
but it’s the nature of who Andrea and Ben are as mother and father
that leads them to love freely, with all their hearts,
the child begotten of their love.
Johannes is loved simply for being who he is,
for being who he is in Andrea’s and Ben’s hearts and eyes and arms.
And in the same way,
only more deeply if you can imagine it,
you and I are loved by God simply for being who we are,
in God’s heart and eyes and arms.
In the second lesson today Saint Paul called himself
“the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle…”
but God broke through Paul’s feeling of being worthless
so that he could also write what we just heard:
“I am what I am - by the grace of God -
and God’s grace in me has not been in vain…”
I’m reminded of the words of John Newton,
the composer of Amazing Grace who also wrote this:
"I am not what I ought to be,
I am not what I want to be,
I am not what I hope to be in another world;
but still I am not what I once used to be,
and by the grace of God,
I am what I am."
Who I truly am is who I am in God - and nothing more.
(Do you remember a post by Brother Patrick?)
Who I am is not the sum of my accomplishments
nor of my circumstances -- much less of my failures.
Who I most truly am is who I am in God’s heart and eyes and arms
and nothing more – and nothing less - than that.
Like Isaiah and Paul and Luke,
if you and I are to hear God calling us
and if we are to respond to whatever that call might be,
we will need to believe that God loves us, always:
that we are loved by God simply for being who God made us to be.
Now if, after all that, your doubts still linger,
simply look to the image of the Lord’s love
that hangs above our prayer and see on the Cross:
the Lord who cleansed Isaiah with a kiss of mercy;
the Lord who called Paul, the persecutor, to be an apostle;
the Lord who told Peter, a sinful man, “Don't be afraid of me…”
If you have doubts about the Lord’s love for you,
then come to his table where he has set a place for you
and where he will refresh you with his own life in the Eucharist
and this he will do because who you truly are is who you are in God,
and in the heart, the eyes and the arms of God,
you are the Lord’s beloved.
Posted by Austin Fleming at 11:30 AM