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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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Conversion of St. Paul: Paul’s entire life can be explained in terms of one experience—his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus. In an instant, he saw that all the zeal of his dynamic personality was being wasted, like the strength of a boxer swinging wildly. Perhaps he had never seen Jesus, who was only a few years older. But he had acquired a zealot’s hatred of all Jesus stood for, as he began to harass the Church: “...entering house after house and dragging out men and women, he handed them over for imprisonment” (Acts 8:3b). Now he himself was “entered,” possessed, all his energy harnessed to one goal—being a slave of Christ in the ministry of reconciliation, an instrument to help others experience the one Savior. 
<p>One sentence determined his theology: “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:5b). Jesus was mysteriously identified with people—the loving group of people Saul had been running down like criminals. Jesus, he saw, was the mysterious fulfillment of all he had been blindly pursuing. </p><p>From then on, his only work was to “present everyone perfect in Christ. For this I labor and struggle, in accord with the exercise of his power working within me” (Colossians 1:28b-29). “For our gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and [with] much conviction” (1 Thessalonians 1:5a). </p><p>Paul’s life became a tireless proclaiming and living out of the message of the cross: Christians die baptismally to sin and are buried with Christ; they are dead to all that is sinful and unredeemed in the world. They are made into a new creation, already sharing Christ’s victory and someday to rise from the dead like him. Through this risen Christ the Father pours out the Spirit on them, making them completely new. </p><p>So Paul’s great message to the world was: You are saved entirely by God, not by anything you can do. Saving faith is the gift of total, free, personal and loving commitment to Christ, a commitment that then bears fruit in more “works” than the Law could ever contemplate.</p> American Catholic Blog If you’re confused as to why God would die for you, you either need to rethink your vision of His mercy or of your own worth.

 
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