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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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Lorenzo Ruiz and Companions: Lawrence (Lorenzo) was born in Manila of a Chinese father and a Filipino mother, both Christians. Thus he learned Chinese and Tagalog from them and Spanish from the Dominicans whom he served as altar boy and sacristan. He became a professional calligrapher, transcribing documents in beautiful penmanship. He was a full member of the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary under Dominican auspices. He married and had two sons and a daughter. 
<p>His life took an abrupt turn when he was accused of murder. Nothing further is known except the statement of two Dominicans that "he was sought by the authorities on account of a homicide to which he was present or which was attributed to him." </p><p>At that time three Dominican priests, Antonio Gonzalez, Guillermo Courtet and Miguel de Aozaraza, were about to sail to Japan in spite of a violent persecution there. With them was a Japanese priest, Vicente Shiwozuka de la Cruz, and a layman named Lazaro, a leper. Lorenzo, having taken asylum with them, was allowed to accompany them. But only when they were at sea did he learn that they were going to Japan. </p><p>They landed at Okinawa. Lorenzo could have gone on to Formosa, but, he reported, "I decided to stay with the Fathers, because the Spaniards would hang me there." In Japan they were soon found out, arrested and taken to Nagasaki. The site of wholesale bloodshed when the atomic bomb was dropped had known tragedy before. The 50,000 Catholics who once lived there were dispersed or killed by persecution. </p><p>They were subjected to an unspeakable kind of torture: After huge quantities of water were forced down their throats, they were made to lie down. Long boards were placed on their stomachs and guards then stepped on the ends of the boards, forcing the water to spurt violently from mouth, nose and ears. </p><p>The superior, Antonio, died after some days. Both the Japanese priest and Lazaro broke under torture, which included the insertion of bamboo needles under their fingernails. But both were brought back to courage by their companions. </p><p>In Lorenzo's moment of crisis, he asked the interpreter, "I would like to know if, by apostatizing, they will spare my life." The interpreter was noncommittal, but Lorenzo, in the ensuing hours, felt his faith grow strong. He became bold, even audacious, with his interrogators. </p><p>The five were put to death by being hanged upside down in pits. Boards fitted with semicircular holes were fitted around their waists and stones put on top to increase the pressure. They were tightly bound, to slow circulation and prevent a speedy death. They were allowed to hang for three days. By that time Lorenzo and Lazaro were dead. The three Dominican priests, still alive, were beheaded. </p><p>In 1987, Blessed John Paul II canonized these six and 10 others, Asians and Europeans, men and women, who spread the faith in the Philippines, Formosa and Japan. Lorenzo Ruiz is the first canonized Filipino martyr.</p> American Catholic Blog We don’t have to scrub off our sin so God can love us. Instead, when we allow God’s healing love to touch us, we want to leave sin behind. Growth starts in love, not in guilt.

 
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