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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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Bernadette Soubirous: Bernadette Soubirous was born in 1844, the first child of an extremely poor miller in the town of Lourdes in southern France. The family was living in the basement of a dilapidated building when on February 11,1858, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Bernadette in a cave above the banks of the Gave River near Lourdes. Bernadette, 14 years old, was known as a virtuous girl though a dull student who had not even made her first Holy Communion. In poor health, she had suffered from asthma from an early age. 
<p>There were 18 appearances in all, the final one occurring on the feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, July 16. Although Bernadette's initial reports provoked skepticism, her daily visions of "the Lady" brought great crowds of the curious. The Lady, Bernadette explained, had instructed her to have a chapel built on the spot of the visions. There the people were to come to wash in and drink of the water of the spring that had welled up from the very spot where Bernadette had been instructed to dig. </p><p>According to Bernadette, the Lady of her visions was a girl of 16 or 17 who wore a white robe with a blue sash. Yellow roses covered her feet, a large rosary was on her right arm. In the vision on March 25 she told Bernadette, "I am the Immaculate Conception." It was only when the words were explained to her that Bernadette came to realize who the Lady was. </p><p>Few visions have ever undergone the scrutiny that these appearances of the Immaculate Virgin were subject to. Lourdes became one of the most popular Marian shrines in the world, attracting millions of visitors. Miracles were reported at the shrine and in the waters of the spring. After thorough investigation Church authorities confirmed the authenticity of the apparitions in 1862. </p><p>During her life Bernadette suffered much. She was hounded by the public as well as by civic officials until at last she was protected in a convent of nuns. Five years later she petitioned to enter the Sisters of Notre Dame. After a period of illness she was able to make the journey from Lourdes and enter the novitiate. But within four months of her arrival she was given the last rites of the Church and allowed to profess her vows. She recovered enough to become infirmarian and then sacristan, but chronic health problems persisted. She died on April 16, 1879, at the age of 35. </p><p>She was canonized in 1933.</p> American Catholic Blog In humility, a woman ultimately forgets 
herself; forgets both her shortcomings and accomplishments equally and 
strives to remain empty of self to make room for Jesus, just as Mary 
did.

 
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