The C.C.C. #1303 teaches that “Confirmation brings an increase and deepening of baptismal grace: it roots us more deeply as children of God; it unites us more firmly to Christ;…it gives us a special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith by word and action as true witnesses of Christ, to confess the name of Christ boldly, and never to be ashamed of the Cross.”
Today’s reflection is on the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Sunday February 10, 2019, and the readings can be found by clicking here. This reflection was given as a homily at the Deuel Vocational Institute, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, in Tracy.
Last week I said that God can use, and has used, the most unlikely of characters to bring the Good News of salvation, and the message of love to the world! Today we witness the criteria of the messenger. We see that those who call themselves Christians–disciples of the Lord, Jesus Christ must watch their mouth!
God starts with the messenger–the prophet of the Lord, who announces the good news of salvation to the all the world. First of all, what is a prophet? The word “prophet” literally means, “a mouthpiece.” Think of one of those guys who has a puppet on his knee and the puppet speaks for the guy holding it. The puppets mouth is moving, but we all know that the person holding the puppet is doing the talking! The puppet is the mouthpiece of the puppeteer. That’s a helpful way of understanding the biblical prophet. The prophet is not a teller of the future, but a teller of the promises of God and the love of God for his people! That’s a prophet, and that’s what every baptized and confirmed Christian is called to be! We are called to be God’s mouthpiece of salvation to the world.
That’s our call, to spread and defend the faith by word and deed and to boldly confess the name of Jesus. So, step one of being a prophet, is that we need to be willing to allow God to use our lips to proclaim His truth! And God’s truth is holy and pure (and often times our lips are not!) So, step one…clean up that filthy mouth! We too often use profanity, drop “F” bombs all throughout the day, use the name of our God in vein, and speak about others in unholy and disrespectful ways. We talk trash, complain, and create divisions, rivalry, pain, and sadness. The book of James calls the tongue a fire! He say, “It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings who are made in the image of God.” (James 3:6-10)
Growing up we often heard that, “sticks and stones may break our bones, but words will never hurt us,” but you and I know that that simply isn’t true. Words do hurt. Our words can be life giving or death dealing, they can heal and raise others up, and they can create brokenness and bring others down–and we need to watch our mouth. We need to be like Isaiah, who understood that he had a filthy mouth! He said, “Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips living among a people of unclean lips!” Can anyone say that with me? Can I get a witness?!” Is 6:1-2a, 3-8
Or like Peter in today’s Gospel, when we encounter the Lord, we don’t stand proud like God’s going to be so impressed with me! No, when we stand next to the God of the universe we stand bare–we stand humiliated by His greatness and generosity, and our own spiritual impoverishment and selfishness. That’s what we mean by fear of the Lord. Have you ever looked in the mirror when you get out of the shower and thought, “What’s this all about? When did I get so flabby? I’m disgusting!” Or you’re at the pool or the lake and some guy walks by that’s your age and height, but geez! the guy is rip-zilla and looks like he NEVER leaves the gym except to walk out to the pool and shame everyone else! It kinda makes us want to put our beer and cookies down and do some push-ups, right? When we stand next to another human we often realize how far we have fallen and how much we need to improve…how much more with God?
With God, we have nothing to brag about and nothing to complain about. Sometimes we’re like, “Jesus, you’re going to be so impressed! I am a Marine!” Jesus says, “Yes, that’s nice. I am God, commander of the legions of heaven. You don’t even have anything on St. Michael the archangel, tough guy.”
“But look how smart I am! I graduated college and can speak some Portuguese and, you know, a little Spanish! Que Bueno, Si?” And Jesus says, “I created all knowledge and every language. In a single moment, my Spirit gave the Apostles the ability to speak in every tongue at Pentecost.” My brothers we have nothing to brag about. No accomplishment to offer. We can’t even boast of our suffering and hardships.
You know how you get together with your buddies and start talking about whose childhood sucked the most! “I grew up poor, Jesus. I hardly ever had anything to eat and dad never paid child-support! Things have been so tough for me!” Jesus says, “I was betrayed by my friend, handed over to be scourged at the pillar, and was crucified, died, and was buried…how tough did you say your life was again?” When we stand before God, we do not brag, we do not boast, we do not complain and feel sorry for ourselves; like Peter, when we stand before the greatness of God we fall at the knees of Jesus and say, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”
The example of Isaiah that we are an unclean person living among unclean people, and of Peter that we are sinful men, give us the insight today, that God does not need our lives to have been perfect or great, but he does need us to be aware of who we are, where we’ve been, and have a real desire to change. God needs us to stop lying to ourselves about how great we are or about how bad we’ve been. God needs his people to acknowledge their sins and fall on their knees. And when this happens, if we’re willing to do this, an ember will touch our lips and we will hear, “See, now that this has touched your lips, your wickedness is removed, your sin purged.” We will hear Jesus speak to our hearts; he will say, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be fisher’s of men.” And it will be so. And we will be called a prophet of the most high God, the Lord Jesus Christ. May God bless you mightily this week. Amen.
Am I honest with myself and God about my weaknesses and shortcomings?
Do I boast of my accomplishments and take pride in earthly status symbols?
When others hear my words, do they hear the voice of God..a voice filled with love, goodness, and truth?
Am I willing to fall on my knees and acknowledge that I am a sinful man with unclean lips? And do I have a desire to change?