Responding to the Sacred
The First Reading is an account of the call of the Prophet Isaiah. He has a heavenly vision of God seated on His throne, surrounded by angels and all the glory of heaven. He hears the proclamation that we imitate at every Mass: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts! All the earth is filled with his glory!”
What would be our reaction to such a vision? Terror? Awe? Would we whip out our iPhone and snap a picture and share it on Instagram? Would our life be any different because of it? What was Isaiah’s response?
“Woe is me, I am doomed!” he says. Recognizing that he is a sinful man living in a sinful world, the prophet doesn’t see himself as worthy to even look upon such an awesome vision. He believes that he is doomed, because how could such sinful eyes look on such a holy sight? How could such sinful lips tell anyone else of such a holy reality? Isaiah is showing us the virtues of piety and fear of the Lord. Both of these virtues (gifts of the Holy Spirit) are directed at God as the supreme good, the creator of all, and our Father. They recognize that we are small and insignificant compared to the holiness of God and His saints, and they express this unworthiness in light of that awesome glory.
St. Peter also shows these virtues in the face of Jesus when he says, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” It is an acknowledgement of the holiness of Jesus – and, in fact, a reference to the fact that Jesus is God. Paul as well is aware of his unworthiness to even speak about Jesus or to be counted as one of His friends: “I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle.” Peter and Paul demonstrate, again, the virtues of fear of the Lord and of piety.
What about us? Do we remember leaning that such virtues exist? Do we exercise them? Or is the world so ordinary and our experience so common that nothing surprises us, and nothing is really sacred?
These readings this weekend are a call to us to return to this sense of the sacred – especially here in the presence of God at Mass. We should ask ourselves if we have the same attitude of piety and fear of the Lord that Isaiah, Paul, and Peter show when we realize that we are not only in the presence of God but we are invited to touch and receive Him in the Eucharist! Is that “ordinary”?
Very often in this day and age, we have lost all sense of reverence and holiness in various spheres of life. I also see this happening in church – as if our presence here is the same as going to a sporting event or a movie. Are we guilty of “de-sacralizing” the Mass by carrying on loud conversations that have nothing to do with God? Are we always focused on the Word and the prayers and the meaning of the gestures that we do? Do we read the bulleting during a time that should be devoted to prayerful attentiveness? Are we looking to entertained by the homily or the music?
None of these things are what we come here for – none of them are worthy of the profound reality that we are celebrating. God is present here at Mass! We acknowledge this when we proclaim “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to people of good will.” We echo the holy angels’ praises when we acclaim “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts! Heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest!” We announce our own unworthiness when we respond to the vision of the Lamb of God, “Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”
Friends, these cannot be empty words or gestures. We stand because God’s holy Word is addressed to us; we kneel because the sublime mystery of Jesus’ presence is unfolding in front of us. These actions and words mean something! Let us recommit ourselves to recognizing the holiness of God in our lives and respond to that holiness with piety and fear of the Lord. It is the only appropriate response, in fact. God is present right now. What is your response?