Called to Live Anew

“Here I am,” I said; “send me!”

Anew – it is a word we will focus on for years to come. Now is the time for our next great step together, to call people anew to knowing, loving, and serving the Lord and His Holy Church right here at this parish.

We have certainty in the gospel. We know the things we are to share – love that conquers all things and the gifts of the Kingdom life to the unexpected in unexpected ways.

You can imagine the unexpectedness of Isaiah ‘s encounter with God as he was pulled into the heavenly court to meet God face-to-face. Isaiah well knew that no one could survive such an encounter and live. Isaiah literally says: “Woe is me, I am doomed!” Yet the God of the unexpected did something – well unexpected. 

God cleansed and freed Isaiah from his unclean lips and his life in and among a people of uncleanliness – sin. God freed Isaiah from certain death. Then God sent Isaiah to proclaim His word to the people. To do all necessary to draw the people back to God.

Likewise, Jesus caused Simon and the other fishermen with him to face something unexpected, a great catch and an even greater call to evangelize the people, to make the promise of the Kingdom life known. They then did something equally unexpected – they left everything behind – their life’s work, investments, all they had to follow Jesus.

St. Paul fully realized the unexpectedness of his call. He calls himself least of the Apostles, realizing and acknowledging his sins – the very persecution of the Church and how he had been forgiven. 

 All of these lessons point to our call to live anew and to speak to others of our God, to spread the gospel, to make Jesus known.

Like Isaiah, we must recognize that the Lord God has cleansed us for the work we are to do and has sent us forth to proclaim His word. As with Paul, we have been set free from wrongdoing to be apostles in our world, to make the truth of the gospel known. Like Simon and the other fisherman, we are called to get up and go, to set aside those things we might otherwise feel important and focus our efforts on the Kingdom of God.

Today we gather in the grand tradition of our Ecclesial-democratic establishment, to reflect on the work of the year gone by and to set our eyes forward. We are, like Paul, to hand on to others as of first importance what we also received: that Christ died for our sins, that he was buried; and that he was raised on the third day. Let us set out and preach the gospel we have been given for the benefit of those who Jesus has also called. Those who would not know Him without us.

Expect the
amazing.

And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”

Jesus appears again resurrected.  He encounters His disciples at the Sea of Tiberias. We have all the drama of the encounter with the unexpected. The disciples do not recognize Jesus. He sounds like a sideline commentator; hey you should fish over there. Peter, the nearly naked fisherman runs for cover once John recognizes Jesus.

So much of Jesus’ ministry is an encounter with the unexpected. The widow, bringing out her dead son, sees him risen. Martha and Mary, thinking Jesus too late, see their brother risen. The woman caught in adultery, the Samaritan woman who went from man-to-man, find the Lord full of both insight and compassionate forgiveness.

Last Sunday, we were asked to share Jesus, His resurrected life, His mercy, His central role in our life. If we did, did we experience an encounter with the unexpected? Did Jesus show up, surprisingly, and give new sight, new freedom, and forgiveness?

The disciples, the nascent Church, found Jesus with them. In spite of locked doors, unbelief, poor fishing, lack of insight, nakedness, and past. He returned and returns, feeding, instructing, forgiving.

Do we perceive or understand this resurrected Lord? Are we ready to really get what’s going on? If we truly saw, if this empty tomb, the glory of Easter morning hit us full on, life would be so different. Why?

Because we have a life of unexpected encounter in Jesus. We have been changed. Hit with this power, Revelation tells us: the elders fell down and worshiped. Knowing what we have this minute, knowing what we will receive, knowing the power of our baptism and our sealing with the Holy Spirit, we would be out those doors proclaiming like the first apostles: “We must obey God rather than men.” Jesus was killed and is raised. Jesus is exalted. Jesus offers you opportunity for repentance and forgiveness. I am His witness. We are His witnesses, here in Schenectady, and Scotia, and Glenville, Rotterdam, across New York, and everywhere we go. We would be constantly in awe. But we are afraid.

Peter was afraid, naked in his betrayal – until the unexpected. Jesus was there telling Him as He tells us: Let go. Be unafraid. Follow me. Feed and tend. Expect the amazing.

Expect the
unexpected.

“Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.”

What doesn’t change? If we took a moment, we could probably jot down a list of the things that don’t change a whole lot from year to year, Christmas to Christmas.

Those red poinsettias that always decorate the parish; they’re so beautiful. But wait; didn’t Fr. Jim add while ones a couple years ago to signify the purity of the Christ child? Hmmm.

Growing up we always went to my aunt and uncle’s house down the street for the Christmas vigil. It was a night filled with tradition. We had the same soup and food. We waited until the dishes were washed before we got around to opening presents. My one cousin was the one to hand everything out. We waited for that moment we all knew was coming when one of my cousins would open her gift only to find it was a new set of underwear – she got the same gift from her mom every year. We would all chuckle and comment. Then we would walk home and try to rest before the shepherd’s Holy Mass at midnight. Those dinners and the gift of underwear have changed.

Our memories are filled with experiences we thought would never change. Instinct, intellect, and common sense were disregarded because we were so sure they would never end. This will happen, be repeated, year after year.

In the Christmas proclamation we hear that Jesus was born 5,199 years after the foundation of the world. Consider a world caught up in the expected for thousands of years. The children of Israel hoped for the Messiah, but I am pretty sure they set most of that hope aside –nothing is going to change.

Then, suddenly, the heavenly host appears. The angel proclaims the news: “a savior has been born for you who is the Messiah, the Lord.”

Savior has a particular meaning. The Messiah is to be the Rescuer. The Savior is indeed the Rescuer. He will pull us up out of trouble. He rescues us from sin, from hopelessness, and most of all from the expected.

The world stood in silence waiting and suddenly everything changed. The unexpected happened. The Messiah – not a civil ruler and army commander – but God’s only Son made flesh and blood. He is God as child, as baby, coming in the poorest of conditions. He is God Who wipes away all separation. He is God who reaches out to us. We need not plead, we need do nothing, for He did it all for us. Wherever we are, whatever we expect, the one sure unchanging things one our list is God who rescued us, God Who always delivers unexpected love. Do not be afraid – be sure of Him.