Fith Sunday Ordinary Time 2019
How often do we come to a crossroads and need to decide which direction to take? How do we chose, flip a coin – heads go left, and tails go right? Or do we stand far too long deliberating on the choice where either direction leads us into the unknown? In our daily lives, we daily encounter many crossroads that may have very lasting effects on our lives. We chose and sometimes only later realize the positive or negative result of our decisions. The primary characters in the three readings today Isaiah, Paul, and the Apostle Simon Peter find themselves at such crossroads of choosing the way of the Lord or resume their established lifestyle ignoring the opportunity to serve God.
In every reading this weekend, the characters are offered a choice to follow God or continue with their safe, predictable life. God called Isaiah to become his prophet and admonish the Jews to return to the ethical practices of justice and charity and depend on God for deliverance from the Assyrians invaders and not on alliances with human kings. Knowing the stubbornness of the Jews and the size of the Assyrian horde, Isaiah questions his ability to speak God’s message effectively. Instead of being struck down at visualizing the glory of God on his throne, Isaiah recognizes the significance of his calling to prophesy. With the purification of his tongue, Isaiah, at a crossroad of faith, turns toward God with the words “Here I am, send me.” Isaiah would predict God’s judgment of the unrepentant Jews with fall of Jerusalem. Isaiah remained faithful to proclaiming the words of God even after the Assyrians exiled him to die in a foreign land. Today we still hear the words of Isaiah pleading with us to find favor with God by changing our lives, seeking justice and charity for others to avoid the eternal pains of eternal separation from God.
Paul, comments in First Corinthians, that he also responded to God’s call after experiencing his dramatic conversion. Paul, as a reverent Jew, had used his faith to persecute the followers of Jesus. It was upon hearing the voice of Jesus and his blindness along the road to Damascus that Paul experienced his crossroad of faith. He chose Jesus and began the Great Commission to convert the Gentiles. Paul, supplied by the grace of the Holy Spirit, no longer hounded the non-Jews but embraced them with beliefs of Jesus. In turning down the road to follow Jesus, Paul became the advocate and preacher to the Gentiles. Paul persecuted and eventually martyred, actions he once promoted against the Christians, would not turn away from the charge Jesus gave him to evangelize the world.
Simon Peter, in Luke’s Gospel today, too was at a crossroads of choice. This event was only one of many faith crossroads where Peter had to choose between his desires and Jesus, his teacher. Luke describes Peter’s hesitancy of dropping the nets into the water after an unsuccessful day of fishing. Peter, in exasperation, questioned Jesus’ command to reset the nets, a carpenter’s son who did not know about fishing. After being swamped with fish, Peter accepts that his sin of disbelief makes him unworthy to be a follower of Jesus. “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man.” Jesus in accepting Peter plea for forgiveness consoles him with words “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” In faith, Peter and the others walked away from their boat and chose Jesus, still another crossroad in their faith journey. Many more times would Peter make wrong choices, recognizes his wrongdoing, repent, and strive to pick the right road at the next crossroads. It only when Peter turns himself entirely over to the mission of Jesus, that Peter accepts the keys of the Church and confidently take the road to Rome, where he encounters his crucifixion and his salvation.
What have been our choices when coming to a crossroad of faith? Do we speak upon the discovery of an injustice? Or do we turn away and pretend we did not see? Do we remain silent when others describe Catholics as non-Christian or do we boldly speak out correcting errors about our faith? Do we ignore the calls for volunteering and giving for the needs of the parish or do we cheerfully raise our hands and open our wallets?
Throughout our daily lives, we must make decisions at our crossroads–God’s way or ours? Committing to God may cause fear; fear of change; fear of being ridiculed; fear of feeling unworthy. As Jesus says, “Do not be afraid” for God’s grace opens our eyes to the possibilities of bringing his message into the world of disbelief. Although we will not always pick the correct turn at the crossroads, our devotion to God will take us back to the road of salvation.
Thus says the Lord:
Stand at the crossroads, and look,
and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way lies; and walk in it,
and find rest for your souls. (Jeremiah 6:16)
Deacon Dan Gilbert