5th Sunday in Ordinary Time Reflection by Rachel Espinoza

I might be a Church nerd, but I love it when all of the readings for Sunday Mass coalesce around a single theme. Usually, the first reading and the Gospel have some parallel, but it’s not often that the second reading gets in on the action too. Today is one of those lucky days!

In our first reading, the prophet Isaiah sees the glory of the Lord and cries out that he is doomed, as he is a sinner. (In the Old Testament, there was a sense that not even the most righteous among us could look upon the glory of the Lord and live, let alone a sinner.) An angel of God comes and touches his lips with a burning coal and announces that his sin is removed. Then the Lord asks whom God can send, and Isaiah replies, “‘Here I am,’ I said; ‘send me!’” (Isaiah 6:5-8). In the longer version of our second reading, St. Paul recounts how he too was called to bear witness to the Gospel, despite the fact that he had once violently persecuted the nascent Church. Finally, in our Gospel reading, after the Lord causes a miraculous catch of fish, Peter drops to his knees and says, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” But Jesus replies to him, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people” (Luke 5:8, 10b).

What are all of these passages trying to communicate about God to us today? I think if I had to summarize, it would be this: When God looks at us, God does not see a laundry list of all the things we have ever done wrong. Rather, when God looks at us, God only sees His beloved children and all the glory that we are capable of, what we can become when His grace is perfected in us. God sees only the good that we are, and that we can become. And in the presence of that loving gaze of our God, we can be transformed into the person God has created us to be. In the loving gaze of God, a sinner like Isaiah becomes a prophet to his people, Paul an apostle of Christ, and Peter, the head of the Church!
What our readings today tell us, is that God’s gaze upon us is more like the way a sculptor looks at the unchiseled hunk of marble in front of him and sees a hidden masterpiece; the way a seasoned coach looks at the wiry, undisciplined youth before her and sees a champion in the making; the entrepreneur who looks out in a time of economic downturn and yet who sees new possibilities…

Realizing this was a profound shift in how I thought about God. For so many years, I assumed that when God looked at us, he saw only our faults and our flaws, only the ways we fell short of God’s standards. I presumed then, that this meant that God looked upon us with some sort of disdain or disappointment. Nothing could be further from the truth!

To close, let us reflect on this point: What would happen if the way God sees us—with this freshness, this newness, with an eye to the glory that is within us—what would happen in our world if we went around and saw each other in this same light? What if instead of fixating on my neighbor’s faults, I tried to see them through God’s eyes? What if I asked God to show me the beauty that God has placed inside of them and which is still in process of unfolding in their life? How would that change the way I interact—even with those who are the hardest for me to love? What if instead of looking in judgment, I began to pray fervently that the glory that God has hidden in them would become more manifest in their life? Could then, the way that I look at my neighbors around me, give them a glimpse of the loving gaze of God? How might this help them to become the person who God has ultimately created them to be?