Extreme Response or WWJD
Following God is seldom easy. We can look to the record of the prophets in the Old Testament and Jesus' closest disciples in the New Testament. Only John seems to have died of old age. Following God's directives, doing what Jesus told them to do, got them killed. It is the same today in many places in the world.
Sometimes those who follow Jesus do, or want to do, the wrong thing. When Peter cut off the ear of the servant of one of the men who had come to arrest Jesus, Jesus healed the man's ear. Even in a time of high stress, Jesus showed compassion and offered healing.
Another time Jesus had to rebuke James and John. When they had been refused hospitality in a Samaritan village (another case of no room in the inn?), they asked Jesus, "Do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?" (Luke 9:54) Calling down fire from heaven seems like an extreme response to a small rejection, and certainly Jesus tells them they are out of order.
But what else does that question indicate to us? That they believed they had the power to call down fire from heaven.
For reflection: Jesus never called down fire from heaven, as far as we know. What made James and John think this was possible and appropriate? Is there a time when this might be appropriate?
Let us pray. Lord of Justice, Lord of Mercy. You who want all people to be saved and none to be lost, help us to curb our baser instincts and listen to your guiding wisdom. Help us to know how to use the power that you give us to increase your Kingdom on earth.
Let's look at another prophet who didn't exactly make an excuse to God, but who recognized his deficiency before he answered a call from God. Isaiah has a vivid vision in which he sees the throne room of God Almighty with angels worshipping in full voice. The room shook and was filled with smoke. The magnificence of the vision terrorizes Isaiah, who cries out, "Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty" (Isaiah 6:1-5).
One of the angels flies to Isaiah and touches a live coal to his lips as an act of atonement for his sin and remission of his guilt. Being cleansed, he is no longer a man of unclean lips. So when God asks, "Whom shall I send?" Isaiah is able to answer, "Send me" (Isaiah 6:6-8).
Does Isaiah even know what he is volunteering for? Perhaps not. But by cleansing him God has equipped him to speak to a nation where justice is perverted, the poor are oppressed, idols are worshipped and the government looks to pagan nations for help rather than to God. But we see that just as God gave words to Moses and Jeremiah, God supplied words of prophecy to Isaiah. God does not call anyone without equipping them to do the job.
For reflection: To what mission has God called me? How has God equipped me for that mission?
Le us pray. Lord, we bow before your holiness and acknowledge that we too are a people of unclean lips. We see justice perverted and don't speak up. We see the poor oppressed and expect someone else to do something. We see our nation turn for help to anyone but you. Cleanse us of our sin, equip us with your words, and help us to proclaim your righteousness in the land. Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Excuses vs. Obedience
Jeremiah, like Moses, made objections to God's call. Jeremiah's excuses were "I do not know how to speak" and "I am only a child" (Jeremiah 1:6). I don't know how old Jeremiah was when God called him, but being young seems like a good reason to postpone being a prophet. However old he was though, God did not accept that as an excuse. In fact, God said, "Do not say, 'I am only a child.' You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you" (Jeremiah 1:7-8).
As with Moses, God promised to tell him what to say. As with Moses, God promised to be with him. As with Moses, God sent him to a hostile audience. God did not promise that Jeremiah would not suffer for being a prophet, but he promised to rescue him. "Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land. They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you," he assured Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:18-19).
On the outside, it might look like Jeremiah was a failure because, on the whole, the kings and the nations did not listen to God's word through him. But in God's eyes he was successful because he completed the task God gave him; he fulfilled his calling; he was obedient. He did not let his original excuses - I don't know how to speak and I'm too young - hold him back.
For reflection: How obedient am I to answering God's call? Do I trust God to give me the words to speak when I need them?
Let us pray. Lord, here I am. I trust you not to call me to do anything you will not enable me to do. I place my trust in you.
I started this website and blog on May 1, 2012. I am a Catholic who has been in ministry for many years. I first developed what I would call a close relationship with Jesus in the early 1970s. Ever since then I have been praying with people for healing and other needs. It is because I have seen so many of these prayers answered that I am so bold as to offer to pray for you individually through this website and phone line.