12Jul 12th July. Saturday, Week 14.

First Reading: Isaiah 6:1-8

(While praying in the temple, Isaiah is called to his great prophetic ministry.)

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke.

And I said: “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.”

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!”

Gospel: Matthew 10:24-33

(Wise maxims, everything will be revealed; the soul is more important than the body.)

“A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!

“So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.

“Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.

A Life of quiet Courage

There is no logical order in the various maxims gathered in the Gospel. In fact, the some of same maxims are quoted in other gospels while giving them a different application. To get their meaning, one must believe firmly in God’s providence that reaches mightily from end to end (Wis 8:1). The world of our lifetime, like that of our ancestors, contains mysteries beyond our human ability to unravel. The Scriptures offer clues and pointers to enable us to understand them in part, and what we find, we must “proclaim from the housetops,” says Jesus. No insight should be neglected or disdained. The smallest part of truth, like a single hair among the thousands on our head or like a single sparrow among the millions across the earth, is precious in God’s sight.

With what a sense of wonder must the old man Jacob have looksed back on his life. He has married his wives in Haran (northern Syria), lived in Israel amid the jealous rivalries of his sons and the sorrow of losing one of them, and is now about to die in Egypt. God’s providence has led him along the way and will provide for his bones to be buried back in the promised land, in the ancestral plot once purchased by grandfather Abraham. Egypt, then, was just one stage along the journey of a long life, lived in the mysterious way of God’s providence. So many moments of Jacob’s life seem to clash with the promises made to his father Abraham and then to himself. Yet his strange, paradoxical life ends up triumphantly, for the hand of God was always with him.

The same mystery of divine providence is seen in the prophet Isaiah, the master stylist who can find a phrase that remains forever in our memory. Perhaps no prophet is more quotable, more universally applicable than Isaiah. He has been called the fifth evangelist, for his words fit so well into the story of Jesus. Each day through the world we sing the Isaian words at the liturgy: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts.” In today’s reading he highlights the contrast between two kings, Uzziah and Yahweh. While Uzziah died of leprosy, confined to the dark inner rooms of the palace, Yahweh’s glory streams across the universe. Isaiah saw the Lord within the Holy of Holies, “seated on a high and lofty throne” between the seraphim. While another might feel doomed by this, for “who can see God and live?” (Exod 33:20), Isaiah goes to meet the challenge, “Here I am; send me.”

Only by such sturdy faith can we reach and remain true to the marvellous ways of providence. These converge on Mary, the woman of faith in the gospels, the virgin who paradoxically gives birth to the Saviour, the silent person of prayer by the cross and in the upper room who becomes the mother of the church.