Sunday Reflection with Fr Terry Tastard - 7 February 2010

Holy  Trinity Church

Holy Trinity Church

What would it be like to have an overwhelming experience of the presence  of God?  Most Christians must have wondered about this.  There are times when we long for God to show himself, for a dramatic revelation which would convince others and for that matter convince ourselves.  Life, we think, would be so much easier.  But would it?  Each of the scriptures this weekend brings us a moment when people suddenly experienced the powerful presence of God.  But each of these experiences makes us realise how challenging it is when God reveals himself.  

In the first reading (Isa. 6.1-8) we are in the Temple at Jerusalem 740 years  before the birth of Jesus.  The choir sings.  The incense wafts upwards. 

Suddenly Isaiah feels the earth tremble beneath him.  The veil that hides  eternity is lifted and he glimpses the glory of God and his attendant angels. In  the second reading (1 Cor. 15.1-11) Paul mentions that when the risen Christ  appeared to him, it was a shock, like an unexpected birth in which he was  thrust out of the womb into the world.  In the gospel (Luke 5.1-11) we are with fishermen on the sun-dappled Sea of Galilee.  Here Peter finds that amid the ordinary rhythms of the day, there is a moment of revelation:  after a  miraculous catch of fish he realizes Jesus is the Holy One.  Each is a very different experience, yet we can see come common elements.

First, there is penitence. You cannot experience something of God's holiness  without knowing your own unworthiness. And so Isaiah cries out that he is a man of unclean lips, Paul confesses that he is unworthy, for he has persecuted the Christians. Peter falls to his knees before Jesus saying, 'Leave me Lord, I am a sinful man' (5.8).

Second, there is an experience of call to service.  Isaiah answers the Lord’s call by saying:  ‘Here I am.  Send me.’  Paul becomes a tireless evangelist.  And in the gospel, Peter, James and John leave everything to follow Jesus.  If we long for God to reveal himself, then we need to be aware that should this  happen, life will not be the same afterwards.  To have been seized by God’s love, or to have glimpsed his power and glory would mean that you would  have to speak about it to others.  God’s revelation would not be haphazard.  It would be for a purpose.  We would feel impelled to do our best to open the hearts of others to understand God’s love.  
Finally, hidden within these remarkable experiences that we read about  today, there is a third element:  faithfulness to the community.  Not every religious experience is genuine.  Some are destabilising and spring from the emotions, rather than from God.  Certainly Isaiah could not have been easy to live with, but his concern was the welfare of God’s people.  Paul built up churches around the Mediterranean.  Peter joins the band of disciples that will continue Jesus’s ministry, and be the nucleus of the Church.  These were strong individuals, but their true concern was the good of the whole community.

Fr Terry is Parish Priest at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Brook Green, west London.   His new book:  Ronald Knox and English Catholicism is published by Gracewing at £12.99 and is available on Amazon, from religious booksellers and from the publisher.
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