Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us? ”And I said, “Here I am. Send me!” Isaiah 6:8
It is Ordinary time and we are ordinary people….broken and beautiful. We are the greatest fruit of creation, but like the prophet Isaiah we are an unclean people with unclean lips.
This reading is a strange one. The seraph flew up to Isaiah with a burning coal held by tongs and touched it to his lips. From there his guilt and his sin departed. We do not know what his sins may have been, because they are not altogether important. What is important was not that he was sinful, but that he was forgiven. In this Gregory of Nyssa was right in saying he was more properly an evangelist than a prophet. For like the evangelists, he knew the saving act of God that would come to fullness centuries later not with burning lips, but with a tortured body and a broken heart.
It is ordinary time and we have come already through that cycle of the church year that celebrates the saving act of Christ to that place where attention is turned back to the earth and its creatures and what a redeemed people may do to be part of that story. The prophet shows us the answer and the answer is really two-fold. Listen to the voice of God. Then respond.
It seems easy enough, but not really because after we say “send me” we must be prepared to ask, “where will You send me.” And this can demand of us such extraordinary things and we are such an ordinary people.
So we are an unclean people with unclean lips, but not really, because we have been washed in the fierce tide of blood and water. We walk everyday washed in the flood of our baptisms. We have confessed with our lips the unclean things and with these same lips tasted salvation at the sacred table. There is nothing ordinary about these things, which allow us to say “send me.”
And like the prophet we go into the world with our small ordinary selves knowing that contained in our small ordinary selves is the extraordinary story with its extraordinary expectations. We are asked to be the conduits of grace, the hands that heal, and the no longer unclean lips that speak truth. There is nothing ordinary about our God and in doing His will, our ordinary selves walking through ordinary time in ordinary places becomes part of the extraordinary story of salvation.
Note: Pictured here is Michelangelo’s Isaiah on the Sistine Chapel ceiling.