"You did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear" (Romans 8,15)

Tom Bartolomeo
5th Sunday Ordinary C 2013b
Isaiah 6: 1-2a,3-8; Psalm 138;
1 Corinthians 15: 1-11; Luke 5: 1-11
Reproduced with Permission

At heart we are all fearful of the unknown, unprepared for what often stands before us. So imagine the scene before the Prophet Isaiah - the Lord and his angels crying "one to the other, 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts!'" Then in Isaiah's room "the door shook and the house was filled with smoke." Frightening!

"Woe to me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!" Perhaps, we are better off not seeing the power and glory of God at Mass. Better we see what appears to be a small circular piece of bread which we consume in communion after the priest says, "the Body of Christ" and you reply, "Amen."

Now envision an illuminous angel rapidly descending on you, a small figure in the distance and suddenly before you, larger than life itself and "holding an ember that he had taken with tongs from the altar" of God and then touching you mouth and saying, "See, now that this has touched your lips, your wickedness is removed, your sin purged." Then the dread figure of the Lord asks, "Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?" Astonishingly, you reply, "Here I am", Lord, "send me" and you are anointed a prophet as was Isaiah. It happens that suddenly.

Recall, too, that Saul, before his conversion an enemy of the Church who went from house to house seizing Christians for deportation and imprisonment in Jerusalem, then all of a sudden, on his way to Damascus to collect more Christians for imprisonment he is blinded and thrown to the ground by an intense brilliant light and is asked by Jesus, "Saul, Saul, Why are you persecuting me?" (Acts 9,4). Then he becomes a prophet, a messenger and Apostle of the Lord. Finally, put yourself in the place of a simple fisherman who has fished all day without success, and you are asked by Christ to go out to the deep water and cast your net once more, and your catch of fish nearly sinks you and your boat and fear overcomes you and you say, "Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man." You have truly encountered God and are forever changed. It that what it takes to make us all saints? Let it be, I say. How long will we continue to languish in this godless dark world of sin?

I didn't watch the half-time show at the Superbowl game and knew from reports what I could expect without actually experiencing the half-time extravaganza or most of the multi-million dollar commercials during the game. I knew beforehand what to expect, so much blatant sensuality. (Although surprised by one decent advertisement, how "God made a a farmer").

Isaiah, Paul and Peter had their day of reckoning and rose to the occasion. Thank God. Our day of reckoning is coming, actually began last January first and will take another turn on this August first. I am speaking about the implementation of the federal government's Health and Human Services mandate that we all cooperate in the federal government's mandated health insurance, pay and provide for contraceptives, abortions and sterilizations - free of charge to all takers. That's how far we have come in this nation, a mandate for health insurance so a girl as young as twelve can get some contraceptive pill or have an abortion without her parents' knowledge or consent. Think about it. It's the law, The Affordable Health Care Act at work because we did not speak up loudly enough. The problem is this law is being inserted into our lives a little at a time - enacted over a span of four years so we wouldn't feel the impact all at once or comprehend the depth of its perversity.

In an attempt to divide the Catholic clergy from the laity the mandate is set for us in two stages. Many of its provisions were set in place last January first for non-church related businesses and places of employment, and this August first for Churches and other religious affiliated organizations. Since January first all for-profit and most non-profit employers and their employees have already been paying into the government's new health insurance policies and premiums or have resisted. There is no choice. All health insurance policies are required to cover - free of charge and on demand - all contraceptives, abortions, sterilizations and sex change services. Morally, it is not enough to say, I will not personally participate, will not take any contraceptives or have an abortion or be sterilized. Regardlessly, you will pay the premium and cost of these mandates under the law unless you resist. If you resist and do not accept the administration's mandate, the Internal Revenue Service will bill you for your non-compliance, for as much as one hundred dollars a day for each employee. Simply just paying the health insurance premium is immoral, financially cooperating and enabling contraception, abortion and sterilization. You may not want to shoot the gun yourself but you bought the bullets. Not only are employers implicated but employees as well who pay part of the cost of their health insurance.

I could have chosen not to speak to you about this and be guilty of shirking my duty, a false shepherd who abandons his sheepfold to the wolves and not suffer whatever the consequences of safeguarding the fold. I personally will not cooperate in any manner with the federal government's mandate and will accept the consequences. As a priest I am called not only as a mediator before the Lord at Mass and the Sacraments but to lead and teach, to be a prophet. Speak the truth no matter what the cost. At the heart of Isaiah's, Paul's, Peter's and all the Apostles' calling was the fear and trembling they overcame for the love of God and their souls.

Our wills are our own. Our freedom is in our hands. The Apostle Paul dealt with this truth, daily, and ultimately paid the price with his life, nor can I express better his commitment to God and the truth:

Brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh . . . [but we are] led by the Spirit of God . . . children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear . . . When we cry, "Abba! Father!" It is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ - if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.