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!"
Jesus said to his disciples, "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."
The mystery of divine providence is seen in 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.
Not even a sparrow falls to the ground without God knowing about it. In this remarkable statement Jesus claims that God lovingly watches over the life and death of even his smallest and least valuable creatures. How much more, then, is God watching over all of us, who are worth more than hundreds of sparrows. Jesus goes so far as to say that every hair of our head has been counted by God. Jesus is using an image here to express God's care for the smallest detail of our lives. We can find ourselves wondering whether or not God really cares about me personally. I am only one of such a vast throng. How can God possibly be interested in the details of my life?
Jesus assures us in that gospel that God is indeed interested in the details of our lives. God relates to us in a way that is unique to each one of us. We are called into a personal relationship with God. Because God cares about the details of our lives, Jesus assures us that we can entrust ourselves to God, without fear. 'There is no need to be afraid.' This is the kind of relationship Jesus himself had with God. He knew in his heart that God was concerned about the details of his life and he entrusted himself to God, even when his enemies seemed to have triumphed over him. Jesus wants us to know that we can all have the same relationship with God that he has. He invites us to share in his own personal relationship with God and he makes such a sharing possible by sending the Holy Spirit into our hearts, his own Spirit. Through the Spirit, his God becomes our God, his Father becomes our Father. [MH]