“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?’ Here I am, I said: ‘send me!'” Isaiah 6:1-8.
Isaiah is writing as an older man reflecting on his early life in this passage. According to scholars, his call to be a prophet is one of the classic passages in all scripture and an authentic account of that great moment of decision.
At certain times each of us stews over transitions that challenge us emotionally. Those are times when you ask yourself: What have I gotten myself into? Am I in a situation that is over my head?
In today’s readings, all three of our principal characters – Isaiah, Paul, and Peter were people experiencing these perplexing challenges. These were men in transition.
Isaiah had a stammer in his speech yet moved from a court official to an eloquent prophet. Saul was a Roman citizen and Jew who persecuted the early disciples before becoming Paul, one of the Lord’s ardent Apostles. In Luke’s account, Simon was a fisherman who, now as Peter, became the first of the Apostles and the leader of the community of early Christians.
What are the transitions and challenges in our lives? And how do we deal with them? Here’s a possible insight or scenario.
“Sliding Doors” is a 1998 romantic film drama starring Gwyneth Paltrow as Helen, the main character; she leaves her office building and drops an earring, and a man picks it up for her. She rushes for her train in the London Underground but misses it as the doors close.
But then, the director, Peter Howitt, rewinds, edits, and adjusts the storyline, where Helen manages to board the train. The director is playing with time — where the main character is either ten minutes too soon or ten minutes too late. This creative film technique permits an alternating storyline between two plausible scenarios. Events occur in Helen’s life, with occasional intersections between the two storylines.
As an audience, you see how Helen’s life can go either way and even notice Gwyneth Paltrow’s hairstyles and clothing match the contrasting narrative tracks. So this film is about one woman with two contrasting love stories and two different destinies.
Let me add a footnote. At the beginning of the film, the dropped earring is an essential clue for the audience. This clue is an example of what Alfred Hitchcock calls the “MacGuffin,” an object, device, or event necessary to the plot and the characters’ motivation but insignificant, unimportant, or irrelevant in itself.
In today’s readings, all three of our principal characters – Isaiah, Paul, and Peter were people experiencing these perplexing challenges. These were men in transition, like sliding doors. Their stories could have gone either way. Of course, we read in scripture about those figures who walked away from Christ.
However, not these men — even their heartfelt fears and doubts exposed new purpose, clearer direction, and the embrace of faith.
Scripture recounts that each of these men had their clue or unique insight about the divine – their MacGuffin. For Isaiah, it was his vision of Yahweh in the temple; for Paul, it was his encounter on the road to Damascus; and for Peter, his abandoning his boat and equipment, those fisherman’s nets.
Listen then to Jesus’s words: “Do not be afraid, fear not; from now on, you will be catching men.”
Is it surprising that the Lord’s uplifting voice and the exact phrase “Do not be afraid” are found 44 times in the New Testament? Each of us must hear this phrase anew when the sliding doors of choice in our lives call us to make a singular and sometimes personal decision.
Luke ends this episode with the words: “When they brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.”
Yes, at times in our lives, we too must respond to the question, “Whom shall I send?” with the answer, “Here I am, send me!”
Rosary Chapel, Santa Catalina School, Monterey, CA.