Psalm 137: 1-5, 7-8
1 Corinthians 15: 1-11
Luke 15: 1-11
What does “apostle” mean to you? For many people, there is an assumption that it ahs something to do with being of the elect, one of “the twelve”, or the inner circle. But the word itself has nothing to do with this- and Scripture itself is not at all clear that there were just twelve apostles: where the word is used, it refers in different contexts to different groups. At times it is indeed used to refer to the twelve- at other times it is used interchangeably with “disciples”, to refer to a wider body of followers (and at least one woman, Junia
, is described as an apostle).
The word itself simply means one who is sent – derived from “apostello” – I send. Today’s readings from Isaiah and from Luke remind us that in this sense we are all apostles. Isaiah tells how, seeing himself as unworthy, as a wretch, he nevertheless heard the Lord asking “Whom shall I send?”, to which he answered (to his own surprise, I suspect), “Here I am, end me.” Simon, on the lake shore after the miracle of the fishing boats, is overwhelmed by his own unworthiness, and pleads with the Lord to be left alone in his sinfulness. But the Lord will have none of it, and assures him that henceforth, he will be a fisher of men.
Now, being chosen does not mean that Isaiah and Simon were mistaken in their earlier self-assessments. They believed they were wretched sinners – and so they were, just as we all are.
When Jesus went recruiting his band of twelve, he did not go among the recognised holy men and religious leaders: instead, they (the pharisees and scribes) were the ones who later came under frequent attack for their misplaced religiosity and legalistic scruples. No, the ones who were chosen, for their very ordinariness, were definitely not the religious elite. People like us, in fact.
Just like Isaiah and Simon Peter, we too are wretched sinners, not because we are gay but because we are human. As humans, we too are fallible, just like the others, and we too are called. Paul, in telling the story of his own calling, reminds us that is is not by his own words and actions that he is doing God’s work, but the grace of God within him that is doing it.
As gay men and lesbians it is too easy to be misled by the arrogance of the self-righteous into believing that we are somehow more sinful than anybody else, and are on that account “excluded from God’s people” in the offensive words of the CDF. But today’s readings remind us that in our sinfulness we are no different from the mass of humanity- and like them , are equally chosen. So, next time you hear in the depths of your heart, “Whom shall I send?” reply with Isaiah, “It is I, Lord.”
(For a more extended reflection on the Gospel from a gay perspective, see Gospel for Gays: Gayness at its Best: That’s Peter)
For a discussion of all of today’s reeadings, from a multi-denominational perspective, go to Out in Scripture. This week’s panel are
Michael Miller, Charles Allen and Helene Tallon Russell.
For a seasonal reflection for Ordinary Time from a trans perspective, go to Out in Season)