A monkey and a hyena were walking through the forest when the hyena said, “Each time I pass by those bushes over there, a lion jumps out and mauls me. I don’t know why.”

“I’ll walk with you this time,” said the monkey, “and take your side against the lion.”

So, they started to walk past the bushes when the lion pounced on the hyena and nearly mauled it to death. Meanwhile, the monkey watched the proceedings from the safety of a tree that he had run up the moment the lion appeared.

“Why didn’t you do something to help me?” moaned the hyena.

Said the monkey, “You were laughing so much I thought you were winning!”

A purging of the speech from “unclean lips” is what Isaiah, in our First Reading, said happened to him (Isaiah 6:5). To prepare him for his mission as a Prophet, he was purged when a burning ember touched his mouth, so he could then begin announcing God’s intentions to the people.

We see a pattern here in our Readings this Sunday: CALLED, CLEANSED, and COMMISSIONED.

For Isaiah, these three C’s happened in a worship experience. He saw Seraphim stationed above in heaven. Their song states that God is holy. One group of the seraphim cries out, and another group would answer. The Eucharist is the worship of Jesus Christ, and either at Mass or in our silent adoration, our mouth and speech can be cleansed if we ask for it.

2). In our Second Reading, Paul’s spiritual purging came through a disruptive experience—

Acts 9:9 says he was blind for three days, he “neither ate nor drank” for three days.

His fasting was preceded by a blinding light that purged him from his previously huge misconception about God. He had a narrow view of God through his own ideas as a Pharisee which involved making murderous threats. He didn’t understand God’s love for the world. So, he too, was CALLED, CLEANSED, COMMISSIONED.

The lesson for us is that, sometimes, we don’t even know that there’s a problem so our prayer, in accordance with the “deeper water” mentioned by Jesus, is to ask, “Where is the hindrance, Lord? What’s not like you in my life?”

Here is a true example of a disruptive, purging experience like St. Paul’s—

Kim Shin-jo Jo is a protestant minister - the gentle leader of his church. But the 69-year-old is best known by history as a trained killer.

In January 1968, he and 30 others slipped from North Korea into Seoul to kill the South Korean president.

These North Korean commandos managed to slip across the border, through the woods, and make it within a few hundred meters of the president's residence. But a South Korean police officer confronted them. A gunfight ensued.

In the end, more than 30 South Koreans were killed. All the North Korean commandos were killed, except one who managed to make it back into North Korea and Kim Shin-jo, who was captured.

Kim underwent months of interrogation while captive behind bars. A South Korean army general befriended him - and broke through his hardened training.

"I tried to kill the president. I was the enemy," Kim said. "But the South Korean people showed me sympathy and forgiveness. I was touched and moved."

The South Korean government eventually released Kim, finding he never fired a shot from his gun and didn't hurt anyone during the assassination attempt.

Kim later worked for the South Korean military, became a citizen, married and had a family. Then he became a minister.

He is now the country's symbol of redemption.

Kim reflected on footage of himself held captive in 1968.

"On that day, Kim Shin-jo died," Kim said. "I was reborn. I got my second life. And I'm thankful for that.

3). Lastly, sometimes your reaction to a miracle that happened in your life is the way to be purged-

In today’s Gospel, Simon Peter had this profound conversion prompted by the astonishment at the catch of fish they had made, and he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, "Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man"(Luke 5:8). But, Jesus said to Simon, "Do not be afraid.”

Simon is CALLED, CLEANSED, COMMISSIONED to catch people. He becomes the eventual leader of all Christians, the first pope.

If we think we are inadequate in some way, kind of like Paul felt, who, in our Second Reading, used three derogatory terms in reference to himself: “last of all,” “untimely birth” [as in miscarriage] and “least of the apostles.” If you are baptized and confirmed, then you are most-especially called; maybe it’s the purging experience that’s lacking prior to a sense of being commissioned for your life’s work or re-established in your mission? Paul could eventually say, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective.”

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Mark Aarssen

commented on Feb 6, 2019

I liked the last story of the cracked water pot. We are all certainly broken vessels to one degree or another. The Roman Catholic Church fits that description too. Even though it has been broken all along the way it has still managed to offer some beautiful flowers. Sadly many weeds choke out the flowers today. My theology differs from yours but the essence of your message rings true. More could be done to build the theme in so far as you have done. A good outline that I will borrow with your permission. I will be sure to state my references. God bless.

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