like a candle in the wind

There is an indefinable quality to candlelight. Bright neon lights illuminate with such unforgiving harshness, revealing every flaw and imperfection. The flickering flame of candlelight glows with a gentle warmth that fills the soul with grace.

Candlelight

Few freely choose to live in darkness, yet fewer still would seek the hard spotlight’s glare. Most would prefer the quiet glimmer of candlelight to relieve the darkness and warm the heart.

We read “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone” and ask: if the light is Jesus, what sort of light is he?

Two sets of brothers, fishermen, are met by a stranger who calls to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men” and beyond all understanding, they immediately drop everything and follow him. Why? It is difficult to comprehend why anyone would do such an incredibly rash thing. Would you do the same if called by someone you did not know to walk away from all you have ever known, your job, your friends and your family? Wouldn’t you want to know a bit more, want to at least know where you were going or what you were supposed to do?

These men were no fools, they wouldn’t have left their nets to follow just anyone. Jesus must have been a very special and appealing person. Did these simple fishermen see Jesus as a great light? He was a stranger, strolling along the seashore; they were fishermen. Why would they follow him? We don’t know why but they did for he wore a quiet glow, like a candle in the wind, an indefinable quality that drew them irresistibly toward him.

A few years ago, I attended a weeklong silent retreat. On the third day, which happened to be a Sunday, a song popped into my head and adamantly refused to leave. It was a beautiful song, written by Dan Schutte. Based on Isaiah 6:8 and 1 Samuel 3 it is called “Here I am, Lord.” It is a familiar one, one which we have heard before.

Over and over again I heard the music and the lyrics inside my head, soft and low, like a small candle flickering to the whispered breeze of the melody:

Here I am Lord, is it I Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go Lord, if you lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart.

Perhaps it was the moment and the place, I do not know, yet the lyrics spoke of unquestioning acceptance, of saying yes to all that God should ask, knowing his request might take me where I did not want to go or require me to do something I did not wish to do.

I remember writing at the time “I may not know where or what or how but I do know why: because he has called and I must say yes.” Just as Mary said “yes”, just as Peter, Andrew, James and John said “yes”—when God calls, the only response should be “yes”. What else is there to say?

God calls each of us by name and we are free to respond however we might choose. We may refuse to hear him or to ignore him or to simply tell him “no”. Of course, if we love him we will accept the call but no one, especially God, will force you do anything against your will.

Some fifteen years ago, a tiny candle was lit which dispelled the darkness within my soul. It was a small flickering flame, the slightest breeze would have quickly extinguished it, but there was no wind that day. I heard Jesus call, saying “come, follow me” and I could not refuse nor did I refuse to do so.

Recalling that moment, other moments come to mind when he called but I either refused to listen or just ignored him. I wasn’t disposed to answer his call for I had much more important things to do. And isn’t that true for most of us?

At times, it feels as though God is constantly calling, yet we treat his calls just as we do those political robo-calls, don’t we? Either we add him to our “Do not call” list or we disconnect our direct line to heaven. After all, he seldom calls when it is convenient, does he?

God calls when we’re busy. It irritates, it grates, it is inconvenient, and besides, why me, why now? Surely there are others more qualified, more capable, more talented. Here I am Lord but ask someone else if you don’t mind. Maybe someday when I’m not so busy, but now just isn’t a good time.

But then God reminds you of Peter and Andrew, and of James and John. They were busy men, tending their nets, working to feed their families. They were simple men, uneducated except by the school of hard experience, most likely illiterate, obviously unsuited and ill-prepared for a life of itinerate preaching. Why them?

I am reminded of what Saint Bede, an English monk and Doctor of the Church once observed: “Now fisher’s and unlettered men are sent to preach, that the faith of believers might be thought to lie in the power of God, not in eloquence or in learning.” Wisdom doesn’t always belong to the wise, the learned, or to “better” men. God doesn’t look to the proud and the strong, those who are so full of themselves, for in their pride and conceit they find little room for God. They believe only in themselves and are want to live always in the harsh glare of the spotlight.

No, God looks to those who live in the shadows, the marginalized, the humble because it is those who look to him for his great light to illuminate and dispel the darkness.

God seldom asks for simple deeds. Seldom will we find comfort in what we are called to do. Perhaps that is why we are so often reluctant to respond. We are afraid. Afraid of failure, embarrassment, or simply of the unknown. Yet, we should remind ourselves of the Apostles whom Jesus chose to build his church. They were not the most stalwart and courageous of men. Throughout the Gospels we find many instances where the disciples were afraid, and yet, they followed Jesus and persevered.

Peter, who Jesus gave the keys to the kingdom, was afraid enough to deny him three times.1 John tells us that on the Sunday evening following Jesus’ death, the disciples were behind locked doors, afraid of the Jewish leaders.2 Mark tells us of their terror when a violent storm threatened to sink the boat they were on.3 We read in Matthew of the time when the disciples were again on a boat being tossed about by the waves and terrified when they saw Jesus walking on the water. Peter became frightened while walking on the water toward Jesus and began to sink.4   When Jesus decided to return to Bethany upon receiving the news of the death of Lazarus, the disciples were afraid of the Jews who had tried to stone him previously. They were convinced that their return would result in their deaths.5

Time and again, Jesus acknowledged the fears of those who followed him. His constant reminder was to “be not afraid” while knowing that it is in our nature to fear what we do not understand. Jesus brought light to the world through the Father and dispelled the darkness of fear that blanketed men’s souls. Through the Holy Spirit, the disciples and all Christians were enkindled with the fire of God’s love.

On Pentecost, those who heretofore had displayed great fear, were graced by the Spirit with the wisdom to contemplate the things of God, the understanding of the truths of faith, the gift of counsel to defend those truths, the courage to suffer death for the faith, the knowledge necessary to see the circumstances of our lives the way God sees them, the piety to worship God and to serve him out of love, and the fear of God—not in the sense of being frightened or fearing punishment—rather the desire to not offend him in the hope of eternity with him.

We are but tiny candles in the wind, fragile flickering flames, ever threatened by the darkening storm that blows across the land. The light from a single candle lacks the power to rid the world of darkness, but the Light of the world, the Son of God can still the wind, allowing every candle to shine, together, thus illuminating the face of God.

Amen.

Homily #106
The Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
Isaiah 8:23—9:3
1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17
Matthew 4:12-23


1 Jn 18:17, 25-27.
2 Jn 20:19.
3 Mk 4:35-41.
4 Mt 14:22-33.
5 Jn 11:8-16.

Deacon Chuck

About the author: Deacon Chuck

Deacon Chuck was ordained into the permanent diaconate on September 17, 2011, in the ministry of service to the Diocese of Reno and assigned to St. Albert the Great Catholic Community. He currently serves as the parish bulletin editor and website administrator. Deacon Chuck continues to serve the parish of Saint Albert the Great Catholic Community of the Diocese of Reno, Nevada. He is the Director of Adult Faith Formation and Homebound Ministries for the parish, conducts frequent adult faith formation workshops, and is a regular homilist. He currently serves as the bulletin editor for the parish bulletin. He writes a weekly column intended to encompass a broad landscape of thoughts and ideas on matters of theology, faith, morals, teachings of the magisterium and the Catholic Church; they are meant to illuminate, illustrate, and catechize the readers and now number more than 230 articles. His latest endeavor is "Colloqui: A journal for restless minds", a weekly journal of about 8 pages similar in content to bulletin reflections. All his reflections, homilies, commentaries, and Colloqui are posted and can be found on his website: http://deaconscorner.org. Comments are always welcome and appreciated. He is the author of two books: "The Voices of God: hearing God in the silence" which offers the reader insights into how to hear God’s voice through all of the noise that surrounds us; and "Echoes of Love: Effervescent Memories" which through a combination of prose and verse provides the reader with a wonderful journey on the way to discovering forever love. He regularly speaks to groups of all ages and size and would welcome the opportunity to speak to your group.

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