Unworthy Ambassadors
5th Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)

Antonio P. Pueyo
Reproduced with Permission

There was one diplomat who represented his sovereign as faithfully as he could to the point of dressing up like his queen. Lord Cornbury who, during America’s colonial days, represented his cousin Queen Anne as Governor of New York and New Jersey dressed up in women’s clothes on his supposition that “in all respects I ought to represent her as faithfully as I can.” Given the same premise, it must be supposed that some priests who wear their hair shoulder length are doing it to represent the Lord “in all respects”.

Action starter: Do something good and beautiful for God. God will perfect it.

Levity aside, there is a point to the diplomat’s behavior, although he may have carried it too far and in a very literal manner. An ambassador is one who represents his nation. An ambassador is one who stands in place of his country’s duly constituted authority. In the Hebrew scriptures he is a shaliah, the representive of the Holy One. The prophets were called to be ambassadors of God.

In the prophetic tradition, prophets were oftentimes reluctant ambassadors. The stories of the prophetic calling abound with the prophet’s initial hesitation due to his feeling of unworthiness. They were mostly common folks who were engaged in their everyday lives as farmers and husbands when they were called. The first reading (Is. 6:1-8) tells us the vocation story of the prophet Isaiah who had an extraordinary vision of the Lord. His reaction was one of unworthiness, “I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” Yet he gave his assent, Here I am, send me.”

Peter felt the same way when he encountered Jesus during a fishing trip as narrated by this Sunday’s Gospel reading (Lk.5:1-11). He realized that he was in the presence of somebody who was extraordinary, “Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man.” That did not stop Jesus from calling him to be an apostle. In the second reading, Paul gives testimony about his own calling (1Cor.15:1-11). He describes himself as “one born abnormally”. His calling was rather unexpected, “For I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective.”

There is a running theme through all these vocation stories. God calls those whom He wills to call. God does not call perfect people, rather He perfects those whom He calls. The calling comes first. He who is called grows in friendship with God. He grows in holiness. What is necessary is the readiness to answer the call.

There was one person who was looking for the best community and fellowship of Christians. He jumped from one prayer group to another, and from one sect to another. He ended up in a meeting of a Catholic prayer group who called themselves “Refugium Peccatorum” (Refuge of sinners). This group meets and prays weekly, support one another, are actively involved in parish ministries, and do works of charity . They were however a bit lavish with their beer during their social gatherings. This person finally told them, “I have never seen such a bunch of sinners as this group.” The president of the association gave him a toast, “Welcome to the club, we have space for more.”

We may not be perfect but we can grow in holiness.