Contemporary Scripture Reflections for Spiritual Seekers
Dr. Elizabeth-Anne Stewart

 Sunday BibleTalk, February 10th, 2019 

The Way is not the way of conformity, nor the way of comfort, nor the way of recognition and material rewards.

It is not the way of flattery, bribery and compromise; nor is it a way of self-preservation.

It is not the way of greed.

Nor is it the way of warfare
and warmongering, of getting revenge and exacting the pound of flesh.

And it is certainly not the way
of discrimination and hatred.

Rather, the Way is the Way of Jesus. It is a path of love and justice in a world sadly lacking in both.

It is a Way of gentleness and quiet strength, of inner power and conviction, of authenticity and truth-speaking.

It is a Way which welcomes the down-and-outs, the rejects of society, demanding that all set aside differences to sit at the same table.

It is a Way of loving service, of self-emptying and humility.

The Way is the Way of discipleship. We are not only called to imitate the Christ in the unique circumstances of out lives, but to BECOME the Christ for others.

We follow the Way so that we, ourselves, will be transformed, and so the Heart of Jesus will beat in every generation.

From A Pocket Full of Sundays,
Elizabeth-Anne Stewart, 2009

Greetings, SBT Readers:

This Sunday's first reading ends with Isaiah's total commitment to his prophetic calling:

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 6:8

Prior to this response, two significant events occur:
1) Isaiah sees a vision of the Lord of Hosts, surrounded by the Seraphim, and is immediately struck by his own sinfulness and that of the people among whom he lives; 2) One of the Seraphim takes a hot coal from the altar and touches Isaiah's lips, thereby burning away his sinfulness and giving him the "clean lips" he needs to fulfill his mission. Prophets, then, are those who can behold the Divine, becoming keenly aware of their own imperfections; at the same time, they don't allow their failings to get in the way of their calling but, instead, are open to conversion. They know that through God's grace, all things are possible, no matter how unworthy they may consider themselves to be!

Like Isaiah, we, too, have "unclean lips" and live among people who also have "unclean lips" on account of lies, deceptions, gossip, character assassinations, distortion of facts, double-speaking, euphemisms, manipulations, verbal abuse, blasphemy etc. As long as our lives are controlled by "unclean lips," we will not only be unable to fulfill our calling as disciples, but will, instead, actively contribute to the agony of the world.

If we are to make a positive difference, we need to learn to "see" on a spiritual plane and to speak Truth -- even if it goes against our own material interests and well-being! Unlike Isaiah, few of us are going to enjoy a celestial vision in this lifetime; however, we can work on aligning our vision with God's vision. In the first place, this means turning to scripture for clues -- they are not hard to find. Over and over again, we learn that God does not judge by externals but by what lies in the human heart. Status, wealth, health, reputation and occupation seem to be irrelevant when it comes to Divine vision. We also learn that God cherishes the poor -- widows, foreigners, outcasts, beggars, the infirm, the contagious, the bereaved, the hungry …. Secondly, it means looking at the lives of those who have given themselves to something more than the ego -- Martin Luther King, Jr, Mahatma Gandhi, Cesar Chavez, Mother Teresa, Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, Daniel Berrigan.... What motivated them? What energized them and gave them the inner power to change history?

If we pay attention to our sacred texts and to the lives of saints and prophets who have gone before us, our vision will surely change, especially regarding the burning issues of our day -- immigration, global warming, racism, poverty, the arms race, trade treaties, warfare etc. Then, when we hear God's voice, we'll be able to respond,

"Here I am! Send me!"

Many Blessings!


 PS  Please note that my weekly video reflection,  Sunday Chat (see below),   is an imperfect production, entirely unscripted and therefore prone to some "rough spots" in terms of clarity, content and expression! Sadly, there's no time for "re-takes"!


When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus, saying, "Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man."
Astonishment at the catch of fish seized him and all those with him,
and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were Simon's partners.
Jesus said, "Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people."
They brought their boats to the shore,
left everything and followed him.

LK 5:1-11

While there are definite similarities between the Lucan account of The Miraculous Catch and the post-Resurrection narrative in Jn 21, Luke strategically embeds this story in his account of the call of the first disciples. In Mk 1:16-20 and Matt 4:18-22, we simply learn that Jesus calls Simon, Andrew and the sons of Zebedee away from their nets and that they immediately follow him, without questioning; the evangelists make no mention of a miraculous catch and so it is not clear why the fishermen would leave everything at his invitation. In Jn 1:35-42, the call of the first disciples is removed from a fishing context: Andrew, a disciple of John the Baptist, hears John refer to Jesus as the "Lamb of God"and immediately follows him, later telling his brother, Simon, that he has found the Messiah. Luke, in contrast, wants his readers to understand why the first disciples would leave everything to follow an itinerant preacher who was recently thrown out of his own town-- hence the miraculous catch!

The miraculous catch is an epiphany moment -- a moment of revelation in which the astonished fishermen witness the power of God and recognize Jesus to be the Messiah. All night they have caught nothing, and then, close to shore, their nets are suddenly bursting with abundance. At this point, the fish cease to matter; it is what they symbolize that changes the fishermen's lives. Through the fish, Jesus catches them -- and then promises that they, in turn, will be fishing for people. Once caught, they can no longer settle for their old way of life. They drag their boats to shore and follow Jesus, leaving behind everything, including the miraculous catch! For the remainder of their lives, they follow The Way and though there are some inglorious moments when they fail to understand Jesus' mission or else give in to ego-needs or fear, these former fishermen devote themselves to preaching the Good News of the Kingdom of God.

How does Jesus catch us? For those of us baptized as children, it would be easy to say that our families made the decision for us, that the path of discipleship was planted in our souls when we were immersed in the baptismal font. However, while Baptism bestows membership in the faith community, it does not automatically turn us into disciples. Many Christians, in fact, go through all the rites but fail to commit themselves completely to Christ; instead they are either lukewarm about their commitment or else passionate about externals such as mass attendance, saying the Rosary, belonging to parish groups etc. True discipleship goes deeper than this -- way beyond what theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer described as "cheap grace," or those warm, fuzzy feelings of being a "good Christian." Such complacency lingers with us at the expense of "costly grace," that is, the willingness to pay the price for our convictions, whatever that entails. Sadly, our churches are filled with "the comfortable" whose world view is reinforced by "comfortable sermons."

Usually, if we are to become real disciples, there is a defining point in time when, like the fishermen, we are seized by the love of Christ and decide to make Him the center of our lives. This means more than being "saved" in the traditional sense of being delivered from our sins and spared from hell; rather, it involves the radical decision to live according to Gospel values.

Do we allow ourselves to be caught? Christ's net casts out into the deep, but many "fish" swim in the opposite direction. All are invited; few respond. As Bonhoeffer would say, the cost of discipleship is simply too high for most Christians to fathom.

  1. Do you live according to "cheap grace" or "costly grace"?
  2. What price have YOU paid for being a Christian?
  3. Have you ever heard a call to discipleship or did you simply inherit your faith?
  4. How can you follow Jesus more closely?

Though most of you know me as a writer/ teacher, this year will mark the 30th Anniversary of my graduation from the Claret Center, Chicago, where I studied the art of Spiritual Direction. My video explains my approach to this ministry, while my website provides further details as well:

I meet with clients "in person" in downtown Chicago and also remotely via Zoom, Skype and Conference Call. Please contact me if you would like further information about Spiritual Direction or Life Coaching; I would love to hear from you! (:

Dr. Elizabeth-Anne Stewart | |

All Photos by Elizabeth-Anne Stewart,