Today we honour the memory of the Dominican Saint John of Cologne who along with 18 other priests and religious, including two Premonstratensians, Saint Adrian and Saint Denys, are known as the Martyrs of Gorkum. In 1572 the Dutch town of Gorkum was taken over by Protestants who rounded up all the Catholic clergy and religious in the area. Saint John was lured out of his presbytery in the middle of the night on the pretence of administering the sacraments to a dying man. Saint John and his Companions were tortured and compelled to abandon their belief in the Blessed Sacrament and in the supremacy of the Pope. They were hanged together in a barn on 9th July 1572. The 19 Martyrs of Gorkum were canonised by Pope Pius IX in 1867.
Have you ever watched the sun shine through a window and noticed how badly the glass needs to be cleaned? We notice the grime and the dust only in the brightness of the sun’s rays. Isaiah’s vision, described in the first reading, has this kind of effect on his own life. The majestic account of Isaiah’s call can help us to explore our own vocation when we were called to be priest, prophet and king.
Isaiah was dazzled by a vision of the heavenly host, and in this light he is struck by the contrasting darkness within and around him. He says: “Woe is me, for I am doomed! I am a man of unclean lips and yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts.” The first step in responding to our own call to be a prophet is to see and acknowledge a need for a change in our lives. We’ve all had experiences that have nudged or thrust us into a deeper awareness of both our strengths and our weaknesses. Isaiah reminds us to be even more willing to embrace those experiences as calls to conversion and growth.
Isaiah goes on to tell us: “One of the seraphim flew to me, holding an ember which he had taken with tongs from the altar. He touched my mouth with it. See, he said, now that this has touched your lips, your wickedness is removed, your sin is purged.” Before we receive Holy Communion we will repeat the words of the centurion who had a saving encounter with Jesus: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” We find healing and reconciliation in every Mass. We consume the Bread of salvation and we are once again healed and nourished.
Many people make the mistake of thinking that this transformation is only for our own personal salvation. Rather it has a much wider significance. When we have been touched by God, when we have spent time in the presence of the Almighty, we cannot help but go out and share the experience with others. Like Isaiah, we hear the voice of the Lord calling to us and we respond: “Here I am Lord, send me.”