The 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time [A]

The Second Sunday in Ordinary Time [A]
Isaiah 49:3,5-6 + 1 Corinthians 1:1-3 + John 1:29-34
January 15, 2017

“Here am I, LORD; I come to do your will.”

During the middle of January we here in Kansas expect winter weather. But many years ago, a small town on the Plains saw a snowstorm unlike any other. Schools were closed for several days.

On the first day back at St. Mary’s Grade School, Sister Wilhelmina asked the students whether they’d used their time off constructively. Little Elizabeth nodded and replied, “I sure did, Sister. I prayed for more snow.”

Our Scriptures today offer some insight about how, like little Elizabeth, we might pray better.

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Our Scriptures this Sunday help us set our own lives within the grander scheme of things. That grander scheme helps us to pray better. That grander scheme is called “Divine Providence”.

Another way to describe “Divine Providence” is to say that it’s what God chooses to do, when He does it, and why He does it. Needless to say, God’s Divine Providence is mysterious. Sometimes it’s exasperating, or even demanding! This same Divine Providence is under discussion in the Scriptures of Mass during the first several weeks in Ordinary Time. Following the Season of Christmas, which ended last week with the Baptism of Jesus, we turn to consider our own baptism. When you were baptized, the promises that were made started a relationship where God is your Lord, and you are His servant. Or at least, that’s what it’s supposed to be like. We hear several different examples of this servant-Lord relationship in today’s Scriptures.

Isaiah was called to serve the LORD as His prophet. “The Lord said to [Isaiah]: ‘You are my servant. … I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.’” Among all the Old Testament prophets who proclaimed the coming of God’s justice, Isaiah had a unique place. His calling was to prepare for the coming of a Messiah who offers loving mercy that knows no bounds, and which would “reach to the ends of the earth.” Although none of us here has been called to be a prophet like Isaiah, there is something in his vocation that ought to be mirrored in our own vocations. The clue is that phrase: “loving mercy that knows no bounds”.

Anyhow, Paul was called to serve the LORD as His apostle. Today’s Second Reading is nothing more than the first three verses of a letter written by Saint Paul, where he introduces himself as an “apostle”, which literally means “one who is sent”. Paul was sent to spread the Messiah’s Gospel to the Gentiles, the very people that Isaiah had served by preparing for the Messiah. Although none of us here has been called to be an apostle like Paul, there is something in his vocation that ought to be mirrored in our own vocations. The clue is that phrase: “one who is sent”.

That Messiah whose coming Isaiah proclaimed, and whom Paul was sent forth to preach about, is of course Jesus. Jesus, also, was called. Jesus was called by God the Father to serve as the Savior of mankind. We hear about this call in today’s Gospel passage, and this call that Jesus received connects to today’s Responsorial Psalm. The refrain of today’s Responsorial Psalm is an excellent way to focus your prayer during this coming week. Memorize it, and use it for your prayer during this coming week. This refrain can help us focus on God, instead of on ourselves. It can help us rest in God’s Divine Providence, instead of wrestling against it.

“Here am I, LORD; I come to do your will.” Although the word “I” appears twice in this single verse, the focus of this verse is God’s Providential Will, and my submission to the Lord’s will: my willingness to be His servant. Most of us, when we pray, actually speak to God as if He’s our servant, instead of the other way around. Our prayers of petition, asking for things without holding those petitions up against the light of God’s Providence, suggest that our prayers really amount to saying “Here I am, Lord: come and do my will.”

In your daily prayer time this week, whether that’s early in the morning with a cup of coffee, late at night in a rocker next to your bed, or during a break in your daily routine, repeat this verse to yourself: “Here am I, LORD; I come to do your will.”

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I was privileged several times to visit Helen Kapaun, the sister-in-law of Father Emil Kapaun. As in the homes of most elderly persons, Helen had many keepsakes and mementos. But what was so humbling in visiting with Helen was knowing that some of her family keepsakes are actually relics of her brother-in-law, a man who will undoubtedly be declared a saint. It’s easy to imagine Father Kapaun saying these words in the POW camp in North Korea: “Here am I, LORD; I come to do your will.”

You are being called to serve the LORD. It may be a very humble service to which God calls you. He may not ask you to jump on a jet for South America to serve as a missionary. Instead, if you have a family, he is sending you home at the end of Mass each weekend back into your homes to make your homes more Catholic by the example you set, the prayers you offer together as a family, and the service that you do for others.

There are many ways to spread the Gospel. Likewise, the divine love that is the Good News can take many different forms. But in the world we live in today, the form of love most needed is mercy. If you are the head of your family, lead your family in practicing works of mercy, both corporal and spiritual. If you are single or widowed, look for places within your parish and your community to practice the works of mercy.

In the place that the Lord has for you to serve Him each day, you often have to wait for the LORD’s plan to come into greater focus. We can immerse ourselves in a culture that offers immediate gratification: what you want; when you want. Or we can rest in Lord, to serve Him both in our activity and in our patient silence, and allow the words of the Psalmist to sink into our hearts and become our own: “Here am I, LORD; I come to do your will.”