2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Fr. Francis)
Our Scriptures this Sunday help us set our own lives within the grander scheme of things. That grander scheme is called “Divine Providence.” One 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.
Divine Providence is at the heart of the Scriptures of Holy 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. Each is a model for us, and the last is also something more.
First, 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 that would “reach to the ends of the earth.” Although none of us has been called to be a prophet like Isaiah, there is something in his vocation that ought to be mirrored in our own vocations: namely, loving mercy that knows no bounds.
Second, Paul was called to serve the Lord as His apostle. Today’s second reading is simply the first three verses of a letter written by Saint Paul: it’s not the longest of his letters, but it’s one of the more profound. His self-introduction focuses upon his calling as an apostle, which literally means “one who is sent.” He describes himself this way: “Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God”.
Paul was sent “by the will of God” to spread the Messiah’s Gospel to the Gentiles, the very people that Isaiah had served by preparing them for the Messiah. Although none of us has been called to be an apostle like Paul, there is something in his vocation that ought to be mirrored in our own vocations: namely, serving as “one who is sent.”
That Messiah whose coming Isaiah proclaimed, and whom Paul was sent forth to preach about, is of course Jesus. Jesus, like Isaiah and Paul, was called by God to serve. Yet Jesus is not only an example for us, as are Isaiah and Paul.
Jesus was called by God the Father to serve as the Savior of mankind. We hear about this call within today’s Gospel reading. This call connects to today’s responsorial psalm, and especially its refrain. The refrain can help you 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, it’s not the focus of the verse. The focus is God’s Providential Will and one’s submission to it: that is, one’s willingness to be His servant. Most of us, when we pray, actually speak to God as if He’s our servant: in effect saying, “Here I am, Lord; now come and do my will.”
One of the chief ways that Christians experience God’s Providential Will is unanswered prayers. In fact, these are often God’s gifts to us, whether we acknowledge them as such or not. Tragically, some Christians stop following Jesus because their prayers aren’t answered as they want. But silence on God’s part can be His way of demanding patience and perseverance. This silence clarifies what’s important to God for the unfolding of His Providential Will.
Yet, whether in accepting God’s silence or in moving forward to carry out His Will, we need to recognize a distinction. Not only are we to imitate Jesus in His example of doing His Father’s Will in all things. As Christians, we are meant to live in Christ.
We are not meant to live “in Isaiah” or “in Paul,” as much as we ought to follow their respective examples. But each of us is meant to live “in Christ.” This is not something that the Christian can accomplish through human effort or good works. Only God can accomplish this. His chief means for doing so are the Sacraments and grace given within personal prayer. For our part, we need to work at disposing ourselves for reception of these divine gifts. God’s gifts allow Christ to live in us, and allow Christ to say through us: “Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.”
Fr. A. Francis HGN