Friends, am I alone, or does it seem that time just goes faster and faster? Here we are at Ordinary Time once again—a series of weeks of our Church Year that takes up nearly 2/3 of that time. As I always say, Ordinary Time is full of its own challenges, even though it doesn’t encompass a special theme like Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Eastertime.
All of today’s readings are about “call,” and by that we mean, “our individual calls” as Jesus’ followers, to “shine our lights,” to basically, be our best in this world, for ourselves and for others. Now, this may seem like a simple message, but for any of us who have ever tried, we know that it takes work, patience, and long-suffering, at times, to find that balance in giving to others without giving ourselves away, totally.
For many of us, we might have some old messaging about “giving totally” and that this is a good worth striving for. This old messaging was often devoid though, of “caring for ourselves”—someone, in fact, that we must consider when giving to others—a cup never filled eventually runs dry—so, BALANCE, my friends. Remember that even Jesus went off occasionally, to be alone, to pray and no doubt, just to rest.
Let’s look then to today’s Scriptures to see the wisdom that our brother, Jesus, lived by. The prophet Isaiah tells us in the 1st reading that it is God’s wish, basically, that we will be “light” to the nations. And he also goes on to say that this doesn’t just mean, [restoring] “the tribes of Jacob” …evangelizing as it were, but God wants The Word of God, “to reach…the ends of the earth.”
Now to me, this means that there will have to be “actions” to go along with the “words,” or the words won’t mean that much. I find it interesting that in the past several years in our Catholic church, there has been much talk about “evangelizing” or in everyday parlance, “getting more people into the seats,” not realizing that perhaps it’s the “message” or lack of, that is keeping them away. The words of the psalmist today seem to speak to this: “Here I am, I come to do your will.”
This reminds me of a phrase that was common among the first of the Roman Catholic women priests in this country, me included— “Here I am, I am ready!” I even made a set of banners for my ordination liturgy with these words affixed because that was my stance then, as it is today, nearly 15 years later—to be present and “ready” to do the work God is calling me to. In fact, my friends, it needs to be the work of us all—to present ourselves, and to be ready, to do God’s will in our world.
This is further affirmed in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians where he says, [we are] “called by God’s will to be an apostle of Jesus, [the] Christ.” And in John’s gospel, we hear the testimony of the Baptist, that indeed. “Jesus” is the one that we are to follow.
I think that it is interesting that even John, the Baptist doesn’t, at first, recognize Jesus, “as the One.” This tells me that as we live out our lives, trying “to see Jesus” in our world, we may not, at first, recognize him either, and will have to be patient with ourselves, asking our brother, Jesus, to help us, “see what he sees” in those we encounter from day to day—seeing past the imperfect human qualities, to the best that is there.
John only knows Jesus when he saw, “the Spirit descend upon him in the form of a dove,” as he was told would be the sign. We too will have to get past the surface designations; skin color, gender, sexual orientation, age, religion and more, to see Jesus within, and that should be our prayer, asking our heavenly brother to help us get past all that can get in the way of seeing clearly.
I would like to share now, a good story, as we all like a good story! This is one I heard recently that speaks well to seeing beyond what might initially, meet-the-eye—and perhaps throw caution-to-the-wind, in order to do the right thing.
Steve Hartman of CBS News, known for finding good stories, shared this one recently. It seems a family—mom and dad and four children arrived from Ghana to make their way in this country. One day, the dad heard some beautiful music and tracked it to the attic of the home they were renting to find his young son playing on an old keyboard he found there. The wonder was, the boy had never had a lesson and yet was producing some very exquisite music!
The boy’s dad, wanting to encourage what he was hearing, bought him a bigger/better keyboard to play on. This remarkable story made it to the news where another man heard it and interestingly enough, was a piano tuner. This set of circumstances, the boy musician would call a miracle, as he did later when Steve Hartman interviewed him about his magnificent ability to play. The piano tuner was so taken with the boy, whose talents he recognized to be of “Mozart quality,” that he threw caution to the wind and used his family inheritance of $15,000 to gift the boy with a grand piano.
The boy was beyond joy as he expressed his gratitude. The boy’s father expressed tears of wonderment that a total stranger could show such generosity! It seems that these “strangers’” families will be united forever as the piano tuner said he will tune the piano every month, “as long as he lives” and has arranged too for piano lessons for the boy. Talk about shining one’s light!
My friends, not all of us will be called to such generosity, or at least, in the same way, but we will each be called to, “shine our own particular light” in some way. We can’t just talk about the titles we claim for ourselves—that of “Christian, human,” whatever it might be—we have to act!
Today, the words of the psalmist are indeed good ones to reflect on as we move into a new Church Year with Ordinary Time: “Here I am, I come to do your will.” The psalmist’s words remind me of Barack Obama’s words in a speech after he left the White House, indicating that, to his mind, his work wasn’t over, that there was still so much to do, not only for him, but for all of us! He said simply to his audience, “We all need to lace up our shoes, put our feet on the ground, and get going!
Another interesting way to look at this life task is through the words of one of my favorite authors, Anna Quindlen, in her A Short Guide to a Happy Life. She speaks knowingly of the wisdom she has gained over the years, as she realized that “she is no longer the center of the universe,” simply stating that, in raising three good children, being a faithful friend to her good husband, and to her other good friends and acquaintances, it is only important that she, “show up, listen, and try to laugh.”
The clarion calls of the psalmist, of Isaiah, Paul, Jesus, Barack Obama, and of Anna Quindlen, are there for each of us today, asking that we answer, “Here I am, [I am ready!] to do your will—whatever that might be! Amen? Amen!