A Cycle – 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time 23
Have you ever in your life taken the time to reflect on your past experiences and how they have shaped and formed who you are today? Each of us, no matter what our age, has had our lives shaped by fortunate and unfortunate events. Abraham was quietly living his life, seemingly prosperous, when God spoke to him and told him to go to a land, he would show him where he would become the father of a great nation. Don’t you think that moment shaped his life?
How do we see ourselves in relation to who God who tells us we are his delight? Do we feel delightful? We who are created in his image and who fail miserably to live according to his design for our lives. Why am I even going down this nostalgic trail of our pasts as we enter this season of our Liturgical cycle called Ordinary Time? It is because our first reading brought to mind our lack of believing who we were created to be and gifted to achieve what God intended for us. Isaiah writes he was called to be God’s servant and by his words and actions reveal God’s glory. That mission is intended for each of us at birth, but we fail to fulfill that mission. But the first reading reveals how Isaiah never realized he was called to do more than reveal God’s glory. Isaiah failed to grasp how much more God required of him.
That my brothers and sisters is a message we need to hear because we also fail to understand how much more God requires of us. Isaiah was willing to serve as God’s messenger when God tells him, “…you are thinking too small.” It was not enough for him to raise up the tribe of Jacob, to restore the survivors of Israel, for God gifted him to do more. How can we respond to what God desires of us if all we seem to consider during our faith journey is how we will be judged when it is over. Is it enough for us to avoid sin and do enough servants work to enter the gates of heaven? Restoring Jacob or the survivors of Israel is far beyond us because we are busy trying to avoid the wrath of God.
But God is telling us something profound here today and that is we fail to see in ourselves what God sees in us. We fail to see our own giftedness to be holy men and women. We fail to see we are all called to have an impact on others’ faith. God tells Isiah being a servant is only the beginning of what is required of anyone who believes. We are all called to be more than faithful in small matters. Each of us are called to have a greater impact on making the name of Jesus known. The parable of the talents tells us that much more will be required of us. We cannot just bury our gifts but use them to become a light to all who are seeking God.
We have a narrow vision of how we are to respond to the gift of God’s grace. It has been limited by our own life experiences and our own image of ourselves and our lack of capabilities. God tells us plainly we have been gifted from birth with something for the good of the kingdom. Each one of us according to Paul are “God’s handiwork created in Christ Jesus for the good works he has prepared in advance for us that we might live in them” (Eph. 2:10). The simple truth is we may accept that intellectually but our vision of how to live out that vision is far too small and far too limited by our lack of confidence and fail to depend on the giftedness given to us by God.
The first step for Isaiah and for us is to respond to his call to each of us. Once we respond, the gospel points out a progressive growth in what we are called to do for the kingdom. John the Baptist knew he was to prepare the way of the Lord. He responded and the scriptures tell us noting about how that response was lived during those 30 years after his and Jesus’s births. We know nothing about how he prepared himself, but I am going to guess it was by immersing himself in the scriptures. He knew he was called to be a herald and for John to recognize the time of his coming he had to know all the scriptures said about him.
The scriptures tell us John leapt in his mother’s womb when Mary visited Elizabeth. He acknowledged Jesus then and as each of them grew, John knew Jesus was the promised Messiah. But today’s gospel John tells us he claims not to know him. How could he say he did not know Jesus. John was part of the extended family of Mary and would have encountered the boy Jesus from time to time. He watched as the Spirit descended upon him as Jesus knelt before John to be baptized. John pointed to him as he walked by and cried out “behold the Lamb of God.”
Of course, he knew Jesus just as we know Jesus but at the same time, we do not know Jesus. Knowing as God intends us to know him, and Jesus is in an intimate relationship. The root of the word knows as used by God is revealed in the passage from Genesis chapter two when it says, “Adam knew Eve and she bore a son.” It is physical, emotional, spiritual union with God. That for each of us was made possible by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. God made that possible for everyone by the gift of Jesus and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Through the Prophet Jeremiah (Jer.31:33) God promised, all would know him. How does that come about? John tells us it is by revelation of the Holy Spirit. His knowing changed from a scriptural knowing and to a personal physical knowledge the moment the Spirit came upon Jesus in the Jordan.
What is being revealed to us today is a call to cast our nets into the deeper waters offered us by Christ. There is more in store for us if we only would embrace the vision God has for us instead of our limited vision of trying to please God by the dictates of the law.