(Saint John Fisher Church, Tarragindi: Saturday 6pm & Sunday 9am; Mary Immaculate Church, Annerley: Sunday 7:30am & 5:00pm)
18/19 January 2014
[Readings: Is 49:3, 5-6; Ps 39; 1 Cor 1:1-3; Jn 1:29-34]
In the first reading today, the prophet Isaiah speaks of being formed in the womb to be God’s servant. In another place, the prophet Jeremiah will say a similar thing, putting into the mouth of the Lord the words: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” We hear of the adult John the Baptist in the gospel, but we recall that while he was still in the womb of his mother Elizabeth, he recognized the presence of Jesus, and John leapt in his mother’s womb.
From these things we can be reminded that no-one is too young to witness to Christ (1). Giving witness to him – evangelizing – is something that unites all generations; whether we are the youngest or the oldest, we can all alike share this duty and privilege of witnessing to Christ. In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI approved a decree recognizing the heroic virtues of a little girl, Antoinetta Meo, a six-year-old cancer victim who offered her suffering in union with the sufferings of Christ. One day she could be youngest canonized non-martyr saint. If God knows us and calls us while we are still in the womb, then we should never “underestimate the holiness to which God calls [even] young people, including our own children and grandchildren” (1).
The words of the first reading apply also to Christ himself. He is the Servant and the Son of God, sent by the Father to bring His people back, to restore them to communion with God. Jesus is the light of the nations, and through him salvation reaches to the ends of the earth.
John the Baptist, in the Gospel, goes further by calling Jesus the “Lamb of God.” For the Jewish people, the lamb was something sacrificed, and its blood smeared on the doorposts and lintel of their homes. This would be a sign for the angel of death to pass-over them. The blood was therefore a sign a life and of protection. When John the Baptist calls Jesus the Lamb of God, he is telling the people that he – Jesus – is the one whose blood has power to save … this is the one who will free humankind from its slavery to sin … Jesus will save his people from death; just as in former times, the blood of the lamb saved God’s people (2).
So that his salvation may reach to the ends of the earth, from the beginning Christ has chosen apostles and disciples. In the second reading Saint Paul states that he was “appointed by God to be an apostle.” It is part of the divine plan that Christ uses us to be bearers of his salvation. All of the baptized are sharers in Christ’s priestly, prophetic and royal office in their own way.
Like little Antoinetta Meo, we are called to unite ourselves with Jesus. Like her, we can unite our suffering and sacrifices with his … in this we are ultimately called to unite our will with his. Our human will is utterly unique …each of us has it, and no one can take it away from us. With an act of the will we can unite ourselves to Christ. When Mary said her yes – her fiat – to God, she was uniting her will with the Divine Will, so that God’s action in her was truly her action as well. She consented – she willed it.
God who knew each of us from our mother’s womb, and who even in the womb has called us to be not just his servants, but his sons and daughters, [God] wants us to unite our wills with his … so that having been baptized into Christ, we may truly take his salvation to the ends of the earth. God wants us to take on the mind of Christ – to embody Christ – to be Christ’s hands and voice. Going to the ends of the earth has a literal sense, but Pope Francis has been encouraging us recently to consider a spiritual sense to those words … to take the light of Christ to the “existential peripheries” … to the far reaches of the human spirit: to the lonely, the desperate, the rejected, the hopeless, and to the materially poor (3). These existential peripheries are not just in far off places … they are much closer to home than that … highlighting the challenge to all of us to fulfil our baptismal calling whenever we encounter these realities.
May the eucharist we celebrate today bring us closer to Christ. May we unite our will with the saving will of Christ … that we will take his light into the darkness of the world (wherever we find that) and that we will desire, more than anything, to bring people into communion with God.
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(2) Daily Prayer 2014, LTP.
(3) Living Faith: Daily Catholic Devotions, January, February, March 2014.