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We have seven weeks before Ash Wednesday entraps us – six ‘ordinary’ Sundays and one given to the celebration of the
PRESENTATION OF THE LORD. This Sunday’s Gospel is taken from John, and the Presentation from Luke. Otherwise we will be reading Matthew. So, we will have a good chance of refining our human / angel messenger theme.
It is, however, interesting to bear in mind that
THIS SUNDAY’S OLD TESTAMENT EXTRACT [ISAIAH 49: 3. 5 – 6] contains clear emphasis on last week’s idea of us being SERVANTS. The word servant is repeated three times. Take good notice of what the prophet writes … “You are my servant … formed from the womb to be his servant … it is to light a thing that you should be my servant.”
Of course, Isaiah pictures the person of Jesus Christ and the purpose of his mission. However, we must not leave it there with him. We are incorporated into Christ and share a pivotal role in the accomplishment of his mission.
So let us examine Isaiah’s words and apply them to ourselves. The fact that we are servants was enlarged upon last week but what is important this time is that our very existence, from the very beginning, of our discipleship is the fact that our call to service is an integral element and aspect of our birth as Christians. We cannot escape it! It is part of our personality and character. We are alive in order to serve, not be served!
All too often our felt need is to be served. This is something we must bring under control with firm reins.
Examine how many times we expect the Lord to ‘serve’ us, to pop out of the box at appointed times. This is an unrealistic, often self-centred, expectation. But what about our service of him? Do we ‘pop out’ in situations where
HE NEEDS US? Then, what about our attitude to the Church – very often made concrete in the local situation by our Parish? We all know the sort of things we have heard (and perhaps complained about ourselves) ….. I wanted a Requiem / Marriage / Baptism on this particular day (at this time), and ‘the Church’ made all sorts of difficulties. But, what about my service to the Church / Parish? What exactly have I contributed – especially in time and talents? All too often my role as servant is coloured by the attitude that ‘pay-back-time’ has arrived! Such approach is seen in both clergy and laity.
Go back and see the closing phrase of our quotation from Isaiah which tells us that “it is to light a thing that you should be my servant.” The word thing is an unfortunate translation. Other versions render this word as task.
I HAVE BEEN GIVEN A TASK! This remains, always, the primary consideration. Servants DO THE TASKS GIVEN TO THEM. In the context we are speaking TODAY’S PSALM [40 or 39] tells us a good deal. In the first place, “You do not ask for holocaust and victim. Then I said ‘see I have come’.” Then we read, “I delight to do your will … your instruction lies deep within me.”
The true servant tackles the real tasks, and the servant-disciple is delighted to do the will of the master because the instructions are clear and have been understood, deep within, where they have taken root. True servants are never victims and do not regard their work as a sacrifice (holocaust). Instead they come willingly when called – expecting to be given a task. Do we come willingly to the tasks the Lord expects of us? Is his will clearly understood? Is his word deep within us? See I have come ….. are we willing, eager, servants?
The opening sentence of
OUR NEW TESTAMENT READING [1 CORINTHIANS 1: 1 – 3] contains a phrase which underlines the remarks made at the start of this reflection regarding our call and the choice God has made of us. Paul clearly sees himself as “called by the will of God.” It is this very call which enables the apostle to speak of “grace and peace” as coming from the Father and Jesus Christ. Have you never noticed how we only feel truly at peace when we are doing or have done the will of God?
The human messenger gives a powerful witness. See in
TODAY’S GOSPEL [JOHN 1: 29 – 34] how the Baptist was both messenger and witness. He proclaimed the message – “behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world,” but the evangelist also tells us: “and John bore witness.” Somehow or other the two are linked.
I often suspect that the strength and clarity of the messenger are underpinned by the witness given. Do not take lightly the closing words of this Gospel extract where we read how the Baptist himself combines both aspects: “and I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.” He witnessed to the message he gave.
It is not productive to proclaim a message unless we ourselves witness to its truth