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I THOUGHT YOU SHOULD KNOW | Embrace each moment as a manifestation of God’s will

‘I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth’

As we hear in the readings for the Nativity of John the Baptist, God will not tolerate the status quo when it comes to saving mankind.

In the first reading, the Lord calls His prophet from his mother’s womb. “He made of me a sharp-edged sword, and concealed me in the shadow of his arm.” Scripture scholars aren’t clear as to the specific identity of this prophet. It might refer to Isaiah himself, or to another future prophet, such as John the Baptist, whose birth we celebrate today.

He called this prophet from his mother’s womb, “So that Jacob may be brought back to him, and Israel gathered to him, and I am made glorious in the sight of the Lord.” The mission here is to restore and reunite, not only the people of Israel, but also of the whole world. “I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”

Hence, we’re already, by our birth, named as beneficiaries to this prophet’s accomplishments. This is the power of God’s word in Genesis 3:15, the promise of a savior, moving relentlessly forward.

The whole Old Testament is simply the story of God’s intervention, reaching out again and again to call mankind back to Himself.

In the second reading, Paul names two individuals whom God seemingly called out of nowhere to move His mission of salvation forward. The first is King David; the shepherd with a ruddy face that God called to become king of Israel. Neither Jesse, David’s own father, nor Samuel the prophet, thought of David as kingly material. The glory goes not to the one chosen, but to the one who chooses, God Himself.

It isn’t our arrival on the scene that gives us importance, but God’s calling us to arrive on the scene for His glory. It has been 2,700 years since Isaiah wrote the first reading. Hopefully, in another 2,700 years, we’ll have had 2,650 years of practice glorifying God.

The second person Paul names is John the Baptist. He had a tough time coming. His mother was barren even into her old age. When God revealed to Zechariah, his father, that Elizabeth would have a son in her old age, Zechariah was rendered speechless.

God intervened in the status quo with the name of John the Baptist. The people wanted him to be named after his father, but Elizabeth said, “No, he will be called John.” Zachariah, who heard none of this, was given a tablet on which to write his name, and his response was: “John is his name.” Mission accomplished: He got back his speech!

“Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea. All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, ‘What, then, will this child be?’”

While John the Baptist was relatively unknown, his tongue was loosened with the fire of the Holy Spirit. Even the scribes, the Pharisees and great sinners came to the desert to learn what God was doing through an unknown man in a barren land.

There is divine beauty in the Holy Spirit awakening Elizabeth’s barren womb, so that the fruit of that womb would awaken a barren world to the birth of its savior.

This says much about your life as well as mine. It isn’t about who we are, when we arrive in this world, but rather who it is that has called us into life and is constantly calling us to a life of eternal glory.

So often we feel as spiritually barren as Elizabeth felt before she conceived. Like Elizabeth, we need to depend upon help from above to experience God bringing us alive. To become pregnant, Elizabeth needed more than her husband’s help; she needed God’s intervention.

Sometimes we might not feel the consolation of God in our lives and become discouraged. That is exactly how Elizabeth felt before she conceived John.

Sometimes it takes extreme poverty to awaken us to the futility of trying to make ourselves holy. God wants our holiness far more than we do. He simply wants us to invite Him into our lives in a deeper way, so that His kingdom moves forward and, sometimes, at the expense of our own kingdoms.

With God, our inner poverty leads us to give Him permission to move forward with His kingdom. There is nothing God desires more of us than this.

The more we trust God in our lives, the more we laugh at our thwarted and foolish plans for self-salvation, the more we abandon our foolish plans to save ourselves, the more we’re grateful that God interpreted our prayers so as to bring about His true glory.

Jesus and Mary have given us the language we need to set God free. For Jesus, it was, “Not my will, but thy will be done.” With Mary it was, “Let it be done to me according to thy word.”

Making this a daily habit in our lives brings incredible peace and freedom. One time-tested way is to simply see each moment of every day as a manifestation of God’s will. That means that at the beginning of each day we simply pray: “Lord, I don’t know what will happen today, but help me to embrace each moment as a manifestation of your will.”

At noon we may renew this prayer and in the evening reflect back and simply realize that we prepared ourselves for crucifixion, but it didn’t happen.

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