Sunday, June 24, 2018

God At Work

June 24, 2018 –– The Solemnity of the Nativity of John the Baptist
VIGIL: Jeremiah 1:4–10) / Psalm 71 / 1 Peter 1:8–12/ Luke 1:5–17
DAY: Isaiah 49:1–6 / Psalm 139 / Acts 13:22–26 / Luke 1:57–66, 80
God At Work

Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Birth of John the Baptist. Usually the death of a saint marks the time of memorializing, and the Church honors the death of John the Baptist, too. Why is his birth celebrated?

One reason is John’s direct connection with the coming of Jesus. John was six months older than Jesus, so recognizing John’s birth comes into focus six months before Christmas. And Scripture clearly says that John was sent to prepare the way for Jesus.

John is one of the biblical personalities in whom we explicitly see God at work. His birth was marked by the miraculous; Zechariah and Elizabeth were childless and past usual child-bearing age. His birth was announced by an angel. The angel said that the child would be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb. John was preordained by the Lord for a specific ministry: he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. Again, John was sent to prepare people for the coming of the Son of God.

Some people seem to bear an obvious mark of being called by God. We see that throughout the Scriptures. David was explicitly chosen. Isaiah opens his prophecy by saying The Lord called me from birth, from my mother’s womb he gave me my name. The same is true for Jeremiah; he tells his hearers: the word of the Lord came to me saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you.

It helps to remember that the Bible is very selective. It covers thousands of years of history, so we are given some of the most significant movements of God as he was unfolding his total plan of salvation. Yet it is also true that God has always been at work in our world. Jesus was the Lamb, which was slain from the beginning of the world (Rev 13:8). Paul tells the Colossians that in [Christ] everything in heaven and on earth was created, and not only created, but in him everything continues in being. There is not a split second or a fraction of space where God is not present and giving order to all that is.

Among the nameless millions of people who span history and inhabit our world right now, God chooses to manifest himself in conspicuous ways in some (actually, a very few). This is meant to open our minds and hearts to wonder…. and to hunger and thirst for God.

If God overwhelmed everyone with definitive calling and gifts, the work of faith and its ability to stretch our souls and deepen love for God would be compromised. God does enough to show us, to encourage us, to give us grace and strength so that our souls can be brought to new life and healed.

We should not doubt nor be discouraged if our personal spiritual journey is not as strong or as observable as that of someone else––and especially not as incredible as the greatest biblical heroes.

God moved in and through John the Baptist so that people, even down to today, might take a second look and consider what God is doing. We are all invited to believe that as God worked so demonstrably in John the Baptist (and others), we can dare to trust that God is at work in our own lives even apart from personal visits by angels or a definitive word at the time of our birth.

The psalmist was writing for all of us when he said:

Truly you have formed my inmost being;
   you knit me in my mother’s womb.

….every one of my days was decreed
    before one of them came into being.

Okay, your name (and mine) is not known by the whole Church (the way John’s is), but…. God knows your name, and he wants to write his name on your heart so you are his forever.

The second Vigil reading is for all of us:

Beloved: Although you have not seen Jesus Christ you love him; even though you do not see him now yet believe in him, you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, as you attain the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

God is always at work for our salvation. God sent John the Baptist because he was about to send his Son. His is the one Name that needs to be known above all others––Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

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