by Father James Rodriguez
As the church and world return to the ordinary time of work and life in the afterglow of Christmas, God continues to nourish and inspire through His word. Isaiah, never too far away, continues to bellow the theme that in many ways defines his prophecy-vocation. God calls each person by name to His service, so that we might find there the freedom of being His children.
It was and continues to be a source of great pride for the people of Israel to have been chosen by God from the beginning, and as Christians, we recognize in this shared call something that transcends national and cultural borders.
Our church is universal, because it exists as a seed in the heart of every human being, for we all long to be united to the One for Whom we were made. This is the One “who formed me as his servant from the womb” before a drop of holy water made me his son at baptism. It is the same One who called me to the priesthood, and continues to call men to this deeply fulfilling and beautiful life. It is not a life without suffering, nor should it be, because a cross embraced is a door to Christ.
Truly God calls everyone, but not everyone truly responds. St. Paul’s vocation story is well known and resounds throughout all of his writings in one way or another. He was called after years of living an anti-Christian life, seeking to destroy the burgeoning Christian community of which he would later become a pillar. He heard his name, and then his name changed, as he was “called to be holy, with all those everywhere who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.”
This echo of calls between Love Himself and the beloved is at the heart of a life of sanctity, by which the response to God’s initiative is nothing short of a life lived in loving reliance on Him.
In the coming week, hundreds of thousands of peaceful protesters will march in Washington, as they do each year, to pray for an end to abortion in our country. It is estimated that more than half of these are under the age of 30, survivors of what Pope St. John Paul II prophetically called a culture of death. Those of us who do not attend can support them by our prayers, and beg the Lord to be merciful on us and all societies where abortion is seen as necessary and children as more of a burden than a gift.
Let us pray for all parents, that they too might be strengthened to live out their sublime vocation to nurture the next generation, to whom we entrust a fractured world. Much like John the Baptist, a parent’s role is to point out the Messiah, introducing their children to the One for whom every heart yearns.
Like John, all Christians, be they parents or not, testify to Jesus with a faith that is meant to be shared. John admits “I did not know him,” but worked tirelessly “that he might be made known.” There is a great lesson here for all of us who would consider ourselves to be people of faith. When we attend Mass, do we strive to see the reality imperceptible to the senses, as John did? Do we push ourselves to prepare for the experience in which heaven and earth meet?
It may cost us a few more minutes on Sunday morning, but the simple exercise of reading ahead can open for us an experience that happens so frequently that people consider it boring and repetitive.
As believers, we are supposed to train our hearts for the nourishment He provides at the altar each day. Like every good gift, we must claim it. And we can at every Mass we attend.
Readings for the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Isaiah 49: 3, 5-6
Psalm 40: 2, 4, 7-8, 8-9, 10
1 Corinthians 1: 1-3
John 1: 29-34
Father Rodriguez is the administrator of Saint Rose of Lima in Rockaway Beach.