The Advent weekdays from Dec. 17 – 24 are intended as a direct preparation for Christmas. To that end, the Gospels during this week present the stories of the key people who played a major part in the events leading up to the birth of Christ.
Today’s Gospel deals with Elizabeth and Zechariah and the birth of their son, John the Baptist. John the Baptist comes to play a very important role in the life and ministry of Jesus. John is the fulfillment of the prophecy of Malachi described in the 1st Reading: “I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me”.
The Gospel is not just retelling stories that happened 2,000 years ago. These events have meaning for us today. Like Elizabeth, Zechariah and John the Baptist, each of us has a specific and important role to play in bringing Jesus to our community in our own time. As baptized Christians, each of us has an important part to play in continuing Jesus’s work in our own time. Today’s liturgy is inviting us to reflect on this question: “What does God want of me?”
In order to help us answer this question, I would like to build on one of the homework assignments from Bishop Dowd’s homily on Sunday morning. The bishop encouraged us to say this one sentence prayer to ask God to help us to imitate Mary’s openness to the Holy Spirit: “Holy Spirit, I give you permission to work in me the way you want”.
I suggest we follow the same strategy to answer the question raised by today’s Gospel, “What does God want of me?” The 1st step is to respond with a 1 sentence prayer.
Furthermore, I suggest we use the vocabulary from today’s Responsorial Psalm for our one sentence prayers. The Psalms are not just responses to other passages from Scripture. They are powerful prayers in their own right.
That’s the reason the Psalms are a key component of both Morning Prayer (Lauds) and Evening Prayer (Vespers). Those of you who participate in the Vespers Service held on the last Sunday of every month at 3:00 pm have experienced 1st hand the important role of the Psalms in liturgical prayer.
Let’s return to the question: “What does God want of me?” In answering the question, let’s make a connection among today’s Gospel, today’s Psalm and a 1 sentence prayer. (I will suggest three 1 sentence prayers; pick the one that resonates the best with you & pray it over these last two days of Advent.)
This is the 1st choice. John the Baptist went ahead of the Lord and literally pointed at Jesus: “Behold the Lamb of God”. Like John the Baptist, we are called to bring Jesus into other people’s lives. Here is a quotation from the Psalm: “Make me know your ways, O Lord”. Using this vocabulary, here is a possible one sentence prayer: “Lord, make me know how I can bring Christ to others in my daily life”.
This is the 2nd choice. Elizabeth, was beyond child bearing years. Zechariah, as a temple priest, was expected to follow cultural, religious and societal norms with respect to the naming of his son. In the face of these challenges, both Elizabeth and Zechariah surrendered their lives to God and trusted in his agenda for their lives. Like Elizabeth and Zechariah, our responsibility is to submit our life to God in the present moment and to trust his plans for us. Here is a quotation from the Psalm: “Lord, teach me your paths”. Using this vocabulary, here is a one sentence prayer: “Lord, teach me to go in the direction you are calling me to follow”.
This is the 3rd choice. Elizabeth, Zechariah and John the Baptist spent their lives in the service of God. They gave themselves away to God. Like these 3 individuals, as disciples of Christ, we ought to be committed to God’s work in our world. We, too, are called to be servants of God. Here is a quotation from the Psalm: “Lord, lead me in your truth and teach me”. Using this vocabulary, here is one sentence prayer: “Lord, show me how to be your servant in the situations of my life”.
God asked and relied on Elizabeth, Zechariah and John the Baptist to play a major role in the events leading up to the birth of Christ. The same is true for us. God is asking us and relying on us to make a contribution in implementing the designs of his heart in Sudbury in 2020.
What does God want of me? My suggestion is that we pick one of these three prayers and say it with a sincere heart:
- Lord, make me know how I can bring Christ to others in my daily life.
- Lord, teach me to go in the direction you are calling me to follow.
- Lord, show me how to be your servant in the situations of my life.
God wanted something from Elizabeth, Zechariah and John the Baptist. We know how they responded. Likewise, God wants something from us. How will we respond?
As we continue our Eucharist, let us ask God to help us to know what he wants of us. Once we have an answer, may God give us to grace to respond with a generous heart.
Deacon Roland Muzzatti
December 23, 2020