Are we ready to evangelize with our lives?
The Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Isaiah 49: 3, 5-6; 1 Corinthians 1:1-3; John 1: 29-34
We begin today the season of ordinary time, which is just a few weeks will usher in our season of Lent beginning with Ash Wednesday on February 26th. Yet from our readings today we see that this is no ordinary season. We read how Jesus witnessed by John is about to begin his public ministry which will lead to the celebration of Easter.
The readings today challenge us to reflect on our Baptism which initiated us into a community of service and sees us as servants of the Divine and each other. How many of us like to see ourselves as servants? Servants are those we think of who are indebted to the master and have no freedom. Yet our servant-hood gives us more freedom than not and does not take away any of our own identity or value. The servitude of the Christian is one who is called to tend to the earth bringing forth more people to freedom who have been locked in themselves and pain.
Our Baptism only makes sense and becomes realized when we serve each other. In our culture and society, we are up against two very different callings. The first call is self-centeredness, which calls us to acquire more and more and keep what we have for ourselves and a select few we call family. This notion of self-centeredness can also be seen in our religious communities who set up camp and begin to evangelize and baptize for their community which frequently is exclusive and sees any other type of faith community as a threat to the current congregation — just as the individual self -centeredness so too can faith communities be self -centered. Jesus challenges us to the second call in our culture, other centeredness.
What does it mean to be other-centered? It is a way of life that sees that all people and I are connected. It is a way of life that takes what we have and gives to others not just ourselves or those in our inner circle. It sees that life, love and joy are truly experienced as giving of oneself as Jesus did. Yet this call to other centeredness has a drawback. It can lead to misunderstanding and rejection even by one’s family. Jesus’ life was rooted in freeing others to experience a new image of the Divine. Jesus proclaimed that the Divine was not some far off being looking to judge or get us when we did something wrong. Jesus witness to the Divine was one who longed for a loving, intimate personal relationship with all of creation so that creation, you and I, could be brought to a deeper level of love and being that we could not experience without sharing as one. Isolation and barriers to embracing others as part of who we are the ways we block the Divine from working in our life. The Divine as Jesus reminded us it is within all of creation waiting for us to open our minds and hearts so we could be filled with eternal peace, love and joy being healed and freed from the things we know are troublesome. So why don’t we let go and allow the Divine to envelop us in love fully?
I believe we block the Divine because, as we have been taught if we cannot see, taste, feel or hear something, it is not real. Since the Divine is found within us and in our lived experience, it is often overlooked since we are not tuned into the ways the Divine speaks to our hearts. Some have said that the calmer more joyful voice within which is their voice scares them, yet this is the voice of the Divine. Some see praying as a waste of time and others feel unworthy to even think that they are a vessel of the Divine. Still, others have been told over and again by their faith leaders that they are too sinful or would not understand or worse yet, have not even been told that they participate in the Divine. So, given all these experiences and thoughts, it is no wonder that still in our day and age as in Jesus' time, people are like sheep without true shepherds. So, what can we do?
I know for me throughout my life I had to develop a personal relationship with the Divine in my life. Spending time in silent prayer allows the Divine to speak to my mind and heart and reveal areas that are still self-centered and need healing. It also gives me the strength to be a servant evangelizing the love of the Lord by being an example of that love to others. Our prayer life is the central element missing in most of our lives. We may read spiritual books or listen to tapes or even go to service but never encounter the Divine within. Until we encounter the Divine within yourself, we are living on the spiritual surface, only getting a glimpse of the Divine which gets clouded over by worry, fear, sadness, loneliness and all the other distractions. To embrace the Divine within we must let go of ego which claims to know it all and we must become vulnerable. We must allow ourselves to be re-educated in the ways of the Divine not rooted in our religious or familiar traditions, and we must come to our awareness of the Divine not somebody else’s image or description.
Each of us was baptized or incorporated as an individual into our faith community, and each of us needs to identify with our unique image and experience of the Divine, which connects us to all creation. If we have not allowed ourselves to experience the Divine within us, then what we are evangelizing is someone else’s message of salvation or love. When we speak about the Divine and it is not coming from within us, it is not convincing. When we speak of the Divine in terms of hatred or punishment or hell, we are not speaking of the Divine Jesus showed us. When we speak of the Divine from personal experience, we know it is real for it speaks of compassion, love, freedom and healing. Our experience of being a servant for the Lord frees us to share our truth that we are all connected not only to the Divine but each other and that division is the product of self-centeredness.
Jesus was witnessed by John to be the one who would free others from isolation and detachment from the Divine, also known as sin and the one who would lead all people to the Divine in healing, love and freedom. Are we willing to do the same as Jesus and live a life from the center of our being where the Divine dwells and extend all that we have and are to others? We are called through our Baptism not to be ordinary people but a people connected to the Divine and others living lives of truth, freedom and love speaking out against the injustice in our world that seeks to alienate, destroy and place barriers to people’s freedom and journey within themselves to the Divine.
Let us pray for the courage to enter within and meet the Divine letting go of ego, current knowledge of the Divine and self so we can be truly free to embrace the Divine and all people. Let us pray for our faith communities that they lead others to their own experience of the Divine to be shared and develop in community and encouraged and supported to evangelize others. Let us not speak of fear, damnation or punishment for that is not of the Divine but rather speak of healing, joy and universal love for this is and was the message of Jesus the one who came to show us what it meant to be truly human and come to know and experience the Divine as a human creature and servant of the Lord.