The readings for the Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist begin with one of the Servant Songs of Isaiah. There are four such songs or poems in the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, each of them written about Israel's vocation, a call from God to be a model for the other nations and kingdoms of the world. The selection we use for this solemnity makes it very clear that Israel is the subject of the poem. We hear Israel come to the realization that God has a distinct plan for Israel, conceived while it was still in its developmental stages, like a child in its mother's womb.
While the reading is particularly apropos for today's feast, it also asks us to contemplate God's plan for us, for our role in the world. Each of us has been designated since before our birth for a special place in God's history or plan of salvation. Each of us is to make the Lord known through our personality, our skills, our interests, our talents, and our charisms.
Frequently we hear assertions that there are no two snowflakes alike, no two leaves on a tree that are alike, no two fingerprints that are identical. Nature has designed us to be unique. God has used that nature in shaping the call that each of us has received. While imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, it is also true to say that each of us has been given a specific task or role that no other person can do or be. John was born for his role; we are born for ours.
Let us understand that God's call is not necessarily about doing something that no one else can do. Western culture and civilization puts a high premium on accomplishment. While tasks are important and activity is certainly one way to live our God's will in our lives, it is also important to understand what God is calling us to be. For instance, John the Baptist was created to “prepare a people for the Lord.” However, this activity was a result of who he was, a man who had accepted God’s Word in his own life. This becomes evident when he realizes that “he must decrease” in order for Jesus to increase. The Gospel of John portrays him not so much as the Baptist but as the Witness, the one who pointed the way to the Lord.
When we come to the realization that our activity is not “who we are,” we will begin to understand that God acts through us, that we are the agents that God uses to accomplish the plan of salvation. Then it matters not if we are physically able, for God always chooses the weak to show forth God's power. CUSA is an apostolate of persons with chronic illness or disability. Their illnesses and disabilities do not diminish who they are even though they may not be able to do everything that others can do. We are all called, like John, to be witnesses and to point others in the direction of Jesus.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator