Today’s readings teach us not only that we were born to serve and to shine, but that we were created for that purpose. If we embrace that calling Our Lord will exceed all our expectations, because his plans not only encompass our noble ones, but goes way beyond them. We see that in the case of St. John the Baptist, and we also see it in the calling of every believer.
Isaiah in today’s First Reading speaks of Israel’s calling: to serve God for his glory as well as for their own. Israel is called to be the Lord’s servant and to show God’s glory. We were created to serve the Lord and he promises we’ll be glorious in his sight and strengthened by him. That service, at times demanding and thankless, is meant to make the Lord’s glory shine far beyond ourselves. Isaiah today reminds us we’re called to be “a light to the nations,” and through that light salvation will reach to the ends of the earth. We’re called to serve and to shine out of no one’s vanity, but to help the Lord’s salvation extend to the ends of the earth.
Paul in today’s Second Reading seconds this lofty calling to serve and to shine. We serve and shine by seeking to do what the Lord asks of us and through striving to live a holy life. In his initial greeting to the Corinthians Paul identifies himself as called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ because it is God’s will that he be one. We serve the Lord by doing his will. He reminds the Corinthians that they are “called to be holy.” Through a life of holiness we become that light to the nations and help Our Lord bring that good work to completion in each person. The good work is not meant to just remain and be nourished in each one of us: it’s a gift God wants us to give to others as well. Whatever our walk of life, God calls us to be holy, as the dogmatic constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, teaches us: “The classes and duties of life are many, but holiness is one—that sanctity which is cultivated by all who are moved by the Spirit of God, and who obey the voice of the Father and worship God the Father in spirit and in truth. These people follow the poor Christ, the humble and cross-bearing Christ in order to be worthy of being sharers in His glory. Every person must walk unhesitatingly according to his own personal gifts and duties in the path of living faith, which arouses hope and works through charity” (LG 42).
John the Baptist in today’s Gospel served the Lord as his prophet and knew part of his calling was to put the spotlight on Our Lord and his mission, not on himself: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” If John the Baptist shines in the fulfillment of his mission, he shines in order to light the way to Christ, the reason for his mission. John is not just called to serve, but to shine. He does not just recognize in Our Lord the signs that the Spirit had promised him; he testifies to them so that others would also get the message. A source of illumination draws our attention, but it also illuminates something else. Our Lord himself, later in John’s Gospel, would describe John as a burning and shining lamp (see John 5:35-36), but that John was meant to shine on the path to Christ. John himself in today’s Gospel admits that the Lord outranks him before he existed before John was even created. The light of his mission pales in comparison to the true light that was coming to enlighten every man: Christ (cf. John 1:9).
Let’s ask the Lamb today to help us not only to serve, but to shine.
Readings: Isaiah 49:3, 5–6; Psalm 40:2, 4, 7–10; 1 Corinthians 1:1–3; John 1:29–34. See also Christmas, January 3rd.