January 19, 2014 - Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Isaiah 49:3, 5-6
Psalm 40:2, 4, 7-10
1 Corinthians 1:1-3
John 1:29-34

We have just been singing, “Here I am Lord; I come to do your will.” The psalmist is speaking to God. When we speak to God, it is never to inform him; it is always to remind ourselves. So when we sing, “Here I am Lord; I come to do your will” we are reminding ourselves of what our relationship with God is.

“Here I am Lord.” God already knows where we are. We are the ones needing the reminder. Here we are on earth, in the exact situation that our current time and place finds us. We could imagine a thousand people, each in their own unique situation, calling out, “Here I am Lord.” A person in the depths of grief can say, “Here I am Lord.” A person on top of Mount Everest can shout, “Here I am Lord.” A person made weak by illness can whisper, “Here I am Lord.” A person caught in addiction with no visible way out can call out, “Here I am Lord.”

This is often how we begin prayer, by telling the Lord where we are, as a child tells their father how things are going. God knows where we are. Not just our location but every fact about us, even what we ourselves do not know. This phrase, “Here I am Lord” is a reminder that no matter where we are, we can call out to God. There is no one in the world, no matter their situation, no matter their struggles, no matter their triumphs, who cannot stop and say, “Here I am Lord.”

We should attain the habit of this prayer. Ten times a day we should stop and turn to the Lord and say, “Here I am Lord.” This part of the prayer is all about the present. The past does not matter: how I got here, whose fault or success it was, is beside the point. I am here, and here is not too far away to speak to the Lord, so “Here I am Lord.”

The past matters only inasmuch as it has created the situation we are in. What we have done and what we have suffered has put us here today. Here. Exactly where each one of us is. Our here and now includes certain responsibilities, certain commitments, certain disabilities, certain liabilities. God knows that. He knows exactly where we are. We are the ones who might lie to ourselves. So we stop and say, “Here I am Lord.” Yet this was only half of the prayer that we sang. “Here I am Lord,” but now what? “I come to do your will.” This is to say that, no matter where we are, we can choose to do what is right.

Sometimes people believe that in their current situation it is impossible to do what is right, but it is always possible to cast aside everything and follow God. There is always a road from where we are to where we should be. When people are in difficult situations, so many lies reach out and claim that they can deal with it. In this culture of death, many of these solutions (Abortion, Suicide, Euthanasia, Terrorism) involve death, but killing can never undo the reality of where we are right now.

Abortion is a lie. Some people think that the morality of abortion depends on how the woman got pregnant. If a woman is pregnant, and it is unfair, then she should have an abortion, people say. But abortion cannot change reality. This is the lie. Abortion claims to fix something, but if a mother kills her child she is still the mother of that child. Nothing can undo reality.

No matter what the difficult situation, we are tempted away from God’s will. One person believe that their sins are too serious for God to ever accept them again. Another thinks that God’s will is too idealistic and impractical. These are lies; we can always turn back to God. Another is in a situation that is just unfair, and they cannot believe that they are required to accept it, but what else can we do with reality except to accept it? No matter where we are, we always have complete freedom to begin to do God’s will. No matter how we got where we are, we cannot change the reality into something else, but we can move forward from this point in the direction of God.

We have to give up our own will. If we today give up every one of our plans for life, if we today give up every expectation, every anticipation, every ambition, every entitlement, every sense of our fair share, it is possible to do God’s will, to be completely happy. How many people are prevented from following God because of a daydream! How many times must we remind ourselves? God loves us. He knows what is best for us. Therefore, his plan is specially designed to get us what is best for us. What more could we want?

Just as Israel had to give up the idea of being the only nation favored by God. They are hoping to be restored as the favored nation, but God says, “It is too little, the LORD says, for you to be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and restore the survivors of Israel; I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” Paul had to give up a promising career as a Pharisee to become an apostle (and what is an apostle but a wandering beggar? It seems impressive now, because of where God’s will took him. At the time it was about as low as a person could go.). John the Baptist had to give up the following he could have had as he pointed the way to Jesus and away from himself.

So too we must give up whatever is tying us down here, even if it seems like the most important thing. We must give up anything that prevents us from doing the will of God: whether an object or a goal or plans or simply our pride. No matter how much time, effort, and money we have invested in this obstacle, not even if we have made it the center and meaning of our lives, if it prevents us from following God, we must cast it aside. And when we give it up, and travel down the way of God’s will, and arrive at heaven, if we should, by some chance turn and look at that precious thing that lies cast aside on the road, we will laugh at ourselves for ever thinking it of any value at all in comparison to God’s love and what he has prepared for us.