Times of change (e.g. change of one’s career, change of one’s way of life) are times of risk and uncertainty. At such times people become very vulnerable. What they need most is someone to give them support and encouragement.
When the American writer, Maya Angelou, was growing up she didn’t see her mother very much. She was brought up in great part by her grandmother, a wonderful and saintly woman. She tells how when she was twenty years old, she took a trip to San Francisco to visit her mother. It was a particularly important yet vulnerable moment in Maya’s life: she was struggling to make her way in life and groping her way towards becoming a writer.
She had quite a good meeting with her mother. When it was time to leave, her mother said, “You know, I think you are the greatest woman I have ever met.”
Years later Maya could still recall that moment vividly. She said, “Waiting for the bus, I sat there thinking: Just suppose she’s right. Suppose I really am somebody. It was one of those moments when the sky rolled back. At times like that, it’s almost as if the whole earth holds its breath.”
Maya’s experience is much like the experience of Jesus after he was baptized…”the heavens were opened for him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” And Jesus experience is reminiscent of the words we hear from the Prophet Isaiah today, “Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my spirit…” Isaiah’s passage is the first of his servant songs. The servant is the one who brings forth justice, not with force or high-handed authority, but gently, carefully, and lovingly.
In her reflection in Celebration, Patricia Sanchez points out that “the servant is never named in any of the four servant songs. Therefore, each time we hear these songs proclaimed, we must decide who the servant is. Granted, we see Jesus in this role – but shouldn’t we also see the church as God’s servant, establishing justice, being light and healing for all? Shouldn’t we also see ourselves as God’s anointed servants, filled with the Holy Spirit and equipped with every good gift in order to do God’s work? If we were to read each of the songs and insert our own name, how might that clarify who we are to be and what we are to do for God and for others?
Today’s feast is a reminder to us that we are “somebody.” We are somebody called to be the light in someone else’s darkness.
This weekend the Church’s Christmas season ends. We enter into a brief period of Ordinary Time. Next Sunday we have the Gospel of John where John the Baptist points out Jesus as the Lamb of God. The next Sunday we begin the Gospel of Matthew with the call of disciples. The following Sunday we take a break from the Ordinary Time readings and celebrate The Presentation of the Lord. At this celebration there is a blessing of candles as a reminder we hear from Simeon that Jesus is…”a light for revelation to the Gentiles.” The Gospel for the following Sunday is Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. We hear that we are salt of the earth and light of the world. The next Sundays before Lent present us with Jesus teachings on fulfilling the law:”You have heard that it was said…but I say…” I encourage you to read Matthew 5. It is a good preparation for the Sundays before Lent.