In the Gospel of Luke today, we read about the naming of John the Baptist, who is given a moniker that puzzles people. Only when Zechariah concurs with his wife Elizabeth about the name does a bit of Christmas magic occur. His tongue is freed and he is given back his speech once he announces by writing that the baby’s name is John. He praises God with his first words. The story roared throughout Judea. All who heard it, we are told, pondered what this child would become.
When we hold a baby in our arms, we may wonder the same. A life full of promise is in our hands, simply breathing and being, no need for striving or competing. There is so much hope at a birth. Fast forward 50 years, and the wondering of what the child has become is over. A life, hopefully well-lived, is evident by the deeds and character of the person. If we look to Jesus as our model, he lived out his purpose, his vocation, or his calling. Mary and Joseph must have had some interesting conversations with Zechariah and Elizabeth about the two boys during family visits.
I belong to a marvelous Ignatian group of lay volunteers. Each of us is involved in a ministry. We come together to discuss our lives, our interactions and experiences with the volunteer organization, and a book that we choose of our reading. This year we are reading Jesus by James Martin, sj. For those of us who have been in the group of a number of years, we dive deeply into each of these and vulnerably share our souls. It is a real gift to be part of the group. The December meeting was especially meaningful to me as we discussed what had been unfolding in our lives. It takes a lot of courage to be honest about our foibles and our struggles.
During my sharing, I wondered what my calling was now-what is my vocation? What do I still become in these last days, weeks, months? Jesus came to bring Light and Peace to the world, to be our Saviour, and to lead us to Hope. What he did led to that–the teachings, the healings, the miracles, the conversations, the friendships. John came to reveal Jesus. Yes, he did things–he preached, he baptized, and he gathered people. Essentially, he prepared the way. I believe that each of us has a unique calling and it is often different than what we do in life. I have begun to wonder what God is asking of me in this remaining time.
I have always struggled with vocation, always questioned if I have missed the mark. My joy has come from serving in big and small ways. My happiest times have been in Guatemala and in African countries. That has been where my heart has rejoiced–among the poor, the like-minded, and the faithful. I have some ideas what I may be called to and I need to start discerning what I will further become in this time. For years, as part of the Bereavement Ministry at my parish, we ran a Christmas Circle of Light, Circle of Love for those who are grieving the loss of a loved one during the holidays. We used a story of a tree in search of its name. The Maker of the Universe knew what this tree was called and yes, the tree had many names, but the Creator knew the real one–Faithful. Maybe that caused a reaction much like the one in Judea of what the tree would become, but I think in essence, we are all called Faithful, even as we search for our meaning. That is what John and his parents, and Jesus and his parents were – faithful. That is what I hope to be as I set out on this search for God’s plan for me. Whatever the becoming is for any of us, we can be assured that it is one created in Love, like the one that John and Jesus had. This weekend we celebrate holding a Baby full of promise, for us and for the world. Come, Emmanuel!
What do you think your vocation is?
Are you faithful?
Baby-full-of-Promise, come to us, and show us our purpose, selected by you for each one of us. Come, Emmanuel, come. Amen.