“Hear me, O islands, listen, O distant peoples. The LORD called me from birth, from my mother’s womb he gave me my name. He made of me a sharp-edged sword and concealed me in the shadow of his arm. He made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me. You are my servant, he said to me, Israel, through whom I show my glory.” Isaiah 49:1-3
In today’s readings we see Isaiah, called from birth, to serve the LORD. It’s really quite amazing to consider that God has a plan for each and every one of us. God tells Jeremiah that God has known him since before he was even formed in his mother’s womb! (JER 1:5) Today’s reading demands that we ask life’s most important questions, namely, Am I becoming the person God has created me to be? and Am I doing what God has created me to do? These questions, more than any other, must be asked if we are ever to enjoy true joy, peace, and fulfillment. I believe each of us seeks true and lasting happiness, but we too often think that happiness can be achieved (and sometimes ONLY achieved) in a way that is apart from God. The crazy thing is that God too seeks nothing more than our total joy and happiness, and the happiness that we long for CANNOT be achieved apart from God’s will for us and our life. I wonder if my own boys will know that deep, abiding happiness and peace found only in God?
Isaiah was “called from birth.” The Latin word for “call” is vocare. It is where we get our English word, vocation. Our vocation is the life we live in response to God’s calling for us. It’s the way we live out our Christian discipleship in the world. The Church teaches that God’s call must be lived out in one of four ways: the single life, the married life, the religious life, or the ordained life. This covers every state. We believe that the first step to peace, joy, and happiness is to discern our vocation, our calling. Is God calling me to serve Him and the world in marriage, through ordained ministry, as a single person devoted to Him, or as a nun or monk? If we don’t give this adequate consideration; if we “jump” into what we want and not what God wants, we will invariably feel angst and dissatisfaction with our life. We will be wearing clothes made for someone else–but not us. I wonder if my boys will already begin to consider how God is calling them to serve?
Isaiah says that it was God that gave him his name. I think that’s one of my greatest fears for my kids–that they will begin to believe a name not given to them by God, but instead by others. We are very quick to name others–and it is a sin to do so. I’m not talking about the name parents give their children, I’m talking about those much more damaging and hurtful names like, “idiot,” “try-hard,” “sissy,” “stupid,” “wimp,” “baby,” and the list goes on and on. We are very quick to name others, but God alone is the one who names us and others. From the beginning God created man and woman, looked upon them, and called them “good.” That’s what and who we are in our very being and in our deepest identity. Often we act in a way that is beneath our dignity and inconsistent with our goodness, but that is not who we are. We are good, created in the image of our Good God. I wonder if my boys will begin to believe the lies that so many people tell them. Will they embrace the name that hurtful, hateful others give to them, or will they know and recognize God’s calling them by their Good and Holy name?
Not only are we called by God, and created good, according to Isaiah, but we have been made with purpose. Isaiah says that God has made him a “sharp-edged sword,” and “a polished arrow.” Both the sword and the arrow are nothing without one to wield them. And I know from personal experience that tools are made with a particular purpose in mind. In other words, our kitchen stove IS NOT a ladder, my screw driver is not a pry bar, and my wood drill bit was not made for drilling through concrete! In all of the examples above, I ended up ruining the tool because I impatiently and unthoughtfully used a tool for the wrong purpose! This is exactly the way many of us live our lives and then wonder why everything around us is all busted up! We have been created by God and for GOD’s purposes–love, kindness, mercy, and forgiveness. The cool thing with Isaiah’s words about swords and arrows is that the sword finds its peace within the scabbard, and the arrows in the quiver. God has need of us to serve a particular need in our world, but even as we use those gifts that God has given only to us for His purpose we must always find the time to rest in Him! I wonder if my sons will discover their gifts, use their gifts, and have peace and rest, silence, and security in God?
God tells Israel through Isaiah, that they are His servant through whom God’s glory will be revealed to the world. This is our role and this is what we do! At the end of the day, each of use is called to give our hands, our feet, our mind, our talents, and speech, yes, our whole body and being to God as His servant. St. Paul urges the Romans, “…in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship.” (12:1) When we are willing to do this, we can indeed reveal to others the very greatness and glory of God, our Father! This is what Jesus said to His disciples. He tells His disciples that they are the light of the world and the salt of the earth! He says, “Just so, your light must shine before others that they might see your good deeds and give glory to God.” (MT 5:16) When and if we seek God’s will and daily choose serve Him and others with the gifts we’ve been given, the world will come to know God. Will my own sons give their whole body to God as their spiritual act of worship and reveal God to the world through their loving actions?
THEY WILL IF I DO. To the degree that I respond to God’s name, know and live my goodness, serve God, find rest in God, and offer my whole life to God, my sons will learn from me and follow. Parents (and those who teach in our name) have a greater responsibility than we can possibly imagine. If we do not model, they will not learn. If God matters, let’s act like it. Pray for strength with me. Amen? Share this with parents you know.