“Here I am, Lord! I come to do your will.” The responsorial psalm at today’s Mass is a joyful engagement with the will of God. As the psalm unfolds it speaks from a heart that waits upon the Lord, that surrenders itself to the presence of God, that delights in his ways. The spirit that animates this psalm reaches beyond the external observance of sacrifice and offering. It seeks a deeply personal communion with God.
“You do not ask for holocaust and victim. Instead, here am I. My God, I delight in your law in the depths of my heart.”
This communion with the will of the Father, to which we are all called, is illustrated in the ministry of Jesus. The prophet Isaiah, foreshadowing Jesus in his description of the servant, takes us to the heart of this communion with the Father.
The servant described by the prophet lives in the presence of the Father’s love. He describes himself as honoured in the eyes of the Lord, as formed in the womb to gather all nations into the love of the Father. While these words apply in a unique manner to Jesus as the Son of God, they speak also to those who share his life. At the beginning of his Letter to the Ephesians St Paul describes us as those who were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, chosen to live through love in his presence.
Our journey in faith is born of a love that is freely given, that accompanies us through life, that enables us to delight in the ways of the Lord. Paul’s greeting at the beginning of his first Letter to the Corinthians reinforces the grace of God’s call in every heart. Paul described himself as an apostle called by God. Our faith is not an accident of birth. Just as Paul understood himself to be called by God and responded with the gift of himself, so, in different ways, we are called to take our place with Christ among the saints.
John the Baptist pointed to Jesus as the one who would enable this deeply personal communion with the will of the Father. Using the language of the Old Testament he identified Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The imagery, derived from Israel’s ritual, implies the struggle that hinders sinful humanity in its longing for God. From our own experience we know that sin has a power that reaches far beyond its individual transgressions. Sin undermines our best intentions. It dissipates the love and joy for which we were created. As such it has a hidden power that we cannot overcome, that becomes a burden frustrating the love of God. John pointed to Jesus as the one who would unlock frozen hearts, who would take to himself the burden that stifles the heart.
“Look, there is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
John went on to describe the inner renewal that would be brought about in the baptism of Jesus. John had seen the Spirit of God descending upon Jesus at his baptism. In this he had understood that the power of sin is only truly broken when sinful hearts are surrendered to the Spirit that accompanied Jesus.
“The man on whom you see the Spirit rest is going to baptise with the Holy Spirit.”
Let us entrust ourselves to the Spirit given to us at our baptism.