Reading I Is 49:1-6
Hear me, O coastlands,
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.
Though I thought I had toiled in vain,
and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength,
yet my reward is with the LORD,
my recompense is with my God.
For now the LORD has spoken
who formed me as his servant from the womb,
that Jacob may be brought back to him
and Israel gathered to him;
and I am made glorious in the sight of the LORD,
and my God is now my strength!
It is too little, he 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.
Responsorial Psalm 139:1b-3, 13-14ab, 14c-15
R. (14) I praise you, for I am wonderfully made.
O LORD, you have probed me, you know me:
you know when I sit and when I stand;
you understand my thoughts from afar.
My journeys and my rest you scrutinize,
with all my ways you are familiar.
R. I praise you for I am wonderfully made.
Truly you have formed my inmost being;
you knit me in my mother’s womb.
I give you thanks that I am fearfully, wonderfully made;
wonderful are your works.
R. I praise you, for I am wonderfully made.
My soul also you knew full well;
nor was my frame unknown to you
When I was made in secret,
when I was fashioned in the depths of the earth.
R. I praise you, for I am wonderfully made.
Reading II Acts 13:22-26
In those days, Paul said:
“God raised up David as king;
of him God testified,
I have found David, son of Jesse, a man after my own heart;
he will carry out my every wish.
From this man’s descendants God, according to his promise,
has brought to Israel a savior, Jesus.
John heralded his coming by proclaiming a baptism of repentance
to all the people of Israel;
and as John was completing his course, he would say,
‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he.
Behold, one is coming after me;
I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of his feet.’
“My brothers, sons of the family of Abraham,
and those others among you who are God-fearing,
to us this word of salvation has been sent.”
Alleluia See Lk 1:76
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
You, child, will be called prophet of the Most High,
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel Lk 1:57-66, 80
When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child
she gave birth to a son.
Her neighbors and relatives heard
that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her,
and they rejoiced with her.
When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child,
they were going to call him Zechariah after his father,
but his mother said in reply,
“No. He will be called John.”
But they answered her,
“There is no one among your relatives who has this name.”
So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called.
He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,”
and all were amazed.
Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed,
and he spoke blessing God.
Then fear came upon all their neighbors,
and all these matters were discussed
throughout the hill country of Judea.
All who heard these things took them to heart, saying,
“What, then, will this child be?”
For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.
The child grew and became strong in spirit,
and he was in the desert until the day
of his manifestation to Israel.
“What then will this child be?” This question asked of John the Baptist at his birth is one that we can all ask of ourselves. What am I to be?
I am personally going through a Job like moment in life - one that I have been going through for the past two years. It can be hard to see God’s hand in it and it is especially hard to wrestle with as someone whose life is constantly devoted to His work.
I have often wondered if I’m where I am supposed to be, doing what I am supposed to be doing.
I strongly feel the truth of St Teresa of Avila’s famous quip about how God treats His friends: “If this is how you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few.” I work to do what I believe that He’s called me to, but it often feels like I have nothing to show for it.
The words of Isaiah remind me that “though I thought I had toiled in vain” that “my reward is with the Lord.” The psalmist reminds me that I am made specifically for this life in all of its ups and downs in order to glorify God and to find reward solely in Him.
I was made for this and the trials are part of it.
I often have nothing to show for my work because it is not material rewards or gratification that I should be seeking. My eyes should be fixed on God rather than on the practical solutions I constantly seek for my problems or for what I perceive to be missing in my life. For the designer of my being and my life has plans for me and the challenge is to embrace those plans even when they don’t appear to be playing out so well.
Today we celebrate the nativity of one who knew this truth well. St. John the Baptist was known and made by the Lord for a specific purpose, not for his own glory but for the glory of God. His life was given and planned for a specific moment in history to usher in the new era of salvation history. In the face of isolation in the wilderness, persecution, suffering, and ultimately martyrdom, St John the Baptist remained steadfast in the Spirit for he knew that his reward was in the Lord.
His life in the wilderness demonstrates his complete dependence on the God who would come to him for baptism. Even the great multitude of people that he discipled and baptized were not meant for his glory or to show any reward for his labors.
They were all prepared by him for the one who is to come, for the Lamb of God who alone deserves the glory.
Like St. John, I am called to rely totally on God and to wait for the moment in which He will come to me and lay out His plan in whatever form He has created for me. Despite what trials or hardships I am currently facing, I do not toil in vain if the toil is the work of the Lord and is grounded in His Spirit. Who am I to be? I am to be the exact person that God wonderfully made me to be in this precise moment - with eyes open to where His Spirit is and a heart ready to listen and follow Him.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Victoria Mastrangelo is a wife, mother of three, and high school theology teacher in Houston. She loves to read multiple books at once, research, write, drink coffee, and travel, as her dream job is to be a perpetual student. Her favorite saints are Edith Stein, Ignatius of Loyola, Dorothy Day and John Paul II which tell you a lot about her spirituality and love of the feminine genius and social justice. You can find her on Instagram here and more of her writing here.