Step #1: Lectio / Read
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.
Step #2: Meditatio / Meditate
Happy Feast Day! Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, Jesus' relative and the one who came before Him to prepare the world for the coming of the Christ. John, about whom Jesus says that "no greater has been born of a woman," is celebrated today because his birth marks the start of our salvation.
In today's First Reading which we just read, we hear the Prophet Isaiah talking about the promise of God to save His people and bring them into a new covenant with Him. Throughout the Old Testament, we hear the story of God creating covenants (these are "familial oaths," by which one person is brought into the family of another; covenants are very serious promises, almost always made through some sort of blood sacrifice) over and over again with His people, and His people repeatedly breaking those covenants. Think, for example, of the promise to Adam and Eve when they are given the land to till and guard, and promised that it will all be theirs, but then they break the promise by eating of the forbidden tree and they lose this inheritance. You can also think of Moses, who leads the people out of Egypt, but never sees the Promised Land due to his doubt and infidelity.
In the great prophets of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and others, we begin to hear of something like those covenants of old, only greater. Today, Isaiah tells us that, through his own words and his fidelity to the promise, God has made a promise that His salvation will reach the end of the earth. John, who was chosen from before his birth by God to be set apart for a purpose, is a key figure in bringing this to fruition: he labors to bring Israel back to the Lord and prepare them for the One to come who will bring about the salvation of all the world.
There is a lot packed into those two paragraphs, but in the end it's all about this: God has made a promise of salvation, of hope, of joy, of eternal life, and ultimately of Himself to each one of us. This promise He has called each of us to receive from our birth. We were called to be brought into relationship with Him; we have been chosen for salvation through our Baptism, and now we have the chance to respond to the promise of God and begin to live in the joy and salvation offered to each of us through the life of grace in the Church here and now.
As John the Baptist would say later in his life, "[Jesus] must increase, I must decrease." Today, as we realize that we are called from birth for a specific purpose, and we know that the purpose to which we have been called is salvation, let's focus on letting Him increase in our lives in order to experience the life of faith in its fullness. Jesus has a plan for you and for me, a plan He has ordained since before we were even a thought in the minds of our parents; if we let Him increase in our lives, we can learn to live in the beauty and the goodness of that calling.
Step #3: Meditatio / Meditate
"The LORD called me from birth,
from my mother’s womb he gave me my name."
How can I ask the Lord to increase in my life today?
What does it mean to my life that God has called me from birth? Have I ever reflected on His calling for me?
In my life today, how is God calling me to follow and serve Him?
Step #4: Contemplatio / Contemplate
You must increase, I must decrease.
You have called me from birth.
Lead me to Your plans for my life.
For the Rest Of Your Day...
Take confidence in the fact that you have been called from birth by the Lord, and work to let His plans and His presence increase in your life.
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Today's prayer was prepared by Jason Theobald.