To prepare means to get ready. Most prepare for something every day, including dinner, celebrations, school, projects, vacations, presentations, budgets, construction, conversations, meetings, competitions, assignments, to read a book, to pray, etc. The upcoming Sunday Mass Readings offer inspirations revealing those whom God sent to prepare the way and the call to arise and follow the way.

Life_Giving Faith.pdf

Prepared to be a witness

The Solemnity of the Nativity of John the Baptist is a Sunday celebration this year. His role prefigured by the prophets, including Isaiah (another voice crying out in the desert), long before John was born. Isaiah’s message is destined for those near and far: present day and days to come. He explains how God called him from the beginning of his life to proclaim salvation. Recognizing this, Isaiah is empowered to prepare the way despite the instances in which he experiences rejection, mockery and complacency. He knows, in faith, God who formed him, prepared him. Isaiah witnesses in the name of God, who provides strength for the journey resulting in his role as being a “light to the nations.”

Fast-forward through the covenant made between God and King David, “a man after God’s own heart,” to the birth of another great prophet, St. John the Baptist. He is the one who is to prepare the way for the promised descendent of David, the savior Jesus Christ, who is “the Way, the Truth and the Life” (Jn 14:6). The pregnancy of St. John’s mother, St. Elizabeth, was miraculous. She and her husband, Zechariah, both advanced in age, never anticipated what God had prepared for them, including the name of the child as given by the angel. Zechariah’s faith wanes to the point of doubt, wherein God renders him mute for nine months, creating a time of watchfulness and silence for this soon-to-be father.

St. John’s first opportunity to witness the coming of the savior is so special. He shares the good news with his mom and Mary during the visitation, while still in the womb. The second opportunity came when he was a mere eight-days-old. His father, fortified by a renewed faith, names his son John. In that instant Zechariah’s speech was restored and he wonderfully praised God though his canticle. Hence, St. John grew strong in the Spirit and continually prepared to be a light to the nations.

Ask yourself, “How has God prepared me to be a light of his way to others? When have I hesitated to step out in faith and trust in God? Have my doubts interrupted my calling? Who can I turn to restore my faith?”

Arise and walk

The Book of Wisdom explains that God creates life. In fact, God creates humanity in the “image of his own nature,” which is made to be imperishable. You may ask, “What about the times in our lives when we experience life-threatening illnesses and situations beyond our control?” Recall during these times, God does not abandon his creation. Rather, he invites us in faith to “arise” in Jesus Christ, who destroyed death and restored life. We also petition and ask God to rescue us.

Jesus’ healing ministry is something to behold. Two miracles placed before us this cycle manifest the power of faith and trust. The father of this 12-year-old child is pleading Jesus to heal her. He truly believes Jesus can do this. In this instance, the child has seemingly died, according to other relatives. They laugh at Jesus as he explains she is “sleeping.” He sends the “naysayers” away in order to restore the hope of the one petitioning, namely her father. He turns to her with the love of a father and says, “Little girl, I say to you ARISE.” She stood up in front of Jesus. He immediately asked for food to be given to her, a sign pointing to the spiritual and physical heavenly food from Jesus, the Eucharist. For as we are healed, so too are we able to eat.

Have you experienced the “naysayers” who scoff at your petitions to God? Turn away from them, as Jesus did. They cause doubt and despair whereas Jesus gives faith and hope. Instead, turn to Jesus. Talk with Jesus. Ask for healing and believe it will happen.

At times the healing is not physical, but a spiritual one. I have personally prayed daily for more than 10 years that a loved one be cured from a chronic illness. Despite the reality of the continued presence of the disease, I can truly see the glory of God shine from this person. It is a real miracle for their sustained health, and an even further miracle that their joy radiates as a light of Christ’s merciful love. Would we expect anything less from God than to see his love and mercy radiate in the life of a suffering soul who arises by the hands of Jesus? Let us place those we know into the trusted care of Jesus’ hands and believe He has the power to transform. This is a real miracle. This faith will, indeed, bring life.

Dow is the director of the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis for the Diocese of Baton Rouge.