The LORD called me from birth,
from my mother’s womb he gave me my name.
He made of me a sharp-edged swordand 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.
This past Friday we celebrated the memorial of St. Thomas More, a Saint who often comes to mind when I think of St. John the Baptist, who’s Birth we celebrate today. St Thomas More was born in 1478 in London. He studied law and entered Parliament in 1504 and eventually was made Lord Chancellor by King Henry the VIII (the eighth).
When no offspring resulted from the marriage of King Henry and his wife Katherine of Aragón, Henry divorced her and married Anne Boleyn so that there would be heirs to the throne.
Parliament, in order to support the King re-marrying outside the Church, passed a law forcing clergy to acknowledge Henry as the supreme head of the Church – to acknowledge him as their own little Pope. Shortly afterwards St. Thomas More resigned his post as Lord Chancellor, for he could not support the King as Head of the Church. He knew who that was, and it wasn’t King Henry.
Shortly thereafter he was summoned to Lambeth and asked to take the oath declaring that the King was indeed the supreme head of the Church, which he refused and was imprisoned in the Tower of London. There he was deprived of all dignity, he was deprived of his family except for a few occasions where they encouraged him to betray his faith and the Church, which he refused to do, for to deny the faith and the Church would be to deny Christ. He was eventually beheaded in July 1535. His final words were, “The King’s good servant, but God’s first.”
“But God’s first…” My brothers and sisters in Christ, St. Thomas More was a man after the heart of St. John the Baptist, for he knew that, above all things, he was God’s servant. He was, as our first reading points out, called from birth to be the servant of the Lord and thus show forth the glory of almighty God.
We, like St. Thomas More; like St. John the Baptist, are called to be the same. Each of us have been called from before our birth, before we were even born, to be servants of the Most High, to serve Him above all else.
This is something that is very hard for our world to understand. I think for the most part we who come to Church and try to live a holy life understand it…but understanding it is not enough…we have to live it, and that my friends is not easy. How many of us would be willing to lose our heads, literally, like St. Thomas More and St. John the Baptist did, rather than denounce the teaching of the Church? Are we willing to put being a servant of God before our very lives?
My friends, God doesn’t want just one small part of us...he wants every part of us…he wants us to serve him before all else…before political affiliations, before our jobs, before sports, before family vacations, before all things that are not Him.
I think that deep down we know that. I think that there is a desire within us to live radically the call of God…to follow Him unreservedly…to become great saints no matter what the cost. But the evil one just loves to put all sorts of excuses in our heads. He loves to remind us of what we have to give up; all those “fun things” we will no longer be able to do if we radically live our faith. But those things are nothing…nothing…compared to the Glory that will be revealed in and through us if we give ourselves to God, if we abandon ourselves into the arms of a loving Father and trust that where He leads is truly good for us.
This abandonment to God, this radical living out of our call to be servants of God above all things will require change…it will require us to grow…to expand our horizons. And that change is not easy, but because it is God who is leading us we need not fear that change.
The Church Universal is always seeking to serve God and because of that radical following of Christ sometimes there will be changes…there will be transitions. Whether it is a new Pope, a new translation of the Mass, or a renewal of various traditions that have been lost, have no fear, for it is God who leads the Church and calls her to serve Him above all.
In our desire to be good and faithful servants of God our Diocese and Parish may encounter changes. Whether it is a new Bishop, a new pastor or parochial vicar; whether more Latin in the Liturgy or a stronger focus on reverence and devotion, have no fear, for it is God who leads this diocese and this parish, and calls us to serve Him and His Church above all else.
To be a God’s servant: that is our call no matter who we are or what our vocation. I hope that in my time here at Holy Spirit I have been a good servant of God. I hope that I have helped you to grow, to expand your horizons, to make the changes that God is calling all of us to make in our lives so that we can be the servants he is calling us to be.
I know that all of you, from the oldest to the youngest, from the Pastor to the most recently baptized baby have helped me to grow, to expand my horizons, and to make the changes that God is calling me to make.
Know that you will always be in my prayers, and please pray for me that no matter where God may lead me, I will always be, above all things, a servant of God, making known His glory to all.