If you listen to Contemporary Christian Music on the radio, you’re probably familiar with the song “My Own Little World” by Matthew West (here’s a link to the song via YouTube). The song has received a lot of airtime this past year and is a good tie-in to today’s readings.
The song is a story of a man who is living inside his own little world, not very attentive to the needs of others. He feels comfortable and secure; all of his basic needs are being met. He has a faith life. He attends church each week and gives financially to the church (although he admits that he does not give sacrificially but from his excess). If he doesn’t like what he sees going on in the world he simply shuts off the news. He tunes out the rest of the world and focuses on one thing only – himself.
The story continues when the man describes an encounter he has with a homeless widow. The woman is begging by the side of the road. For all the man knows he may have passed by this woman on prior occasions and never really noticed her. But this time was different. The man noticed that the widow had a face, and he looks into her eyes. She moves him with her pain and suffering and he asks himself: “Lord, what have I been doing.” He acknowledges that he has been ignoring this woman (a symbol of all who are longing for love and compassion) and comes to this important revelation:
Maybe there’s a bigger picture.
Maybe he’s been missing out.
Maybe there’s a greater purpose he could be living right now.
He begins to understand that God’s Kingdom extends beyond his own little world. He begins to understand that living in the Kingdom of God is not about comfort, security or self. This story of self-discovery is a good lead-in to today’s readings.
If you were to brand today’s readings, you might borrow the U.S. Army recruiting program “Be all that you can be.” But I think a better slogan might be “Be all that you are called to be.”
We hear this in the First Reading. The prophet Isaiah foretells the mission of Christ by announcing “It is too little for you to [just] be my servant … I will make you light to the nations – that my salvation might reach to the ends of the earth.”
That’s how Christ lived his life. At the moment of his baptism (which we hear about again in today’s Gospel), Christ begins his public ministry. He is no longer just the carpenter’s son and a carpenter himself as he has been for the past 30 years. From this point forward, Jesus is all about doing his Father’s will, by sharing the Good News, teaching mercy and love, calling sinners to repent, and (ultimately) dying to free us from our sins. Christ understood his calling, his strengths and his gifts. He used them to be more than “just” a servant.
We hear a similar message in the Second Reading. In his introduction to his letter to the Corinthians, Paul reminds us that we are “Called to be holy.” Another way to say this is: We are called to be like Christ. And indeed we are.
Each baptized Christian is another “Christ.” When we are baptized, we receive the same Holy Spirit as Christ. We are anointed priest, prophet and king as Christ is. And we share his same mission on earth: To do God’s will, and to fulfill God’s plan for our lives.
That is who we are – we are like Christ. That is what we are called to do – to live more fully and to live more holy.
If you get a chance this week, invest $1.29 on iTunes to download and listen to the song “My Own Little World.” Listen to the story as it unfolds. Listen to what is revealed to this man. Then, offer the same prayer to God that he does:
Lord, break my heart for what breaks yours
Open my stony heart and help make me holy. Help me to live your mercy and compassion.
Give me open hands and open doors
Help me to live my life more fully. Help me look and live beyond my own little world. Help me be more than a servant – help me to be Christ.
Put your light in my eyes and let me see
God, be my strength for the journey. Help me understand that the world in which we all live is bigger than me. Help make me a light to the nations.
My own little world is not about me.
That’s the “bigger picture.” That’s the “greater purpose.” That’s the path to holiness.
Copyright © Deacon Dan Donnelly. All Rights Reserved.