Speak, Lord, Your Servant Is Listening

‘You are my friends if you do what I command.’ —John 15:14

Domenico Ghirlandaio, “Calling of the First Apostles,” 1481
Domenico Ghirlandaio, “Calling of the First Apostles,” 1481 (photo: Public Domain)

Every year, people write during Christmas about the song, “Mary Did You Know?” But the real question is for the rest of us. Do we know that Christ is present fully in the Eucharist? Do we know that every time we go to Mass, we are in the presence of all of heaven, most especially the Holy Trinity? Do we live as though we come into intimate contact with our Lord and Savior every time we receive Communion?

Lent is upon us. We have entered into an interior journey, to bring ourselves away from the world and closer to the God who made all we have or will ever enjoy, and the question between now and then is: How is my life different because I know Christ? How is my life affected by God’s desire for my friendship? How much do I want to be a disciple, a follower, a friend of Jesus?

Jesus tells us in Scripture, “You are my friends if you do what I command” (John 15:14). He says this right after saying, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” We know Christ is speaking of himself and the suffering and death he will undertake for the redemption of the world. However, it is also a call to each of us, if we would be his friend, to “lay down our lives” for Christ.

So we look for little ways to deny ourselves. It’s part of the process, to help us ask and listen to the invitation to lay down our lives and surrender our bodies (and our time and our liberty to act as we want) in favor of acting as God wills. What does God will? Our good, but what is it that would bring about our good? How do we know that whatever we’re doing — whether it’s shoveling snow, making dinner, reading, working or playing — we’re doing what God wills?

We must examine the fruits of our lives. Are we bringing about healing and hope? Are we advocates for the good, true and beautiful? Are we laborers for the poor, the needy, the innocent, the sick, the rejected, the hated and the persecuted? Are we living out lives that pour out mercy, corporeal and spiritual, on others?

The question of being a disciple is not a matter of checking off a list each day, like a promise to work out or live on a budget, but a willed decision with every encounter, that involves sublimating oneself. To be a follower and friend of Christ is to perpetually participate in the work of redeeming the world through one’s service, prayers and relationships. Laying down one’s life is an ongoing act of the heart, like the vocation of marriage, like the sacrificial nature of parenting, like the total gift of self that is Holy Orders, like the ongoing struggle of every single person of faith to live each day in hope.

So we are always about to enter into the desert, to wander in our lives, sustained by our Lord by manna and miracles we do not always observe. God is calling us, and never ceases in all the days of our lives, hoping that today, we will say, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening,” and move closer to him, and away from that which makes us sleepy or unable to recognize his voice.