"Here am I, Lord." These words from today's psalm remind me
of my uncle, an army officer who became a Catholic on the European battlefield
in World War II. His conversion had the qualities of his own character,
strong and forthright, personally confident but unpretentious. When he returned
home to Omaha he entered the confessional at his parish one day and began
his confession in his usual direct, rather military tone: "Jim Thorndike
Today, I'm saying, "Here am I, Lord," after hiding from Him for the past ten or so weeks.
During the Christmas season I felt a pile of responsibilities on top of me
and surrounding me, so that, although more people actually saw me than at
any other time of year, I really couldn't be seen, and I couldn't see out.
The obligations of my career at the end of the semester hid me. Preparing
my house for the rigors of winter and decorating it for Christmas hid me.
Finding presents for my family, keeping fit indoors when it was too cold
to get outdoor exercise hid me. Enjoying my passionate hobbies, and partying
with friends and neighbors hid me. And even the parish liturgies hid me.
All these matters (and certainly it is ironic that I should include the last)
hid me from God.
This is not to say I only went through the motions of Christmas. I believed,
I prayed, I gave (in perhaps too small a way) to those in need. I was glad
that Christ was born into the world. But sixty-six years of the familiar
routine, I felt, had turned me into one of God's ornaments on a kind of cosmic
Christmas tree, hidden within the branches and soon to be packed away in
a box in a corner of a cosmic cellar. There was no escaping the season until
it was over. And then what? "Ordinary time."
Today's psalm tells me that "ordinary time" can be extraordinary. In the
coldest brooding darkness of January the saying of these words -- "Here am
I, Lord; I come to do your will" -- awakens me. I am no longer hiding within
piles of "ordinary" obligations. I realize that the Christmas of 2004 had
meaning anew. Paul has given me words that say I matter, I count for something,
because God made me out of His love, and out of His desire that I do His
The other readings are related, especially with the coincidence that today
the United States celebrates the second inauguration of its president, a
man admired by many and not so admired by many others. The readings refer
to leaders, in some cases high priests who are no more than human, and in
the case of Jesus, a high priest who is both human and heavenly. It is to
that heavenly high priest Paul tells me to exult and be glad, and so, HERE
AM I, LORD! Let me hide from You no more! Not even next December.