Isaiah wrote, “I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, ‘Whom shall I send and who will go for us?’ I replied, ‘Here am I, send me.’ God then said, ‘Go…!’ “(Isaiah 6: 8-9) In the preceding verses, Isaiah offered God various excuses for why he was not qualified to do God’s work. In the Kingdom of God, however, the call is always more crucial than competency. What is important is neither experience nor expertise, but availability and the capacity to learn. If you are prepared to act when God calls you, He will bring you to inaccessible places to realize there the impossible. Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Esther, Moses, Samuel, David, and Isaiah, all had something in common. They all said, “Here am I.” Is it not unnecessary for us to waste time and energy worrying about where God might send us, when all is required of us is to
say, “Here am I”? It is up to God to guide us where He wants. It is up to us to be open to God’s call. Just as a doctor, or a police officer, or a fireman react to an emergency, so should we eagerly respond to what God asks of us. Sometimes, it is a simple prompting to be of service to a nearby neighbour. Other times, it is a call to travel half-way round the world. But it all begins with the simple prayer, “Here am I.” It is what Moses said at the burning bush. It is what God wants you to respond today.
In the Gospels, when Jesus saw the crowds, he lamented the same problem of the lack of labouers. Jesus noticed all the distress, the loneliness, and the hopes of all the people who came to him. He was the only one to respond to their expectations (plight). Jesus saw them as sheep without someone to care for them, without a shepherd to feed them. Until his coming, the religious people of his time did not preoccupy themselves with the suffering and needy sheep. There were plenty of scribes and priests but no shepherds. There were religious people who sought honours in public places or on the chair of Moses, but no labourers. Therefore, Jesus indicated this problem to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but thelabourers are few. Pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into the harvest.” (Matthew 9: 37- 38) What Jesus wants, is not only preachers or singers to climb onto a stage, but labourers who will be obedient to the Lord of the harvest. The work of a missionary is not reserved to only a few. Every women or man of good will can take on this mission. The Lord needs us to work in his vineyard.
Jesus Needs You, Just as You Are
Jesus needs you, just as you are, with or without theological training. Before saying to Peter, the Apostle, “Tend my sheep,” Jesus simply asked him, “Do you love me?” After the affirmative response, Jesus entrusted to Peter the task of tending his lambs and sheep. What Jesus expects of you, is to put yourself at His disposal as Isaiah declared, ‘Here am I, send me.” You will see how quickly God will put you to work if your heart is full of love for him.
The Lord Jesus is the model missionary. He was ready to give himself, even if it meant great sufferings for him, contempt, shame, and even death. Indeed, it was very important for him to announce peace and reconciliation with his Father to us who were alienated from God. That is why, because he loved us, he let himself be nailed to the Cross (Ephesians 2: 14-18). As well, accomplishing the will of his Father was so important to him that it became his nourishment (John 4:34). The importance of the message underlines how relevant the question of the Master, “Who shall be my messenger?” is today. The Lord awaits a response from all baptized Christians.
God always poses the question, “Whom shall I send?” Today, God addresses the same question to you and me. Anyone embarking on a faith journey is able to hear the call of God. But only volunteers labour in the Kingdom of God. What will be your response? The rich man (Matthew 19:16-22) heard the offer of Jesus, but he went away “grieving”. You must choose: to leave sad and silent, or happy and ready to commit: “Here I am, Lord, send me, use me!” You will never regret it. All those who have taken these steps bear witness to this. I also hope, my sisters and brothers, that you proclaim with joy these words, “Here I am, Lord, send me!” Moreover, you will never be alone in this wonderful mission.
“Here I am!”: What God Expects of us
God himself, in his son Jesus, became our servant. Jesus did not actually use this expression (in Greek) “Here I am!”, to introduce his ministry to others, to save them from harm. We get a glimpse of it, however, on several occasions, notably when Jesus surrenders himself entirely to the will of his Father in the Garden of Gethsemane. When he says, “But your will be done, not mine,” Jesus fully puts himself at the service of his Father. The apostle Paul wrote that, by empting himself of his glory, giving himself up even on the cross, Jesus became our servant as well (Philippians 2). Jesus embodied his “Here I am” that everyone must say without reservation. He was the perfect servant, and he remains certainly the example to follow.
God awaits a “Here am I” from us. The Lord calls us to be his witnesses in the world, to proclaim the Good News of his salvation. This mission is far from always being easy. It can even challenge us in many facets of our daily life, in our families, and in our work, in all our activities where we are of service to the Lord. As children of our Father who is in heaven, with the faith in his son Jesus, and with the power, love, and wisdom of the Holy Spirit, we can fearlessly follow the example of the men and women who responded to this call from God, and the example of Jesus himself, who said, “Lord, here I am, send me.”
Stand before Him and Serve Him
Jesus Christ, as far as he is the true High Priest of the world, gave these words a deeper meaning than previously imagined. He, who as the Son of God was and is the Lord, desired to become the servant of God that the vision in the Book of the Prophet Isaiah predicted. He wanted to become the servant of all. He revealed the entirety of his sovereign priesthood in the act of the washing of the feet. With this act of love until the end, he washes our feet clean. With his service of humility, he purifies us of our sin of pride. Indeed, he makes it possible for us to become table companions of God. Jesus descended and the very ascent of humanity is now realized in our descendent with him and towards him. His exaltation was the cross. It was the deepest descent and, as love pushed to the limits, it was at the same time the summit ofthe ascent, the very “elevation” of humanity. “To stand before him and to serve him” – this now means to accept his call to be servants of God. The Eucharist as both the presence of the descent and exaltation of Jesus, refers even today, beyond itself, to the various ways that we are able to love our neighbours. Let us ask the Lord, in these days, the gift to be able to affirm in our own way “yes” to this call. “Here am I. Send me, Lord.”
When the Prophet Isaiah gave this response, “Here I am, send me”, he knew only too well that the mission to speak to the people of Israel in the name of the Lord would not be easy. That he was first purified attests to this fact. For people in our time, it will similarly not be easy to announce the Good News in our world. That which the Lord asks of us, is to be available to participate in his work of the salvation of the world. It is his mission. We are just collaborators in this mission. This mission that comes from the Lord himself, takes root in our hearts and spreads throughout the world. In order for the world to accept the word of God and change, the Lord gives us the grace to believe in this word and to convert ourselves. May the Virgin Mary, Queen of the missions, intercede for us, that we may be open to reply “yes” as she did at the dawning of the world. For God always has need of our spirit of love, of faith, and of generosity.
Original text in French by Father Alexandre Kabera and translated by Father Alex Osei, C.S.Sp.
Abbé Alexandre KABERA is a diocesan priest from Kigali, Rwanda. In Canada, since 2011, he has served in the Diocese of Montreal as a parish vicar in the parishes of Notre Dame des Champs and Purification in Repentigny, among others. He currently practices in health ministry where he works as a chaplain in hospitals and residences for the elderly as a spiritual care worker. He has a master’s degree in systematic theology with specialization in Holy Scripture from the Catholic Institute of Paris.