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All Used Up, Joyfully

First Reading: Baruch 5:1-9

Jerusalem, take off your robe of mourning and misery;
put on the splendor of glory from God forever:
wrapped in the cloak of justice from God,
bear on your head the mitre
that displays the glory of the eternal name.
For God will show all the earth your splendor:
you will be named by God forever
the peace of justice, the glory of God’s worship.Up, Jerusalem! stand upon the heights;
look to the east and see your children
gathered from the east and the west
at the word of the Holy One,
rejoicing that they are remembered by God.
Led away on foot by their enemies they left you:
but God will bring them back to you
borne aloft in glory as on royal thrones.
For God has commanded
that every lofty mountain be made low,
and that the age-old depths and gorges
be filled to level ground,
that Israel may advance secure in the glory of God.
The forests and every fragrant kind of tree
have overshadowed Israel at God’s command;
for God is leading Israel in joy
by the light of his glory,
with his mercy and justice for company.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 126:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6

R. The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.
When the LORD brought back the captives of Zion,
we were like men dreaming.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with rejoicing.
R. The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.
Then they said among the nations,
“The LORD has done great things for them.”
The LORD has done great things for us;
we are glad indeed.
R. The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.
Restore our fortunes, O LORD,
like the torrents in the southern desert.
Those who sow in tears
shall reap rejoicing.
R. The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.
Although they go forth weeping,
carrying the seed to be sown,
They shall come back rejoicing,
carrying their sheaves.
R. The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.

Second Reading: Philippians 1:4-6, 8-11

Brothers and sisters:
I pray always with joy in my every prayer for all of you,
because of your partnership for the gospel
from the first day until now.
I am confident of this,
that the one who began a good work in you
will continue to complete it
until the day of Christ Jesus.
God is my witness,
how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.
And this is my prayer:
that your love may increase ever more and more
in knowledge and every kind of perception,
to discern what is of value,
so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,
filled with the fruit of righteousness
that comes through Jesus Christ
for the glory and praise of God.

Gospel: Luke 3:1-6

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar,
when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea,
and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee,
and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region
of Ituraea and Trachonitis,
and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene,
during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas,
the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert.
John went throughout the whole region of the Jordan,
proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins,
as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah:
A voice of one crying out in the desert:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.
Every valley shall be filled
and every mountain and hill shall be made low.
The winding roads shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth,
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

dec 6 Last October I scooted out of the city and explored the Mississippi River bluffs of southeastern Minnesota with a friend. The trees were in their last surge of change, and I was aching for some old-fashioned outdoors time and the chance to stretch my legs. On the last day of our adventure we asked our host for suggestions of her favorite hikes in the area and she advised, much to my surprise, the local cemetery. “Take the long loop around.”

I was dubious, but into the car we hopped, parking on a quiet stretch of street across from the cemetery. As we walked through the cemetery’s iron gates the weight of the visit settled on my heart: I had lost my own dad several months earlier. Visiting any cemetery brought me closer to a death that was sometimes painful to remember.

It didn’t take me long to realize that our host was right—the cemetery was absolutely stunning. Trees of 100 years shone with golds, ambers, and burgundies. The leaves crunched under our feet and my spirits started to rise as my friend and I walked and talked.

Not long into our hike I saw a large headstone bearing my family name, “Schultz.”

What a funny coincidence, I thought. We circled the grounds one full time before curiosity got the better of me and I asked my friend if we could take a closer look at the Schultz family plot.

“Evelyn Kelso Schultz,” I read from one of the tombstones. In the inscription she left the words of the writer George Bernard Shaw: “I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live.”

I want to be thoroughly used up when I die . . . . 

Those words prompted me to ponder:

Don’t we want to:

 . . . give more, love more, be available more?
. . . offer our shoulders more to those who are weeping, our ears more to those who need counsel?
. . . share our homes more with those who crave hospitality, our joy more with those who have none?
. . . be vulnerable with those who don’t know how to be so?

Don’t we desire to . . . be so thoroughly used up at the end of our lives that there is only room for Him?

If this is all true and good, then we must live as Saint Paul exhorts in his letter to the Philippians, believing that the Lord will continue the good work done in us until it is complete, so that our love may increase ever more and more.

I don’t know if that dear Evelyn was any relation, but I do believe that her words were meant for me. And on that autumn day I asked for her prayers for me, that I might be thoroughly used up, too.

Pray for the opportunity to offer yourself today in a way that you never have before.

photo by Edenn Yorks

Karen Schultz is a Birth Doula who hails from the Land of 10,000 Lakes, where she is often found in or near one of them. She spends her free time reading, playing the mandolin, and proudly serving on the Board of Directors for Guiding Star Twin Cities. You can find out more about her here.

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