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Who Is Crying Out to You?

First Reading: Sirach 48:1-4, 9-11

In those days,
like a fire there appeared the prophet Elijah
whose words were as a flaming furnace.
Their staff of bread he shattered,
in his zeal he reduced them to straits;
By the Lord’s word he shut up the heavens
and three times brought down fire.
How awesome are you, Elijah, in your wondrous deeds!
Whose glory is equal to yours?
You were taken aloft in a whirlwind of fire,
in a chariot with fiery horses.
You were destined, it is written, in time to come
to put an end to wrath before the day of the LORD,
To turn back the hearts of fathers toward their sons,
and to re-establish the tribes of Jacob.
Blessed is he who shall have seen you
and who falls asleep in your friendship.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 80:2AC AND 3B, 15-16, 18-19

R. (4) Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.
O shepherd of Israel, hearken,
From your throne upon the cherubim, shine forth.
Rouse your power.
R. Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.
Once again, O LORD of hosts,
look down from heaven, and see;
Take care of this vine,
and protect what your right hand has planted
the son of man whom you yourself made strong.
R. Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.
May your help be with the man of your right hand,
with the son of man whom you yourself made strong.
Then we will no more withdraw from you;
give us new life, and we will call upon your name.
R. Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.

Gospel: Matthew 17:9A, 10-13

As they were coming down from the mountain,
the disciples asked Jesus,
“Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?”
He said in reply, “Elijah will indeed come and restore all things;
but I tell you that Elijah has already come,
and they did not recognize him but did to him whatever they pleased.
So also will the Son of Man suffer at their hands.”
Then the disciples understood
that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.

NAB

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Today’s Gospel makes me think of a handful of moments/decisions/encounters I had as a young, searching, unformed Catholic. Like those Israelites who didn’t recognize Saint John the Baptist, I didn’t recognize them at the time as the truly foundational and transformative experiences they turned out to be.

When my sister insisted that we visit every moldy old church in Europe on our college backpacking trip, I found comfort in the familiarity of the Mass . . . even though I hadn’t been attending regularly at home. Did it turn me into a faithful Catholic overnight? Or in a year? Unfortunately, no. But the beauty and familiarity of finding my Catholic faith in many strange lands planted seeds that did, eventually, grow.

A couple years later, I accepted the challenge of a priest to attend Mass daily during Lent, even though my Sunday attendance (still) hadn’t been exactly stellar. I made it all forty-six days in a row (including Sundays) and haven’t missed a Sunday Mass since. I do like a challenge.

My now-husband and I were faced with the reality of the Catholic Church’s teaching on contraception and human sexuality, for the very first time, on our engaged encounter. I shared about our decision in this devotion. At the time it felt straight-up nuts. But I look back now and I realize that that married couple who shared their personal experiences with a roomful of eye-rolling twenty-somethings, that physician who explained how various forms of contraception actually work, Janet Smith on an old cassette tape that we listened to sitting in a car in a parking garage (because who has tape players?) . . . all of them were Saint John the Baptist to me. All of them were begging me to get my act together, and ready my heart for Jesus. I didn’t recognize them at the time, but, by the grace of God, they did their job anyway.

Who was or is that person crying out to you from the desert? Who can help you prepare the way of the Lord, and make His paths straight?

Kendra Tierney is wife to a good man and mother to eight pretty good kids. Together they are fixing up a tumbledown hundred year old house. She’s a writer, and a blogger, and a graphic designer, and a homeschooler, and a regular schooler. Her word art is available here. Her book, A Little Book About Confession for Children, is available here. Find out more about her here.

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