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Do you know why you were born?

A first-grade teacher told a new student that the office needed a copy of his birth certificate, so they could check the accuracy of his records. She told him to ask his mother for the birth certificate and to bring it to school the next day. By the time he got home, the boy could not remember the word ‘certificate’, so he said to his mother: “Mom, tomorrow I have to bring in my excuse for being born.”

Today’s readings from Scripture tell us why Jesus was born, and, in so doing, teach us what it means for us to become followers of Christ through the sacrament of Baptism. The readings reveal that Jesus was born to be a Suffering and Redeeming Servant of the human race and so become our eternal High Priest who would lead us to the throne of God’s grace.

In the Gospel passage, Jesus once more had to instruct the disciples on the meaning of true greatness. The apostles James and John asked Jesus to do them the favor of allowing them to sit at His right and left hand in His Kingdom. What they wanted, of course, was to be put in positions of power so that they could rule over and dominate others. But Jesus instructed them that they were not to imitate those Gentile leaders who loved to make their power felt by lording it over others. Rather they should imitate Jesus Himself. “For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many.”

If Jesus was not born to dominate others, then, what does that teach us? It means that we are not born to “boss people around” or act as if we are superior to others. St. John Paul II imitated Jesus. When an employee failed to do the common courtesy of polishing the shoes of a houseguest, John Paul II sat down and did it himself. In this simple act, he imitated Jesus who did not hesitate to kneel down and wash the feet of His disciples.

The ultimate service that Jesus was to do—the reason for His birth—is what the Prophet Isaiah describes in today’s 1st Reading and in three other places in his book. Jesus was born to be the Suffering Servant. This servant was destined to gives his life as an offering for sin and “through his suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear.”

  • Are we willing to be like Jesus and take on ourselves the punishment of others?
  • Will we imitate the Lamb of God who took upon Himself the sins of the world?

During World War II, prisoners of war were required by their captors to do manual work. For this, they were given shovels, but were warned that if any shovel went missing, the one who lost it would be beaten severely. One day a shovel could not be found. The prisoners were lined up and the captain of the guard screamed at them, “Who stole the shovel?” When no one stepped forward, he threatened to punish every one of them with severe beatings. Finally one soldier stepped forward and said, “Punish me, I did it.” He was beaten almost to death. But when the soldiers counted the shovels, they found the “lost one”. It had been misplaced by one of the soldiers.

The reason that Jesus was born was to save us. Out of love He took on Himself our condemnation. He took our place on the Cross so that we could live forever. If we die to ourselves for others in big ways and small in our lifetime, then the meaning of our Baptism will be clear: we have united ourselves to Jesus in living and dying for others. Then we will not have to worry about bring any excuses to God for the way we have lived. For, the Father will simply do for us what He did for Jesus—open wide the doors to a new life in Heaven.

Father Kirlin