“Sacrifice and offering you do not want; but ears open to obedience you gave me. Holocausts and sin-offerings you do not require; so I said, “Here I am; your commands for me are written in the scroll.”
Available! Available! Available! Christianity is about availability. Christianity is about God making himself available to human beings through Jesus Christ, and human beings making themselves available to God through Christ. How does that sound? What makes availability possible is love. An important characteristic of love is that it makes itself available (to another). Love makes it possible for you to make yourself available to another person. Love cannot be “unavailable.” Wherever it exists, love makes itself available, or at least desires to make itself available. John was right when he said: “God is love” (cf. 1Jn 4:16). In other words, God is THE AVAILABLE ONE. God is the ETERNALLY AVAILABLE. He is the EVER-PRESENT and EVER-AVAILABLE ONE. His solemn name says it all: I AM WHO I AM (cf. Exod 3:14). Because God is ever present, he is ever dependable. To say “I am” means, in effect, to say “I am available.”
When Christians say “God,” they mean three Persons: the Father, the Holy Spirit, and the Son. Availability must have a point of reference. In other words, availability is relational. It is always in relation to someone or to something. God’s availability means he is present or available to himself. The Father is eternally available to the Son and the Holy Spirit. Likewise, the Son is eternally available to his Father and the Spirit. The Spirit, in the same way, is eternally available to the Son and the Father. The three Persons are eternally available to one another. That is to say, God is available to himself, in a deeply relational way. To us God is available through creation. Through the gift of life, he made himself available to us. In a very striking way, God made himself available to us when his Son came into the world: “For God so loved the world that he gave [he made available] his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (Jn 3:16). Here on earth, God’s availability to the Christian becomes even more radical: “If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (Jn 14:23). With that, the Christian becomes an active participant in the Three Persons’ availability to themselves. To put it differently, through his Baptism, the Christian becomes “the fourth” actor in the eternal “availability drama” of the Father, the Spirit, and the Son. This kind of relationship stretches the limits of human imagination.
With God, availability is not just an expression of existence, it is an expression of the capacity and the desire to give and receive love. Since they are created in the image and likeness of God, human persons possess the capacity to express love by making themselves available: to God, to a fellow human person, to the rest of creation. In fact, a human person in full possession of his intellect and will can equally decide to make himself unavailable: to give or receive love. Interesting!
To be available to another is not to be merely present. It involves a willingness to unveil your persona, your skills, your talents, your strengths, your capacity to give and receive, and so forth. To use a “temple language,” it means to make an offering of oneself, to possess “offering mentality.” It means to have the mind of Christ, “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:6-8; cf. 2:5). When a person makes himself available, it always involves some degree of self-emptying.
Human disobedience in God’s regard represents human unavailability. To disobey God means, in effect, to tell God: “I refuse to be available to you; I am unavailable to receive your love or to return it.” Coming into the world, the Son of God showed himself as being always available to his Father, available to love and to be loved. Christ’s obedience to his Father represented his complete, conscious availability. He made himself available to be sent. The Psalmist expresses this clearly when he says of Christ: “Sacrifice and offering you do not want; but ears open to obedience you gave me. Holocausts and sin-offerings you do not require; so I said, “Here I am; your commands for me are written in the scroll” (40:7-8). Here is the key statement: “Here I am.” This is more than a statement. It is an utterance of love. It is the ultimate expression of availability. The statement “Here I am” is a revelation of Jesus’
complete surrender to the Father, to glorify his name and to accomplish the work of redemption. Throughout his life, Christ demonstrated his complete availability to his Father’s will, to even to the point of the Cross: “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work” (Jn 4:34); “Abba, Father, all things are possible to thee; remove this cup from me; yet not what I will, but what thou wilt” (Mark 14:36); “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!” (Lk 23:46). Surrender to God’s will is a statement of personal availability: available to be loved and to love, to be saved and to save others, to be sent, and to be used for God’s glory.
To love another is to make oneself available to the person in a selfless way. In marriage, for instance, a man and woman enter a covenant in which they commit to making themselves available to one another in the most intimate way possible. In this regard, the following words of Christ are revealing: “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (Jn 15:13). What does is it mean for one to lay down his life for another? In a sense, it means to make oneself completely available to another: available to love and to be loved, available to care for and to be cared for. In “temple language,” this means to make an “offering” of oneself. An offering becomes so only when it is given out. In the Church, for example, so long as your money remains in your pocket, it cannot be called an offering. An offering is that which is given. An offering is that which is presented. Paul pointed this out when he wrote: “I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Rom 12:1). Presenting yourself to the Lord means to avail yourself of the Divine Embrace. It is an act of the will that renders a person available to another in a loving way. It is as if one said to another: I AM HERE, FOR YOU. It is not enough to say: I am here. That should always include its counterpart: for you.
This enters into the dynamics of salvation. Understanding this dynamic is of the essence. God is THE GREAT I AM, FOR YOU. When Christ came on earth, his whole life was I AM HERE, FOR YOU: my Father, men and women, all you creation. This truth shines so brightly during the celebration of the Eucharist, when the words of the Lord are recalled: ‘This is my Body, take and eat. This is my Blood, drink.” The Eucharist is an eminent liturgical way of celebrating God’s availability to us, and ours to him. Each time Christians celebrate the Eucharist, it is as if Christ said: “Here is my Body. I make it available to you. Here is my Blood. I make it available to you.” The Eucharist, therefore, is an eminent sacramental sharing in the availability –the love –of God (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit).
Availability is a practice, and not just a concept. It is a virtue, related to love. It is more than just been physically present. It is an attitude. It is a fundamental disposition of the heart, which is expressed in a clear willingness to here or there, for another. Its most succinct definition is what has previously been said about God: Availability in the Christian sense = I am here, for you. Every Christian is empowered by the grace of the Spirit to be available. That is what the Christianity life is about. That is what the men and women of the world need. That is a force that can make the world a better place.
Where do you stand? Are you available or unavailable?
Invitation to pray:
Dear Father, you showed how much you loved me when you sent your Son into the world. I praise and worship you. Forgive me for the times my love has been cold or lukewarm. Strengthen me. Give me a new heart, a heart that will be there for you always. When I am in difficulty, let me always know that you are the GREAT I AM HERE, FOR YOU. Amen.