January 15, 2017

Homily | The 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, January 15, 2017, Year A

Baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ

Fr. René J. Butler, M.S.
Provincial Superior, La Salette Missionaries of North America
Hartford, Connecticut

Homily originally delivered in 2014

“What is the meaning of this?”

That is, if I recall correctly, the last line of the strangest play I ever saw: Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma’s Hung you in the Closet and I’m Feeling so Sad. It was definitely in the category of the Theater of the Absurd, which challenges our sense of the meaning of life.

That question is open to at least two answers. 1.) Life has no meaning at all. (There are people who believe this sincerely.) Or 2. Life as most people live it has no meaning. We need to give it meaning. How? by creating something? helping people? leaving a legacy?

As Christians we believe that the meaning of life comes not from ourselves alone, but also and especially from Jesus who restored to humanity what was lost by sin.

In that sense the meaning of our life comes from the meaning of Christ’s life.

The meaning of Isaiah’s life was that he was called as God’s servant, and destined to be a light to the nations. For Paul it was that he was called to be an Apostle of Christ Jesus. For John the Baptist it was to be the precursor of the Messiah. For all three, faithfulness is implied. Otherwise, their titles would be meaningless.

In today’s Gospel, an important dimension of the meaning of Jesus’ life is highlighted: he is the Lamb of God. It makes one think of the sacrificial lamb of Passover. Very deep faithfulness is implied.

The meaning of Christian life comes first from the fact that we are drawn to Christ. Any reason will do; Andrew and his companion heard John’s comment about Jesus being the Lamb of God, and followed him out of curiosity. (That is the section in John’s Gospel immediately following this one; we will read it next year.)

But then we have to continue to be drawn to Christ, in a relationship that goes deeper and deeper, wanting more and more of what he has to offer: hope, acceptance, strength, etc. We need to trust that this relationship will lead us and guide us. We place no conditions, no “ifs.”

We are not talking only about following “rules.” We are talking first and foremost about relationship, about being faithful to the person of Jesus, as he is faithful to us.

Just a few days ago, on January 16, Pope Francis made this very point in a homily. Speaking of those who have caused scandal in the Church, he said: “Where was the Word of God in those persons? They did not have a relationship with God! They had a position in the Church, a position of power, even of comfort. But the Word of God, no!”

Faithfulness is implied. Without it, calling ourselves Christians is pretty meaningless.

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