January 10, 2018

Homily for the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, January 14, 2018, Year B

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

Well, that was quick! In under twelve hours Andrew and his companion had decided that the man they had just met was the Messiah!

No one knows what they talked about, so we may give free rein to our imagination.
Maybe they discussed Jesus’ vision of a world of peace and justice and of outreach to the poor. We have seen in our own time that this is one of the most attractive features of Pope Francis. Why not something like that in this case?

Or they might have had a free-ranging conversation on the Scriptures in general. They did call him “Rabbi,” after all. Or maybe such an exchange might have been more like the one Jesus would have three years later, after his Resurrection, with two other disciples, on the road to Emmaus when, we are told: “Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to himself in all the scriptures.”

The most obvious but, I think, least likely scenario would be this:

     Disciple: “Excuse me, Rabbi, but why did John call you Lamb of God?”
     Jesus: “Oh, that. It means I’m the Messiah.”

Now the scene that follows is absolutely typical of the first centuries of the Church. Andrew can’t wait to tell his brother Simon about this man he has met. Shortly afterward, another disciple, Philip, invites his friend Nathanael to come and see this Jesus, of whom he says, “We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets.” And so the Christian community began to grow, by word of mouth. It’s easy to imagine people saying to their relatives and friends, “You gotta hear this guy!” (Evangelicals typically do so to this day, the same way people who visit a Shrine might say to their friends, “You gotta see this place.”)

Whatever Jesus said that day to just two disciples led to his saying other things to more disciples, having more encounters. Some of these encounters were friendly—with the sick he healed, the outcasts he included, the sinners to whom he said, “sin no more,” a saying that finds its echo in today’s second reading from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians. Other encounters were unfriendly—with the scribes and Pharisees who challenged him at every turn, not to mention the demons he cast out.

And so the Community of Believers, the Church, continued to grow as more and more persons became disciples of Jesus the Messiah, and invited others to join them.

What is the ideal attitude of a disciple toward the “Rabbi” or “Teacher” or “Master”? We find it stated in all simplicity in the story of Samuel: “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”

Disciples need to know, and want to know, what the Lord has to say to them.

Disciples need to know, and want to know, what the Master expects of them. The answer the young Samuel received must have caught him completely off guard. The story goes on as follows:

The Lord said to Samuel: “I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears it ring. On that day I will carry out against Eli everything I have said about his house, beginning to end. I announce to him that I am condemning his house once and for all, because of this crime: though he knew his sons were blaspheming God, he did not reprove them. Therefore, I swear to Eli’s house: No sacrifice or offering will ever expiate its crime.” Samuel then slept until morning, when he got up early and opened the doors of the temple of the Lord. He was afraid to tell Eli the vision... Eli answered, “It is the Lord. What is pleasing in the Lord’s sight, the Lord will do.”

Above all, disciples need to know, and want to know, that the Lord is with us, walking at our side. How else could someone like Martin Luther King, Jr. have accomplished what he did? How else would any of us ever have the courage to follow the Lord in a world that often feels no need for him, to speak his word in a world often hostile to him and to us, and to live the Christian and Catholic way of life in a world that often holds it up to ridicule?

I conclude with a short poem (by Helen Parker), that seems to me to sum up nicely this last and most essential need.
Walk with me, Oh Lord I pray.
Give me strength throughout the day.
Take my problems big and small.
Lift me when I tend to fall.
Walk with me, Oh Lord I pray.
Prompt me what to do and say.
Let me feel you always there.
Lift me when I feel despair.

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