Homily for the 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
INTRODUCTION – Tonight we have the second part of our homily series Sanctification, which began last weekend. For those of you who were here this past Sunday, the first part of the series focused on how Jesus sanctified baptism, raising it from merely a ritual act of cleansing to the dignity of a Sacrament, an act which makes us beloved sons and daughters of God.
Last Sunday’s Feast of the Baptism of the Lord is a reminder for all of us that, just as the Spirit of God descended upon Jesus in His baptism, so, too, does the Spirit come down upon us at our baptisms. It is in that moment that the Father claims us as His beloved sons and daughters. The challenge for us is do we believe it? We can’t move deeper into the Christian life if we don’t claim that identity as God’s beloved children. We can’t embrace our mission as Christians if we don’t fully believe we are who God has created us to be.
This brings us to the second part of our Sanctification series – mission.
JESUS IS THE STANDARD – As the Son of God, Jesus is the example of what it means to fully commit oneself to following the will of God. By his life, He sanctified our mission as Christians, showing us the way to the Father. He became the standard for us for discipleship. As adopted sons and daughters of God, we are called to imitate Him.
As we hear in our second reading today, our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit because we are members of the Body of Christ and are made in God’s image and likeness. Because of that, on our hearts, there is imprinted this desire to do God’s will, to strive for holiness and dive more deeply into relationship with the Father. But in order to enter into that relationship we first have to learn how to listen to the Lord, to know how He communicates.
THE EXAMPLE OF SAMUEL – In the first reading today, we hear about the call of the prophet Samuel. You might remember that Samuel’s mother, Hannah, was barren and at some point prayed that if the Lord had given her a son, she would dedicate him to the service of the Temple for his entire life. When Hannah did become pregnant, she was so overjoyed that the Lord heard her prayer and responded to her out of His abundant mercy and generosity. And her response to the gift she had received was one of total fidelity to the promise she had made. And so, Samuel was offered to the service of God and the Lord had a special mission for him.
At a young age, the Lord begins to place a desire on Samuel’s heart for this mission that he is going to be entrusted with, but Samuel is too young and inexperienced to understand what is happening. So, he turns to the priest Eli and, at first, Eli doesn’t understand what is going on either. But eventually Eli does come to an understanding that it is the Lord who is calling Samuel. He gives Samuel the advice of saying: “Speak, Lord; your servant is listening.” When the Lord calls Samuel again, he responds as Eli told him and, from that moment, no words of Samuel were without effect. He became the Lord’s prophet and ushered in a new era of kings in the story of Israel.
GOD SPEAKS TO US THROUGH OTHERS – The purpose of the story of the call of Samuel is to show us how the Lord sometimes uses others to reveal to us our mission. Eli pointed Samuel to his mission. In the Gospel today, John the Baptist points John and Andrew to their mission.
The first two apostles were originally disciples of the Baptist. They knew that he wasn’t the Messiah, but they were also aware that the Messiah was coming soon. When Jesus walks by, Andrew and John don’t recognize who He is. John the Baptist points at Jesus and tells his two disciples that He is the One, the Lamb of God, the Messiah. John and Andrew can barely believe their ears; but at the insistence of the Baptist, they decide to check out this new Rabbi. That was what Andrew and John needed to recognize their mission and purpose – to follow Jesus.
WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR? – Jesus hears them approaching, turns around, looks them in the eye, and asks: “What are you looking for?” It’s such a profound and important question. He’s basically asking them where they are searching for meaning in life. Imagine how struck John and Andrew are by the simplicity and warmth of Jesus’ greeting, and maybe even surprised by the question. All they can say is, “Teacher, where are you staying?” They are saying to Jesus that they are looking for Him, that they want to stay with Him. So Jesus invites them to come and see. He invites them to walk with him, to follow him, to be his companions. That is the same desire that Jesus has for each of us.
JESUS’ DESIRE FOR US – Today, Jesus is asking us the very same question: what are you looking for? What do we desire in life? But it’s a pointed question. He is asking us if we truly desire to follow Him. Every single one of us here today/tonight has a desire on our hearts to follow the will of God and to learn how He is calling us to live in harmony with that will. Some of us may be a little further advanced in that than others, but all of us, in some way, have that desire. It’s what has brought us to Mass; we wouldn’t be here if the Lord hadn’t placed that desire on our hearts. But the point of reflection for us should be if we are trying our best to respond to that desire in the way the Lord wants us to. Are we echoing the words of the psalmist who prays today: “Here am I Lord, I come to do your will”? I would venture to say that most of us would struggle to answer that question affirmatively. But how can we change that?
CHANGING OUR RESPONSE – The only way we can grow in following God’s will more closely is by entering into deeper relationship with the Father and developing a close friendship with Jesus. We have to develop a deeper attitude of prayer. Prayer involves sharing our hearts with the Lord, asking God for an increase in grace and virtue, invoking the intercession of the saints, praying the rosary. But it also involves reading and meditating on Scripture and filling our hearts with gratitude for the many gifts and blessings the Lord has given to us.
We also have to build our lives around the Sacraments of the Church. Regular attendance at Mass and taking advantage of the Sacrament of Reconciliation with frequency are both vital to growing in our relationship with the Lord. Adoring the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament outside of Mass is central to being able to develop an ear to hear how the Lord speak to us; it brings us to a place in our hearts where we can more confidently respond in obedience to the will of God.
CONCLUSION – Prayer, sacraments, and obedience to Christ’s plan: these lay the foundation for growing in understanding our mission as Christians. If we continue to strive for holiness in our lives and seek to listen to the voice of the Lord, we will eventually be sanctified ourselves. Our ultimate mission is to have a life that is anchored in heaven, where our friendship with Christ will reach its everlasting fulfillment. If that is not our focus, if that is not what we are seeking, then let’s ask the Lord for the grace to make it so today.