Sunday, January 17, 2021

Responsiveness - Tripartite Living


2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

17 January 2021 – Salem, SD

1 Sam 3,3b-10. 19

1Cor 6,13c-15a. 17-20

Jn 1,35-42


        Praised be Jesus Christ!

‘Look, there is the lamb of God.’ … ‘We have found the Messiah’ …

        Most folks miss the earthshaking impact of these words from the Gospel for today. Lamb of God… Messiah? To so identify Jesus is epochal; it is or should be world changing for us. Nothing could or should be more important in our lives than finding Christ, than confessing Jesus for Who He is, the Anointed of God.

        Talk to anybody, or better, observe carefully the truly good people in your lives, and you will find them centering their lives on Christ. They are, to say the least, discreet about it, not sounding the trumpet or drawing attention to themselves. You will find them seeking the Lord in prayer not by playing the Pharisee, but by withdrawing from the traffic of daily life to be with the Lord. May I encourage you, too, to seek the Lamb, to claim the Messiah, Christ, for your own! Give yourself over to prayer in your everyday life!

        The important thing to remember, however, is that this seeking the Lord does not start with us. It is the Lord Himself, Who created us and destined us for Himself. It is the Lord, Who saved us through His Death upon the Cross and glorious Resurrection. It is up to us to respond to Him. We need to be responsive, like John the Baptist’s disciples in the Gospel. St. John pointed out the Lamb to them and his disciples went after Jesus. We are talking about an interplay of God initiating, of my responding, and significant persons in my life pointing the way. Faith life works that way.

        ‘Look, there is the lamb of God.’ … ‘We have found the Messiah’. 

Let me quote again from today’s First Reading:

        “Eli then understood that it was the Lord who was calling the boy, and he said to Samuel, ‘Go and lie down, and if someone calls say, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.”’ So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

        “The Lord then came and stood by, calling as he had done before, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ Samuel answered, ‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.’

        “Samuel grew up and the Lord was with him and let no word of his fall to the ground.”

        Vocation and discernment! I recognize these two words, vocation and discernment, as the overriding mystery in my life. That is as it should be in the life of any Catholic, no matter what his or her walk in life. In terms of that mystery of vocation, my life’s calling from God, and discernment, that is, claiming that calling for my own with the help of Christ’s Church, this back and forth between me and God is and remains unto death unfinished business. I will never nor can I get tired of meditating on the implications of my calling. I guess that is what makes the passage for this Sunday from the Book of Samuel so important for me. Samuel’s parents, especially his mother, pleaded with God to give the couple a child, and in recognition and genuine thanksgiving, they returned to the Lord for all the days of his life this gift from God of their firstborn and only son. To say the very least, this was a radical response on their part to God’s gift. Radical, perhaps, but fitting and proper: the offering of Samuel’s parents was consistent with the truth of who we are and where we come from. We are not our own; all we have and all we are comes from the God Who loves us.

        In the face of this great truth, we (I mean older folks like me) can only beg the Lord to forgive us our lack of generosity in returning thanks to Him. I could have done much better in my life, if only I had responded whole-heartedly to the Lord’s calling! We, the elderly, have only reason to be thankful for God’s many gifts. We beg pardon for having fallen short in returning thanks to Him, for failing to cooperate fully with His many graces bestowed upon us.

        In a sense though, this Sunday’s message is meant especially for the children and youth. In that sense, I would surely like to encourage young people, especially young parents, to be very generous in responding to the Lord Who bestows His gifts upon them and their children. It is the Lord Who calls them to cooperate in His plan for our salvation and the salvation of the whole world. It is the Lord, Who speaks to them as surely as He did to Samuel. I say, be generous, but perhaps the right notion would be “unreservedly”, to give ourselves to God without holding back. Samuel answered, ‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.’  That is how we should be in responding to God. God speaks, maybe not for our physical ears to hear, but He speaks to our hearts. In return, we owe Him all we have and all we are.

        Here I am, Lord! I come to do your will. The point being that we can never go wrong or have regrets for having turned our lives over to Christ. That kind of responsiveness without reserve to God’s call, embracing His plan for my life, is an act of obedience, but that act of obedience to His call sets me free for all I can be.

        Today’s Second Reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians uses similar words, but makes a very different point about steering clear of fornication and unchastity.

        “Your body, you know, is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you since you received him from God. You are not your own property; you have been bought and paid for.”

        Chastity, purity of heart, stands in that same logic of vocation and discernment. It is about singleness of purpose. We are simply not our own. My life plans are not mine alone to decide. My body is not mine to dispose of as I please. We belong to God in the sense not of a servant or a slave, but of a chosen son or daughter, someone well-loved by the Heavenly Father.

        I said earlier that our living out of the faith is a tripartite thing: it is an interplay of God initiating, of my responding, and significant persons in my life pointing the way. One of the greatest burdens in life is facing those betrayals of our trust by significant persons. Both in the Church and in society, people entrusted with leading us through life seem destined to fall down on the job. Too often, they betray us and leave us defenseless. They can lead us down the wrong path and then abandon us.

        My simple and short message for today is this: PRAY WITHOUT CEASING! Put yourself in the Lord’s Hands! Be attentive to His Voice! Simple, honest, virtuous living, through attentiveness to God’s Word in prayer will make of you an anchor, a source of refuge for our world. We should start young to respond to Christ and when we fail, we should ask pardon of God and of His Church and start over again. My prayer for you would be that people could say of you what they said of Samuel: “Samuel grew up and the Lord was with him and let no word of his fall to the ground.”

        Do not delay another moment! Place your life in God’s Hands! Give yourself to constant prayer like Samuel!

        Praised be Jesus Christ!


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