Homily of 14 January 2018
1 SM 3:3B-10,19; PS 40; 1 Cor 6:13C-15A,17-20
Note: The Bishop Emeritus of Bermuda, Dr. Robert Kurtz, spent a year in Mepkin after his and during that time he endeared himself to all. Since leaving Mepkin last March, Bishop Robert has been living in Chicago and acting as Novice Director for his community, the Resurrectionists. Bishop Kurtz recently returned to Mepkin for a visit.
The Christmas decorations have been put away and now we begin what the church’s liturgical calendar describes as “Ordinary Time.” The Scripture Readings for today’s Mass invite us to start at the beginning, to reflect on our vocations, our call to be followers of Jesus. All of us present here this morning have been called to follow the Lord Jesus – most as Trappist monks, others as priests or members of other religious congregations; many have been called to follow the Lord as married people in family life, others as single people or, perhaps, widows and widowers. (Children too! “Kids for Christ.”) To all of us this morning, Jesus says: “Come, follow me!”
Our first Scripture Reading about the call of Samuel, the Prophet, is one of my favorite Scripture texts. I can identify with the call of the child Samuel and my own vocation to the priesthood and religious life in the Congregation of the Resurrection. I believe that God’s call came to me on the day of my First Holy Communion, as a second grader at St. Philomena Church in Chicago. By the time of my First Holy Communion my parents were divorced and my mother and I were living with her parents. My mother was deathly ill with a goiter condition, brought on most probably by the stress of the divorce and the difficulties that followed.
I don’t remember a lot about my First Communion Day itself. I do know that my aunt accompanied me to Mass and I was dressed in a white suit! But I vividly remember that at one point during the Mass, when the priest was washing his hands at the Offertory, I felt a deep desire to be a priest and to say Mass with and for the people. I didn’t hear any voices like the little boy Samuel in the Temple. Rather, it was just a great desire and a deep conviction that I would be a priest one day. At this point, I believe this experience to have been God’s call for me to become a priest. And, as one witty writer once said: “The rest is history!”
I continue to resonate with our First Reading and the sage advice given to the boy Samuel by the Priest, Eli: “If you are called, reply: “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.” I often repeat these words at the beginning of a session of quiet, centering prayer. I find that these words help me to be open to God’s word and God’s call in all the circumstances of my life.
I also find one other sentence in our First Reading to be very challenging. The text says: “As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him, and he let none of the Lord’s words fall to the ground.” What a great privilege it is to have easy access to the Word of God in the Scriptures, in our “Lectio Divina,” as well as in our prayerful reflections on our daily experiences. But also, what a great challenge it is to reverence and respect God’s word that is directed to us, not to take it lightly, and never to let God’s word “fall to the ground.”
Now I would like to invite you to a brief reflection on today’s Gospel in the manner of the exercises of St. Ignatius. We situate ourselves in this gospel scene: we see Jesus, John the Baptist and his two disciples, one of whom is Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter.
John the Baptist sees Jesus walking by and he cries out, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” The lamb was the principal sacrifice for the remission of sin in the Jerusalem Temple. A lamb was shared at the Passover meal by every Jewish family to recall the deliverance of God’s people from slavery in Egypt. Finally, John the Baptist’s identification of Jesus as the “Lamb of God” is recalled and ritualized in the Communion Rite of every Mass, when we are addressed with the words, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the Supper of the Lamb.” Today, we are blessed again to partake of the Supper of the Lamb.
In the Gospel, Jesus directs a question to the two disciples of John who set out to follow him: “What are you looking for?” Jesus asks. Perhaps we need to pause here and ask ourselves: “What am I looking for as I seek to follow the Lord Jesus?”
The Disciples do not answer the question, rather, they raise another question: “Teacher, where are you staying?” And Jesus responds, saying, “Come, and you will see.” Pope Emeritus Benedict makes an interesting comment on this little dialogue and the words ‘Come and See.” He says:
Becoming someone who sees is the content (and meaning) of coming. To come is to enter into “Being Seen” by Jesus and also seeing with Him. It is only in coming, entering into Jesus’ abode, as it were, that seeing really takes place.
Later, Andrew finds his brother, Simon Peter, and tells him: “We have found the Messiah.” Andrew truly believes he has encountered the “Christ,” the Anointed One, the Promised One of God and the Savior of Israel. In his enthusiasm, Andrew brings his brother to meet Jesus and a solemn action takes place – a ritual change of name as Jesus says, “You are Simon, the son of John; you will be called Cephas,” which is translated Peter. The faith of Peter, along with his threefold profession of love for the Risen Jesus, will be the foundation of the Church that Jesus had come to establish on earth.
Today, God’s word calls us to renew our awareness and identity as disciples of Jesus. We can recall the sacramental transformation that took place in us at our baptism, symbolized in the sprinkling rite, and we can take to heart the words of St. Paul in today’s Second Reading: “…your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God…”. Therefore, glorify God in your Body.”
Today, we glorify God bodily, in the here and now, as we celebrate our call to be Disciples of Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit and sent to continue the ministry of the Risen Jesus in the Church and in the world.
Let’s conclude these reflections with a beautiful prayer to the Holy Spirit composed by St. Augustine:
Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit,
That my thoughts may be holy.
Act in me, O Holy Spirit
That my work too, may be holy.
Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit,
That I love but what is Holy.
Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit,
To defend all that is holy.
Guard me then, O Holy Spirit,
That I may always be holy. Amen.