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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

January 15, 2012
1 Samuel 3:3-10, 19; Psalm 40; 1 Corinthians 6:13-15, 17-20; John 1:35-42

          As we begin Ordinary Time, we read about two favorite call narratives. The First Book of Samuel tells of the innocent account of the boy Samuel who was dedicated to the Lord by his long-barren mother, Hannah. Samuel will become a great prophet in Israel. As a youth, he is learning about prayer and priestly-type service to Israel by studying with the great prophet, Eli.

          The ever-available Samuel responds to Eli's call three times in the middle of the night before Eli recognizes that the Lord is speaking directly to Samuel. The readiness of the boy is endearing. He coaxes the boy to respond with a heart of openness to the Lord by encouraging the Lord to speak plainly. The vocation of a prophet is to listen to the word of God and bring these words to the people and their king. The prophet is the anointed one who is free from political entanglements.

           John's Gospel has an unusual call sequence. We find John the Baptist in his waning days of ministry pointing out Jesus as the Lamb of God to his own disciples. It is highly unusual that a teacher like John would send his disciples away to another rabbi, but this reinforces the author's theme that the Baptist was sent to testify to the light, but was not the light himself. John easily gives way to Jesus.

          His disciples have an unusual conversation with Jesus. They are clearly attracted to Jesus, who promptly asks them, "What are you looking for?" to which they respond, "Where are you staying?" Jesus simply replies, "Come, and you will see." Both the disciples and Jesus are looking for a relationship that lasts into the future. It is a warm invitation that holds great promise.

          Andrew was one of the disciples who heard John tell him about Jesus. After staying with Jesus for the afternoon, he goes to Simon to tell him of his experience. In the short time, Andrew has come to believe Jesus is the Messiah. When Jesus greets Simon, he gazes upon him and renames him Peter.

          Last week, we heard about the naming of Jesus at the circumcision and the weighty significance that the giving of a name signifies. Jesus gives Peter a nickname that means "Rocky." Last week my mother told me that I was given the name John with the expressed condition that I am never to be called John, but Jack instead. I now am paying attention to the reasoning that went into that decision and I also will bring into prayer which names reveals my truer identity to God. What does your nickname say about you?

          These readings also call to mind that ways we come to know God. For young Samuel, God spoke to him clearly in the middle of the night. The two disciples of John were moved to follow Jesus and spend time with him. The sage word of a friend helped them seek him out. Peter came to know Jesus after his brother, having spent some time with Jesus, revealed that he is the one whom all of Israel seeks. Often we are ready to encounter the Lord after someone has already told us of the powerful way he already acted in our lives.

          We mistrust the ways we think we hear the Lord because it is not a clear as Samuel's. We always expect clarity or loud gongs or getting knocked off our horses, but the Lord acts in ways that are unique to us. We will find his voice in small whispers that we doubt, but hold out hope that it is truly from him. We seek confirmation that his invitation is real and not a fluke. We may seek an event as a curious happenstance when in fact, it is not a coincidence, but a way in which our attention is held. It is then that we have to turn our curiosity, like the Baptist's disciples, into further questions. We have to spend time with the Lord to find out is he is our Messiah.

          Holding a question is more important than having a clear answer. We are a people who seek the truth that is difficult to grasp. We have to wrestle with our doubts and misgivings. These are good displays of faith. We are seekers and searchers; not possessors of moral truths that are beyond our grasp. We can come to belief while still holding onto doubts. Never underestimate the value of a question - even if it doesn't feel like an intelligent one. You are searching for greater meaning when you grapple with your ideas.

          Simply spending time with Jesus, who offers invitations of friendship, can answer some of those questions. Samuel learned the ways God initiated conversations with him; John's two disciples spent the afternoon with Jesus; Peter came to belief because he trusted in his brother's word until he came to personally know the man who was to become Messiah. Believe me. He will find a particularly unique way of reaching you and inviting himself deeper into your life. He wants that.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading:  Samuel tells Saul that his disobedience to God has caused him to be banned as Israel's ruler. Saul's sacrifices to God after his victory over Amalek was not enough to earn favor with the Lord. Samuel hears from God that Jesse of Bethlehem will have a son who will become king. Samuel invited Jesse to a sacrifice with Saul. His seven sons were presented, but none of them were accepted. They sent for the youngest, David, who was tending sheep in the field. The Holy Spirit rushed upon him and Samuel anointed him with the horn of oil in the midst of his brothers. Months later, David was sent by Saul to fight the giant Philistine against whom he had no chance of surviving, but with his sling and a stone, he felled the giant warrior by hitting him in the head. David's return from battle was glorious, but Saul fell jealous because of the attention lavished upon his underling. Saul intended to kill David, but Jonathan, his son, protested. Through his intervention, Saul spared David's life. A while afterwards, Saul sent three thousand men against David, but David showed his allegiance to Saul, intending to do him no harm. Saul reconsiders his actions after David shows fealty to him and rewards him for his honor. Saul declares David will one day rule over Israel. After David returned from a battle against Amalekites, he learns of Saul's and Jonathan's death and he grieves their untimely death.

Gospel: The Pharisees uphold John's followers as ones who uphold dietary laws and they accusatorially ask why the disciples of Jesus do not fast. Jesus further upsets them when passing through a field of wheat on a sabbath when they pick grains and begin to eat them. The Pharisees are upset that the laws they held so dear since before David's time are being recklessly disregarded. They closely watch Jesus as a man with a withered man enters the place where Jesus was teaching on a sabbath. In a flagrant display of disregard for Jewish customs, Jesus compassionately heals the man's hand. The Herodians begin to plot his death. Jesus withdrew towards the sea and hordes of people came to hear him preach and heal. He asked his disciples to get a boat ready for him. Demons approached Jesus and fell down in fear before him. Jesus went us a mountain and summoned those he wanted to be with him. He named twelve who would become his closest companions. Jesus returned to his house and the crowds pushing around him made it difficult for the disciples even to eat. His relatives heard of this and set out to seize him for they were sure that he was out of his mind.

Saints of the Week

Tuesday: Anthony, Abbot (251-356), was a wealthy Egyptian who gave away his inheritance to become a hermit. Many people sought him out for his holiness and asceticism. After many years in solitude, he formed the first Christian monastic community. Since he was revered, he went to Alexandria to encourage the persecuted Christians. He met Athanasius and helped him fight Arianism.

Friday: Fabian, pope and martyr (d. 250), was a layman and stranger in Rome during the time of his election as pope. A dove settled on his head, which reminded people of the descent of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove during the baptism. He served for 14 years until his martyrdom.

Sebastian, martyr (d. 300), was buried in the catacombs in Rome. He hailed from Milan and is often pictured with many arrows piercing his body. Much of what we know about him is legend.

Saturday: Agnes, martyr (d. 305), is one of the early Roman martyrs. Little is known about her but she died around age 12 during a persecution. Because of her names connection with a lamb, her iconography depicts her holding a lamb to remind us of her sacrifice and innocence.

This Week in Jesuit History

·         Jan 15, 1955. The death of Daniel Lord SJ, popular writer, national director of the Sodality, founder of the Summer School of Catholic Action, and editor of The Queen's Work.
·         Jan 16, 1656. At Meliapore, the death of Fr. Robert de Nobili, nephew of Cardinal Bellarmine. Sent to the Madura mission, he learned to speak three languages and for 45 years labored among the high caste Brahmins.
·         Jan 17, 1890. Benedict Sestini died. He was an astronomer, editor, architect, mathematician, and teacher at Woodstock College.
·         Jan 18, 1615. The French Jesuits began a mission in Danang, Vietnam.
·         Jan 19, 1561. In South Africa, the baptism of the powerful King of Monomotapa, the king's mother, and 300 chiefs by Fr. Goncalvo de Silveira.
·         Jan 20, 1703. At Paris, the death of Fr. Francis de la Chaise, confessor to Louis XIV and a protector of the French Church against the Jansenists.
·         Jan 21, 1764. Christophe de Beaumont, Archbishop of Paris, wrote a pastoral defending the Jesuits against the attacks of Parliament. It was ordered to be burned by the public executioner. 

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