Dear friends, My Homily for 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (B) 2015.
GOD USES MESSENGERS
All of us here today want to know and follow God’s will for our lives(John 6:28, 29, 40; Eph. 6:6, 8). Some more and some less, but all of us share, at least to some degree, that fundamental desire; it’s one of the reasons we have come to Mass(Matthew 26:26-29; 1 Cor. 10:16; 2 Cor. 11:23-26). This desire is in itself a sign of God’s presence in our souls, a sign that he is guiding us. Many of our brothers and sisters in Christ have received the same baptism and Catholic formation that we have, and yet, they don’t come to Mass anymore. They no longer desire to follow Christ; they have chosen to follow someone else. But somehow God has kept alive in our hearts that prayer uttered so beautifully in today’s Psalm: “Here I am, O Lord, I come to do your will.”(40:8)We should be deeply grateful that God has kept that desire burning.
But, on the other hand, how can we discover what God’s will is? Today, God is reminding us of one of his most favorite methods of communicating his will: through human messengers. The young prophet Samuel had been chosen to lead and instruct God’s people and to anoint the first two Kings of ancient Israel. But when God first started to speak to Samuel’s heart, the future spiritual hero didn’t even know how to recognize his voice. Eli, his spiritual guide and a priest of God, had to teach him(1 Sam. 3:4, 5, 7, 9).
John and Andrew had been chosen by God to become two of the twelve pillars of the Church, the Apostles. And yet, Jesus walked right by them on the bank of the River Jordan, and they didn’t even recognize him. John the Baptist had to point him out, twice, before they got the message and decided to follow their calling(John 1:35, 36). Many times, God speaks through human messengers.
ONE OF GOD’S FAVORITE MESSENGERS
God has given a unique role to one messenger in particular: the pope. Today’s Gospel tells us about the first meeting Jesus had with the first pope, Simon, Andrew’s brother. Simon’s special role of leadership in the Church is shown many times in the New Testament: as when St Paul makes a point of presenting his plans to Simon Peter before beginning his mission of evangelization to the Gentiles(Gal. 1:18); or when Simon Peter resolves the conflict that led to the first Church Council at Jerusalem(Acts 15:22-23ff). History and non-biblical sources show the same thing: the unique unifying and guiding role played by Peter and his successors, the bishops of Rome. Today’s Gospel passage, taken from the very first page of the Gospel of John, shows that Jesus himself planned to use the papacy as his central messenger from the start. It shows Christ’s first encounter with the three men who would become his closest collaborators, and Simon was one of them.
The first thing Jesus says to him is “You are Simon son of John; you will be called Cephas”, an Aramaic word that means “rock,” the same meaning of the Greek word, “Peter.” This is an official changing of Simon’s name. Whenever that happens in the Bible, it is significant; it corresponds to someone being given a special mission in the history of salvation. By giving Simon the name Peter in their very first meeting, the Gospel shows that Jesus had in mind from the beginning that the rock-solid foundation of his Church would not be a written document like the Bible (all written documents can be misinterpreted), but a living person, a representative whose fidelity was to be guaranteed by Christ’s own authority. Peter and his successors, the popes, are Christ’s vicars on earth, his dependable messengers through which he guides his Church. That’s how God works – that’s how he likes to work.
DECIDING TO LISTEN
God knows how to use messengers to guide us, but unless we are willing to be guided, even those messengers won’t help us(Ps. 95:7). Today we can ask ourselves: how deeply do I really want God to guide my life? On any given day, how much do I pay attention to what God is trying to say to me? God wants me to be eager to hear his voice in my life, just as Samuel was in today’s First Reading. I need constantly to make Samuel’s prayer mine: “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” This is the attitude I need to adopt: to constantly listen, to actively pay attention, to God.
Adopting that attitude requires a conscious decision. Most of us have probably made that decision at some point in our lives, maybe at a retreat or after a good confession.But unless we renew it periodically, it will get dusty and dull. Why not renew it today, during this Mass, when Christ, through the sacrifice of the Eucharist, will be renewing his decision to give his life for us and for our salvation? But deciding to adopt the attitude of obedience to God’s will is only the first step. After we do that, we have to put the decision into action(James 1:22-24). That’s what a mature life of prayer is all about. Prayer isn’t just asking for things from God. It’s also listening to God by reading and reflecting on the Bible, by studying Church teaching, and by talking with God every day about the different events and challenges of our life. God speaks in so many ways, through so many messengers! We just need to tune in.
During this holy Mass, let’s promise that we will. And before leaving this building, let’s decide on a concrete commitment – even a small and simple one – that will help us keep that promise.
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