Second Sunday In Ordinary Time, Year B
Readings: Samuel 3:3-10, 19; First Corinthians 6:13-15, 1720; John 1:35-42
Turning to the scripture readings for this Sunday, we see that there are very few things in this life that we can really call our own. In fact all that we have is just on loan to us and comes and goes with the passing of the years and ultimately left behind when we complete our earthly journey.
Of course we believe that our souls are immortal and hope that we will enjoy eternal life with God and hold fast to belief in the resurrection of our bodies at the end of time. All of this will be completed in God’s time and way. Eternity lies before us!
When we think about the transition from this life to the next, though, our name is something we do leave behind after this life, in the sense that by our name our family and loved ones will remember us, not by what kind of car we drove or in what part of town we lived.
All of us take pride in our good name, not wanting it dishonored or dishonored. No one can rob of us of our name, and though we live in these times of identity theft, we still remain who we are, even if someone else is using our credit card or bank account without our permission. Our name remains with us through life and even beyond.
Think of certain names and the reactions or emotions they immediately elicit in many or most of us: Abraham Lincoln, Mohandis Ghandi, Blessed Pope John XXIII, Martin Luther King, Jr., Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. When we think of these persons, now dead, we still recount who they were and what good they did, for the promotion of peoples everywhere. Their names live on and continue to inspire young and old.
In our Sacred Scriptures, the Bible, names take on a great meaning and importance as well. John the Baptist was a special messenger of God who preached repentance and conversion of life. He did not bear the name of his father Zechariah nor of any of his relatives. Rather, he bore the name God had reserved for him, John, which means, “the graciousness of God.”
At his birth people asked who this child would be and why the hand of God rested on him. John grew to be the forerunner of the Messiah and the voice crying out in the desert about our Lord Jesus Christ. John was no ordinary person, but a prophet to the nations that God was sending his own Son into the world.
Our Lord too bore a special name, revealed by an angel to Joseph in a dream. The name given, Jesus, was a clear indication that God would save his people from their sins. In another place in scripture Jesus is called Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.” Names are not arbitrary, but carry real meaning for the people of our holy scriptures.
In the Gospel passage we hear for this Sunday, Jesus looks at the brother of the apostle Andrew and says, “You are Simon, son of John; your name shall be called Peter, which is to say, Rock.” This pronouncement meant that Peter was to be an essential foundation stone of the Church which Christ was establishing, built upon the prophets and apostles.
Each of us, baptized into the one, holy catholic and apostolic Church, possesses a name, which says first and foremost that we are Christians, followers of Jesus Christ. We also have a given name that distinguishes each of us from other people, walking the same path of life, but each in a slightly different way and pace. In other words, none of us lives another’s life, as much as we might like to at times, but we live only our own life and make free decisions that promote or hinder our journey toward God.
While our choices are important, it is God upon whom we rely to bring us through this earthly journey to the life beyond the grave, which the Italian poet Danti Alghieri described as, “joy past compare; gladness unutterable; Imperishable life of peace and love; Exhaustless riches, and unmeasured bliss” (The Divine Comedy, Paradise, Canto XXVII).
The prophet John the Baptist lived the meaning of his name, “the graciousness of God.” Peter the head of the apostles and first pope, was faithful to his vocation as the “rock” of the Church; Jesus Christ in bringing about the salvation of the world through his life, death and resurrection, made clear the meaning of his name, “God saves.”
It is not enough to have a name, but actually to live that name, and for us it means especially to live out the name of “follower of Christ.” Our Gospel living must express to the world that we belong first and foremost to Christ. This fact will shape our personality and what we think, say and do.
Like the youthful Samuel in the first reading at Mass today, our God calls us by name, with a mission that only we can fulfill. Each of us is important, unique and special. Does that mean we are better that everyone else? No, but it does mean that no one is excluded from God’s providential care, neither the little nor the great, the young nor the old.
Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going? If we only respond to these questions with our legal name and address and a vague notion of living a life free from crime or vice, we are missing the point. We are called to much more than that! If we reply instead that we are loved into being by God, are always under God’s loving care, upon this earth to know, love and serve our God and neighbor, and to enjoy the reward of eternal happiness after this life, then we are on the right track.
A meeting with God is impossible if we don’t first discover our worth and lovability. The discovery of our value in God’s eyes opens us to one another and to Almighty God. As citizens of God’s kingdom, we must be committed to the work of self-giving, which ultimately means striving every day for the building up of God’s kingdom, on earth as well as in heaven.
That means the exclusion of the pursuit of self and rather seeking the things that are above, where Jesus is to be found. We will never do it perfectly in this life, and so we seek God’s forgiveness when we fail as well as the forgiveness of one another when we have offended others.
In the Gospel today the disciples discover the depths of their vocation by the reply of Jesus to their question, “Where do you stay?” Jesus tells them, “Come and see.” They do so, and this experience of meeting Christ changes their lives forever. Jesus lives in our midst as well.
The celebration of the Holy Eucharist, the Mass, is the celebration of the presence of Jesus and is the reply to the question, “Where do you live?” Here we meet the living God and we speak and eat with him. May this experience of the eucharistic presence of Christ in word and sacrament bring about a deepening of our commitment to follow Christ and have a profound effect in our daily life.
We have received the invitation from Jesus to, “Come and see” where he lives. What is our response to Jesus’ call?
Fr Christian Leisy, OSB
Monastery of Christ in the Desert
Abiquiu, New Mexico