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Reflections for the II Sunday in ordinary time

The readings remind us of our personal and corporate call to become witnesses for Jesus, the Lamb of God, by leading lives of holiness and purity.

(1 Sam 3:3-10, 19: 1 Cor 6:13c-15a, 17-20; Jn 1:35-42)

Homily starter anecdote: “Eureka, Eureka.  According to legend, the ruler Hieros II asked the Greek philosopher Archimedes to find a method for determining whether a crown was made of pure gold or of gold mixed with silver.  One day when Archimedes stepped into his bath and noticed that the water rose as he sat down, he ran out of the house naked shouting, "Eureka! Eureka!" (= "I have found it!")  The method to determine whether or not a crown was pure gold, discovered by Archimedes in his bathtub, was to compare its weight to its volume.  If one had one pound of gold and one pound of silver and submerged them in water, the silver would make the water rise higher than the gold, because it is less dense than gold, and therefore larger in volume, displacing more water.  Archimedes compared the volume of water displaced by the suspect crown with that displaced by a pure gold crown of equal weight.  Archimedes did not "find" this truth by searching after it -- although he might have spent days thinking about a solution to the problem.  His "find" came as an unexpected surprise.  He had probably noticed the water in the bathtub rising hundreds of times before, but its significance didn't "click" in his brain until that "eureka" moment.  Today’s Gospel describes how John discovered Jesus as the Lamb of God and how Andrew, Simon, and Nathaniel discovered him as the “Promised Messiah” quite unexpectedly.  Jesus was their "Eureka."(

Introduction: The main theme of today’s Scripture readings is Divine vocation – that everyone is called by God to be a witness for Christ by doing something for others with his or her life, using his or her unique gifts and blessings. Hence, today’s readings remind us of our personal and corporate call to become witnesses for Jesus, the Lamb of God, by leading lives of holiness and purity.

Scripture lessons summarized:  The first reading describes how Yahweh called Samuel to His service and how the boy Samuel responded to Him, saying, “Speak, Lord, Your servant is listening.” Hence, God blessed him in the mission entrusted to him, and Samuel became an illustrious figure, ranking with Moses and David as a man of God.  In the Responsorial Psalm (Ps 40), the psalmist sings, “Behold, I come to do Your will,” indicating   that his vocation is to obey, to do what God commands him to do. In the second reading, St. Paul explains to the Corinthians that their Divine call is a call to holiness.  Hence, they need to keep their bodies pure and souls holy because by Baptism they have become parts of Christ’s Body and the temples of the Holy Spirit.  In the Gospel, John the Baptist claims that his vocation is to introduce Jesus to two of his disciples as the “Lamb of God,” suggesting Jesus’ vocation to become a sacrificial lamb to atone for our sins. The disciples followed Jesus to his residence, accepting his invitation to “come and see.”  They stayed with him that day.  Then Andrew brought his brother Simon to Jesus, introducing Jesus to him as the Messiah.  Thus, today’s Gospel also describes the call or vocation of the first apostles and challenges us to invite others to Christ by our Christian witnessing.

The first reading explained, 1 Samuel 3:3-10, 19: The book of Samuel begins with a long narrative of what we might call ancient Israel's middle history.  Moses, Aaron, and Joshua were gone from the scene.  The period of rule by Judges had begun (at about 1000 BC).  The first chapter describes how Samuel was born to a long-barren couple by Divine intervention.  They dedicated him in his early childhood to God's service in the Temple at Shiloh, as an apprentice to the priest Eli.  The boy's duties included attendance during the night near "the Ark of God," a most sacred cult object and a place of unique Divine presence among the people.  God called Samuel one night and Samuel thought it was his master Eli. Twice God called, twice Samuel went to Eli and twice Eli told him to go back to sleep.  The third time God called and Samuel went to Eli, the old priest realized what was going on, and told Samuel, "Next time, say, 'Speak, Lord, Your servant is listening.’”  The threefold repetition of God's call indicates genuine experience rather than hallucination.  Eli knew the proper response for all God's followers: "Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening."  Only those willing to carry out the Lord's wishes will be able to hear God calling -- even in the middle of the night.  Though Eli had served God faithfully, it was Samuel whom God called.  Samuel became an illustrious figure, ranking with Moses and David as a man of God.  The lesson for us is that God often calls ordinary people, including the young, to serve within the community.  Consequently, we all need guidance in discerning and responding to His will.  Our lives as God's followers revolve around seeking, finding and responding to God’s calls.  Listening to the call of God is to hear, understand, and accept it in word and action.  Is God calling me today for a special mission?  What is He saying to me?  Am I really listening?

The second reading erxplaioned, 1 Corinthians 6:13c-15a, 17-20:  The letter is addressed to all members of the Church at Corinth.  Corinth was a bawdy seaport in cosmopolitan Greece and the center of intellectual ferment.  The vices of every seaport, plus the philosophical ferment of ancient Greece, were all  part of these peoples' lives, and gave rise, in part, to the need for this letter.  One of the greatest besetting sins of the pagan port-town of Corinth was prostitution.  A few Christians even tried to justify prostitution as part of the Christian liberty which Paul had preached to them.  Corinth was a difficult place to preach a new doctrine and a new morality, but Paul had dared to preach both, provoking intense controversy.  The pagan Corinthians believed that the soul of man was the important part and the body a mere piece of matter.  They looked on the body as a   matter of instincts to be fulfilled, including the sex instinct.  Therefore, they argued, one ought to let the desires of the body have their way. Some of the Christian Corinthians had apparently picked up these pagan ideas. So Paul reminded them that they were "sanctified and called to be holy" like all who call on the name of Jesus.  Just as God called Samuel and Jesus called his apostles, the Corinthian Christians were called to lead a life of holiness.  Paul’s argument runs like this:  since God's Spirit dwells in us, we have become temples of God and consequently our bodies are sacred.  In addition, Christ gave his life in order that man might be redeemed, body and soul.  Hence, a man's body is not his own to do with as he likes; it is Christ's, and a man must use it, not for the satisfaction of his lusts, but for the glory of Christ.

Gospel Exegesis: John the Baptizer’s selfless witnessing: John's Gospel presents John the Baptist as a self-effacing figure whose role is preeminently one of witnessing.  Instead of building up his own following, John selflessly directed his disciples to Jesus.  John the Baptist gave testimony to Jesus by pointing Him out as the Lamb of God (vv 29, 36); Andrew called him the Messiah (v 41), and Nathaniel called Jesus Rabbi, Son of God, and King of Israel (v 49).  Jesus completed the epiphany, declaring Himself the Son of Man (v 51).  In the Synoptic gospels, Jesus called the disciples away from their fishing boats to follow him (Matt 4:18-22, et al.).  But in the Fourth Gospel, they went to Him at John's direction rather than in response to Jesus' call.  Instead of leaving their boats, they left John. On the second day of Jesus’ public ministry, John the Baptist introduced Jesus to the Jews as the “Lamb of God. (Jn 1:29).  He repeated the name on the third day in introducing Jesus to two of his own disciples as described in today’s Gospel.

The Lamb of God: This is the most meaningful title given to Jesus in the Bible.  It is used 29 times in the book of Revelation.  It sums up the love, the sacrifice and the triumph of Christ.  John’s introduction might have brought five pictures of the “lamb” to the minds of his Jewish listeners.  1) The Lamb of Atonement (Lv 16:20-22).  A lamb was brought to the Temple on the Day of Atonement (“Yom Kippur”).  Placing his hands over its head, the high priest transferred all the sins of his people to the lamb.  It was then sent into the wilderness (as the lamb who takes away the sins of the Jews) to be killed by some wild animal.  2) The Lamb of Daily Atonement (Ex 29:38-42; Nm 28:1-8).  This was the lamb sacrificed on the “Black Altar” of the Temple every morning and evening to atone for the sins of the Jews.  3) The Paschal Lamb (Ex 12:11ss.).  The Paschal Lamb’s blood saved the firstborn of the Jewish families in Egypt from the “Angel of destruction.” The event was memorialized yearly in the sacrifice of the Paschal Lamb at Passover. 4) The Lamb of the Prophets, an image portraying one who, by his sacrifice, would redeem his people: “The gentle lamb led to the slaughterhouse” (Jer 11:19), “like a lamb to the slaughter” (Is 53:7).  Both, as we know, refer to the sufferings and sacrificial death of Christ.  5) The Lamb of the Conquerors.  The picture of a horned lamb on the Jewish flag at the time of the Maccabaean Liberation War was used as a sign of conquering majesty and power.  The great Jewish conquerors like Samuel, David and Solomon were described by the ancient Jewish historians as “horned lambs.”  

Christ as Lamb of God is a title familiar to us.  In the Eucharist, at "the    breaking of the bread," we proclaim what the Baptist said, in word or song.  Our traditional   “fractional anthem” is the Agnus Dei“Lamb of God, who take away the sin of the world, have mercy on us/grant us peace.”  In this prayer, we give expression to our deepest understanding of the identity and purpose of Jesus Christ as our Lamb and Lord.  Because of his life of love and sacrifice, we believe and affirm that he is the one who came and continues to come into a broken world to take our sins upon himself. 

Stages in God’s call: In the opening verses of today’s Gospel, John points out to his disciples that the One who is passing by is the “Lamb of God.”  Two of John’s disciples follow Jesus who turns and asks them what they are seeking.  Somewhat confused, they ask Jesus where he is staying.  Jesus does not tell them. Instead, he invites them to “come and see.”  For each of us, belief in Jesus develops in stages, which John appears to be describing.  First, we respond to testimony given by others.  Then, having "seen" where Jesus dwells - within believers, as individuals and as community - we move to commitment based on our own experience of the risen Lord.  Finally, our conversion is completed when we become witnesses for Jesus.  In Andrew's case, his conversion reveals his belief in Jesus as the Messiah.  He then brings his brother Peter to Christ.  Jesus looks at Simon and says, “You are Simon son of John.  You are to be called 'Cephas' or 'Peter.'” Cephas is the Aramaic word for "rock” while the Greek word for rock is "Petros."  This kind of name-change has precedents in the Old Testament (Gn 17:5, 32:28).  Such name-changes indicate the beginning of a new life—a new purpose—a new relationship with God.  Simon's new life in Christ is symbolized by his new name, "Peter," conferred by the Master.  The evangelist sets out a challenging pattern for evangelization.  The first people to be evangelized preached Jesus in their turn to relatives, friends, and even to strangers.  We, too, must find and grow in Faith through our grace-assisted lifelong seeking of God's will, as we come to God through Jesus, whom we find in the local Christian community.

Life Messages: 1) Our Christian call is to live and die like the Lamb of God.  (A) We live like a lamb: 1) by leading pure, innocent, humble, selfless lives, obeying Christ’s commandment of love; 2) by appreciating the loving providence and protecting care of the Good Shepherd in his Church; 3) by partaking of the Body and Blood of the Good Shepherd in the Holy Eucharist and deriving spiritual strength from the Holy Spirit through prayer and the Sacraments.  (B) We die like a sacrificial lamb: 1) by sharing our blessings of health, wealth and talents with others in the family, parish and community; 2) by bearing witness to Christ in our illness, pain and suffering; 3) by offering our suffering for the salvation of souls and as reparation for our sins and those of others. 

2) Our call is to rebuild broken lives. Like the missionary call of Samuel and the apostles, we too are called.  Our call is to rebuild broken lives, reconciling them to God's love and justice through Christ Jesus, our Lamb and Lord. A. Through Baptism into the Body of Christ, we are empowered and enabled by the Holy Spirit to free the oppressed. B. Through the love of the Lamb of God, we are called to better the lot and improve the broken spirit of all who have been exiled from the possibility of hope, exiled from God's righteousness or burdened by the yoke of spiritual, social, economic, and political dislocation. C. In other words, through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the glorified Lamb, we are called to empower the human spirit with a sense of identity and purpose. 

3) Our call is to bear witness to the Lamb of God.  Today's Gospel reminds us that being a disciple of Jesus means that we are to grow in faith and become witnesses for him. A. Bearing witness to Christ is an active rather than a passive enterprise.  Knowing Jesus is a matter of experience.  One could know the Catechism of the Catholic Church, all 700 pages of it, by heart, and still not know Jesus. B. Bearing witness to Christ, then, demands that we should have personal and first-hand experience of Jesus.  1. We get this personal of experience of Jesus in our daily lives – through the meditative reading and study of the Bible, through personal and family prayers and through the Sacraments, especially by participation in the Eucharistic celebration. 2. Once we have experienced the personal presence of Jesus in our daily lives, we will start sharing with others the Good News of love, peace, justice, tolerance, mercy and forgiveness preached and lived by Jesus.  C. The essence of our witness-bearing is to state what we have seen, heard, experienced and believed, and then to invite others to "come and see."  Other people will see Jesus in our lives when we love, forgive and spend time doing good. D. A dynamic and living experience of Jesus will also enable us to invite and encourage people to come and participate in our Church activities.  (Fr. Antony Kadavil)


13 January 2018, 09:20