Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Homily 2nd Sun Ordinary Time Year B

Below is my homily on the readings for the 2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B.

Last week was National Vocation Awareness Week when we prayed that vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life would be multiplied and renewed. It is Providential then that, following National Vocation Awareness Week, the Church has provided us with readings today that describe the beautiful calls of Samuel in the Old Testament and our Lord’s first disciples in the New Testament. Through these beautiful accounts we can learn about our own call from God as well.

One of the things that stood out to me from the readings is how these calls came about in close proximity to our Lord. This is a very important lesson to us all today. They form a sort of model for how our Lord calls us and how we should answer. In our first reading, Samuel was “sleeping in the temple of the LORD where the ark of God was”. Now, I hope that none of you falls asleep this morning, but you get the idea. Samuel was near the ark of God, the ark of the Covenant, which in the Old Testament stood for God’s very Presence. And after he consulted the old high-priest Eli he learned that the call was authentic and how he should respond. Then the Lord “was with him” and directed his vocation in a powerful way such that not a word of his was “without effect.” Please pray for me that I could have a similar blessing.

In our Gospel, St. Andrew and St. John began to follow Jesus when John the Baptist prompted them as Jesus “walked by.” Jesus said to them, “Come and see” and they “stayed with him that day.” Later, Andrew’s joy from this encounter led him to find his brother Simon Peter, to share with him the good news of the Messiah, and to bring him to Jesus. Then Jesus looked Simon Peter in the eyes and named him Cephas which means “rock”, the rock on which Jesus built his Church. Together these two accounts of Samuel and the first disciples teach us three things. First, we hear God’s call best when we are close to him. Second, often God uses others to direct us to him. And Third, we should respond with humility, openness, and promptness.

When I look back on my own life and my calling to the priesthood I see that by the grace of God, this model played out with me too. Although not always like Samuel, Andrew, John, and Peter, I am humbled by how God brought me to where I am today. For most of my life, in a way I was like Samuel who, according to our reading, “was not familiar with the LORD, because the LORD had not revealed anything to him as yet.”

… Tell Vocation Story…

For me, what began as an intellectual exercise, reading more and more about why we believe what we believe, became an experience and a way of life. By the grace of God, I fell in love with Jesus, and with His Church, and with what He teaches us through it. Our vocation in life, what God is calling us to do, can never be just a matter of intellectual curiosity; it affects one’s whole life: a person cannot understand it unless he lives it; therefore, in our Gospel our Lord does not tell Andrew and John in detail about his way of life; he invites them to spend the day with him. What God is can only be understood through experience: words cannot fully describe it.[1] Our Lord invited everyone when he said “Come and See”. And like the disciples we must obey his command and learn by personal experience.[2] Only by living with him and knowing him can we ever really know ourselves and the vocation he intends for us. Just as Samuel was near the ark of God and the apostles spent time with Jesus where he “stayed”, I began to spend more and more time in front of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament getting to know him and his will for me.

Just as Samuel answered the Lord, “Speak, for your servant is listening” and just as Andrew and John “followed Jesus”, I tried to respond by praying to God that I wanted to know his will for me as much as I wanted to each lunch that day or to have a roof over my head. I prayed that God would allow me to be as intimate with his will for me as I was with meeting my basic needs

Also, just like God used Eli to call Samuel, and John the Baptist to prompt Andrew and John, and Andrew to call Peter, the Lord used a Protestant girl to put me on the road to the priesthood! And he used many others too, like Michael Wimsatt another one of our seminarians who will be ordained in May. His first words to me were not “Hello, my name is Mike” or “Hello, nice to meet you,” but “Have you ever thought about being a priest?” And God used my friends who confirmed my thoughts that priesthood could be a good fit for me. And he used priests like Fr. Paul Beach who have encouraged me along the way by their advice and their own priesthood.

I pray that you too will grow in confidence in God’s will for your life. I hope my story is helpful to you. I hope the accounts of God’s call in our readings today will bear much fruit for you. Spend some silent time with our Lord in the tabernacle. Rest with the ark of God. Spend the day with him. Maybe you could spend 15 minutes a day in adoration or an hour per week. Live with him and allow him, his Church, and what we believe to change your life. Be attentive to the way He places people in your life to bring you to Him. Then we, together, can exclaim with our responsorial psalm today: “I have waited, waited for the LORD, and he stooped toward me and heard my cry… ears open to obedience you gave me… then said I, ‘Behold I come’… ‘it is prescribed for me: to do your will, O my God, is my delight, and your law is within my heart!’”

[1] Navarre Commentary on St. John, p. 51
[2] St. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on St. John

1 comment:

Padre Paulus said...

Good job, Matt. A good example of how powerful it can be to use personal experience as a base for preaching, and how it can be directed in a way that isn't merely self-aggrandizement. You accomplished that well.