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Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
17 January 2021

17 January 2021 Homily - Collapsible Text

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
January 17, 2021
Fr. Rick Lorenz

1 Sam 3:3b-10, 19
Ps 40
1 Cor 6:13c-15a, 17-20
Jn 1:35-42

When I was a seminarian, just before ordination as a transitional deacon, I went on a week-long retreat with the Jesuits. It was a silent retreat, and my spiritual director told me, "Eat lots and sleep lots." I would get out for walks in the nearby woods but mostly spent time in prayer. He asked me, "Why are you here? What question do you have? What do you want to know?" I was looking for confirmation on my call to the priesthood; to know that this was what God wanted me to do. "Should I go ahead with it? Or have I been fooling myself all along?" He gave me today's Gospel to meditate on for the week. It's a strange and rare prospect: being given a week to consider your relationship with God; your past, present and future; your hopes, dreams and expectations; the rest of your life and everything it touches; all through the lens of seven lines of Scripture. A week with no distraction: no media except the Breviary, no conversation except fifteen minutes with the spiritual director, no tasks other than being fed and going to Mass. My meditation on the Gospel filled those days. I think it was rewarded with a vision, a private revelation, perhaps even a period of active contemplation. I joined Andrew and John arriving at where Jesus was staying. He didn't show me his face, but the disciples did: excited and joyful. And Blessed Virgin Mary was inside, sitting at her work. She looked up and smiled at me: not young and dressed in blue, but older, no makeup, wearing and veiled in black. I didn't recognize her at first, but later, thinking about it, decided that it must have been her. It was a minor event in the history of salvation; no secrets were given; but I remember their faces more clearly than those I've ever known in normal life. Faces welcoming me as a visitor to the scene.

Today's readings tell us that God does call on people to follow him, but we have to listen for his voice. In the first reading, God is calling Samuel. He thinks it's Eli speaking his name, and runs toward him three times. But then Eli realizes that Samuel is hearing the voice of God. Eli tells Samuel what to do: "Go lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, 'Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.'"

The psalm tells us what we need to hear God's voice. "I waited patiently for the Lord, he inclined to me and heard my cry." We have to listen with patience, since God speaks to us at a time of his own choosing. We exercise this patience with perseverance in prayer and a determination to do his will. And we are equipped to hear him. He made us able to hear his voice. "Sacrifice and offering you do not desire, but you have given me an open ear." According to St. Augustine, God also created us with a restless heart. It has a bottomless hole that gives us an infinite desire, an unquenchable thirst. It's a God-shaped hole that only he can fill. He knows what we want and what we need better than we do. The disciples found this out. When they first saw Jesus, he asked them "What are you looking for?" They weren't able to respond with an answer. The deepest longings of their heart were beyond words, outside their experience, more distant than their dreams. So they answered with a question, "Rabbi, where are you staying?" They wanted to be where Jesus was, to stay where he was at rest, to abide in the peace they heard in his voice; to dwell in his being that let them say "We have found the Messiah."

God calls us, but the enemy has its own voice that can pull us astray. The devil, the world, the flesh: they interfere with God's voice; they call us away from the fullness of joy that he intends. They try to purchase our true freedom with the illusion of freedom. But we have already been bought. Jesus paid the price for our sins through his sacrifice. He redeemed us on the cross. Paul makes this point to the Corinthians: "you were bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body." Paul tells us that "The body...is for the Lord, and the Lord for the body." We are created in the image of God, and are called to use our bodies for his glory; to respect the bodies of the poor, the lowly, the defenseless; the bodies of those whom we're attracted to; our own bodies too. Chastity according to our state of life helps us to hear our call.

I mentioned earlier that I went to the retreat with a question: what is God's will for me? Through grace, I was able to discern that the call is real, but as an invitation to what is best; a call respecting my freedom to choose, with an assurance of his love either way.

For this Eucharist, we pray for those discerning their vocation to marriage or religious life, that through grace they might listen with care.