Monday, January 19, 2015

HOMILY Second Sunday in Ordinary Time “B” January 18, 2015

So in today’s first reading from the first Book of Samuel we hear about a problem in communication.  The Lord God keeps calling Samuel, and Samuel keeps missing that it is God who is calling and thinks instead it is his teacher and mentor, old Eli.  On the face of it, it appears that Samuel is inexperienced, a bit slow on the uptake, not quite getting it that it is the Lord who is calling him.  As our reading says, “At that time Samuel was not familiar with the Lord, because the Lord had not revealed anything to him as yet.”  Well, that could be, but being of a suspicious nature I wonder if there is not something else going on. 
          You see, I wonder that because I know what the Lord said to Samuel.   It is very interesting and even shocking.  But it is deliberately left out of today’s reading.  Samuel finally says “Speak, for your servant is listening.” And then we skip 8 full verses, which is the Lord’s message to Samuel, and skip to Samuel growing up and the Lord being with him. 
          What was the Lord so persistently trying to get Samuel to hear?  I know because I read the 8 missing verses.  It is surprising, really.  Would you like to know what the Lord was trying so persistently to tell young Samuel?  You would?   Well I will tell you.
          Wow!  An irrevocable condemnation.  Then poor Samuel had to convey this message to his teacher and mentor, Eli.  Which he did.  Yuck.  I mean, how would you like it if God came to you in the middle of the night and gave you a message: “go tell you boss that I am going to wipe out him and his whole family because of their sin, and nothing they can do will appease me.”  You probably would not be anxious to get that message, and neither was Samuel.  So I wonder if Samuel did not have some inkling, some idea of what was coming and so try some selective deafness, trying not to hear what the Lord was going to say, hoping maybe God would change His mind and give up.
          I can identify with that.  When I was a senior in high school the idea of priesthood started coming to me.  I pretty much ignored it, shoved it in the background, thought about other things, because that was not my plan for my life.  I wanted to be a lawyer.  Maybe even go into politics or government.  Later in college the idea of priesthood started coming back again.  I would put it off, I’d investigate it for a while, then push it off again for a year, and so on.  Till finally as I was getting near graduation I thought, “Look, I have spent all this time in school with no break.  I will go to the Paulist novitiate for a year, take a break from school, get the priesthood thing out of my system, and then go to law school.”  Well it did not work out that way.  But I can identify with Samuel in his reluctance to hear the Lord speak to him.  I think many of us can.  Because what God says is not always what we want to hear.  But what I heard was much much better than what I had wanted.  I know that now.  But at the time I did not want to hear it.
          Let’s now jump to the Gospel.  John the Baptist sees Jesus and proclaims “Behold the Lamb of God.”  Intrigued, two of John’s disciples abandon him and start following Jesus.  Jesus turns to them and asks a really important question.  “What are you looking for?”  The Jerusalem Bible puts this as “What do you want?”  The Orthodox Study Bible renders this as “What do you seek?”  In any form it is a powerful question.  What do you want?  What are you seeking for in life? 
          That is a pretty basic question all of us have to face.  Many of us are confused about what we really want.  Some of us get it wrong, at least for a while, looking for love in all the wrong places as Johnny Lee sings on the “Urban Cowboy” soundtrack. 
          What do you want?  What are you looking for in life?  What do you seek in the depth of your heart?
          Jesus puts this question to the two ex-disciples of John the Baptist, and in today’s Gospel Jesus puts it to all of us right now.  And Jesus, standing right there, is the answer.  Right in front of them.  He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  He is the fulfillment of our deepest longings and desires and hopes. 
          What do you want?   Here I am! 
          And He is here with us now.
          Listening deeply to God is often scary, unsettling, risky.  It is all not sweetness and light.  We may not hear what we want to hear.  It may not fit into our plans and desires.  It may be a message of judgment like Samuel heard.  It may be a call to something we don’t want to do, like I heard.  It may be a challenge that stretches and makes us uncomfortable and scared.  But it is really what we most deeply want.
          It is a risk to listen and to respond.  That is what the two disciples of John the Baptist did.  They sought the Lord Jesus.  In the Gospel we are told: “He said to them, “Come and you will see.”  
          Come to the Lord, and you will see. 


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