HOMILY FOR THE 2ND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Readings: Isaiah 49:3,5-6/1Cor. 1:1-3
Gospel: Jn. 1:29-34
A few days ago I was looking in the comic’s page and I came across the comic “Family Circus.” The comic had the daughter Dolly walking toward her Grandma and telling her “You can tell the holidays are over, Grandma. Everything is getting back to normal” while in the background her brothers Billy and Jeffey are having a fight. Yes the holidays are over. Now what we do? Many of us look at the holidays as a way to excuse poor behaviors that are displayed in us as well as others. Still others look at the holidays as a way to do something more for others for just a few weeks to make up our actions the rest of the year. The holidays have become less of WHY we celebrate and more of HOW we celebrate.
One example of this over emphasis of holiday-as-festival is in Charles Dickens classic “a Christmas Carol.” Ebenezer Scrooge is tired of all the unnecessary frivolity (in his mind) of the Christmas season that allowed society to lose its focus on business. Each time someone came to solicit something from him; they did it in the “Spirit of Christmas.” His disdain for their insistence of joyful behavior during this time of year, however, caused him to disregard Christmas altogether.
In the story we know that it took three spirits-one from his past, one from the present, and one from his future-to make him realize that Christmas was more than just something that was to be celebrated only one time of the year. Christmas is to be honored every day of our lives: For if we did not have Christmas, we would not have Christ. And if we do not have Christ, salvation would not have come. At the conclusion of the story, we are told that Scrooge kept Christmas in his heart every day for the rest of his life and we are left with the declaration, “God bless us, everyone.” Our focus in the story has always been on Scrooge the miser. Yet Dickens wants us to view Scrooge as our example to how we need to keep spirit of Christmas with us every day of our lives. This is a hope that we should all strive for as we continue our journey of faith toward the kingdom of heaven.
In the Gospel proclaimed today we get a glimpse of the ministry of John the Baptist. As he went out into the desert and preached a baptism of repentance, his influence among the people began to increase. His disciples and those who listened to his words couldn’t help but think that he was the Messiah. When a delegation from the temple in Jerusalem approached and asked him if he is the Messiah, he told them no. They asked him if he was Elijah or Isaiah the Prophet that had returned to them. Again he told them no. So they asked him who he was. John told them that he was the voice that is crying out in the wilderness to make straight the way of the Lord. Since he wasn’t Isaiah or Elijah or the Messiah, they wondered then why then did he baptize his disciples? He assured them that his baptism for the forgiveness of sins was to prepare for the arrival of the Messiah.
And then one day, while Jesus was coming to him, John recognized Jesus as the Messiah. John pointed to Jesus and told the crowd that this is the Lamb of God takes away the sins of the world. This is the person, he said, that I told you about. Now did the crowds, upon seeing this, appreciate the moment and then just get up and walk away and get on with our lives like they had before? No. They began to follow Jesus and understood his message not only at the end of the life of John the Baptist, or at the end of the life of Jesus, but throughout their lives up to the moment of their death.
This was the example that Dickens had wanted us to see in his story; that while those who are considered good and upright in society tend to misbehave from time to time then place an over-emphasis of proper behavior during certain times of the year, it is the one that does a complete and total reversal of their behavior from bitterness to joy in the light of the Incarnation that we truly say are the Servants of God.
That term-Servants of God-is a rather unique phrase in the Catholic Church. The title is given to one who is on the path to sainthood. (We in the Springfield Diocese are probably going to hear this phrase quite often because of the cause of Father Augustus Tolton, the first African-American priest in the United States and was buried in Quincy, Illinois.) It designates someone who has lived an exemplary life in service to God and to the church. In particular, it is for those that are recognized in helping others who are also seeking the kingdom of God. Their lives are investigated and if it is found that they did live a life of “heroic virtue” then the cause for their sainthood can continue.
This title is not exclusive to Catholics. In fact, the term “Servant of God” appears eight times in the Bible: four times in the Old Testament four times in the New. In Arabic, the name Abdullah means Servant of God; in Hebrew, it is Obadiah; and in German, it is the name Gottschalk. The Eastern Orthodox refers to each other as Servants of God. Even the Holy Father, to show his humility among the faithful, is designated with the title “Servant of the Servants of God.”
Yet this is more than just a title. It is a goal that each one of us should strive to attain. This starts by having a belief in God, not just a ruler or as an arbiter, but as a loving father and parent. This belief comes from a faith that springs from our baptism. This is the first sacrament that we receive as the sins that we have committed are forgiven. We are welcomed into the church, and begin along our path of the journey of faith. In preparation for the coming Messiah, John the Baptist prepared his followers by baptism for the forgiveness of their sins. He welcomed them into the community of believers and removed all doubt of Jesus’s identity as the Lamb of God, the one who takes away the sins of the world.
We as Christians continue this ministry of not only Jesus but also John the Baptist by bringing everyone into the belief that we are not only God’s chosen but also the servants of God and then we can announce to God and to the world in the way the psalmist has proclaimed today “Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.”
MAY GOD BLESS YOU AND ALL THAT YOU DO THIS WEEK
Questions for Reflection:
- Have you ever thought of Ebenezer Scrooge as a model for conversion?
- If you heard John the Baptist make his declaration of Jesus, would you believe him?
- Part of a conversion is to assist in the continuation of the message. When have you experienced moments when you have said, “Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will? What happened?