SECOND SUNDAY (B) JANUARY 17, 2021
I Sam 3: 3b-10, 19; Ps. 40: 2-4, 7-10;
I Cor. 6: 13c-15a, 17-20; John 1: 35-42
by Jude Siciliano, OP
St. John reminds us today that the word "rabbi" means "teacher." Which has me returning to earlier school days when teachers were a major part of my life. One in particular. In my sophomore year of college there was an English literature teacher we students admired. At the beginning of the semester we rushed to register for his course – the number he admitted was limited. A few of my friends and I got in and we considered ourselves lucky. We loved his lectures, and when he read Chaucer’s, "Canterbury Tales," we sophomores chuckled because he read it in old English. It sounded like a foreign language compared to our American English. In his classes we took diligent notes, handed in our term papers and took our final exam… Then moved on.
I know Prof. O’Halloran had a lasting influence on me and my love of literature. I look back on his class many years ago with nostalgia, but also with gratitude because what he taught us about reading and interpreting literature has been a gift to me over the years as a reader of Scripture and as a preacher.
There are teachers in John’s Gospel. John the Baptist is one of them and, as any good teacher, he has devoted and admiring disciples. They were impressed by him. But when Jesus walked by John, the temporary teacher, pointed out Jesus to his students, "Behold the Lamb of God." For John’s disciples the image of the Lamb of God would have stirred their imagination. The lamb’s blood had saved the Jewish families enslaved in Egypt. In remembrance of that liberation a lamb was sacrificed and eaten each year at the Passover meal. So, John’s disciples moved from one teacher to follow another, who would stir their imaginations and change their lives
In the other Gospels Jesus himself chooses and calls his future disciples. In John however, these potential disciples are seekers who come to Jesus looking for nourishment and guidance they can’t provide for themselves. What exactly do they want? Well, that is what Jesus wants to know, "What are you looking for?" It is a question he repeatedly asks us each day, as we: make both large and small choices based on our priorities; respond to one another; gather for worship; look for inspirational books to read, or videos to watch during our isolation, etc. "What are you looking for?
The isolation many of us are experiencing these days has limited us in so many ways. But let’s hope it has also given us time to catch our breath, pause and consider who and where we are in our lives right now. Jesus’ question to his disciples makes a good place to begin our introspection: "What are you looking for?" How do our daily lives reflect the answer we are giving to that probing question?
The disciples answer with a seeming-bland response. "Rabbi (John reminds us the name means "teacher") where are you staying?" I like another translation: "Rabbi, where do you live? There are layers of meaning to their question. They could be asking, "Where do you have life?" Or, "Where does your life come from?"
Aren’t we like those disciples? Isn’t there a hunger in us for a life that only he can give us? And, it is not just about the next life. It is life here and now: deep life; a life with purpose and meaning; a life that won’t wear out, or disappoint us; a life no credit card can purchase; a life that travels with us each stage of our lives. (I recall a line from Psalm 90:1, "In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.") The question John’s disciples put to Jesus is ours, "Rabbi, where do you live?" It is also our prayer as well, as we realize a hunger that only he can satisfy.
The potential disciples are not in a high school, or college class with Jesus, the Teacher. He does not offer them a semester’s course – three months and it’s over. He does not ask them to write a term paper, or give a report on a theological theme. Nor is he talking about admiring him from afar – instead he says, "Come and see where I live." Or, "Come and see for yourself where I have my life." Or, "Come and have life with me." Or, "Come and see what gives me life."
We ask Jesus, "Where can we find your life?" At this moment he points to where we are right now: Gathered at the Bread of the Word and the Bread of the Eucharist. And says, "Come and you will see." Then he points outside and adds, "You will also find my life where I have shown you: among the least; in all the human community; in receiving and offering words of forgiveness; in the fruits of the earth; indeed, in all of creation.
In our first reading Samuel is serving the Lord in the Temple. He has been there since his mother Hannah placed him there as an infant (1 Sam 1:24-28). He now receives a call from God that will draw him out of the confined and safe Temple precincts into the world – the way Jesus invited John’s disciples to, "Come and you will see."
Samuel will become God’s prophet out in the turbulent world. He will confront rulers and ordinary folk, as well, and challenge them with God’s Word. Samuel did not receive any dramatic notice to be God’s prophet. Instead, he heard a voice in the middle of the night that awakened him from sleep, drew him from his safe environment and reset his life. Which makes us ask: Is God calling me, in the midst of my daily routine to a new task – large or small – in God’s service?
Hearing and responding to God’s invitation is not only life-changing, but risky. But the fledgling prophet is assured that the Lord is with him. So it is for us, called forth to be God’s spokespersons – risky but, as with Samuel, the Lord is with us.
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