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Second Sunday of Ordinary time Year B

January 15, 2021

John 1: 35-42

By Rev. John Tran

If Samuel or the two disciples of John had not been alert and listening, the message the bible tells us would not be the same. It is due to being aware and listening that this prophet and the two disciples spring into our awareness by the lives they led. And why were these lives important to us? Because they were listening to the Lord and willing to do his will.

Take Samuel, for example. He was a young boy whose mother had given him to the Lord because of a vow she made to God that he would be born. Samuel was probably not much aware what this would mean for him; he was simply going to live out a life in the service of the High Priest. He would not doubt be very sedentary, not moving very far from God’s house at Shiloh. And yet, because he was so carefully listening to God, he became one of the greatest prophets of Israel, speaking God’s word to the people all over Israel. He was God’s instrument for setting up the kingship, first with Saul, then with David.

And what about the two disciples of John the Baptist, one of whom was Andrew? These were disciples very devoted to John, sure of his message. But they were listening when John said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” John said nothing more, and yet because they had paid attention to what John taught, they left to follow Jesus without even being told. So, because one of them was Andrew, Peter’s brother, Peter listened and became Jesus’ disciple who became the Rock of the church which is Christ’s body. These disciples would listen to Jesus and carry on his message after Jesus rose from the dead.

Then, there is John Baptist himself. John’s Gospel presents John the Baptist as a self-effacing figure whose role is preeminently one of witnessing. Instead of building up his own following, John selflessly directed his disciples to Jesus. John the Baptist gave testimony to Jesus by pointing Him out as the Lamb of God; Andrew called him the Messiah, and Nathaniel called Jesus Rabbi, Son of God, and King of Israel. Jesus completed the epiphany, declaring Himself the Son of Man (v 51). In the Synoptic gospels, Jesus called the disciples away from their fishing boats to follow him (Mt 4:18-22). But in the Fourth Gospel, they went to Him at John’s direction rather than in response to Jesus’ call. Instead of leaving their boats, they left John. On the second day of Jesus’ public ministry, John the Baptist introduced Jesus to the Jews as the “Lamb of God. (Jn 1:29). On the third day, he pointed out Jesus, the Lamb of God, to two of his own disciples, Andrew and John, as described in today’s Gospel.

None of these people made a fuss over following God or Jesus after they heard the call. In fact, the two disciples were not sure what to do with their call. When they came up to Jesus and he asks, “what are you looking for,” they seemed dazed and could only answer, “where are you staying?” A very tentative beginning at best. But these were the first steps of a disciples’ total transformation into Spirit-filled apostles.

All of these were just ordinary people who just began their journey toward becoming credible witnesses of God’s kingdom. They are so much like us with our sins and faults. We will see, little by little, the changes in them, until Jesus knows that they are ready to trust him even to learning of the terrors of Jerusalem and Golgotha.

It seems that this is how the Lord loves working in us - naturally, quietly for the most part, always with patience and confidence, relying on the day when you and I will gradually “see and hear” his Word and draw others to his side. We do this most effectively by how we speak, hope, and joyfully live our lives - and most of all in dark and dangerous times. It has always been the Lord’s wish that each of us particularly are called to attract others to the kingdom. The main theme of today’s Scripture readings is Divine vocation – that everyone is called by God to be a witness for Christ by doing something for others with his or her life, using his or her unique gifts and blessings. And so, today’s readings remind us of our personal and corporate call to become witnesses for Jesus, the Lamb of God, by leading lives of holiness, witness and service, drawing others to God. We begin doing this by listening and remaining of to God's voice and call.

One day, Francis of Assisi invited one of the young friars to join him on a trip into town to preach. The young friar was so honored at receiving such an invitation from St. Francis that he quickly accepted. They paused beneath a tree and Francis stooped to return a young bird to its nest. They went on and stopped in a field crowded with reapers and Francis bent his back to help load the hay onto a cart. From there they went to the town square where Francis lifted a bucket of water from the well for an old woman and carried it home for her. All day long he and St. Francis walked through the streets and byways, alleys and, suburbs, and they rubbed shoulders with hundreds of people. Each time they stopped, the young friar was sure that St. Francis would stop and preach. But no words of great truth or wise discourse issued from the saint’s mouth. Finally, they went into the Church, but Francis only knelt silently to pray. At the end of the day, the two headed back home. Not once had St. Francis addressed a crowd, nor had he talked to anyone about the Gospel. The young monk was greatly disappointed, and he said to St. Francis, “I thought we were going into town to preach?” St. Francis responded, “My son, we have preached. We were preaching while we were walking and in everything we did. We were seen by many and our behavior was closely watched. It’s of no use to walk anywhere to preach unless we preach everywhere as we walk! Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words only if necessary.”

Are we listening? Are we alert? Do our responses to God’s Word make a difference? How can we make it so in 2021?

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