Saturday, January 19, 2008

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

January 20, 2008

The Catholic University of America

Reading 1
Responsorial Psalm
Reading 2

May the Peace of Christ Reign in our hearts.

When the Angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would bear God’s Son
the first thing she did was run to Elizabeth.

Elizabeth the mother of John the Baptist promptly proclaimed
“The baby in my womb jumped for joy.”
If you think about it
maybe John the Baptist was really the first person to recognize Jesus

Tradition has it that John and Jesus were somehow related.
They had probably known each other for years.

So in today’s Gospel it almost seems strange
when John the Baptist says did didn’t know Jesus.

They must have known each other because they were from the same family.
What we have to conclude is that he wasn’t sure who Jesus was in God’s plan.

He had his suspicions because he almost refused to baptize Jesus
but he wasn’t sure until he saw the Epiphany.

When he saw the descent of the Holy Spirit on Jesus in the Jordan
John began a process of discipleship which every follower of Christ
and every human being is called to follow.

When John was sure
he began surrender himself,
his will,
his plan, even his friends and his disciples
to Jesus and God’s will.

The first step in his discipleship was to announce to the world
who Jesus was and how he would accomplish his task.

To do this he used a simple but profound phrase
“Behold the Lamb of God”

The phrase Lamb of God was very rich for the people of his time and for the early Church

When John’s disciples or the people along the Jordan heard that phrase
they would have thought many things.

First of all they would have remembered the Passover,
when the Hebrews sprinkled the blood of a lamb on the door of their houses
to escape the Angel of Death.

By proclaiming Jesus as the Lamb of God
John is reminding that only through Jesus
only through His words
and his actions can we escape death.

Only Jesus can deliver us from a life of frustration and fear and failure.
Only in Jesus can we find the real way home.

The second thing that would have popped into the heads of the people hearing that phrase
was the sacrificial lambs which were offered as sin offerings every day in the temple.

Some days there were thousands of them.
By calling Jesus the Lamb of God
John was teaching his followers that the ministry of Jesus would include suffering.

That just as the lambs are slain in the temple to atone for sin
the Lamb of God would lay down his life for our salvation.

Many hearing John’s words still believed that the messiah would be a great earthly king.
It would take a while for the true nature of Jesus’ ministry to sink in.

If Jesus was the Lamb of God then John believed
it followed that Jesus would have to suffer.

Lastly the phrase Lamb of God would take another meaning for the followers of Jesus long after his death.

When the Book of Revelation was written in the first years of the Church during the great persecution the author of the book refers to Jesus as the victorious lamb.

In the vision which was shared with the author of the Book of Revelation
The lamb stands before the thrown victorious.
The Lamb once slain will live forever.

The message to the infant Church going through great trial and the message to us is that just as the lamb won in the end good wins, good triumphs even when it doesn’t seem possible.

Now over almost 2000 years later the title Lamb of God should invoke in us the same kind of excitement and wonder.

Only the message of Jesus, can save us from destruction
only the blood of the lamb can keep us safe.

Can you imagine a world with our Jesus
without the word of God
without the values that he shared with us by his word and his life?
What would a world be like were people were not called to love each other
and care for each other?

What would the world be like where truth and justice
and hope were not woven in the very fabric of our culture
which springs from our faith.

Sometimes we are so imbued with the message of Christ
that sometime we just don’t even realize it how much it affects and shapes us.

Without Christ without the foundation our faith gives us,
we are doomed like the Egyptians
who did not sprinkle their doors with the blood of the lamb.

The phrase lamb of God should also give us great comfort
because in it we understand that through his obedience
to God our sins can be forgiven,

There is always hope because we can always start anew.
Mistakes will be made and sins will be committed
because we are human
but, because of the Lamb of God,
because he paid the price of our sins.
We can be free from
Our mistakes,
Our selfishness
From our pridefulness
From our lust
Our laziness
Our untruth.

All of these can be forgiven because of the lamb of God
who hung on the cross for us and paid the price of our sins.

And finally in our world it is so easy to get discouraged
It is so easy to believe that evil wins.
The early church was also prone to discouragement.

There were great persecutions
and there was immense suffering.
Entire families were torn apart or suffered horrible suffering

The Book of Revelation circulated at the time of the great persecutions
tried to reassure those who believed that in the end good and God would win.

This type of fear is also present in our own lives
So much of our lives are run by fear and apprehension.
Will we have enough money?
Will people like us?
Will anyone ever love us enough to marry us?
Will I ever graduate from college?
Will I ever overcome this sin?

When we hear the phrase Lamb of God we should remind ourselves
that good and God will win

We should remind ourselves
That there is hope, there is always hope,
even in the most difficult of circumstances

We should also remind ourselves that there are many ways for good to triumph
sometimes it is in a miraculous healing
Sometimes salvation comes to us through an illness
that is not healed but endured and offered up lovingly

Only Jesus can we avoid disaster and find our way home
only in the sacrifice of the lamb can we our sins be forgiven

Only in Jesus can we hold on to the hope of the victorious lamb in the book of revelation

If I can I would like to tack on a forth point to my usual three point homily.
The life of John the Baptist also calls us to ministry
The life of John the Baptist calls us to ask ourselves are we really disciples of Christ?

When John had discovered the truth about Jesus his whole life was changed
It no longer centered on his mission or his ministry or his wants and desires
but rather on following the lamb of God

That famous line uttered by John is so compelling
“I must decrease he must increase”

You know we are so blessed on this campus
with an abundance of people
who are willing to step up and serve the spiritual needs of our students and the community.

Yet there is still so much to be done.

I would ask all of us who believe in Jesus
and his important work to ponder that phrase of John

We all need to ask ourselves what are we doing to build up the kingdom on our campus
What difference are we making in the lives of our peers
In the lives who live without the consolation of faith?

We all need to ask ourselves how much of my life is about what I want and what I need.

Following the example of John the Baptist are we willing to decrease
so the Christ may increase in our lives?

Are we willing to put God and our brothers and sisters first?

Sometimes that means getting involved in ministry positions
or participating in the life of the Church on Campus in a formal way

Other times it means simply calling each other to more.
Inspiring and challenging each other to be better people
More faithful people
Holier people.

One of the saddest things I experience on campus is
when I see someone fail out or be asked to leave

I always ask myself what did I do enough to try and keep that from happening?

So often you guys know so much more than us
and are in a position to do so much more

Holy ones
The failure of anyone here
Is actually be the failure of all of us
Something to think about for sure
Let’s try and follow the example of John the Baptist
who slowly but surely surrendered his entire life to Christ and his call

Lamb of God you take away the sins of the world
Have mercy on us
Lamb of God you take away the sins of the world
Have mercy on us
Lamb of God you take away the sins of the world
grant us peace


1 comment:

Marissa said...

Father Bob-- This homily is beautiful! I am so grateful to come to this webpage (and the alumni page as well) and be transported back to the loving CUA community to which I belonged for four amazing years. Warm regards, Marissa Pullano '04