Second Sunday of Ordinary Time – Year B
[1Samuel 3:3b-10, 19; Psalm 40; 1Corinthians 6:13c-15a, 17-20; John 1:35-42]
This past week I was on retreat in British Columbia with other Bishops from the Western provinces and Northern Territories. My travel plan had me returning to Edmonton on a flight Thursday evening. It was cancelled at the last moment. I confess I found it annoying and inconvenient, but I also must admit it was the right call. Winds were extremely high and takeoff would have been very dangerous. I underwent a change in travel plans due to the right call.
Let’s keep this in mind as we enter the texts from Sacred Scripture. Looking first to the Gospel, it begins with St. John the Baptist pointing to Jesus as “the Lamb of God”. What this means is that Jesus is the One sent from heaven to “make the right call” and cause a change not in our travel but life plans. Ever since humanity turned away from God through sin, it had been on an itinerary leading to death. Jesus has come to call us away from that routing because it is life-threatening, a series of take-offs that never end well. By offering his life on the Cross as the sacrificial Lamb, the Lamb of God, Jesus has re-routed all of humanity toward himself, who alone can set our life course in the direction of our heavenly destination.
Notice how this plays out in the lives of the first disciples. Two of them had been followers of John the Baptist. After John points to Jesus as the Lamb of God, they look toward the Lord. Jesus immediately issues the call and re-routes them toward himself: “Come and see.” This leads to a complete change in their life plan, as they begin to follow Jesus instead of John. They see that Jesus is making the right call, because after spending the day with him they realize he is the long-awaited Messiah, as Andrew would later tell Simon.
Today’s Gospel account is familiar to us; we have heard it many times. Yet the invitation from Jesus to “come and see”, to spend time in his presence, and hear him make the right call, is ever needed. There is always a strong temptation within our hearts to set our own itineraries. If we do so by modeling our lives on the ways of this world, those life plans will very quickly lead away from the Gospel. As an example, St. Paul warns against taking off into the high and dangerous winds of sexual immorality, which we see leading to many serious “crashes” in our day. We always need Jesus to “make the right call” and summon us back to himself, so that he can lead us away from danger and re-direct our life’s course along the way of holiness and joy.
How do we hear his call? The example of young Samuel in the first reading confirms that God does come to each of us, individually, to make the right call and put us on the route he intends for us, but also that we have to be properly focused to hear it. The Gospel clarifies that our attention is rightly focused when it is directed to Jesus. At the airport the other night, everyone was focused very intently on announcements made over the loudspeaker. Just as Andrew drew the attention of his brother Simon to Jesus, so, too, does the Church, in all she teaches, summon us to keep our attention fixed on him and the “announcements” he makes in Sacred Scripture and the Church’s Tradition. We hear the call of God when we listen to Jesus, the Word made flesh.
When we do, something wonderful happens. Once the airline made the call to cancel the flight, passengers lined up at the customer service desk to consider possibilities of a re-routing. The agent would look at the needs of the passengers, and the travelers would learn from the airline representative what new route they could take. When Andrew has Simon “line up”, as it were, before the Lord, Jesus looks at Simon, and opens his heart to a re-routing, even regarding his identity. He tells him he is not Simon but Peter. When we “line up” before Jesus, when we turn to him with open and expectant hearts, the same thing will happen. The gaze of Jesus reaches deep within us and perceives with perfect clarity not only what we think about ourselves but also the various routes along which our thoughts, emotions, and desires are traveling. He sees and names our true identity as the beloved children of God, knows exactly what plans of ours must be cancelled for our safety, and points out how we need to be re-routed in order to live in accord with our God-given identity and get home to heaven.
Concretely, then, the Gospel is giving us two things we need to do. First, stay focused on Jesus and receive daily the right call he makes to “come and see”, to spend time with him by pondering Scripture, celebrating the sacraments, and serving the poor. Second, invite Jesus to “come and see” us, to cast his gaze upon us as he once did with St Peter, and point out to us what we need to do, how we must change, to be re-routed back to him.
The privileged point of encounter with the Lord, the place we spend time with him and hear his call, is the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. In this mass, then, let us open our lives anew to his “right call” and his gaze, seeking from him the grace that protects us, re-directs our lives, and keeps us on the itinerary of authentic and joyful discipleship.
Most Reverend Richard W. Smith
Our Lady of the Angels Parish, Fort Saskatchewan
Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish, Skaro
Saint Clare Parish, Redwater
July 14th, 2024