Homily for the 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B
Theme: Christian Vocation
By: Fr. Jude Chijioke
Homily for Sunday January 17 2021
1 Samuel 3: 3-10.19; 1 Corinthians 6: 13-15.17-20; John 1: 35-42
“The Lord called: Samuel! He replied: Here I am! Then he ran to Eli and said: You called me, here I am! He replied: I did not call you, go back to sleep! … The Lord called again: Samuel! for the second and third time and he got up again and ran to Eli saying: You called me, here I am! Then Eli understood that the Lord was calling the boy. He said to Samuel: Go to sleep and, if he calls you again, say: Speak, Lord, for your servant listens!” (1 Sam 3).
“Fixing his gaze on Jesus, John the Baptist said: Behold the Lamb of God! Jesus turned and seeing that two of the Baptist’s disciples were following him, said: What are you looking for? They said to him, Rabbi, where are you staying? He said to them: Come and see. So, they went and saw where he lived and stayed with him. One of the two was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He met his brother and said to him: We have found the Messiah! And he led him to Jesus. Jesus, fixing his gaze on him, said: You are Simon, you will be called Cephas-Peter “(Jn 1).
“In the night, the Lord called: Samuel!” … “Jesus turned and said to them: Come and see!”. In these two biblical phrases the common thread of our Sunday reflection is contained. They are the root of two tales of vocation. The first has as its protagonist Samuel, prophet and priest, a perplexed and hesitant craftsman around 1030 BC. of the transition of Israel from the tribal to the monarchic unitary structure with King Saul. His’ is a progressive call, in several stages, it is not a stormy and blinding irruption as the road to Damascus was for Paul; it is a slow apprenticeship that begins with a first appeal in the nocturnal peace of the Temple.
The initiative is always of God. With a very slight mutation the great theologian K. Barth had transformed the famous “Cogito ergo sum”, “I think therefore I am” by Descartes into the biblical “Cogitor ergo sum”, “I am thought from God and therefore I am”, I exist, I live, and I believe. Samuel’s adhesion is fresh, youthful but still blind and therefore disappointing: constantly he asked the priest of the sanctuary of Shiloh: Did you call me? – No, I did not call you, go back to sleep! “. It will be only the fourth time, after three failures, that Samuel discovers his true vocation, that of not being a simple servant of a priest but a minister of the living God, prophet and spokesman for him. From that night’s womb comes a new man with a new destiny; in that dawn, like Jacob on the banks of the Jabbok river (Gen 32), Samuel too was born in a full and authentic way.
Even the second story of a vocation, that of Andrew and Peter, is framed in the simplicity of the works, the days, the places that see us as actors in our little human affairs: they saw where Jesus lived. It was about four in the afternoon. Here too the initiative starts from God. It is Christ who turns and looks at those two disciples of John the Baptist. It is interesting to note that the play of the eyes, particularly important in John’s Gospel, runs through the whole story and is full of interior allusions and spiritual references. The Baptist “fixes his gaze on Jesus”, Jesus “turns and sees” the two who follow him and invites them to “come and see”; they “see where Jesus lives” and ultimately Jesus “fixes his gaze” on Peter calling him to a new destiny. It is not a question of a simple intertwining of glances, it is a profound dialogue that leads to the fullness of vocation encounter. Also, in this case the discovery of his own mission is progressive, he passes through a road on which one walks with Jesus, knows a search and includes a stop in a modest house in Palestine.
But in the end, here is the decisive discovery. The “seeking” has a “finding” (“Who are you looking for? … We have found the Messiah!”). The “following” has a “remaining” (“they stopped”), a term dear to John who uses it to indicate a living and intense communion with Christ. From a simple rabbi, a Hebrew honorary title for teachers (literally “my great”, therefore “my lord”), Jesus becomes in the eyes of those men the “Messiah-Christ”. And, in this scene a new man is born with a new name: on that famous night of the struggle by the river, Jacob had seen his name changed to “Israel”, now Simon of John becomes “Cephas-Peter”, a sign of an unexpected and grand fate. The encounter with God upsets the modest plans that man has designed, overwhelms resistance and involves life in a joyful and total commitment. No one ever encountered God and remained the same.
There is a final element common to the two stories of vocation that we have read today. At first glance, this is a marginal but, particularly significant figure. To reach the right path of personal calling, the help of a fraternal presence, that of a friend, a teacher, a spiritual director is also precious. For Samuel he is the priest Eli who, without replacing the one that called, guides him and advises him. For Andrew it is the Baptist who points his finger at Christ presenting him as the Lamb of God. For Peter it is his brother, Andrew, who announces to him with joy: “We have found Messiah!”. Through the hand of a father, sister or brother, the steps on the path of vocation become safer and more embracing. Nobody is saved alone, everyone is saved in communion with God and with the brethren, supported by divine grace and human fraternity.
On this day, the Christian is invited to rediscover the freshness of his personal, religious and human vocation. On the day of his prophetic vocation, Jeremiah saw the hand of the Lord who presented him with a flowering almond branch as a symbol, a sign of divine protection. The person called is never abandoned in the desert of life, but the shadow of a green and flowered branch always extends over his head, a sign of a perennial spring, that of God.
-Fr. Jude Chijioke