Homily for the 2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time Year A
Theme: “John the Baptist saw Jesus coming towards him and declared, ‘Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!’” (John 1:29)
By: Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC
Homily for Sunday January 19 2020
Spiritual memoir: it’s the reading material I most relish, accounts of the varied journeys of women and men in search of God. Just so, I’d packed such a book a few years back before leaving for retreat at St. Joseph’s Abbey. Entitled “Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner and Saint,” the author, Nadia Bolz-Weber, is founder and pastor at the House for All Sinners and Saints, a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in Denver, Colorado. Let a brief excerpt from a review say more:
“Nadia Bolz-Weber takes no prisoners as she reclaims the term ‘pastrix’ (a term used by some Christians who refuse to recognize female pastors) in her messy, beautiful, prayer-and-profanity laden narrative about an unconventional life of faith. Heavily tattooed and loud-mouthed, Nadia, a former stand-up comic didn’t consider herself to be religious leader material, until the day she ended up leading a friend’s funeral in a smoky downtown comedy club. Surrounded by fellow alcoholics, depressives, and cynics, she realized: These were her people. Maybe she was meant to be their pastor.” ( episcopalbookstore.com )
I’d first learned about this woman when a friend sent me a YouTube clip. What I saw rather stunned me—a tattooed woman, leather-clad in a sleeveless vest, strutting her multiple body piercings before a congregation. And she wore a clerical collar, just like mine! At first I thought it was a tasteless attack on religion. But it wasn’t. In fact, once Nadia began to preach, the assurances of God’s love she offered her congregation were no different from those I attempt to deliver, though in more genteel terms.
Thus, I was captured. And while reading her book, I knew it was not really Nadia but God who had netted me. One sentence from the book so struck me that it has followed me to this day: “Every time we draw a line between us and others, Jesus is always on the other side of it.”
Sadly, it’s what I do all too often! When I make judgments about people, I draw lines between myself and them, thinking myself in the right, of course. But then to be told that God is always on the other side of the line I’d drawn. My sin had been revealed.
Seeming to add divine emphasis to the lesson the tattooed Nadia offered me, the very next morning at Mass, at the sign of peace, I turned around to the young Trappist monk behind me and offered my hand. As he reached to shake it, the sleeve of his white religious habit slid up, revealing a large tattoo. Speaking later to an older monk about the tattooed young man, he commented easily, “Oh yeah, a few of our young monks have them. Got them before they joined us, of course, but I guess it’s just part of their spiritual journey.”
Indeed, the spiritual journey can turn some odd corners! And some very unusual people can turn out to be God’s most effective prophets. It’s this very dynamic that we encounter in the gospel passage we hear today. In conversation with a group of his own followers, “John the Baptist saw Jesus coming towards him and declared, ‘Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!’” (John 1:29)
It’s pretty much what Nadia Bolz-Weber did for me when she slapped me with a painful truth about my own life— “Every time we draw a line between us and others, Jesus is always on the other side of it.” And just in case I didn’t get the import of the message, a tattooed Trappist reached out during Mass, took my hand in Christ’s peace, and erased all the lines I’d drawn.