The foundation of choices about moral behavior
Sunday Homily for January 18, 2009
Second Sunday in Ordinary time (2B)
By Fr. Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B.
John the Baptist, standing with two of his disciples, upon seeing Jesus exclaims, "Behold, the Lamb of God." When Jesus notices that John's disciples are following him, he says to them, "What are you looking for?" They reply, "Rabbi, where are you staying?" Jesus responds, "Come, and you will see." Andrew, one of the disciples, goes to find his brother Simon, tells him they have found the Messiah, and introduces his brother to Jesus. Jesus looks at him and says, "You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas (Peter)."
There is a true story about a professor who was invited to give a lecture at a major conference on religion. The subject of his lecture was the nature of God. His many hours of research were rewarded by the enthusiastic response he received upon completion of the lecture. On the flight back to his university, however, his euphoric satisfaction about his work was shattered when it dawned on him, as he later reported: "I talked to everyone about God, but God."
We can easily have an experience similar to that of the professor as he was preparing his lecture about God. With a little research we can discover many interesting, even beautiful things about Jesus and his disciples.
Thus, in today's gospel passage, we discover that when the two disciples ask Jesus where he is staying or dwelling the question isn't simply about a street address. John uses the same Greek verb (translated as "staying or dwelling") when Jesus at the Last Supper tells his disciples that he "dwells" in the Father and the Father "dwells" in him (Jn 14: 10-11). We also discover that when Jesus says "Come, and you will see," the essential meaning of "seeing" is the seeing of faith (Jn 9). Only with that seeing can the disciples know where Jesus truly dwells, with-in the Father.
Thus far there is no life-implication for us beyond appreciation of a narrative about Jesus and his disciples. A life-changing implication occurs only when we realize that Jesus is addressing each of us today in as personal a way as he addressed the two disciples. The gospel is essentially about an encounter with the Risen Lord now, not about historical knowledge, however orthodox, about Jesus. The historical-critical method of scholarship (like John the Baptist) can give us valuable information about Jesus, but this knowledge cannot enable us to see Jesus in faith -- that seeing is a gift of the Spirit.
Because faith means a personal union of friendship with Christ through his Spirit, life implications will be unique and particular for each person. Nevertheless, from the life of Christ and the lives of the saints, certain patterns emerge that are actualized in the particularity of each person's life. Union with the Risen Lord means to share his relationship with the Father. It means that each of us is able to hear with Christ "You are my beloved" and to say with Christ "Thy will be done."
To be in communion with Christ means to pray, always and everywhere. The second reading of today's Mass (1 Cor 7: 32-35) shows us that a disciple's personal union with Christ through his Spirit is the foundation of choices about moral behavior. Finally, we see that through union with Christ the saints are not defeated by the setbacks of life. Saint Paul speaks for them all when he wrote: "What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us" (Rom 8:35-37).
Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B.