Reflection on the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Our Sunday readings are following the timeline of Jesus’ life. Last week he was baptized, and this week he is choosing his followers as he begins his public life. Our readings are from John’s Gospel and are arranged differently than the synoptic Gospels. John is following a literary plan that matches the first book of the Bible, Genesis.
The opening of Genesis begins: “In the beginning God created heavens and the earth . . .” John’s Gospel opens with “In the beginning was the Word . . .” This is apparently not by accident because, like the seven days of creation, John then follows with seven days of witness associated with the beginning of Jesus’ mission. Each section starts off with “the next day . . .”
- John the Baptist testifies to the priests and Levites that he is not the Messiah and is not worthy to undo the sandal straps of the one who is to come.
- John sees Jesus and testifies that this person is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world and ranks above John.
- John again testifies that Jesus is the Lamb of God and sends two of his disciples to Jesus, who then stay with him.
- On the fourth day (our reading for today) Andrew testifies to Simon, “We have found the Messiah.” Simon follows Andrew to Jesus and is named Peter, “the rock.”
- Philip testifies to Nathaniel that “the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets” is here in the person of Jesus.
- Nathaniel encounters Jesus and testifies, “You are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”
- Jesus himself gives witness by turning water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana.
John’s intention, apparently, is to focus on the mission of Jesus as a second creation, which is what Richard Rohr refers to as the second incarnation. John is reflecting on how his own community developed moving from John the Baptist, precursor to the new creation, to recognition of Jesus as Savior, who gathered followers, choose Peter as “the rock,” and sent his followers out as missionaries to spread the Good News. I think it is helpful to see the pattern John is using to proclaim the Good News. His approach is “here is how it all started, now I will tell you the whole story.”
Today we look at the third and fourth days in John’s schema. John the Baptist sees Jesus and points him out as the Lamb of God to two of his disciples, one of whom is Andrew, and they do not hesitate to leave John and follow Jesus. They stay with him that night, and the next day Andrew then tells his brother, Simon, “We have found the Messiah.”
How did we find the Messiah? God calls us in different, often mysterious ways. There is Samuel hearing the voice of God in the night. When I think about my own call to follow Jesus, I automatically go to my call to religious life, to Loretto, not my baptism since I was only 3 weeks old when that happened. But the call to follow Jesus has been ongoing since birth for each one of us. The call of God has and is happening through parents, friends, teachers, even strangers and the many events that have shaped our lives. The good news is that every morning we wake up to new opportunities to be faithful to that call, to serve in various ways, large and small.
One day recently, I read the line “God loves us first.” I know that!!! I am here because God created and loves me but for some reason those words struck me with a new force. I immediately thought of a commercial for Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. This scene in the ad is on a beach where an ostrich has its head down munching on something. There is the proclamation “You only pay for what you need” and a man kneels down where he can see the ostrich face-to-face and says, “Did you get that?” I could just hear God saying to me, “I loved you first – did you get that?”
It is important to remember that God loved us first and no matter what we do, God will not stop loving us. This time in our history is important – it’s them and us. How do we understand people whose beliefs are so different from our own? How do we respond to a whole segment of our population that is angry and violent? We need to remember that God loves them, and if the Holy One can love them, then we must try to do so, too. If we were in their place, we might be joining them. Calling them names, judging them as terrible people is not helpful. Looking at the circumstances that have brought them to this point creates some understanding. We don’t condone what they are doing, but at the same time we can try to understand how they arrived at these beliefs at this time in time. Listen to their voices. What is it that they really want? Equality? A Congress that actually works for the people instead of bickering back and forth along party lines? There are legitimate reasons for their anger, and we all need to listen.
We are sheltered, but we can’t just keep our heads in the sand. We are not likely to meet with these unhappy individuals in our daily lives, but perhaps we can stretch ourselves to look for the real reasons for such unrest and bring it to our prayer. I don’t have a clue about how prayer works, but somehow it connects us with the love our God has for us and for everyone and everything on the planet, and love makes things better. Love heals. Like the disciples who followed Jesus and spread the Good News, we are called to give our own witness no matter how old we are or how long we have been at it. Our call each day is to be faithful disciples. Each day is a new opportunity to witness love, to reach out to others, especially those most in need. I would like to close with a prayer that we, as a Community, used earlier this week. It fits with our call to discipleship:
O Source of Lavish Love, soften our hearts so that we may bathe in your love and channel that love to all. Help us to be beacons of peace, forgiveness and respect as we stand with the poor, the oppressed, the lonely, the sick and the abandoned during these uneasy times. All this we ask in the name of our Brother, Jesus.
And God loved you first. Did you get that?