Sunday 14th January 2018
1 Samuel 3:3-10,19
1 Cor 6:13-15,17-20
Many years ago shortly after I had done the leaving Certificate Examination, one of the priests of the Society of African Missions [SMA] called me after Mass one morning [I had been an altar server in the SMA church] and said he would like to talk to me about my future. So I arranged to see him later. He greeted me and then asked me if I ever considered becoming a missionary priest. I told him I wasn’t, so he kindly said goodbye to me. Subsequently a number of other people asked me the same question but my answer remained the same. Then, 8 years after the priest had called me I decided to join the SMA, though rather doubtful if it was the right thing to do. Well, nearly 50 years later I am still a member of it. Probably the prayers of that priest eventually bore fruit.
I feel a bit like Samuel in the first reading today. Three times he heard the call of God and it was only after the third call, with the help of Eli that he responded to the call of God. It is something similar in the gospel today. In the passage just before today’s gospel passage John pointed out Jesus as the Lamb of God but none of his disciples followed Jesus. Now having pointed him out again, this time two go after Jesus. And when Jesus turns around and asks them what they wanted, they replied:’ Teacher, where do you live?’ His reply was:’Come and see?’ There is no forcing here, it is an invitation on the part of Jesus. Not only did they spend the rest of that day with him but also obviously they found him so fascinating that they spent the rest of their lives following him. So like Samuel, it took three calls on the part of God to him, with the two disciples John the Baptist had to point out Jesus twice. I suppose the lesson is that our God is a very patient God. No matter how often we resist his call he keeps on calling us, never giving up on us, irrespective of how we may have lived our lives.
Then, we find that having followed Jesus and spending most of the day with him, Andrew met his brother next morning and took Simon Peter to Jesus. That seems to be the pattern of God’s ways; people bring others to Jesus, who in turn bring others again to Jesus.
Maybe we can ask ourselves, who brought us to Jesus – maybe our parents, teachers, friends. I know that in the case of the Legion of Mary, St. Vincent the Paul and other Christian organisations, it is often members who invite others to join them. It is not enough to keep the faith – we are asked to pass it on to others.
Maybe a good question for me to ask myself is – who have I brought to Jesus? As a parent, it may be our children which shows the incredible vocation God has given to parents: to pass on the faith to their children. Sadly when they grow up some give us the practice of the faith and at times parents come to me feeling guilty about this but they shouldn’t feel guilty since we cannot force the faith, all we can do is to pass it on.
For us here in Ireland it was St. Patrick came and passed on the Catholic faith but it took some time to take root. From then onwards, the tradition of faith was passed on from one generation to the next. especially for centuries when people were severely persecuted for practising their faith, many giving their lives for it. Today, however, many of the essential elements of the Catholic faith such as weekly Mass, the Sacraments, daily prayer and the gradual daily introduction of children into the faith can no longer be taken for granted. Some years ago an Irish bishop said, that for possibly the first time in our history, there was now widespread concern that this present generation would fail to pass on the faith they inherited to their children.
Like Samuel in the first reading we are called into a personal faith relationship with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. For this we are asked to develop the habit of prayer, which we can ask the Holy Spirit to give us. In the Gospel, it was because they spent a good amount of time close to Jesus that the apostles and disciples grew in a personal relationship with Jesus. We do this today by prayer.
In the gospel also we have a very surprising description of Jesus: John points him out as ‘The Lamb of God’. This is the first time in history to that point that this name has been applied to Jesus. We know that a lamb is weak, vulnerable and not very important. Here John is giving a very new understanding of who God in Jesus is. The Jews were expecting a Messiah who would be strong, able to destroy the Roman army of occupation and put God’s reign in place everywhere. But when he did come the Godman Jesus was not what was expected. From a weak, vulnerable baby in a stable Jesus grew up revealing a very different kind of God – a God who took the side of the weak, vulnerable, sinners, the outcasts of society.
This is indeed very Good News for us. It means that God understands our weaknesses, our vulnerability and our sinfulness. He lived among us and experienced it himself apart from sin. God loves us as we are and waits patiently for us to return home to him knowing that we will never be happy with consumerism and materialism and all that is on offer today.
‘Lord Jesus, thank you for coming amongst us and living with us and beside us. Help us to keep and deepen our faith and pass it on to others. Help us to have a deep, personal relationship with you. Amen’
Fr. Jim Kirstein, SMA