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Breaking Open the Word

2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time 

January 14, 2024

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Happy Ordinary Time! We have returned to Ordinary Time in our liturgical calendar. However, nothing is ordinary when God is present. As we begin this New Year, our readings today are inviting us to use our senses of sight and sound to encounter Jesus, to experience the extra-ordinary presence of God during each moment of our life.

In our Gospel, Jesus poses an important question for us to ponder at the start of the year, “What are you looking for?” Am I looking for the sacred or the secular? Which world dominates my thoughts, actions, desires, and resources? Is what I am looking for leading me in the right direction?

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Gospel Explained

We hear in at the beginning of the Gospel today, St. John the Baptist exclaim, Look! Here is the Lamb of God! Look and see Jesus, the Lamb of God. To John’s audience this statement had great meaning. Why? As gentle, docile animals, lambs were prized for their tender meat and fine coat. They gave all they had to their masters. The "Lamb of God" referred to the sacrificial animal, slaughtered at the Temple for the Passover meal.

The beginning of John’s Gospel quickly laid out the evangelization of the first disciples. Unlike Matthew, Mark, or Luke, John clearly connected the Baptist's followers to those of Jesus. John saw the ministry of the Baptist flow into the ministry of the Galilean. Upon hearing that Jesus was the Lamb of God, two of John’s followers began to follow Jesus. And one of them, Andrew, ran to tell his brother Simon, “We have found the Messiah” and quickly brought him to see Jesus.

The Word of God’s covenantal love, which was addressed to Abraham, Moses, and David, has become flesh in Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus is the covenant in person. Throughout history this covenant between God and man always included sacrifice. John’s title of Jesus as ‘Lamb of God’ reveals that Jesus will become the sacrifice offered in the temple. Pope Leo the Great said, “There was no other reason for the Son of God becoming flesh than that He should be fixed to a cross.” Through Jesus’ suffering and sacrifice He will take away the sins of the world, my sins and yours.

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Today's Theme

When the men begin following Jesus, He turns to them and asks a very important question, “What are you looking for?” So often we go through day after day distracted, not really knowing what we want most in life. We are easily lured by the world and lulled into the monotony of our busy day.

So, what is the correct answer to Jesus’ question? Eternal life, friendship with God and holiness. As we begin the New Year, these are the things we should be looking for. When we seek holiness and friendship with God, we find the path that God has prepared for us. A path that leads to heaven.

The key to becoming a better-version-of-myself this year, is not only knowing what I am looking for but also having the resolve and determination to find it, to seek after it. This will require that I overcome the distractions and opposition all around me. Together with the Holy Spirit I can see things around me for what they really are…and choose the better path.

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Theme in our Life Today

All of our readings today highlight the theme of vocation. Samuel was called by God for service and Eli aided him in discerning the voice of God. St. Paul reminds the Corinthians that their vocation to follow Christ demands a new way of life which reflects the presence of the Holy Spirit. And John’s Gospel describes the Christian Vocation as an invitation to come to Christ, to see the truth revealed in Jesus and remain faithful to Him throughout life.

In the last line of our reading from 1 Samuel we hear, “Samuel grew up, and the Lord was with him, not permitting any words of his to be without effect.” (1 Samuel 3:19) Samuel’s embrace of God’s word was so absolute, that it became his reason for being. His vocation was to serve the Word by attending to its message, by living according to its challenge, and by calling others to do the same. Samuel ‘yes’ had to mean ‘yes’; his ‘no’ had to mean ‘no’.

We are called to live the truth as revealed through God’s living Word and the tradition of our Catholic faith. Our Christian way of life demands our faithfulness to God’s truth. We must pray that we do not become hard of heart and deaf to the Word of God calling to us. If we seek holiness and a relationship with God, spending time in His Living Word and in prayer we will live out the Christian vocation to which we have been called. To make this year more meaningful than last year let’s begin each day saying, “Here I am, speak Lord, your servant is listening.” (1 Samuel 3:10)

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Prepare for Sunday

Spend time in prayer contemplating:

The ways I see Jesus in the world around me.

The ways I hear Jesus and His call to me.

Ways I can better live my Christian vocation in 2024.

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