OT II [A] Sunday homily (1-page summary for 8 minutes homily)
Introduction: The central theme of today’s readings is a challenge to live like the Lamb of God and to die like the Lamb of God and thus bear witness to Christ the “Lamb of God.” We have to choose to accept John’s testimony in today’s Gospel as a personal and corporate call from God to us to become witnesses to the Lamb of God. (You may add a homily starter anecdote here)
Scripture summarized: In both the first and second readings, God calls individuals to His service entrusting them with a mission. The first reading is from the “Songs of the Suffering Servant” in Isaiah, where the prophet was chosen by God from his mother’s womb and consecrated to be the “light to the nations”. Here, aspects of Jesus’ own life as sacrificial lamb and mission as salvation of the world are foreshadowed. In the second reading, Paul reminds the Corinthian Christians that they are “sanctified and called to be holy” like all who call on the name of Jesus. They are called by God and consecrated in Christ Jesus for a life of holiness and service. As believers, we too have been called by God to become members of Christ’s Body by our Baptism, and we are consecrated in Christ Jesus for a life of holiness and service. The Gospel passage presents three themes, namely, the witness John the Baptist bears to Jesus, the revelation (epiphany) and identification of Jesus as the “Lamb of God,” and the call to discipleship. John’s first declaration probably brought five pictures of the “lamb” to the minds of his Jewish listeners. 1) The Lamb of Yearly Atonement (Lv 16:20-22) used on Yom Kippur. 2) The Lamb of Daily Atonement (Ex 29:38-42; Nm 28:1-8). 3) The Paschal Lamb (Ex. 12:11ss). 4) The Lamb of the Prophets (Jer 11:19), (Is 53:7). 5) The Lamb of the Conquerors. (See the “gospel exegesis” for details).
Life messages: 1) Live and die like the Lamb of God. (A) Live like a lamb by: i) leading pure, innocent, humble, selfless lives obeying the Christ’s commandment of love; ii) appreciating the loving providence and protecting care of the Good Shepherd in His Church; iii) eating the Body and drinking the Blood of the Good Shepherd and deriving spiritual strength from the Holy Spirit through the the Holy Bible, Sacraments and our prayers. (B) Die like a sacrificial lamb by: i) by the sacrificial sharing our blessings of health, wealth and talents with others in the family, parish and community; ii) bearing witness to Christ in our illness, pain and suffering; iii) offering our sufferings for the salvation of souls and as reparation for our sins and those of others. 2) Be a witness to the Lamb of God by our exemplary life.. Today’s Gospel reminds us that being a disciple of Jesus means that we grow by Faith to become witnesses for him. And bearing witness to Christ is an active, not passive, lifetime enterprise. One cannot be a disciple of Jesus at a distance, any more than one can be a distant lover. 3) “Come and see”. The essence of our witnessing is to state what we have seen and believed and then to invite others to “come and see” our experience of Jesus. As with Andrew and John, Faith begins with our responding to Jesus’ invitation to “come and see.” We tell others about good restaurants, barbers, optometrists, etc. Why isn’t there the same fervor over inviting and encouraging people to come and participate in our Church activities? If we are not willing to invite others into this experience, what does that say about our experiences with Christ and with our Church?
OT II [A] (Jan 19) Homily: Is 49:3, 5-6; I Cor 1:1-3; Jn 1:29-34 (full text)
(Welcome to Ordinary Time, the longest of the Church Seasons! This is our base line, our normal; the other seasons celebrate something (Christmas, Easter) or anticipate something (Lent, Advent). But good old Ordinary Time is when we cover most of the story of Jesus’ life, preaching, parables, miracles – his day-to-day struggles and successes).
Homily starter anecdotes: # 1: John the Baptist, the Essene preacher who introduced Jesus as the “Lamb of God.” When John’s parents died, he may well have been still too young to be on his own. Zechariah and Elizabeth had been very old when John was born, so that would not have been a surprise, but apparently nothing was done to prepare for it just the same. According to tradition, the rest of the family had gone north to Nazareth because of political problems, and John, left alone, was taken in by a group of old men who lived in a little village down by the Dead Sea. The place was called Qumran, and the men were known as the Essenes. No one agrees just where the Essenes came from originally, but most agree that they had come to Qumran to get away from the “corruption” they believed was taking place in the Temple in Jerusalem. You could say they were religious fanatics, who spent the days and nights copying Scripture with its prophetic scrolls about how one day God was going to send His Messiah and flush that filth right out of Jerusalem. Since many of them were unmarried, it was common for them to “adopt” homeless children and raise them, teaching them to continue the Essene lifestyle. One of those homeless children may well have been the young boy John. Years later, when he appears just a few miles north of Qumran, he preaches, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand!” These are Essene words, pure and simple. Even when he became a popular preacher, John had the humility to acknowledge and introduce Jesus as “the Lamb of God” and the expected Messiah.
# 2: “Eureka! Eureka!” According to the legend, the ruler Hieros II asked Archimedes the scientist to find a method for determining whether a crown was pure gold or mixed with silver. One day when Archimedes stepped into his bath and noticed that the water rose as he sat down, he leaped out of the bathtub naked shouting, “Eureka! Eureka!” (= “I have found [it]!”). The method of determining whether or not a crown was pure gold, discovered by Archimedes in his bathtub, was to compare its weight to its volume. If one had 1 pound of gold and 1 pound of silver and submerged them in water, the silver would make the water rise higher than the gold, because silver is less dense than gold (and so larger in size, that is, volume). Archimedes compared the volume of water displaced by the suspect crown with that displaced by a pure gold crown of equal weight, to dispel the doubt of his emperor. Archimedes did not “find” this truth by searching after it — although he might have spent days thinking about a solution to the problem. His “find” came as an unexpected surprise. He might have noticed the water in the bathtub rising hundreds of times before, but its significance didn’t “click” in his brain until that “eureka” moment. Today’s Gospel describes how John the Baptist discovered Jesus as the Lamb of God and how first, Andrew and John, then Simon and James, and then Philip and Nathaniel discovered him as the “Promised Messiah” quite unexpectedly.
# 3: Lamb at the top of the Church: A tourist visited a Church in Werner, Germany and was surprised to see the carved figure of a lamb carved on the bell tower of the church. He asked why it was there and was told that when the bell tower of the church was being built, a workman fell from a high scaffold. His co-workers rushed down, expecting to find him dead. But to their surprise and joy, he was alive and only slightly injured. How did he survive? A flock of sheep was passing beneath the tower at the time, and he landed on top of a lamb. The lamb broke his fall and was crushed to death, but the man was saved. To commemorate that miraculous escape, a fellow stone artist carved a lamb on the tower at the exact height from which the workman had fallen. This statue of the lamb expresses a tiny bit of what John the Baptist means when he introduces Jesus to his disciples saying, “Behold, the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world.” Much deeper and more meaningful must be our gratitude to Jesus the Lamb of God for saving us from the eternally fatal fall from grace. (Msgr. Arthur Tonne, Five Minutes Homilies; Rev. Richard Fairchild in Sermon and Liturgy).
Introduction: The central theme of today’s readings is a challenge to live like the Lamb of God and to die like the Lamb of God. In both the first and second readings God calls individuals to His service. The Gospel passage presents three themes, namely, John the Baptist’s witness to Jesus, Jesus’ revelation (epiphany) and identification as the “Lamb of God,” and the call to discipleship. Those who are called gradually accept the identity of the One who calls them. Like John the Evangelist, we may choose to accept today’s Gospel as a personal and corporate call to become witnesses to the Lamb of God.
Scripture readings explained: The first reading: Bible Scholars have called this and three similar passages from this section of Isaiah (chapters 40-55), the “Songs of the Suffering Servant.” Today’s selection is from the second Servant Song. In the original author’s mind, the servant was probably a figure for the people of Israel, or for a faithful remnant within the people. The Gospels clearly show that the “suffering servant” is Jesus. The early Church saw aspects of Jesus’ own life as sacrificial lamb and mission of universal salvation foreshadowed in the Servant Songs, and the Church today refers to all of them throughout the liturgical year. Jesus was consecrated and commissioned to engage in a ministry of universal salvation. As God formed Isaiah from his mother’s womb as His prophet and a “light to the nations,” we too are called by our baptism to be that same “light to the nations,” revealing the Christ. Being born again in water and the Holy Spirit gives us Jesus’ mission of being the “light of the world.” In the Responsorial Psalm (Ps 40), the Psalmist is determined to give thanks not only with his lips but also with his life. The Response for today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 40) gives us the answer God wants from us when He invites us to similar service: “Here I am, Lord; I come to do Your will!”
The second reading is the beginning of Saint Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, with heading, inside address, and salutation, all in sentence form. The letter is for all the members of the Church in Corinth. Corinth was a bawdy seaport in cosmopolitan Greece. The vices of every seaport, plus the philosophical ferment of ancient Greece, were part of these peoples’ lives and gave rise, in part, to the need for this letter. Paul reminds the Corinthians that they are “sanctified and called to be holy,” like all who call on the name of Jesus in Faith. They are called by God and consecrated in Christ Jesus for a life of holiness and service. By virtue of their Baptism into Christ Jesus, believers become members of his Body. They are not alone—they are called to be saints together with all those who in every place call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Further, that same Lord Jesus is the Lord of those other Churches as well. As people who are baptized into Christ Jesus through the Holy Spirit, they, and we, share the vocation of Israel and the Church. So we are all meant to serve as “a light to the nations,” with Jesus, God’s “Suffering Servant.”
Gospel exegesis: While the call and consecration of John the Baptist by God commissioned him for the important ministry of becoming the precursor of Jesus, it was Jesus who was consecrated, and commissioned to bring salvation to the world. As precursor of Jesus, John gives testimony to Jesus in today’s Gospel. A testimony can be a statement of a truth about something or someone, or a public expression of a religious experience. John the Baptist gives testimony to Jesus by pointing out that he is the Lamb of God (vv 29, 36); a man who was before me (v 30); the One on Whom the Holy Spirit remained (v 33); and the Son of God (v 34). John’s disciples call Jesus, “Rabbi” (vs. 38). Andrew calls him the Messiah (v 41), and Nathaniel calls Jesus Rabbi, Son of God, and King of Israel (vs. 49). Jesus completes the Christology with his own declaration that he is the Son of Man (vs. 51).
The Lamb of God: John the Baptist introduced Jesus to the Jews as the “Lamb of God” on the second day (Jn 1:29). He repeats it on the third day. “Lamb of God” is the most meaningful title given to Jesus in the Bible. It is used 29 times in the book of Revelation. It sums up the love, the sacrifice and the triumph of Christ. John’s introduction probably brought five pictures of the “lamb” to the minds of his Jewish listeners.
1) The Lamb of Atonement (Lv 16:20-22). A lamb was brought to the Temple on the Day of Atonement. Placing his hands over its head, the high priest transferred all the sins of his people onto the animal. It was then sent into the forest to be killed by some wild animal. 2) The Lamb of Daily Atonement (Ex 29:38-42; Nm 28:1-8). This was the lamb sacrificed on the “Black Altar” of the Temple every morning and evening to atone for the sins of the Jews. 3) The Paschal Lamb (Ex. 12:11ss), whose blood saved the first born of the Jewish families in Egypt from the Angel of destruction. This lamb reminded them also of the Paschal Lamb which they killed every year on the Passover Feast. 4) The Lamb of the Prophets which portrayed One who, by His sacrifice, will redeem his people: “The gentle lamb led to the slaughterhouse” (Jer 11:19), “like a lamb to the slaughter” (Is 53:7). Both refer to the sufferings and sacrifice of Christ. 5) The Lamb of the Conquerors. This was the picture of a horned lamb on the Jewish flag at the time of Maccabaean liberation war, used as a sign of conquering majesty and power. The great Jewish conquerors like Samuel, David and Solomon were described by the ancient Jewish historians as “horned lambs.”
Christ as Lamb of God is a title familiar to us. In the Eucharist, at “the breaking of the bread” we proclaim in word or song what the Baptist said. Our traditional fraction anthem is the Agnus Dei – “Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us/grant us peace.” In this prayer we give expression to our deepest understanding of the identity and purpose of Jesus Christ as our Lamb and Lord. By His life of love and sacrifice, we believe and affirm that He is the One Who came, and continues to come, into a broken world to take our sins upon Himself.
Life messages: 1) We need to live and die like the Lamb of God. (A) Live like a lamb i) leading pure, innocent, humble, selfless lives obeying the Christ’s commandment of love; ii) appreciating the loving providence and protecting care of the Good Shepherd in His Church; iii) eating the Body and drinking the Blood of the Good Shepherd; and iv) deriving spiritual strength from his Holy Spirit through the Sacraments and prayers. (B) Die like a sacrificial lamb by: i) sharing our blessings of health, wealth and talents with others in the family, parish and community; ii) bearing witness to Christ in our illness, pain and suffering; iii) offering our suffering for the salvation of souls and as reparation for our sins and those of others.
2) We need to rebuild broken lives. Like the missionary call of the servant in Isaiah (Is 49:1-3) and “those called to be saints” in St. Paul’s First Letter to the Church in Corinth (1Cor 1:2ff), we are informed that God’s call is trustworthy and true. Therefore, we can believe from the depth of our hearts that our God is faithful. Our faithful response to God is to rebuild broken lives, reconciling them with God’s love and justice through Christ Jesus our Lamb and Lord. Through Baptism into the Body of Christ, we are empowered and enabled by the Holy Spirit to help free and build up the oppressed. Through the love of the Lamb of God, we are called to better the lot and improve the broken spirit, of all who have been exiled from the possibility of hope and from God’s righteousness or who are burdened by the yoke of spiritual, social, economic, and political dislocation. In other words, through the life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the glorified Lamb, we are called to empower the human spirit with a sense of identity and purpose.
3) We need to be witnesses to the Lamb of God. Today’s Gospel reminds us that being a disciple of Jesus means that we grow by Faith to become witnesses for Him. And bearing witness to Christ is an active, not passive, lifetime enterprise. One cannot be a disciple of Jesus at a distance any more than one can be a distant lover. To love Christ is to be drawn close to Him, to know Christ personally, to experience Him through the Bible, prayers and the Sacraments, and to inspire others to want to know Jesus. To help Christ is to share the Good News about Him with others. Blessed are we when we bring to others the gifts of love, peace, justice, tolerance, and mercy, thus becoming witnesses for the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ our Lord.
4) “Come and see”. The essence of our witness-bearing is, first, to state what we have seen and believed and the, to invite others to “come and see.” For Andrew and John, Faith begins by responding to Jesus’ invitation, “Come and see.” Three times Andrew brings someone to Jesus! First, he brings his brother, Simon (1:40), then, a boy with five barley loaves and two fish (6:8); and finally, “some Greeks” (12:20-22), who want to see Jesus, which signals the hour for the Son of Man to be glorified. We tell others about good restaurants, barbers, optometrists, etc. Why isn’t there the same fervor over inviting and encouraging people to come and participate in our Church activities? Often, we hesitate to do so because of the false notion that talking about religion is taboo in our culture, or that religion is a private matter and shouldn’t be shared with others, or that we don’t have much of a personal Faith to share, or that our worship services would not be appealing to others. One of the differences that Faith should make in our lives is the desire that others — especially those without a religious Faith — might also share in and benefit from the relationship God offers through Christ. If we are not willing to invite others into this experience, what does that say about our experiences with Christ and with our Church?
JOKE OF THE WEEK
Witnessing of the future son-in-law: The rich businessman Raymond goes to meet his new son-in-law to be, Ben. He says to Ben, “So, tell me Ben, my boy, what you do?” “I study the Theology,” he replies. “But Ben, you are going to marry my daughter! How are going to feed and house her?” “No problem,” says Ben, “I study Theology, and it says God will provide.” “But you will have children! How will you educate them?” asks Raymond. “No problem,” says Ben, “I study Theology, and it says God will provide.” When Raymond returns home, his wife anxiously asks him what Ben is like. “Well,” says Raymond, “he’s a lovely boy. I only just met him, and he already thinks I’m God.”
Pastor joke: My neighboring pastor put sanitary hot air hand dryers in the rest rooms at his church and after two weeks took them out. I asked him why and he confessed that they worked fine but when he went in there, he saw a sign that read, “For a sample of this week’s sermon, push the button.”
USEFUL WEBSITES OF THE WEEK
2) Spirituality topics: http://www.shc.edu/theolibrary/spirit.htm
3) Marian materials: C:\WUTemp\Website links\virginmary.htm
4) Video Scripture study by Fr. Geoffrey Plant: https://www.youtube.com/user/GeoffreyPlant2066
19- Additional anecdotes:
1) The picture of the Lamb of God in His mercy: In a cathedral in Copenhagen, Denmark there is a magnificent statue of Jesus by the noted sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen. When Thorvaldsen first completed the clay sculpture he gazed upon the finished product with great satisfaction. It was a sculpture of Christ with His face looking upward and arms extended upward. It was a statue of a majestic, conquering Christ. Later that night, however, after the sculptor had left his fine new work in clay to dry and harden, something unexpected occurred. Sea mist seeped into the studio in the night. The clay did not harden as quickly as anticipated. The upraised arms and head of the sculpture began to drop. The majestic Christ with arms lifted up and head thrown back was transformed into a Christ with head bent forward and arms stretched downward as if in a pose of gentle invitation. At first Thorvaldsen was bitterly disappointed. As he studied the transformed sculpture, however, he came to see a dimension of Christ that had not been real to him before. It was the Christ who is a gentle, merciful Savior. Thorvaldsen inscribed on the base of the completed statue, “Come Unto Me,” and that picture of the Lamb of God in His mercy has inspired millions.
2) “Will not my example inspire you to do your best?” Leonardo da Vinci had started a work on canvas in his studio. He chose a subject, sketched its outer lines, shaded here and lightened there. About half way through his work, however, he halted his sketching. He turned to a student of his and said, “I want you to finish the work that I have started.” The student protested. He surely was not worthy of such an honor. Da Vinci reassured him, “Will not my example inspire you to do your best?” he said. And besides I am right here beside you if you should need any help.” “Behold the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world.” See Him in his majesty. See Him in His mercy. See Him in His ministry to the world, a ministry to which He calls you and me to complete. May His example inspire us and His presence empower us, so that all the world may come to know that the victory has been won!
3) “Come and see.” William Willimon, professor at Duke Divinity School, remembers when a friend of his visited the Soviet Union in the 1970s. Upon his return he announced that the Church behind the Iron Curtain was mostly “irrelevant because the only people there are little old ladies.” Dr. Willimon writes, “Looking back now at the collapse of Communism, the difficulties of rebuilding the Soviet Union after a long period of spiritual bankruptcy, I hope my friend would now say, ‘Thank God for the little old ladies. Their existence provided a continuing, visible, political rebuke to the Soviets.'” (William H. Willimon). It would be wonderful if our prayer and witness were as effective as the prayers and witness of those little old ladies. It would be wonderful if our witness, like Andrew’s, was effective enough to challenge another Simon Peter. That is our task, and what a joyous, challenging task it is. Having found Christ, or more correctly having been found by Christ, we find others, that they, too, may “come and see.”
4) John the Baptist bore witness by identifying Jesus as the “Lamb of God.” John Sculley, former head of Apple Computer tells about his first encounter with Tom Watson, the man who made IBM into one of the world’s great corporations. Sculley left Pepsi Cola to take the presidency of Apple. It was not an easy transition. During a time of tremendous pressure Sculley received an invitation from Watson to come to Watson’s home. During the weekend, Sculley was most impressed by Watson on many levels but particularly by his modesty and by how genuinely interested he was in Apple. Watson seemed confident that Sculley’s company would get over their problems. “As long as Apple can continue to innovate and hold together the things it believes in, it will pull through,” Watson told Sculley. Sculley said it was the word of encouragement he needed coming from a man he greatly admired. John the Baptist did the same thing for his disciples by identifying Jesus as the “Lamb of God.”
5) “I want to order one pound of Barbecue.” One day a man called a Church by mistake. The Church receptionist happened to be distracted at the time, and did not answer the phone in the usual fashion. She just said “Hello.” The man said, “I want to order one pound of Barbecue, two pints of Cole slaw, and a dozen hush puppies.” The receptionist said, “Wait a minute, sir. We are not a food service operation. You must have the wrong number.” The man hesitated a moment and then asked, “What do you sell? What business are you in?” That’s a fair question to ask. What is our mission? What is our principal message or service or goal? While all our tasks are important, none of them is our central mission. We are here, first and foremost, to declare this Good News: Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came down from Heaven as the “Lamb of God” to save us from our sins by His sacrificial death on the cross.
6) “But I just want to leave a committed life behind.” Two months before his assassination, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke to his congregation at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta about his death in what would oddly enough become his eulogy. “Every now and then I think about my own death, and I think about my own funeral,” Dr. King told his congregation. “If any of you are around when I have to meet my day, I don’t want a long funeral. And if you get somebody to deliver the eulogy, tell them not to talk too long. Every now and then I wonder what I want them to say. Tell them not to mention that I have a Nobel Peace Prize, that isn’t important. Tell them not to mention that I have three or four hundred other awards, that is not important. I’d like someone to mention that day that Martin Luther King, Jr. tried to give his life serving others. I’d like someone to say that day that Martin Luther King, Jr. tried to love somebody. I want you to be able to say that day that I did try to feed the hungry. I want you to be able to say that day that I did try, in my life, to clothe those who were naked. I want you to be able to say that I did try to visit those in prison. I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity.” Dr. King concluded with these words: “I won’t have any money left behind. I won’t have the fine and luxurious things of life to leave behind. But I just want to leave a committed life behind.” [Henry Hampton and Steve Fayer with Sarah Flynn, Voices of Freedom (New York: Bantam Books, 1990), pp. 470-471.] Did Martin Luther King, Jr., have that level of commitment when he first began his ministry? It is doubtful. He had youthful enthusiasm to be sure. He had strong convictions. He was well brought up, with an outstanding Baptist preacher as a father. But people who are truly captured by the spirit of Christ become so generally after years of walking in Christ’s footsteps. Our Faith is validated and grows as we “come and see.” (King Duncan, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com)
7) “No,” said the Lord Jesus, “not the world’s sins, just yours!” One day a saintly African Christian told his congregation about a vision he had had the night before. In the vision he was climbing up the hill to the Church. Suddenly he heard steps behind him. He turned and saw a man carrying a very heavy load on his back, climbing that hill. He was full of sympathy for this man and spoke kindly to him. Then he noticed that the man’s hands were scarred. Suddenly he realized that this was Jesus. He said to him, “Lord, are you carrying the world’s sins up the hill?” “No,” said the Lord Jesus, “not the world’s sins, just yours!” [Roy Hession, The Calvary Road, (Fort Washington, PA: CLC Publications, 1950), p. 55.] Jesus’ atoning sacrifice reaches out to the entire world, but it begins very personally with me and you.
8) “I told you that I would make you regret it.” A young soldier was utterly humiliated by his senior officer. The officer had gone beyond the bounds of acceptable behavior in disciplining the young soldier and knew it, so he said nothing as the younger man said through clenched teeth, “I’ll make you regret this if it is the last thing I ever do.” A few days later their company was under heavy fire and the officer was wounded and cut off from his troops. Through the haze of the battlefield he saw a figure coming to his rescue. It was the young soldier. At the risk of his own life, the young soldier dragged the officer to safety. The officer said, apologetically, “Son, I owe you my life.” The young man laughed and said, “I told you that I would make you regret humiliating me if it was the last thing I ever did.” That is God’s kind of revenge. “Behold the Lamb that takes away the sins of the world…” Something happened on Calvary that bridged the gap between a Holy God and unholy humanity. We see Christ in His majesty but also in His mercy.
9) “I saw how it would be so easy for me to turn things around.” Working in a small town in Latin America, a woman felt despair. She was experiencing marital problems, as well as conflicts with people she worked with. Without warning, an earthquake struck one day. In those moments of panic and fear, she ran with other people to the relative safety of a garden plaza as buildings shattered and dust billowed. “For those moments I saw everything so clearly,” she recalls, “how I could become so much kinder to my husband, how other relationships could work out. In an instant, and with such gratitude, I saw how it would be so easy for me to turn things around.” In that dramatic moment this woman had glimpsed how the brokenness in her life could be mended. At that moment she saw clearly how she could bring about healing in her life. At that moment it was as if God had spoken to her in a most dramatic way. [David Douglas, Wilderness Sojourn (San Francisco: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1987), p. 68.] God had promised John the Baptist a personal epiphany: “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the One Who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” When John saw the Spirit descend upon Jesus in the form of a dove, he knew without a doubt that Jesus was the Messiah. John the Baptist believed that day because of a personal revelation.
10) Our God is a God of abundance not of scarcity. In his best-selling books, Stephen Covey talks about people with an abundance mentality and people with a scarcity mentality. This is an important concept and I hope you will bear with me for a moment. People with a scarcity mentality, says Covey, see life as a finite pie: if someone gets a big piece of the pie, it means less for them. People with a scarcity mentality have a hard time in sharing recognition, credit, power, or profit, says Covey. They also have a tough time being genuinely happy for the success of other people, even and sometimes especially, members of their own family or close friends and associates. It’s almost as if something were being taken from them when someone else receives special recognition or success. Have you ever seen that happen? You can tell someone with a scarcity mentality by the disparaging remarks they make following someone else’s success. It’s a sad situation when other people’s happiness somehow diminishes your own “but that’s the scarcity mentality! The abundance mentality, on the other hand, says that there is enough glory, enough credit, enough honor in this world for everybody,” that our God is a God of abundance not of scarcity.
11) “It’s not polite to point.” “The Star People are like the Wise Men, people still on the journey, people still searching and seeking out the meaning of life. But once the Star People and the Angel People experienced the newborn Messiah, they could longer stay in those roles. Their lives had been changed. So, I want to give them a different name. Since the birth of Christ, there are Seekers and there are Pointers. Now, I know what our mothers told us, ‘It’s not polite to point,’ but in this instance I think it’s OK. Because, we’re called to point out Jesus, as Lord and Savior, to a world of Seekers. It’s OK because, Jesus has already been fingered by God when God spoke at Jesus’ baptism and said: ‘This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.'”
12) “Come and see”: There’s a scene in the first Toby McGuire Spiderman movie that sort of gets to the point I’m making. In the beginning of the movie Spiderman, Peter Parker undergoes a transformation. Bitten by a spider that’s been subjected to genetic experimentation, Peter develops superpowers and becomes a hero who nightly swings between the skyscrapers, looking for some endangered soul to rescue. One such soul is Mary Jane, a young woman he secretly loves. Of course, she falls for Spiderman, but not for Peter Parker. Mary Jane (M.J.) doesn’t know who Spiderman really is, even though he comes to her rescue. Spiderman saves her life, not once, but twice. Later, M.J. and Peter discuss her mysterious rescuer, and she confesses her love for Spiderman. Mary Jane is impressed that Peter “knows” Spiderman. In fact, Peter admits he’s had a “conversation” with Spiderman about Mary Jane. She wants to know what Peter told him about her. Peter searches for the right words; “I said, um, ‘Spiderman,’ I said, ‘the great thing about M.J. is when you look in her eyes, and she looks back in yours, everything feels not quite normal, because you feel strong, and weak at the same time. You feel excited, and at the same time terrified. The truth is, you don’t know the way you feel, except you know the kind of man you want to be. It’s as if you’ve reached the unreachable, and you weren’t ready for it.'” I think what Peter describes is the same phenomenon Andrew and John and we experience when we come to know Jesus. Looking into the eyes of Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God, we feel weak, but He makes us strong; we are terrified, and at the same time we’re more exhilarated than we’ve ever been in our lives; and in Him we see the person we want to become – the person God created us to be. I think that’s what happened to Andrew and John. Jesus said, “Come and see”; they went, they saw – and they were changed from Seekers to Pointers and then they Pointed Jesus out to others.
13) “‘We’ve found the Messiah.’ That’s all.”: I love the series of movies called The Matrix. The Wachowski Brothers are great story tellers. Their universe is very Christian, even if it doesn’t claim to be. They took all the best parts of Scripture: stories of Faith, faithfulness, temptation, the fall, of prophecy and a Savior and wove them all together in a universe of technology and despair that is both engaging, moving and theologically thought-provoking. There’s a really brief scene in The Matrix, where Morpheus, the John the Baptist or Elijah kind of character, has freed Neo from The Matrix. He’s convinced that Neo is the One – the one who will save them and set them free. He tells another character, Trinity: “We’ve done it, Trinity! We’ve found him!” Trinity says, “I hope you’re right.” And Morpheus responds, “You don’t have to hope. I know it.” That’s basically the message Andrew had for his brother. Andrew pointed out Jesus to his brother Simon in a very simple way. He said: “We’ve found the Messiah.” That’s all. He could have quoted Morpheus and said the same thing. “We’ve done it Simon! We’ve found him!” Andrew was pointing the way. And by Andrew’s pointing the way, Simon’s life and name were changed
14) “Lamb of God.” Many people are known not by their name but by their nickname, and sometimes the nicknames indicate who the person is. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was most widely known as Mahatma; Margaret Thatcher as the Iron Lady, and St. Theresa of Lisieux as the Little Flower. Jesus Christ, too, was given names like the Lamb of God, the Servant of God, and the Lord, indicating the roles he performed or fulfilled as he lived on earth. What name do we give Jesus? How have we known him? (Fr. Botelho)
15) Lamb of God for sacrifice: Sarojini, a nurse at Beach Hospital in Bombay was taking her morning shower when she heard screams coming from the street. Quickly changing, she saw to her horror a little girl being dragged across the street by two stray dogs. The child was covered with blood. Sarojini rushed out and managed to snatch the girl from the dogs. But the dogs would not give up. Suddenly jumping up they managed to get a good hold of the girl and jerked her from Sarojini’s hands. As soon as she fell to the ground, the dogs began to bite the child on the head, hands, and stomach. Sarojini jumped on top of the girl and lay flat on her, protecting the girl from the dogs, using her body as a shield. Now the dogs began attacking Sarojini. She was in agony as they dug their teeth into her hip and thighs. But Sarojini did not move, all the while attempting valiantly to kick the dogs with both her legs. Meanwhile two people came running from nearby houses with heavy sticks in their hands and managed to beat the dogs and chase them away. A passing van was stopped and picking Sarojini and the little girl, sped away to Beach Hospital where the girl underwent six hours of surgery and Sarojini four. It took six months for their wounds to heal. “I never regretted what I did,” said Sarojini. “I’ll do it again if needed!” (Fr. C.P. Varkey in “If He and She Can….” )
16) THE LAMB WINS: When Communism fell in Czechoslovakia the churches opened and people were free to worship. One Church in Prague put a sign on a lawn of a Prague church. It read: THE LAMB WINS. This week, make the Carthusian monks’ motto your own: “To seek God assiduously, find God promptly, and possess God fully.” (Fr. James Gilhooley)
17) Heroic love: Many years ago, there was a very dangerous fire in a certain part of Wales. For three whole days the fire raged with such intensity and fury that rescue attempts were greatly hampered. Sadly, quite a few lost their lives and their property. On the third day, we are told, some Council workers saw a nest in a tree and they just could not believe that it had survived the ravages of that destructive fire. Very gently one worker brought the nest down. To his surprise he found the charred and lifeless remains of the mother bird with her wings outstretched. And then to his astounded disbelief, he heard a little chirp and found two little young ones beneath the brittle remains of the mother bird. She had bravely and selflessly chosen to die in order to protect her little ones. What heroic love! – This is what we commemorate and celebrate today. There was no way we humans could be delivered from sin and death by our own efforts. A price had to be paid, and the supreme price that could make deliverance possible and available for us to receive was paid by God Who gave us his Son Jesus to die for us. Jesus is the Lamb of God who has taken away the sins of the world. How do we show our gratitude for his sacrifice today? How can we imitate him? (James Valladares in Your Words, O Lord, Are Spirit, and They Are Life)
18) Finding Jesus Today: Regina Riley tells a story to which many parents can relate. For years she had prayed that her two sons would return to the Faith. Then one Sunday morning her sons were in the aisle besides her; her joy and gratitude overflowed. Afterwards she asked her sons what prompted their return and the younger son told the story. One Sunday morning, while vacationing in Colorado, they were driving down a mountain road. It was raining cats and dogs. Suddenly they came upon an old man without an umbrella. He was soaked through and through, and walked with a noticeable limp. Yet he kept trudging doggedly along the road. The brothers stopped and picked him up. It turned out that the stranger was on his way to Mass at a church three miles down the road. The brothers took him there. Since it was coming down so hard, and since they had nothing better to do, they decided to wait for the stranger to take him home after Mass. It wasn’t long before the two boys figured that they might as well go inside, rather than wait in the car. As the two brothers listened to the reading and sat through the breaking of the bread, something moved them deeply. The only way they could explain it later was: “You know Mother it felt so right. Like getting home after a long, tiring trip.” (Mark Link in Sunday Homilies).
19) Jesus the Lamb of God that Washes Away Our Sins…Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, when he was a young priest, was appointed as the parish priest in a small parish. One summer afternoon, he was sitting in the confessional. A woman came and knelt and said, “Hey, Priest! Relax. I did not come to make a confession. I came here because of that old lady-my mother, who insisted that I go for Confession. I’ll just kneel here for five minutes and then go away.’ “What is your name,” the priest asked? “Agatha,” she replied. “That’s a lovely name”, continued the priest; “Agatha means good or kind.” The lady giggled and said, “I am a bad girl; the worst in this town. I just came out of the prison and I am in the flesh trade. When I was in the prison, I fell for your holy stuff. I prayed to your God to free me, but He did not answer me. He was too busy for the likes of us, I suppose. Do you want to hear further,” asked the lady? “Yes, go on,” replied the priest. “Then I prayed to the devil,” continued the lady, “I promised the devil that I will take nine sacrilegious communions and he should free me. I took communion and cursed God-aplenty. Do you believe-I got freed on the eighth day. What do you say to that, priest?” “The devil got a good bargain,’ said the priest, “He gave you freedom and then in return he got your immortal soul. But Agatha! Believe me, you are not completely lost. You still have love in your heart. You are here because of your mother. That means that you still love your mother. Anyone with even a little love in the heart is not lost. Stay with me here and all this can be blotted out like a bad dream.” A faint moan came out from her. She started breathing heavily. “That’s enough. I am getting out. You can’t do anything about it,” she said. She got up and began to walk out. “Stay here and please pray,” pleaded the priest. But she went out. As she was going out, the priest shouted and said, “I am going to wait for you here, and I am sure that you will come back.” The priest continued in the confessional. He asked everyone who came to the church to pray for a special intention. After all the confessions the priest knelt down and started praying. Many hours passed. One after another the people moved out of the Church. The sacristan put off the lights and wanted to close the Church. The priest was still praying. He took the key from the sacristan saying that he would lock the Church. Hours passed – it was almost midnight. Then he heard the same trotting of the sandals. Joy filled his heart. Agatha came and knelt next to him. She began to weep. She poured out her sins to him. She got cleansed. She was a new person again. Hats off to that priest. He forgave and reclaimed that lady in the name of Jesus. Jesus-the Lamb washes away our sins by His blood. (John Rose in John’s Sunday Homilies) L/20
“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle A (No. 13) by Fr. Tony: email@example.com
Visit my website by clicking on http://frtonyshomilies.com/ for missed for previous Cycle A homilies, 141 Year of Faith “Adult Faith Formation Lessons” (useful for RCIA classes too) & 197 “Question of the Week.” Contact me only at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html for the Vatican version of this homily and the CBCI website https://cbci.in/SundayReflectionsNew.aspx?&id=cG2JDo4P6qU=&type=text. for a full version Or https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies under Fr. Tony or under CBCI for my website version. Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604