2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
January 18, 2015 – Year B
Readings: 1 Sm 3:3b-10, 19; Psalm 40, 1 Cor 6:13c-15a, 17-20; Jn 1:35-42
by Rev. Louis J. Canino, ofm
This past week, I was in Syracuse NY for the funeral of an aunt who died at 102 years of age. It was quite a celebration of her life. I hadn’t seen some of my cousins and relatives in years. After the wake and funeral, we gathered together in my aunt’s house. There were about 30-40 of us. In one particular circle of people, I felt there were about 3 conversations going on at one time, and I didn’t know who to listen to.
This Tuesday will be the State of the Union address by our president. I know there will be commentaries afterwards, both pro and con, regarding his remarks and his policies. Some of us will probably say, “I don’t know what to believe or what to listen to.”
We’re in an age where we hear so many different ideologies. There are so many different theories out there – whether it’s our relationship with the Cubans or our policies with Russia. We hear different faith traditions. Sometimes we’re in a quandary, wondering who to listen to. Even within our own Catholic faith tradition, there is a spectrum of different views. Sometimes we’re a little puzzled because we don’t know what we should do and what the real message of Christ is.
In today’s readings, especially the reading from Samuel, Samuel was also confused. “Who do I listen to? I thought it was Eli speaking to me. “ But Eli told him, “No, it was not I who was speaking to you. The Lord wants to speak to you. You need to listen to him.”
My brothers and sisters in Christ, I don’t feel we should gloss over the readings for today because I believe they give us one of the most important building blocks of our Christian life. If we live this building block, if we espouse it, if we identify with it, our lives will be transformed and changed. I can understand some of you are thinking already, “What is this building block?”
It really goes back to the psalm that was sung. It’s a disposition of the heart. The psalm reads, “Here I am, Lord, I come to do your will.” All of us have so many things to do. Nothing is wrong with that. Some of us have to make sure we pay the bills and have the right finances to take care of our family. Some of us are so gracious in taking care of a sibling or elderly parent who needs our care and attention. Some of us are doing other wonderful things – all important. But the primary thing we need to focus on – sometimes we don’t do it because we have all these other things to do. And the readings today tell us this is fundamental. “Here I am, Lord, I come to do your will.”
I’ve been meditating on this now for three different Masses, and I realize more and more that sometimes what the Lord wants for us is not easy. Very often, it’s not what you want or what I want.
There are three people in our century that come to mind who I feel really had this disposition of the heart. One of them is my hero, Oscar Romero from El Salvador, who was shot at the altar because he was a voice for the voiceless. He defended the poor. He heard God say to him, “These are my people. They need your help.” The second one is probably more familiar to you – Mother Theresa.
The third person is Dr. Martin Luther King, whose day we celebrate tomorrow. I mention this because his life speaks volumes to me. I was in the seminary a year before my ordination. It was April 1968. It’s hard for most of you to imagine these days, but our switchboard in those days was the “plug” switchboard with all these different plugs. We had about 20 phones and it was a nightmare to operate. I don’t know what possessed me to say I would like to learn how to operate that. The lay brothers would do this full-time. None of the seminarians or priests were able to do it. I just found it interesting and fascinating.
It was in April and I got a call from the Poor People’s Campaign Center in Washington, D.C. Things were hectic there because they had gotten word that Dr. Martin Luther King had just been shot. Two of the Franciscan friars working at the campaign center called me up and said, “Louis, you heard what happened. It’s chaos here now. Would you come down and operate the switchboard?”
Driving to the campaign center right outside Catholic University, I heard that Dr. King had died. When I got there, I never saw such grieving in all my life, and I don’t think it’s possible to see that depth of grief again. Of course, as I was operating the switchboard, I was disconnecting calls even from the White House in my panic.
But when I reflect on Martin Luther King’s life, he had more than a dream. He really was close to God. What he heard from God was, “You need to be courageous. You need to be a voice for the voiceless.” And he did that, even knowing that his life might be jeopardized.
“Here am I, Lord, I come to do your will.”
Friends, first of all, even if we have this disposition, it’s a pure gift from God. How can we cultivate it, how can we gain this? It’s by prayer, yes – it’s more than prayer, though. We have to want this. We have to desire this.
There’s a wonderful book called “Religion and Personality.” It’s probably one of the most meaningful books to me. Unfortunately, it’s out of print now. I think he really captures the essence of Christianity and Catholicism. He says, “The mark of a saint is not one who has reached perfection, but even when they have fallen, they have a burning desire to please the Lord.” This is that disposition of the heart that we’re talking about.
Finally, friends, for us to really listen to the heartbeat of God, we really need some quiet and solitude. Even if you’re just present with the Lord, that’s significant. I don’t mean to offend anybody, but I feel it’s so rude in our present age where people have the cell phones on when you’re at table, when you’re dining. It’s constant. We’re also in an age when we might be home by ourselves, but we have to turn on the television because we want to hear the noise. We don’t want to be alone.
All I’m suggesting is that if you’re really interested in listening to God and God’s message for you as to how you need to live your life and what he’s asking of you, you need to be silent. You need to be prayerful. You don’t need to utter any words. I pray that you and I will continue to grow and have this most wonderful disposition. Amen.