Second Sunday of Ordinary Time
January 14, 2018 – Year B
Readings: 1 Sm 3:3B-10, 19 / Ps 40 / 1 Cor 6:13C-15A, 17-20 / Jn 1:35-42
by Rev. Mr. Eddie Craig, Permanent Deacon
I’d like to start today by sharing a quote that I found, which captures the heart of today’s readings:
“Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity. We can choose to use this force constructively, with words of encouragement, or destructively, using words of despair. Words have energy and power, with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate, and to humble.”
Words are very, very important. Where would be we be without words and without language? We use words to express our ideas. We can even use them to express our feelings. We write them down so that we can convey our meaning even when we’re not there. We sing them. When we sing them, sometimes they do an even better job of expressing emotions and ideas.
Words are actually fundamental to our identity. Science has proven that, without words, without language, our brains cannot develop cognitive capability. Think of the story of Helen Keller. Before she understood the meaning of words and learned sign language, she was unmanageable. But through language she attained the ability to connect with the world.
Words are also extremely important in our faith. One of the passages in today’s first reading really caught my attention and led me down this path. I had heard this story about Samuel a million times. In fact, Samuel is one of my favorite Old Testament characters. So, I’d heard this story but never really paid attention to the very last sentence. It says: “Samuel grew up, and the Lord was with him, not permitting any word of his to be without effect.”
Words are effectual. Words cause things to happen. It’s all through scripture. Think of the beginning of the Book of Genesis. God said, “Let there be light.” And what happened? There was light. You’ll see that theme throughout scripture. And think about the beginning of the Gospel of John: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
In fact, we call Jesus “The Word of God.” We call the scriptures the Word of God. These words and changes in words show up throughout scripture. Think about what happened in the gospel today to Simon bar Jonah, Simon, the son of John. His name was changed, and he became Peter. You see this happening throughout scripture: Abram became Abraham; Saul became Paul. And not as just a fun thing, not just as a title. When your name is changed by God there is an effect, because words have power, especially when they come from God.
The main theme of today’s readings is the call of God. Believe it or not, God calls all of us. I am convinced; I know without a doubt, that God calls each and every one of us. Most of the time it’s not something big and grand like Jesus calling to His apostles and saying, “Follow me,” or Jesus calling to the young Samuel and waiting for a response. But He speaks to us all the time. But here’s the thing: We have to hear it, and we have to be willing to respond.
So how do we do that? We could teach whole classes about how to do that. While I was becoming a deacon, I took classes for four years mainly to learn how to do that. So I won’t keep you all day, but I would like to share a couple of things to start you down that path of training yourself to be able to hear God and respond.
In today’s reading, Paul touches on an important point. I told you a few weeks ago about how the second reading is often the “how,” and today is one of those cases. You see, sin interferes with our ability to hear God. And the devil knows this, and the devil is extremely good about using it.
I’ve been reading the Screwtape Letters recently, and it’s a wonderful fiction. It has awesome insights into the way the forces of evil work against us. When we’re consumed by distractions, especially sinful distractions, they interfere with our ability to hear the Voice of God. And if, on occasion, that voice does get through, those distractions certainly interfere with our ability to respond.
But there’s help, and you know it because you’re here today. That’s one of the reasons we come here: We come here to help train ourselves, to mold our consciences, to turn away from the stuff that interferes with what God is calling us to do, and focus more on what He is asking us to do.
The second thing that I have become more and more aware of over the past few years that interferes with our hearing the Voice of God is this: I’m going to give you an example. (Silent pause.)
Did you hear that? What I’m talking about is noise. Our lives are noisy. We’re constantly bombarded with noise. How many times have you been to a doctor’s office or a dentist’s office where you could sit quietly and wait? Probably none. If you go into a store, there’s music. In fact, often we introduce more noise to cover up the noise that’s surrounding us. I often do that at work: put on some quiet music to help drown out all the conversations that are going on in my office, so that I can focus on what I’m doing.
But over the past few years I’ve been trying to find silence – find silence daily. It’s hard, and it’s uncomfortable at first. It was interesting: We had Exposition and Adoration with the religious education classes a month or two ago. I had some nice quiet reflective music, but I deliberately made sure there was silence, and I noticed something interesting: As soon as the music stopped playing, within seconds there was fidgeting; I starting hearing paper moving. We have trained ourselves to noise. And when it’s not there, it’s uncomfortable at times.
But silence is key when we’re trying to train ourselves to hear the voice of God. So today I’d like to leave you with two questions. These are not questions from me; they’re questions for you to ask yourselves. First, when God speaks to you, when He calls, because He will, will you be able to hear Him? If not, what are you going to do about it? And the second question is: What will your answer be?