17 January 20212 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
2 Ordinary Time

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle B - John 1:35-42 -

Victor Hugo in Les Miserables wrote, "To love another is

to see the face of God." Hugo was speaking figuratively. But John the Baptist and Andrew had the good fortune to see the authentic face of God. Immediately they fell in love with Christ for life and were never the same again. It was love at first sight.

Today's Gospel is the word painting of two extraordinary people. One is John the Baptist, who gets much attention and does not like it. The other is Andrew who is put on everyone's back burner and could not care less.

At this point, John is the star of the show. He is surrounded by great numbers. He is lionized by the press. People travel hundreds of miles on foot to hear him. Everybody wants a piece of him. And yet the Baptist is about to throw all that adulation overboard. Standing before him is One whom he cannot ignore. It is the Messiah. At this point, Jesus is a non-person as far as John's admirers are concerned. It is John who puts the spotlight on Him. The only loser will be himself. Perhaps then we can better understand why John is the only person of whom Jesus says He stands in awe.

The day before this Gospel opens, John was surrounded by a mob of fans. He points to Christ and announces Him as the Main Man. The Baptist is eager to step back into the desert. His job as Christ's "advance man" is ending. Life in the fast lane is not to his taste.

In the Gospel, John stands with two fans. One is our Andrew. The other is not identified. Many scholars assume it was John, today's author. Modesty forbade him mentioning his own name.

Once again, their leader points to the Nazarene and identifies Him as the Chairman of the Board. And, as John foresaw and even hoped, the two tipped their turbans to their now former guru and followed Christ. They were unknowingly following out a plan that had been programmed from day one.

There could not have been an ounce of envy in the Baptist's person. He had his fifteen minutes of fame. Willingly he surrenders his notoriety to the better man. If your problem is pride, John the Baptist is your medicine man. He will teach you "no one has ever choked to death from swallowing his own pride."

The Christ plays the host and invites Andrew and his friend to stay with him. He was hardly bunking at the Jordan Hilton. In most probability, the Hilton in question was a primitive hut along the Jordan River. One can still observe these huts set up along the riverbank. They are built by farmers so that they can guard their crops from night poachers. I suspect that both Andrew and his friend kept Jesus up into the early hours with their questions. When did He sleep? What a pity we do not know even a fraction of their conversation into that morning! Oh, for even a twenty dollar tape-recorder.

At dawn, Andrew rolls out of his sleeping bag. He does not even take time for cappucino and an onion bagel. He is most anxious to introduce his brother Peter to their extraordinary Host. Peter too was bedding down in the area. He had walked down from Caphernaum in Galilee with Andrew to check the Baptist out for himself. Andrew makes the proper introductions. Then he willingly surrenders front stage to Peter.

From this point on, Andrew will lose his identity. He will be spoken of constantly as the brother of Peter. It will be his fate to live in his brother's shadow. But there is no hint of sibling rivalry between them. While Peter will be referred to ninety times in the Gospels, Andrew will be referred to seldom.

Even though Andrew was a charter member of the apostles, it was his fate never to become a member of Christ's inner circle or kitchen cabinet. Yet, there is no evidence that this ever upset him. He was willing to play second fiddle.

His gripes about riding in the back of the bus, had he made them, would have been legitimate. Were we in his sandals, we would have sounded off. But Andrew was willing to be the low man on the totem pole. He considered himself a winner just to be numbered among Christ's company. So should we. Most of us have been lucky in life but never luckier than to be Jesus's follower.

Andrew advises us that when we tell others what Jesus can do for them, we should first tell them what He has done for us.

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Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
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John the Baptist looks hard at Jesus and says, ‘Look there is the Lamb of God.’ The two disciples with him immediately follow Jesus. This says a lot about John the Baptist. It says that he had schooled his disciples to follow Jesus when he was finally able to point him out. â€‹

It says that he was a good teacher since his disciples didn’t need to be told twice and furthermore it says that John the Baptist wasn’t interested in his own glory; his job was finished and it was time for him to get off the scene. He knew his mission and that was to be a forerunner for the Messiah when he made himself known. When the moment came, there was no hesitation or second thoughts. John hands over to Jesus and immediately steps into the background.

Knowing one’s task or profession thoroughly is a sign of great wisdom. Confining oneself to that particular task shows even greater wisdom. We all know of craftsmen who have learned a given task so thoroughly that it has become almost part of them. These men confine themselves to what they know and could never be described as jacks of all trades. They are true craftsmen.

These craftsmen and women are a dying breed, mores the pity. But we can learn from them because they are invariably very steady people, they never seem to be in a hurry; they have a rhythm to their work and rarely make mistakes. They know their business and all its aspects thoroughly. They are the very salt of the earth.

We are Christians, followers of Jesus. We too ought to know our task and carry it out assiduously. That means we must know Jesus, study his Gospels, and most of all spend time with him in prayer.

A lifetime spent in this way will have incalculable effects on our lives. It will mean that we will have rooted out petty jealousies, risen above mundane squabbles, and consistently avoided superficial judgements. We will have become so identified with our subject that no one will think of us without being reminded of Jesus’ own qualities of goodness and kindness.

These two disciples of John the Baptist slipped very easily from one master to the other. They did so because they could see that Jesus was truly the one who was foretold by the Prophets. They had listened to John and come to understand what kind of person the Messiah would be and so were able to recognise him when he was finally pointed out.

Quite naturally they begin to call him rabbi, teacher. It was as if they had moved up a class in school, moving on to higher studies. Moving from an elementary teacher to a true master. Later in John’s Gospel they will drop this title rabbi and call him Lord reflecting a deeper understanding of his role.

In John there is a quite different approach taken than in the other Gospels to the very first disciples and how they came to follow Jesus. There Jesus takes the initiative; here the disciples take the initiative. There are good theological reasons for John’s different approach. Jesus asks, ‘What do you want?’ or in other translations, ‘What are you looking for?’ By this John the Evangelist does not mean a banal enquiry as to why they are following Jesus. He is drawing attention to the basic need of man that causes him to turn to God.

And the answer that the disciples give is meant on the same theological level. They want to ‘stay’ with him. Here John means not just spending some time with Jesus but the need in man to find a lasting dwelling place, something that amidst the transient things of this world is truly permanent. Jesus answers, ‘Come and see.’ Once more we are on a theological level. Seeing for John means faith. They see with the eyes of faith which means that they believe in him.

These two first followers immediately act like disciples and go out to recruit others, most important among them being Simon Peter. You will notice that just as John the Baptist looked hard at Jesus and said, ‘Behold the Lamb of God,’ now Jesus looks hard at Simon Peter and says, ‘You are to be called Cephas’ –meaning rock.

As we have said there is a lot in this looking, this seeing. John the Baptist says, ‘Look there is the Lamb of God.’ Jesus turned around and saw them following and after they say ‘Where do you live?’ he replies, ‘Come and see.’ They went and they saw where he lived. Seeing is believing, so runs the proverb. In John’s Gospel this is quite literally the case. So with the fourth Gospel you must always try to look below the surface and see the significance of these key words and discover the hidden layer of meaning which is so rewarding.

There are very many lessons for us in this particular Gospel passage and we have adverted to quite a few of them already. However, if I was to take one which I think is more important than the others I would say it is this: we have to graduate, to move up a step in our discipleship. I hope it is true that we all see ourselves as disciples. We are certainly all Catholics, we believe in God and in Christ and in his Church. But without denigrating the belief of any single person here I would like to suggest that you ought to think of cranking things up a notch or two.

Think about those two disciples: Andrew who was named and John himself the writer who didn’t give his name but who certainly knows what he is talking about. Think about them, they follow the Baptist and they surely believe that they are doing quite well. John can’t have been very easy to follow; his Gospel of Repentance was surely hard to live out in practice; and that’s saying nothing about his diet of locusts and wild honey!

They are prepared by John for the coming of the Messiah and all at once there he is standing before them and John the Baptist quietly fades into the background. Suddenly these two are in the presence of the real Master and they discover that with John the Baptist they have been only paddling in the shallow-end. Now with Jesus they must dive in the deep-end and they do so with great success.

It’s the same with us. There is a call within a call. There is the call which brings us into the fold of the Church. This might be through conversion as with quite a few here or, as with the majority, through coming to a personal decision to stay in the Church in which we were raised. That’s the first call. But then there is the second call, the call within the call, and that is to follow Jesus in a deeper more radical way. It is to take up with him completely and to dedicate one’s entire life to following him wholeheartedly.

It means spending a lot of time with him in prayer each day, it means studying the scriptures, it means going the extra mile, it means loving till it hurts, it means avoiding all forms of evil, and it means helping to carry his cross. Most of all it means dying and rising with him. This is moving up to the big class. This is achieving one’s full stature as a Christian. This is the challenge that lies before each one of us. This is letting Jesus look us full in the eye, like he did to Simon Peter, and saying from now on you will be called ‘rock’.

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