Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta
Homily for the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time in Year B 2021 at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta
Readings: 1Sam 3:3-10, 19; 1Cor 6:13-20; John 1:35-42
17 January 2021
Called to discern and live life to the full
Many of us have seen images of the riots, which took place at the Capitol building in Washington, DC, last week. Among the countless scenes of mob violence, chaos, and destruction, there was a show of bravery on the part of a black police officer. As the rioters entered the chamber, this quick-thinking cop acted as a decoy and led them away from where the elected officials were hiding. In doing so, he prevented the angry mob from harming them but at great personal risk.
Life presents us with all sorts of situations where we have to choose and act according to our belief and value system. The police officer, hailed as a hero on that infamous day, chose and acted bravely in the face of a dramatic situation. But, each of us followers of Christ is also called to choose and act in the way that brings forth the presence of God’s Kingdom.
Scriptures on this Sunday challenge us to live life to the full by a discipleship marked with courage, generosity and purpose. Like a fishing boat, we must not prefer the secure shallow harbour to the deeper waters. Christian discipleship is not about protecting one’s status quo, interests and security at all costs. Rather, it is more about our generous and faithful response to the call to follow Christ and to be all that we can be for the sake of the Kingdom.
The story of Samuel in the first reading shows how the prophet discerns God’s call and follows it through. The young man was with his mentor Eli who taught him to respond to the unknown voice with a humble and docile heart: “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.” It was the same attitude with which Mary of Nazareth later on would respond to the message of the angel. It was the antithesis of the hardness of the heart that was challenged throughout the biblical narrative.
As the story unfolds, Samuel would be guided to enact God’s will in every topsy-turvy and precarious situation. He would speak God’s word of truth to power; he would rebuke the evil behaviour of his master’s children; he would lead his people during that painful transition from judges to kings in such a way that his own life was at risk.
The Gospel story is also about responding to the call to follow the example of the master-servant. As John the Baptist pointed out the Messiah, the two disciples left him and joined the company of Jesus instead.
In what follows, however, Jesus shows that true discipleship is not about the cult of personality. It involves a transformative journey that mirrors the self-emptying journey of the master-servant. The two disciples were invited to see not simply the physical dwelling of Jesus but ultimately experience his divine indwelling through his passion.
The evangelist’s mention of the tenth hour is not incidental. It is the hour of Jesus’ burial following his crucifixion. Andrew visited where Jesus lived at the tenth hour and came to a realisation that he had met the Messiah. A parallel passage was found at the end of John’s Gospel. Here, the beloved disciple also came to faith in Jesus after having visited and seen the signs of his Passover. We are told that this disciple went on to be a witness to the resurrection. True discipleship cannot short circuit the cross, which in John’s theological understanding is the hour of glorification.
The Word of God today invites us to greater, deeper, more faithful, generous, and courageous discipleship. In a world where there is much hatred, division and falsehoods, we are called to give witness to love, human dignity and truth-telling. Discipleship is not something we choose once and for all. It is the living out of its demands that we commit ourselves to without wavering. Daily discipleship calls us to choose the good and turn away from the evil impulse that tempts us to dominate or even crush another, or simply to float free of responsibility from the present reality, to flee from the truth.
Like the first disciples of Jesus, we have also recognised him who satisfies our deepest yearning. Let us pray that we have the courage to live our discipleship without counting the costs. May the teaching and example of Jesus guide us as we endeavour to build relationships and communities that mirror the Reign of God. May our response to his daily invitation and the prompting of his Spirit be inspired by Mary’s reflective, intentional and fruitful “fiat”.