Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta
Homily for the 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time in Year B at St Michael’s Church, South Blacktown
14 January 2018
One of the traits we admire in people is the ability to embrace fresh opportunities and make the most out of life especially when they face challenging circumstances. This was what Doreetha Daniels, an African American, demonstrated. At 99 years old, Mrs Daniels had lived through a number of watershed moments in American history, including the Great Depression, World War II, the civil rights movement, the Moon landing and the rise of the Digital Age. All of these events paled in comparison to what happened when she graduated a couple of years ago. She might have been the oldest graduate in the world, having earned a university degree at that age. She proved to us that age is no barrier to learning and human achievement.
Scriptures this 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time also challenge us to live life to the full by a discipleship marked with courage, passion 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 make a positive difference to others.
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 when he heard his name called out in the middle of the night. Assuming that it was his master’s voice, Samuel ran to him ready to carry out his orders, but only to be told that he had not been summoned. This pattern was repeated three times until Eli realised with great humility that God wanted to speak directly to the boy and not through him. He came up with a gem of an advice. “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.” It was with these words that Samuel responded to God calling him the fourth time. As the story unfolds, this call would entail a topsy-turvy and precarious existence. Samuel would speak God’s word of truth to power; 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 of a more complete and abundant life, even if it entails a certain risk. Like Eli, John the Baptist shows admirable humility when he points out the Messiah to his own disciples. “Behold, there is the Lamb of God” he says recognising Jesus as the one who by his self-sacrifice would conquer the power of darkness. In another place, John would recognise the superiority of Jesus saying that “he must increase and I must decrease”. With this recognition, two of his disciples leave him for Jesus. In what follows, however, Jesus shows that true discipleship is not about the cult of personality. It involves a costly journey towards the fullness of life and love. It involves seeing where he truly lives, which in the rich symbolism of John’s Gospel, is not a physical building but the bosom of the Father, the abiding love of God and he who is the fullness of grace and truth. “Come and see” means to experience the power of transformation that Jesus can give.
The Word of God today invites us to greater, deeper, more faithful, generous and courageous discipleship. It has little to do with doing the minimum and fulfilling the letter of the law. Instead, it has everything to do with taking risks and living with enthusiasm and commitment. We should not be content with status quo, especially when that status quo is less than what God wants for us as individuals and as a community. The call of the Gospel is the call to greater justice, love and equality. We cannot be authentic disciples without acting with greater justice, love and equality in a society that treats some of its members as if they were not full members or outsiders. The teaching and example of Jesus inspire us to take a stand for the weak, vulnerable and marginalised.
We cannot be the disciple of Jesus and stay put in our security. Discipleship is a journey that demands courage because it forces us to abandon security in favour of vulnerable trust, self-interest in favour of passion for justice and preferential option for God’s poor. We may not be able to obtain a university degree late in life like Mrs Daniels. Nevertheless, we must be on the lookout for opportunities to witness to God’s inclusive love and to live our Christian life to the full.
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 marked with generosity, trust and passion.