January 15, 2006 (Audio) Homily by Fr. Robert Altier    Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

Reading I (1 Samuel 3:3b-10, 19)  

Reading II (1 Corinthians 6:13c-15a, 17-20)

Gospel (St. John 1:35-42)

 

In the first reading, as well as in the Gospel reading today, we hear individuals being called by Our Lord, and we see that there are a variety of different ways people are called. There is something as extraordinary as what happened to Samuel, who was sleeping in the temple of the Lord. In the middle of the night the Lord calls to him, and calls him explicitly by name. When Eli, the elderly priest, finally realizes what is going on, he instructs the boy to say, Speak, Lord, Your servant is listening. This, of course, is a lesson all of us need to be able to learn. Even if we do not hear the Lord speaking to us in our minds and in our hearts in a very profound way, nonetheless, He speaks to us in a variety of ways throughout our days and our lives, through the events and people that are around us, and we need to be able to open our hearts and our minds to be able to hear and recognize what it is that He is telling us. But we also see in the Gospel reading the way several individuals are called. We hear Saint John the Baptist pointing out Jesus to two of his disciples who then followed Him. We also hear about Andrew going to find his brother Simon, and bringing Simon to the Lord. So we see that there are a variety of ways people are brought to the Lord. It does not matter what the manner is in which you are drawn; what matters is your response.

 

The other point we recognize is the difference in the type of call, not the style by which a person is called but the call which God gives to each one. Samuel, for instance, is called by God to be a prophet. Now not all of the prophets were called in that kind of a way. Remember, for instance, the prophet Elisha, who was out plowing when the prophet Elijah came to him. He simply walked up behind him, put his cloak over Elisha’s shoulders and turned around and began to walk away. That was the call of the prophet. So it is not necessary that it be an extraordinary kind of thing like it was with Samuel. Samuel’s call was extraordinary because it had been many, many years since there had been a prophet in Israel at Samuel’s time, but it need not be like that. The same is true when we look at Saint Peter. When Andrew calls Peter, there is nothing too terribly extraordinary about that; but Peter comes to Jesus, and Jesus changes his name on the spot and calls him Cephas, which is the Aramaic word for a rock. That is exactly what Saint John then tells us, that Cephas means “a rock,” or “Peter.” Now notice that neither Andrew nor John had their names changed by Our Lord at that time, but only Peter. Again, we see that the manner in which some people are going to be called to serve the Lord is going to be different from the way others are called.

 

Regardless of how we are called and to what we are called, all of us are called to holiness. All of us are called to serve the Lord in whatever capacity He chooses. That is the point we need to understand: It is the Lord’s choice as to how we are going to serve Him. He created each one of us for a purpose, and He has given to each one of us the personality, as well as the various gifts and talents, that He Himself knows we will be able to use most perfectly in His service. That is why, again, we have to listen to see where it is He wants us to serve and how it is He wants us to serve Him.

 

But it goes even further than that. Objectively, we recognize that all of us in Christ are called to live moral lives. Saint Paul points out to us in the second reading that we are members of the Body of Christ, and that the body is for the Lord, and then says something rather extraordinary: And the Lord is for the body. When you think about that, it tells us the dignity of the human body, something which so many people in our society do not recognize at all. Saint Paul goes on to talk about the immoral person. He says that most sins are committed outside the body. If you steal, for instance, or if you violate most of the commandments, those are things that are done against someone else. But he says, The immoral person sins against his own body. In the context, Saint Paul was talking about sexual immorality, but these days we can widen it out quite a way. We can look at the various sins against the body. We can look at drugs; we can look at all of the sexual sins, of course; we can look at drunkenness, gluttony, tattoos, body piercing, and immodesty. The list can go on and on. The fact is that we do not recognize the dignity of our own person; consequently, we have turned against our own selves. In this society, people are destroying the temple of the Lord – their own body. They are defacing it in so many ways, and that not only violates their own dignity, but it violates the Lord Who made the body for Himself, and Who Himself, Saint Paul says, is for the body.

 

Now how do we understand that? If the body is for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body, what does that mean for us? Well, Saint Paul tells us that each one of us is a member of the Body of Christ. If we are a member of the Body of Christ, he says, if anyone is incorporated into Christ, he is of one Spirit with Christ. That means each one of us has been given the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ Himself, which again tells us how we have to treat the body if our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. But it goes even beyond that because it is very clear from the context of what Saint Paul is talking about that there is an analogy here to marriage itself, that the two become one. When the two souls are united, then the two bodies of the married couple are united. We have been incorporated into Christ and we are one Spirit with Him; consequently, we become members of His Body and the bodies join.  Just think for a moment about what is going to happen here in just a little while when you receive Holy Communion. The Body – as well as the Soul and the Divinity and the Blood – of Christ is going to enter into your body. The person of Christ is going to unite Himself with you in your body.

 

So what does Saint Paul say? Your body is for the Lord, and the Lord is for your body. Obviously, this has no kind of perverted innuendos involved, but rather it is building upon what the Church recognizes as the beauty and the great dignity of the married state and of human sexuality. For most people in America today, to see any dignity in human sexuality has become quite a challenge because at every turn it is being destroyed, it is being torn apart, and it is being made into something which is selfish and dirty. But that was not God’s intent, and it still is not. Within the confines of marriage, sexuality is something holy. In fact, for every married couple that is here, you need to take this to prayer because your union together as husband and wife in the intimacy of your marriage is to be a prayer. Think about that. Every single time you unite as husband and wife, that is a prayer. It is holy. It is dignified. It is exalted. And it is the very sign for the married couple of their sacrament. It is also to be an expression in that extended sense of what happens when you receive Holy Communion. Again, think about the disposition we should have when we receive Jesus in Communion. What should our heart be like? What kind of prayer should be going on within? What kind of desire do we have to be united with Him, as He gives Himself to us and we receive His gift of self to us and we give ourselves to Him as a gift, so that the two are one, not only spiritually but bodily as well? That is exactly analogous to what a married couple should be doing. Your marital union is not to be selfish. It is certainly not a game or a hobby. It is a gift and it is a prayer; it is to be selfless and holy. That is what God is looking for.

 

Now we need to go even deeper than this because when the two apostles come to Jesus (and the translation which we have does not quite do justice to what the Greek says) they ask Him, Lord, where do You stay, and He says, Come and see. (What the Greek actually says is “Lord, where do you remain?”) And He tells us, if we come further in John’s Gospel, where He remains. He tells us that whoever loves remains in Him and He in that person. He goes even further and says, “Whoever loves Me, my Father will love him, and we will come to him and we will tabernacle (or pitch our tent) within him.” In other words, they will remain within. That is the Indwelling of the Holy Trinity – God remains within the soul that is in the state of grace. So Our Lord invites each one of us to come deeper and to see where He remains because He has chosen to remain with us.

 

But then listen to what it says about what those two disciples did: They remained that day with Jesus. That is precisely what He wants from each one of us, to remain with Him. He is in us; we are in Him. He wants us to be able to live that way because there is a spiritual union that is there. And that spiritual union we have with Jesus is expressed physically in and through the body in the reception of Holy Communion, where He gives Himself to us and we give ourselves to Him. But we remain in Him, and He remains in us. That is what Saint Paul is getting at in that second reading.

 

We need to understand our dignity. We need to understand just how profoundly we are loved by Jesus, that He wants us to be united with Him in a union that is far more intimate and far more profound than a married couple, because even though a married couple gives themselves to one another in marriage, in Holy Communion Jesus does not give us a part of Himself, He gives us His entire self – Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity – the fullness of His humanity, the fullness of His divinity, the fullness of His person, and we receive Him into our own selves. Again, just think what all of you who are married have said probably many times throughout your life: “I just wish I could find a way to make myself so small that I could go inside of you and live in your heart. And I wish that somehow you could be inside of me and live in my heart.” Jesus Christ loves you so much that that is exactly what He has done for you. He has made Himself into a form where we could receive His entire person into ourselves so He can remain there.

 

Now what He wants from us is to give ourselves entirely to Him. We cannot make ourselves so small that we can enter into Him the way He does to us, but once He is in there, in our hearts we can give ourselves to Him and we can give our entire self to Him. That has already happened when we were baptized and we entered into Him and became a member of His Mystical Body. We have entered into Him and we remain there as long as we are in the state of grace. Now He enters into us and He remains there as long as we are in the state of grace. The exchange is there, and the exchange is complete, that is, His whole person and our whole person being given and received. Thus, we can understand what Saint Paul is talking about when he says, “Your body is for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body.” This is the dignity that is yours.

 

But if we want to be able to understand where He remains, He calls us, He invites us into the depths of our own being to unite ourselves with Him. Come and see, He says. It may not be the profound call that Samuel received, it may not be somebody going out like Andrew to find Peter, but it does not matter because in each one of us, in the very depth of our being, the Lord is calling us by name. In the very depth of our being, He is loving us to the fullness of our being. Therefore, in the very depth of our being, we need to love Him in return and we need to learn from the elderly priest Eli how we are to respond to Our Lord, to go into the depth of our being, to come with Him and to see where He remains in our hearts, and then to say, Speak, Lord, Your servant is listening.

e is telling us, Thisi s what I want, but I want

 

*  This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.