Behold, the Lamb of God!
I Samuel 3:3b-10-19 [Speak, for Thy servant is listening.]
Psalm 40:2,4,7-10 [Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.]
I Corinthians 6:13c-15a,17-20 [Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?]
John 1:35-42 [Behold, the Lamb of God!]
We have entered the Ordinary time of the Church’s Liturgical calendar, after celebrating the Solemnities of Epiphany and the Baptism of our Lord. Christmastide is now over and the first Sunday of this year immediately reminds us of the essence of all the Christmas celebrations: an invitation from the Divine world that we partake in the Divine programme for man; our call to be instruments of God in bringing to our fellowmen that hidden treasures of the child lying in the manger. It is a question of a vocation and our response to the Divine call, a response that must in turn instill in us a spirit of commitment. True, the immediate response is that of adoration as we finally recognize the Divine presence in the Child Jesus at Christmas, a response the magi exhibited. The Church foresees this adoring response in her faithful as suggested by the Entrance Antiphon of today: Omnis terra adoret te, Deus et psallat tibi; psalmum dicat nomini tuo, Altissime (All the earth shall bow down before you, O God, and shall sing to you, shall sing to your name, O Most High!)
At the Divine presence, Moses adored; the women who had gone to the tomb, upon seeing the men in white, fell down faces flat; the Magi adored the newborn King… However, adoration was not the permanent act of worship of all these great people. Their entire life will become a response to the call made by the one they now adore. This adoring disposition will be justified and will find justification in the life-long commitment each of these persons called by God will eventually manifest in their day to day lives.
In the First reading, we meet Samuel called to a new way of life. Initially he did not know the person he was dealing with. He mistook the Lord for the spiritual guide, Eli. He needed to have gone beyond the natural environment he had known to sink himself deeper into the mystery of the divine person. He needed to see beyond the child lying in the manger, recognizing in Him the King, prophet and Priest. Thanks to a spiritual director, he was guided to do this. Samuel then confessed the Divine Lordship: You are Lord indeed, speak and I will be your servant. I will do your will. The Psalm is going to dispose us to this kind of prayerful response Behold, or Here I am Lord, I come to do your will.
It is not only Samuel who is called in the Liturgy of today. We meet in the Gospel the First Four Disciples: two of them switching over from John the Baptist to Jesus without any opposition or controversy or confusion. It is the same Lord calling. It is a question of the new mission they now have to accomplish. Indeed, it was even John who encouraged his disciples to move when he confessed Jesus to be the Lamb of God. Immediately, they assumed the role of disciples and called Jesus their new Teacher. They wanted to know where Jesus lives, where Jesus’ heart rests, what His underlying principles, the fundamental principles that would guide a life here on earth and hereafter lie. Jesus was quick to invite them. Come and see! They saw and they never returned to John.
It is remarkable, the various ways the disciples came to know Jesus and introduced the others to Him. Andrew was one of the two disciples of John. He found Jesus first. He immediately introduces Jesus to his brother Simon. The Gospel of John presents the first encounter between Simon and Jesus as a decisive one. Simon immediately underwent a change of name. He will be called Peter, (rock). In time, the rock has come to mean the one with an unshakeable faith. We know Peter’s faith wavered anyway. Yet Christ had predicted this and had made an antidote for it, to be applied when the moment comes. At that time Peter’s firmness will be established. “When you must have been strengthened, you must strengthen the others” He told Peter. Different people! Different ways of encountering Christ! Different ways of interacting with the Lord! But one fundamental disposition: recognizing Jesus as the Messiah, the Lord, the Christ, Rabbi and living by what this implies.
This is a lifelong disposition, not without its own challenges though! Jesus is Lord, and we must allow Him be Lord. This recognition of His Lordship elicits a response of discipleship. At the time of our helplessness, it instills in us a spirit of patience and waiting: I waited, I waited for the Lord, and he stooped down to me, He heard my cry,” says the Psalmist in the Responsorial Psalm. Indeed, the opening prayer of today is a call to the Lord, the one who governs heaven and earth to mercifully hear the pleading of His people and grant us peace. Each one of us called by God has his or her pleas! Recognizing the Lordship of God must make us lift these pleas to Him. He answers them. He stoops down to us, not looking for the sacrifices we are capable of making, but He means to reach out to us in person: a personal God, calling each of us by name. We need to tell Him too, Lord, Behold, I come to do your will.
What is this will? That is often the problem. The discernment of the will of God for each and every one of us can hardly be decided by another other than God Himself and that individual, regardless of the guide the ‘Spiritual Father’ like Eli, or the enthusiastic brother like Andrew could have on our decision to go out and meet the Lord. I remember we were often told in the seminary, ‘99% of your vocation depends on you. Everyone else constitutes 1%’. Many times the revelation of this Divine Will creates lots of controversies, yet for the one who is conscious of what this Will is for him, the Lord never stops to accomplish through Him that Divine plan he revealed to Samuel, to the apostles, to those he chooses and calls. This is true for me, it is true for you too. Even when at times we seem to have strayed from it, the Lord has a way of bringing us back else the Psalmist would never have sung: God of host, bring us back, let your face shine on us and we shall be saved.”
If there is one thing the Liturgy does not fail to underscore, it is this aspect of total consecration not only of the will, the mind, the heart, but also of the body to God: and integral conversion. As the civil year begins and as the Liturgy invites us to reflect on the call to the consecrated life, the Church does not fail to raise up and immediately too, the issue of the consecration of the entire self to God. The second reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians stresses this. Paul tells his brethren: a terminology He uses not only for the disciples but for all those called to follow Christ, you and I: “[Dear Brethren], the body is not meant for fornication; it is for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.” Immediately, Paul realizes that he is talking about something very difficult. The comparison to this is the resurrection. Just as the resurrection seems an impossibility for man, but not for God, so the Lord is capable of and indeed, will, by his power raise us up, all of us who are now bugged down by the sins of the flesh. You and I, sinners from our youths upwards, against the same Lord, failing to listen to His voice! Today, St. Paul makes it very clear that by belonging to Christ, our bodies are members of Christ’s body. Our hands are His to touch with, our feet His to walk miles with, our Eyes are His to see with etc.
The Christian, those called, priests and Christians alike are called today to become one spirit by virtue of our being joined to Christ. “Keep away from fornication.” The Church has never ceased to make this list longer. At times society may stop at fornication. The Church adds to this list every sin against the sixth commandment, struggling to let us not be carried away by the tags society makes on the one group and forgetting that the implication of our own tags are the same: What are these tags? Indeed some are called grave and others are not. But these are distinctions we make to ease our human considerations. Christ had no tribunal to assess and classify these. But what is true is that He had an approach to all: How can I save this sheep that is lost? Yes, the Psalmist adds: You do not ask for sacrifices and offerings, but an open ear, You do not ask for holocaust and victim, Instead here am I.”
What are these tags! They include every immoral behavior contrary to Divine standards. They may boil down to perversion involving the turning from the true and/or proper purpose of sexual intercourse; misusing or abusing it. It may even be adultery, that is sexual activity with a person other than your spouse, or fornication that is an illicit sexual activity when you aren’t married, prostitution, rape, necking and petting, covetousness etc. All these stem from lust, from a situation where we allow improper sexual drives to control us as Christians, resulting in an inner tension in our minds, emotions and wills, that jeopardizes the will of God. In most cases, we will want to be spiritual, but find ourselves being a slave to sensuality. This brings us into the other realm of double-mindedness, which in its turn leads to a reprobate mind. The list is inexhaustive. St Paul is cautioning us against the intentions we entertain when such disordered or inordinate enjoyments of sexual pleasure become our portion and not just an unintended occasion from which we can be healed. All these are the one or other side of the same coin; the adulterous woman no less guilty than the adulterous man who hides with a stone ready to condemn the same woman with whom he sinned. In this light, for the true disciple it must never just be a matter of the scapegoat! We have a mission. Behold, Lord, I come to do your will.
When our schooling as disciple seems to speak in terms of one side of the coin being better than the other, there is immediately the danger of our robbing Peter to pay Paul. The language of the Roman Catholic Rite regarding discipleship and the consecrated life: body and spirit alike is Celibacy in perfect chastity. Celibacy in chastity is our call. It is a transforming call that makes our bodies become temples of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit does dwell and indeed continues to dwell within us. It is not a call that buries us in our past. It is a call that gears us to a significant future, leading us where sinners yesterday are transformed to saints tomorrow. It is the call to all who today mean to say Here I am Lord, I come to do your will. Accept this, those who can, says the Lord. Upon our acceptance, the Word of God Himself, who came to pitch His tent in our midst, will enable us to truly become children of God, worthy instruments. Indeed, Jesus Christ will bring us truth and grace. It is therefore not a call to look beyond ourselves. We all need a deep introspection. We need something more than a stipulated legal system. We need to see Christ is the call of even those we now consider as sinners! For while our response may be: Stone her to death according to the Law, Christ’s private and personal response known to none but the adulterous woman alone is Go and sin no more.
Let us pray for ourselves, our priests, our sisters, our brothers, and all those who feel they have been called to some special mission to accomplish the Divine will, that the Lord may make them worthy instruments.