Listen: where is God leading us this year?
Posted: Tue, 12 Jan 2021 10:05
A reflection on the Gospel for the Second Sunday of the Year by Fr Gerry O'Shaughnessy SDB. Image: Preach my Gospel Missionary Guide
Today we read about the call of the first disciples as recorded in the Gospel of John—yes, this is the Year of Mark! In our first reading we see the divine call of young Samuel—the child is ready to listen to God's Word, as he exclaims,"speak, Lord your servant is listening!" This is very much what God is asking of each of us at the start of this new year, but how prepared to really LISTEN are we going to be? New Years will always bring new challenges, but 2021 is going to ask a lot of us, as we move forward and recover from last year. The new vaccines offer hope of a return to what we remembered as normal—the reality is that even this will probably be a NEW normal. Thus, we have the call to listen well to the voices of reason and those who are helping the world to move forward.
We pray that we can be a listening Church as we especially listen harder this year to the voices that have been traditionally kept silent. How willing are we to listen to the voices of women? Are we prepared to listen to what our young people are saying? Are we prepared to listen to what our gay sisters and brothers want to share with us? Will we listen to listen to those who justifiably want to critique our past institutional sins? What about those who are victims of racial or sexual discrimination: will we truly listen to them? Will we honestly reflect on their hurts and real grievances? Are we prepared to make a difference and just LISTEN? Pope Francis calls for true dialogue that cannot be one-sided with the attitude that 'Fr knows best!' Real 'Christian Dialogue' requires the self-discipline of waiting until someone is finished speaking before responding; it means truly listening to what someone else is saying—not planning a comeback before the other person has even finished speaking. As the Holy Father reminds us:
Meeting each other, seeing each other face to face, exchanging the embrace of peace, and praying for each other, are all essential aspects of our journey towards the restoration of full communion. All of this precedes and always accompanies that other essential aspect of this journey, namely, theological dialogue. An authentic dialogue is, in every case, an encounter between persons with a name, a face, a past, and not merely a meeting of ideas.
Pope Francis, Address during Divine Liturgy, Church of St George, Istanbul 30/11/2014
John the Baptist points to the ministry of Jesus, and his own disciples listen to him, as he urges them to leave him and follow Jesus. Those early apostles are excellent examples of helping us to move forward, especially in uncertain times: they were prepared to change and leave the security and friendship that John offered them to follow this new preacher from Galilee. I love the humanity of the encounter: Jesus turns around to find Andrew and his friend following him. He naturally asks what they wanted from him; their response is not to ask deep and probing theological question, but the very simple, 'Teacher where do you live?' You will not find this Messiah, the Lamb of God, up in the sky, because the Incarnation means Jesus, Son of God, enfleshes himself in the world. If you are looking for him, you have to look for each other, especially the needy, especially the people that he hung around with, those who were sort-of questionable, and not accepted by the ordinary people of their time.
These two friends of John want community; they are looking for a home, a place of hospitality. Notice how Jesus does not give directions: 'go down Temple St, turn left at the synagogue, right at the inn and we are the third house on the right—the one with the blue door!' No, Jesus responds to their genuine quest for community as he invites them to 'come and see!' John is clear that that they spent the rest of the day with Jesus, enjoying his wonderful and open hospitality. We are not told what happened at the home of Jesus—it was enough that they were there and enjoying his loving presence. In our lives too, it is simple enough to be with others, enjoying their time and the company we can offer each other. 'Come, follow me,' means 'Be my chosen companions, the ones that I love, the ones I want near me '— not in a distant way, up in the sky, but in a human way.
Don Bosco was a great believer in the gift of true PRESENCE in his ministry with the young; he urged his educators and youth workers to spend quality time with them:
It is not enough to care for young people, they must KNOW that they are cared for.
As adults, as parents and grandparents, perhaps we can make a new resolution to spend extra time with our children and young people in this coming year—they need our trust and re-assurance as we navigate new ways forward. As you well know, if we are present with family and friends that we truly care for, then we can just enjoy your time together—even the silence. We can feel 'at home'. In his own ministry, Jesus spent time with wonderful friends, Martha, Mary and Lazarus in Bethany. The Gospels record that he was able relax and just be himself; we all need that gift—where is your Bethany? The afternoon spent with Jesus impacted deeply on the lives of those two new disciples: they leave that home of Jesus far wiser than when they entered.
Today our readings urge us to listen and see where God is leading us to during this coming year. Be especially grateful for those encounters of hospitality and friendship in those Bethany moments of 2021. As the disciples return to their families, they do not selfishly cling to Jesus as if they are the chosen elect. Have you noticed how some Catholics feel that only they have a divine hotline? In their attitude you can witness a refusal to dialogue as they delve deeper into their narcissism. We cannot cling selfishly to Jesus; rather, like Andrew, we SHARE our encounters with Jesus—this is the pattern throughout the gospels, even when Jesus asks people not to reveal the good news!
Transformational hospitality can make a deep impression and this is the reason why our Church must be open and welcoming—even if another lockdown is forced on us. Who have you made welcome in Church today? Who are you going to make welcome during this coming week? A church community locked into into its own selfish needs will never thrive; we are all called to be missionary and move the gospel forward in new and exciting ways. God is calling each and every one of us to ministry—we all can do our individual bit to build up the Body of Christ. Please do not leave it to the Deacon, Fr, or the Sisters. We are in this wonderful missionary movement of the Church together. I firmly believe that in every parish, God is still making that same invitation to priestly ministry—are you prepared to 'come and see?' Andrew's brother Simon is transformed after his own meeting with Jesus—a change that is far greater than gaining a new name: Peter, the ROCK, the solid one. While he does display strength, he is also the 'wobbly rock' too, showing us just how human our Church actually is. Writing in 'The Tablet', Fr Timothy Radcliffe OP reflects brilliantly on they ways we can support our Church, even with our imperfections:
From the beginning and throughout history, Peter has often been a wobbly rock, a source of scandal, corrupt, and yet this is the one – and his successors – whose task is to hold us together so that we may witness to Christ's defeat on Easter Day of sin's power to divide. And so the Church is stuck with me whatever happens.
Timothy Radcliffe OP, The Tablet, 12/04/2010