2nd Sunday OT 2012:
Our readings today give us a message about discipleship. Last week we celebrated the feast of the Epiphany, which was the end of the Christmas season. For about a month we celebrated the birth of our savior, today we meet him, not as a baby, but we meet him as our leader, our Savior. It is an objective fact that Jesus was born in that small town all those years ago. But, if Jesus remains a historical oddity, a character from a book, a child in the manger, then our faith will always remain a peripheral affair. If we never meet Jesus, faith won't be central in our lives and we will always find ourselves struggling to follow the commandments, struggling to love one another. If our faith is not central our sufferings and difficulties will feel like burdens impossible to bear. Faith is our source of peace, it is our comfort in distress, and our strength in times of weakness. But, very often we have the wrong idea about faith. Many people think about faith as something mental, a belief with the mind. Rather, faith is a relationship with a person.
Christian faith certainly has a mental component, but faith is not so much a belief in something. Christianity is not a system, we don't believe in Jesusness… Faith is a relationship with a person, Jesus Christ. If we don't meet Jesus, we might end up believing in Christianity, but that is not the same thing as having faith in Christ.
Our gospel today recounts for us an encounter between Christ and those first disciples. This meeting is a model for us. It shows us how we can grow in faith, how we can establish a relationship with Christ.
John the Baptist points the people to Jesus. The same is often true for all of us. I didn't find Jesus on my own, my parents and teachers pointed me toward Jesus. Many people still point us toward Christ, if we are open and attentive.
The disciples met Jesus. Now here we might feel a bit jealous. I wish I had the chance to meet Jesus as did those early disciples. They saw Jesus, heard him speak, and spent time with him. Don't we wish we had that same opportunity? Of course, we do, if we have the eyes to see it. We have the same opportunity, but in a different form. Listen again to what John the Baptist says: Behold the Lamb of God. Sound familiar? In the new translation of the Roman Missal these words are spoken at every Mass right before we receive communion: behold the Lamb of God… This is the same Jesus, the same Lamb of God. Here at the Mass we see Jesus, in the Eucharist, we hear Jesus, in the Scriptures, we spend time with Jesus, present here in the tabernacle. While it does not take place in the same manner as it happened in the gospel, every mass is an encounter with Christ, every Mass is a chance to meet Jesus. It doesn't matter who the priest is, it doesn't matter how bad the homily is, it doesn't matter if there is music or not, we meet Christ at every mass. And he asks us the same questions: what are you looking for? But, what do we do with the encounter?
Again, the disciples are our model. I notice 2 things. First, they were curious. Where are you staying? Are we curious about Christ, are we curious about the Mass? Are we enthusiastic about coming here and do we try our best to be open and attentive? If so, we meet Christ. If not, Mass can seem a struggle and a burden. Secondly, they followed Christ. For the disciples the meeting was not the end of the relationship. For us, Mass cannot be the only time we have a relationship with Christ.
Holy Mass is an essential component in our faith. At every Mass we encounter Christ. We see him, we hear him, we spend time with him. Here at this Holy Mass he asks us: what are you looking for? It is up to us to be open to meeting Jesus, to renew our curiosity and enthusiasm for this encounter. And, finally, to follow Jesus the rest of our lives. Faith is important in our lives. But, faith has to be a living relationship with Christ, a relationship that grows and is strengthened by our participation here at Holy Mass where we: Behold the Lamb of God, Behold Him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.