2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (A):
Discipleship: Exterior and Interior Work
Msgr. Thomas Gervasio
Today’s Gospel presents that dramatic moment when St. John the Baptist points out Jesus and identifies Him as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” These are familiar words since they have made their way into the Sacred Liturgy. Those who heard St. John would have known that he reached into the Old Testament and recalled the Passover Lamb that was sacrificed when the Israelites where freed from slavery. St. John also recalled the Prophet Isaiah who said that the Messiah would be “like a lamb led to the slaughter”…a lamb that “was silent and opened not its mouth.” St. John thus reveals Jesus as the new Passover Lamb who would be sacrificed for our sins. So we are given a glimpse of what is to come. Calvary is on the horizon.
John now knows that his own mission is completed and so he directs his disciples from himself to Jesus. He directs us to the Lord as well and would have us consider our discipleship. Today the Prophet Isaiah and St. Paul help us to do this.
Isaiah tells us that the Servant of the Lord, that is to say, His disciple, is called to “raise up and restore the people of God.” This is, in essence, a call to evangelize. Our Catholic faith is never a private endeavor. This is the recurrent plea of Pope Francis who urges us to share the faith with joy. This will help rebuild and restore the Church. Our discipleship is not something to be concealed but shared. It has an external dimension. It goes outward.
We all know someone, a friend or even family member who does not come to Mass. We all know someone who questions the need to be connected to the Church, who struggles to believe or who stays away because he or she has been hurt by the Church. This calls to mind a rather poorly thought out message on a church sign: “Don’t let worries kill you...let the Church help.”
Poorly conceived message but shouldn’t we help others?
Should we not take an interest in the spiritual welfare of others? Should we not have an apostolic zeal for them? Are we to leave them were they are? Should we not invite them to experience the joy of living a sacramental life, the joy of encountering Christ? We all know such people. Today I invite you to pray for that person during this Mass. I invite you to pray to him or her by name. Pray with “specificity.” This prayer can be quite fruitful or effective. I recall going to daily Mass during my elementary school days. The students would have to pass a group of elderly ladies (at least they appeared elderly) as they made their way to our assigned places. This group of ladies prayed with conviction and they “targeted” students that thought would be good prospects for the priesthood and religious life.” They prayed with specificity! I should like to think I am priest today due much to the specific prayers of those ladies. (Some of you may be thinking, maybe they should not have prayed so much—but it is what it is!)
If Isaiah points out the external dimension of discipleship, it is St. Paul who today reminds us of its internal dimension! He tells us that we are called to holiness. A disciple must seek and cultivate a personal holiness. It is this striving that will make our evangelizing efforts fruitful. A person will not be attracted to the faith by someone who is not striving after sanctity. Consider the admonition of St. Charles Borromeo:
“Be sure that you first preach by the way you live. If you do not, people will notice that you say one thing but live otherwise and your words will bring only cynical laughter and a mocking shake of the head.”
We might also consider the thought of another Charles—Charles Chaput, the current Archbishop of Philadelphia. He reminds us that being holy means two things:
- Being open to change, to being converted again and again. It means striving to overcome habitual sin, to be charitable in conversation, more patient, less self-centered and to be honest in our business affairs and relationships.
- It also means standing in contrast to the world; to be “other” than the world around us. Not everything we see, hear, or read is good or true. We must have the courage to know what to embrace and promote and what to reject.
Today the Baptist, points out the Lamb of God. May we be attentive to how we follow him so that we might draw many others to know, love, and serve Him.