This is the God who Loves

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The Power of Words

Msgr. Joseph Prior

(Readings of the Holy Mass – Second Sunday in Ordinary Time)

“Come and you will see,” Jesus says to Andrew and the other disciple. On the surface He is answering their question, “Master where are you staying?” Underlying these words, is an invitation to a relationship, He is inviting them to discipleship.

The dialogue began when Jesus noticed them following from behind, turned and asked, “What are you looking for?” They were looking for something only He could provide. They were not looking for a place to stay. They were looking for meaning in life, they were looking for life itself.

In Him, they would find the answer to all their questions regarding life. So they follow. And by the end of that first day, they bring others to meet Jesus as Andrew tells his brother Peter – “We have found the Messiah.”

In the very early days of Jesus’ public ministry, one of the first things He does is invite people to follow Him. His missions involves establishing a communion of relationships. He has been sent by God, the Father, as a means of rebuilding broken humanity. He invites people to come to Him and to know God’s love, mercy, and compassion. He will teach by word and deed but all in the context of relationship. He makes the Father present in and among the lives of all who share in this communion.

God has always called people to Himself. We recall that after creation, in the Genesis accounts, God walked with man in the garden. He conversed with Adam and Eve. After they turned from Him, He continued to reach out. However, there was damage to that relationship. Through the call to Abraham, and his response in faith, God enters into a relationship with a family. Through Moses, this relationship is established in covenant. Through Jesus, the relationship will be healed at its core and so He calls many, and all, to share in this relationship.

The well-loved reading from The First Book of Samuel which serves as the first reading for today’s liturgy recalls God calling Samuel. In some sense the reading mirrors the way Jesus calls people to Himself today.

Samuel while sleeping near Eli, his mentor, hears the call but does not recognize the voice. Many of us have had that same experience.

The call was not from an audible voice but from an interior sounding. Samuel first thinks it is Eli calling him. There is a somewhat humorous element of the story. We can picture Samuel waking Eli to ask the question. Eli patiently responds. The humor grows as this happens three times.

Some of us may have had similar experiences. Having the sense of being led or called on a certain path. Getting it wrong at first. But the sensation comes back, like a voice sounding in our ears, stirring our hearts to look again. Perhaps this says something about God’s desire to have us near Him, to know Him, to love Him, and to listen to Him. He is also patient. He calls us where we are in life. We might not get it right at first, but He does not give up. He calls again.

Finally, Eli realizes what is going on so he advises young Samuel. Many of us have had mentors giving us the same advice, steering us in the right direction, showing us where to look and how to find.

Eli’s powerful words instructs Samuel to answer with an open heart; in other words, a heart ready to receive. These are the words he is to use, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.”

God’s invitation, His call, continues to be offered. In Jesus, God’s presence among us reaches the height of intimacy. Jesus, the Word made flesh, invites us into communion with God. We recall how it began in that call of Andrew, Peter, and that unnamed disciple.

As we continue hearing Gospel passages, we will hear of countless people from all levels of society who are invited and respond in faith and follow Jesus. His mission of invitation and communion continues today. He is present among us and offers the call whether it be through the Word proclaimed, the sacraments we celebrate, or the Spirit moving in each one of us. He calls each of us to enter into His divine life and to experience ever new the love and healing presence of His person.

Sometimes He uses us to be the instrument of that invitation, to give voice to that call. Sometimes He uses us as mentors to others who hear that silent whisper in their hearts. He, like the Father, is patient and persistent – so much does He desire for us to know Him and the life he offers.

The New Year has begun. While the new liturgical year began in Advent, now that we are in the first weeks of Ordinary Time we hear the beginning of the public ministry.

Starting next week, we will be hearing passages from the Gospel of Mark. The passages follow in order from the Gospel. We will hear how Jesus began to gather people to Himself.

In a certain sense, we have the opportunity to be renewed in our discipleship. To hear that invitation afresh, to walk with Jesus on this journey, to encounter Him, to listen to Him, to be with Him, and to watch what He does and see how He acts. All these are avenues into the relationship of love.

Every week He will call us to Himself in new and deeper ways. Every week we can hear Him say “Come and you will see.”

And every week we will have the opportunity to respond with an open heart, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.”

***

Msgr. Joseph Prior is pastor of Our Lady of Grace Parish, Penndel, and a former professor of Sacred Scripture and rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.

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