Hi everyone – here’s my homily for the SECOND SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME – January 18, 2015. The readings for today’s Mass can be found at: http://usccb.org/bible/readings/011815.cfm Thanks as always for reading, your comments and you’re sharing this blog whether on twitter, facebook, reddit or whatever the newest social media thing is that I haven’t heard of yet… I’m humbled looking at all the stats and “traffic” on this site (especially whoever you readers in Sweeden, Croatia…India… Russia? That’s just so cool..) Please feel free to drop a comment or an email. Would love to know how you stumbled on this blog. Have a great week – God Bless, Fr Jim
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the easiest person in the world to buy a gift for. Around November with my birthday coming up followed by the beginnings of Christmas shopping, the question will usually come from Mom, “What do you want, honey?” Sometimes other family members will ask the same seemingly simple question as well: What do you want? To be completely honest, when it’s one of my brothers, calling the day before my birthday while walking around the mall, it sounds more like Whaddya want? (with just a bit of exasperation in their voices). But you get the idea.
I always feel bad because I never really have a good answer. They are asking because they want to do something meaningful, something special, something that will fulfill a need. Usually I say, “I don’t know” – because I really don’t. I suppose it’s harder to buy something that is meaningful, that is useful, (that fits!) for adults than it is for kids. When I was little, magically Santa knew the right size, what I needed, what toy or game I whimpered about every time I saw its advertisement or saw it at the store.
Being grown up, and a priest at that, it’s harder for my relatives to be creative. How many pairs of black socks, black pants and black shoes do I need? They’re never too sure what DVD’s I have or want, or what book I might be interested in – so I realize that it’s hard for them to surprise me. Often when they ask me, “What do you want?”, I’m usually thinking I don’t really need anything, so I don’t have any good suggestions for them and usually end up saying, “Whatever you get me I’ll be happy with.”
At Christmas, my family got me some really nice gifts. But, there were two that I needed to return. One was a fleece that I had pretty much had a duplicate of, and the other was a nice shirt from Hollister, which even though was an XL, because I have more than 2% body fat, it really didn’t fit me comfortably. So here I am at the store. I’m returning these things – with receipt in hand (my family knows me well enough now to just include the receipts as well) and because the person at the cash register can’t give me money back, I come full circle as she asks me the one thing I still don’t have an answer to – “What do you want?”
“What do you want?” – Maybe you’re as unsure as I am when you hear that question. Whether it’s trying to decide what to order off a menu in the restaurant, which major to finally declare, which job to take, which house to purchase – we can often be stuck without an answer to that seemingly simple question, What do you want?
We want to consider the options, see what’s possible, find out who’s asking it and why – and then try to give a good and definitive answer.
It’s fascinating that in the Gospel of John, which is tonight’s Gospel, the very first words Jesus utters, the very first question he asks his new disciples is a variation of that question, “What do you want?” (in other translations, it’s “What are you looking for?” [NAB]; or, going back a few years, simply, “What seek you?” [Douay-Rheims version]).
John the Baptist had told his disciples who Jesus was – the Lamb of God – and immediately something told them they needed to follow him. After listening to John preach about the need to go into the river and repent of their sins, and about the one who was coming after him who was mightier than he, John’s disciples feel compelled to leave him and to follow Jesus Christ. John the Baptist saw Jesus walking by and pointed him out to his disciples saying, there’s the Lamb of God – there’s the one I’ve waited for and been preparing you for all these years. It’s time to follow him.
We heard tonight that, immediately, these two disciples follow Jesus, and Jesus turns around and asks, why are you following me, what are you looking for, what do you want? And it’s almost like they don’t know what to ask for, don’t know what they want themselves. They turn it around (perhaps stalling for time) and ask him the seemingly off topic question, Where are you staying? And it is then that Jesus invites them to “come and see.”
The great thing about this Gospel passage is that it’s perfect for everyone: For those who believe they’ve been following Him, following His commands, following His call. For those unsure who Jesus is and are curious about the man. This passage even works for someone stuck in the middle – whatever place you find yourself in, Jesus turns to us today [tonight] and asks;
What do you want?
Just hearing that directed from Him can really be unnerving, can’t it? Immediately, we turn to our lists: I want a job; I want nice things; I want my relationships to work out; I want my family to be healthy; I want… I want… I want… we know our ‘wants,’ – we know some that are really, really important, some that are trivial (like hoping the New England Patriots lose this weekend)… some that are somewhere in between and perhaps we’re not sure what we want first.
But Jesus Christ isn’t some ‘genie in the lamp’ looking to give us three wishes. Which is why we don’t get hung up on that question about what do we want and instead listen to his invitation – to “come and see.”
Once we’ve recognized him as the one we need to follow – the one who has all the answers – the Messiah, the Lamb of God, and all of those other terms and titles we don’t fully understand (yet somehow know are a big deal) – we need to go to him, go with him … and in order to find what we’re truly looking for, we need to stay with him.
And in learning who Christ really is, by seeing and staying with him, our true desires, our deepest longings, our truest selves start to fully be revealed. Because what we find is that God wants to be with us – and wants us to want to be with him. Really, what more could we want?