Hi everyone, here’s my homily for the SECOND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – JANUARY 14, 2018 – The readings for today’s Mass can be found at: http://usccb.org/bible/readings/011418.cfm. Thanks as always for reading, for sharing this on Facebook, Twitter, reddit and other social media and for your feedback and comments. Hope you have a great week! God Bless – Fr Jim
There used to be a television program named “The Biggest Loser” – which I believe just went off the air a couple of years ago. To be honest, I had never seen the show, but just from the commercials you can tell that it’s a reality show where a group of people chronicle their attempts to lose weight. Even more than that, the show was about how they changed their lives, themselves… It was their transformation from who “they are” to who “they will be.” Television reality shows love to present these in neat-compact hour long 22 episode seasons. But for the majority of us, we know that the journey is far less scripted, or completed in one season. Whether it’s weight loss or the other aspects of our lives.
For example, a few weeks ago I was complaining to my spiritual director about my spiritual struggles. I had great hopes for the season of Advent and hoped for it to be more meaningful, which fell by the wayside in the seemingly annual occurrence of the pre-Christmas rush of activities. Then during Christmas when, as a Campus minister the students aren’t around and theoretically I have more time for praying or reading or even resting – I kept squeezing “one other thing in” – one more appointment, one more email, one more project that made this “down time” just as busy as the rest of the year.
There’s a whole list of reasons / excuses that I can give. Some are legitimate, others are not so much so… And I know I’m not being overly critical of myself when I just said to my spiritual director, completely exasperated – that it’s the same thing over and over again – I feel stuck in that space between the guy that I am and the guy I want to be….
Frankly it stinks. And I know I’m not the first person to feel or experience that– whether it’s the person who made that new year’s resolution and by January 16th has already thrown in the towel on it and given up in frustration. Or the individual who leaves the confessional after avoiding it for so long and feels the power of Jesus’ love and forgiveness and the grace of that moment and sincerely believes that they would “go and sin no more” only to later find those temptations re-emerging and find themselves giving into them once again.
How often do we find ourselves living in that space between “who we are” and “who we want to be?” It can be truly discouraging.
As I was reflecting (or rather bemoaning) on my less than productive experiences – a reality jumped out in today’s Gospel. As Jesus starts calling His first apostles, the very guys who will be His inner circle, He looks at the one who is supposed to be “the Rock” of the Church; the one who will be our very first Pope – Jesus says – “You are Simon the son of John – you will be called Cephas (…Peter)” It’s interesting to me to think that Peter would find himself in the same spot as all of us – living in that space between who you are and who you will be.
Because so often, we, who look up to Peter as “St. Peter” as that first Pope, can, in our minds, fast forward from this scene and in a sense, imagine how this encounter might have changed everything for Simon Peter. That as Jesus utters those words; that as Simon experiences this intimate, encounter where his very name has been changed, (which in scriptures identifies that God has called this person to something of newer, greater, divinely charged significance to Peter) – the grace, the sheer awesomeness of this would be similar to the cartoon “transformers.” That Simon would instantly leave behind the “you are” of Simon and simply by Jesus’ word of “you will be,” go on to morph into this super Apostle Peter who knows how to defend Jesus, and follow Him perfectly. That Peter would be everything Jesus would expect from a right-hand man… that someone He could count on to be that rock that He would build the Church upon.
Yet that was far from the reality of things. Throughout the Gospels Peter often comes across as impulsive. We find instances where he speaks without thinking. There are incidents where his commitment, his dedication, his loyalty, his fidelity would waver – most spectacularly during Jesus’ Passion where Peter very much almost resorted back to Simon as he claimed I don’t know him…
Even in the Acts of the Apostles – after Peter has seen, touched, experienced the resurrection of Jesus from the dead; after He witnessed that glorious Ascension of Jesus into heaven; after he received the power of the Holy Spirit coming upon him and the others in the Upper Room at that first Pentecost – even after all that, his fears would at times tend to resurface, to reemerge. His doubts and anxieties would take over him and he would find that – despite all that had happened, – he too, was still living in that space between “you are” and “you will be.”
But the great hope for us who can relate to living in this space as well is realizing that for Simon Peter, even with his failures – the vision never disappears. That voice would call him to become a man greater than who he was never ceased calling him to that… That voice would offer words of encouragement. That voice would give correction. That voice would speak words of forgiveness. That voice would remind him time and time again that when he is “beholding the Lamb of God,” then (and only then) he can become Peter (the opposite is true as well, when he forgets that or loses sight of that, he would again become Simon) Jesus who knows the struggles of all of humanity meets Simon Peter in this space in between – even utilizing his weaknesses so that Simon won’t forget that the desire he has to become “Peter” can only take place when he allows Jesus to set the vision.
The same is true for us who find ourselves struggling between who we are and who we are called to be. For each of us, it can be so easy to give into the temptation to despair, to give up on ourselves, to tune out that voice of Christ believing that as frustrated as we are that we struggle, that we make mistakes, that we are stuck in this place between the men and women that we are and the ones that we want to be, who we’re called to be – that Christ must, too, be as frustrated.
But that’s not the case at all… The good news is that Jesus meets us in this space. If we can hear the words of John the Baptist and “behold the Lamb of God” – behold Jesus Christ, we can find that he’s not looking at us with disappointment that we’ve made our mistakes; that we sin; that we haven’t fully taken advantage of the gifts we’ve been endowed with… He reminds us that the desire to utilize these gifts, the vision of the men and women who we “will be” comes from Him as well. May we learn as Simon Peter did that it is in our following and staying with Jesus Christ that he can take us out of our own ‘in-between’ places, and eventually help us to make that great leap – that transformation from who we are to who we are called to be…