Has there ever been a day or age that has had more opportunities for ease and convenience than the times we are living in right now? From the most mundane and ordinary to things that impact how we live and work have all been transformed in ways that seemed unimaginable not too long ago. Thanks to streaming services like Netflix or Hulu, the college students I serve will never understand the struggle we had in having to go to Blockbuster Video store, hoping a copy of the newest released Movie would be available (and if not waiting at the return area if you were that desperate). My nieces can’t imagine a world where they don’t have immediate access to their parents, or grandparents either through phone, text, or video chat… If you wanted, you don’t even need to leave your home to purchase anything – even a car. We have cars that can parallel park for us; services that will deliver dinner from practically any restaurant you want right to your door.
Thanks so much for stopping by to read my homily for the THE SECOND SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME – January 15, 2023, for sharing it on your social media posts and your feedback and comments… I’m also grateful for all those who’ve asked for the audio version and share them as well at SOUNDCLOUD click HERE or from ITUNES as a podcast HERE. May the Lord be glorified in your reading and sharing Sincerely in Christ – Father Jim
But I wonder if that’s created this “on-demand” mentality where we look to others or other things to do everything – and the effect that can have on us. While there are tremendous benefits to so many of these advances and developments one of the drawbacks is that it’s making us completely reliant on external things, dependent on them, and even taking advantage or shirking our responsibilities. Before Christmas a friend of mine who is a professor was telling me that they’re not just dealing with old fashioned plagiarism anymore or people purchasing term papers – now thanks to Artificial Intelligence (AI) – a computer can generate a paper written in a style that mimics the students own writings – to the point that can it be difficult if not impossible for a professor to tell the difference (even with the help of other AI programs)
A few friends who are psychologists explained a growing challenge in helping their patients with mental health issues. Some might come for therapy and imagine that because they’re showing up, and paying for a session that the therapist is going to fix the relationship issue, remove the grief, and have the cure for depression – rather than the patient seeing them as being professionals who are there to coach, assist, guide and suggest things to help them with whatever issue it is they’re dealing with.
I wonder if this is impacting how people attend to their spiritual lives, and their souls too? We hear in today’s Gospel, John the Baptist looking at Jesus and saying “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” As a priest I’ve seen and heard different extremes on how some can take that as a way of exempting themselves from any personal responsibility. Where some treat Jesus like an insurance policy that “covers” any and all the bad things they’ve done. And others acting like going to Mass or Confession – just saying the act of contrition promise to “sin no more” is going to remove temptation and super-charge them just to avoid committing the sin that they’re vulnerable to.
As advanced as the world is that we live in, as convenient and stress free as many things are – the spiritual life is not something that can be downloaded; the avoidance and freedom from sin isn’t something that we can order; the pursuit of holiness is not something that happens simply saying “I want that.”
And that’s always been the case.
Our scriptures today are reminding us that the human heart, and truly fulfilling the deepest desires of it will never be fulfilled apart from the Lord God. If He’s not the center, and our listening to His word, living by His commands – we might be familiar with God, we might have information and knowledge about Him – but that freedom, that holiness that our hearts were created for and desire will continue to seem elusive. That’s true whether the year was 2023 B.C. or us here in 2023 A.D. Yes, today we have conveniences and advances today that our ancestors wouldn’t even begin to understand or comprehend. But the deepest desires of the human heart being fulfilled, and the reality of evil, of sin trying to tempt humanity to find it anywhere other than God – that has been an issue from the day our first parents, Adam and Eve decided to trust a serpent rather than the Lord God in the Garden of Eden.
In the first reading, one of the reasons God had called his prophet Isaiah to speak to his people is that they were off-track in dealing with all that was causing them strife and struggle. The people of Israel had been exiled. The temple which had been the holiest place on earth, the place where God Himself dwelt among His people had been destroyed. For many, they had been looking simply for the day that their exile was over, and waiting for the temple to be rebuilt thinking that would make them all good in their relationship with God everything would be fine. Rather than seeing the kingdom, the temple were never meant to take the place of their own personal commitment to God. That each person was to strive to follow the Law of the Lord. How every man and woman were to recognize that they had been called and chosen to be His people and, that they were as the prophet declares today “made glorious in the sight of the Lord, and my God is now my strength.” The psalm today, echoed their divine appointment and response to that as we prayed with our ancestors “Here am I Lord, I come to do your will…” Apart from that familiar refrain though, the psalmist tells us what that means: “ears open to obedience… to do your will O my God is my delight [and] your law is written in my heart.”
In a lot of ways, rebuilding a temple are easier than these things, because what God was calling for requires an internal conversion, daily choices and decisions that are impacted.
In the Gospel, St. John the Baptist’s declaration that Jesus, was the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world isn’t meant simply as an identification of a resource but an invitation. If we want the deepest desires of the human heart to be fulfilled – looking to Jesus as “the way, the truth and the life” is our only hope. He is the Lamb of God – He is the way, the truth, the life, by his humbling Himself to becoming one of us and by demonstrating perfect obedience to the Father’s will. Jesus doesn’t just tell us to have radical trust in the Father, but shows us what that means. Jesus Himself would continue to make the choice Himself to reject Satan, his works, his lies and remember God’s promises, and to live in obedience to His will.
That’s the hard, difficult, day to day grind that every one of us faces as well. As John the Baptist invites us to behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world – he’s pointing us to recognize that Jesus offers us salvation, freedom, fulfillment. But that’s something we ourselves have to want, that requires active engagement on our part. Jesus wants to save us from sin. But for us to “behold” Him requires letting go of all the other things that we so often cling to.