HOMILY – Mary Mother of God Parish, Scranton
2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – January 19, 2020
Isn’t it interesting that although the Christmas decorations have been barely put away, the scriptures today move very quickly from the stories surrounding the birth of Jesus to those that recount the words and work of an adult Jesus as he begins his public life and ministry.
And in each of the three scripture passages proclaimed, there seems to be a common denominator that speaks powerfully to our connection to the life and ministry of Jesus: discipleship rooted in service.
The prophet Isaiah conveys the message of a servant – who will act as the instrument of Yahweh to bring the people of Israel back to the flock from which they’ve strayed – who will ultimately give hope to a confused and lost people.
Paul sets the stage for his missionary work with the Church of Corinth in our second reading – a work that ultimately finds him almost singlehandedly spreading the gospel of Jesus not only to the Corinthians but throughout the Mediterranean world.
And finally, in the gospel we once again encounter John the Baptist, whose sole mission in life was to point the way to Jesus: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. … Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”
Yet, if you look closely at each of these three individuals – Isaiah – Paul – and even John the Baptist – you’ll notice another common denominator. For as great as these individuals were in the history of salvation, each of them in some way was flawed. Each brought some degree of sin, misunderstanding and brokenness to the work that God entrusted to them.
Isaiah begins his ministry in chapter 6 of his work by bemoaning the fact that he was a man of “unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips.” And in response, the Lord touched his life, removed is wickedness and purged his sin, sending him forth to proclaim a message of redemption to the people of Israel.
Paul for his part, orchestrated one of the greatest persecutions of the early Christian community, only to encounter the risen Jesus and his saving grace, becoming the greatest preacher of Jesus’ gospel of life that the world has known.
And John, for all of his selfless ways, at times was confused and uncertain about Jesus and his role in salvation history. “Are you the one who is to come or do we look for another?”
From the very beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, we encounter individuals who, having been touched by the Lord, respond and follow after him – despite their brokenness and misguided ways.
That same call and response has characterized not only the Church universal since its earliest days – but also our local Church that we know as the Diocese of Scranton – and even this great parish, Mary Mother of God.
And every call is a reminder to us that it’s God who oversees and directs the Church despite our brokenness – and uses some of the most unlikely of us to do his work – as a reminder of his power and presence in our midst – even to this day.
And that, my friends, is the great hope that the Word of God speaks to us today. It says that for any of us who have failed the people God has given to our care – for any of us who have chosen poorly in life – we are still given the opportunity to respond to God’s call. We are still given the opportunity to participate in God’s plan for our world. For more than we are inclined to do for others, God offers us – always and at all times – a second chance.
For some of us, such a generous distribution of mercy and forgiveness on the part of God may appear to be in conflict with the reality of discipleship that Jesus extends to each of us who answer the call to follow after him. … Time and again, Jesus challenges us to engage the truth of the Gospel message.
Yet, Jesus FIRST calls us – as we are – to be used by him in the work of building the Kingdom. Yes, Jesus calls us to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect. But he also calls us to both recognize and trust God’s power and presence in our lives when we are unable to move forward on our own.
Do you doubt this reality? Then look at the scriptures today. And then recall the words of Pope Francis that were shared at the close of the great Jubilee Year of Mercy a few years ago:
“Forgiveness is the most visible sign of the Father’s love, which Jesus sought to reveal by his entire life. Every page of the Gospel is marked by this imperative of a love that loves to the point of forgiveness. Even at the last moment of his earthly life, as he was being nailed to the cross, Jesus spoke words of forgiveness: ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do’” (Lk 23:34).
So, my brothers and sisters, as we reflect upon Jesus’ call to discipleship, in the mystery of God’s plan, may we reflect less upon who we are and how perfectly we can contribute to the work of God. Instead, may we simply trust in the mercy and wisdom of God, allowing God to work in and through our lives to build his Kingdom of love and peace.