- The Abbey of the Genesee - https://www.geneseeabbey.org -

Homily for January 17, 2021

Fr. Jerome Machar, OCSO

2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

1 Samuel 3:3b-10, 19, 1 Corinthians 6: 13c-15a, 17-20, John 1:35-42

“At that time Samuel was not familiar with the Lord, because the Lord had not revealed anything to him as yet.” The year 2020 was challenging for everyone. This moment in Samuel’s life speaks eloquently to our situation. He was separated from his family. He was isolated from the community at large. He was cloaked in darkness. The world continues to be in the grips of the Corona Virus, which has paralyzed the world and created an atmosphere of social unrest. The economic fiber of society was been threatened thus causing people to lose the means of earning a living and sustaining their families. Fear of contagion has also forced the restriction of access to much needed spiritual comfort, the church.

Recent events of chaos and violence in our nation’s Capital seem to underline the fact that we have lost the anchor of our soul. With the breaking of windows and the breeching of parameters, we continue to witness the broadening of the divide that separates us one from another. January 6 was a day of revelation to us, an epiphany if you would, opening our eyes to truths about ourselves that we have refused to acknowledge. The actions of the mob inflamed by carefully worded political rhetoric, made us grapple with the fact that we might not be dedicated to truth and justice as we claim to be. The violence and outrage that we witnessed during those hours of chaos and confusion made us grapple with the fact that we may not be committed to the defense of human life.

The mystery of the Incarnation tells us that no matter how bleak the winter, no matter how deep the darkness that envelops us God’s all-powerful Word is truly with us (CF, Wis 18: 14-15). In this time of darkness and confusion, we are encouraged to seek a resting place close to the heart of God. Our faith tells us that we can trust His promise to dwell in our midst. Overshadowed by the Spirit of the Living God, we can discover the path to reconciliation. Wrapped in the Father’s loving embrace, we will find the medicine that binds up our wounds and counteracts the virus of sin, indifference, selfishness, and prejudice. Once our hearts, souls, and minds are healthy, we will be able to enter into sincere dialogue with one another. Abiding close to the Heart of God, we will discover the path that leads to mutual respect for all people. Having ben conformed to the heart of Christ, we will offer an ear that knows how to listen, and lips that express words of wisdom and compassion.

Acknowledging our human condition, we should not let our weariness, our inconsistency, or our failings discourage us. “[Sitting in the bleak and still darkness] Samuel answered, ‘Speak; for your servant is listening’” (1 Sam. 3:10). Samuel heard a voice that awakened him from sleep, drew him out of the darkness, and reset his life. After the shocking events at the nation’s Capital, Cardinal Gregory said, “Together, we must intentionally pause and pray for peace in this critical moment. The divisive tone that has recently so dominated our national conversations must change.” The goal of listening with the ears of the heart is to receive each human person as a gift from God, as the reflection and image of Christ among us. The main objective of true dialogue is to live the commandment to love God and neighbor. Each one of us is called to enter into a personal encounter with Christ who can stir our imaginations and change our lives. Inwardly transformed and freed from our prejudices, fears, and resentments, we will be able to enter into a true dialogue with others.

Christ, the Light of the World has entered into our darkness. As with the prophet Samuel, he calls each of us by name. The voice of God that sounded in Samuel’s heart echoes in ours. When the youth heard his name, he promptly jumped up and said, “Here I am!” The Lord calls out to us at every moment of our lives. Sadly, the voice is there but often we do not listen. Abraham Heschel wrote: “In our own lives, the voice of God speaks slowly, a syllable at a time. Reaching the peak of years, dispelling some of our intimate illusions, and learning how to spell the meaning of life-experiences backward, some of us discover how the scattered syllables form a single phrase. Those who know that this life of ours takes place in a world that is not all to be explained in human terms; that every moment is a carefully concealed act of His creation, cannot but ask: is there anything wherein His voice is not suppressed? Is there anything wherein His creation is not concealed?” (God in Search of Man, p. 174)

In times of doubt and suffering, Christians must not focus on their problems but instead lift up their eyes to God, who leads them toward the hopeful promise of great things to come. If we answer God’s call, then God will be with us as a partner in inaugurating his kingdom of love, justice, and peace. Whatever communion that exists among us begins with the call of Christ. Those who respond to the Lord’s call are united in an unbreakable bond of love. Those who come to Christ must come with a fixed resolution to be firm and constant to him, like a stone, solid, and steadfast. In one of his most famous sermons, Loving Your Enemies, Dr. King preached: “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” May God be our guide on the path of understanding and compassion, towards justice and peace.