HOMILY FOR THE SECOND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR B
HOMILY THEME: WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR?
BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
A man was looking for the perfect wife. He wanted to find someone who was beautiful, kind, loving, and very religious. He found such a woman. But it did not work out. He said she was so religious that she could not easily relate to the practical things in life.
So he looked for someone else. He found one who was beautiful, kind, loving, intelligent, organized and practical in material affairs. He thought she was the perfect wife. But again it did not work out. She was so practical that she really did not need a man in her life, and she ended up being domineering. So he continued searching.
Then he found another woman. She was beautiful, kind, loving, intelligent, practical in material affairs, as well as very religious. At last, he thought, here is the perfect wife – a perfect balance of the practical and spiritual. But again, it did not work out – because she was also looking for the perfect husband!
John the Baptist told his two disciples about Jesus: “Behold, the Lamb of God!” At once they began following Jesus. And when Jesus saw them, he asked them: “What are you looking for?” At first, it may look like a simple question. But actually, it is profound and challenging. It invites one to look deeply into himself and evaluate the direction and the meaning of his life. Obviously, the two disciples did not get the full implication of the question because they replied with another question: “Rabbi, where are you staying?”
The rabbi during the time of Jesus was unlike the rabbi of today, who teaches mainly in synagogues. Back then, he was an itinerant preacher much like the prophets of old. He moves from place to place, teaching about the Scriptures and many important lessons from concrete realities in life. His disciples follow him wherever he goes and they imbibe his philosophy and way of life in the process. (see “Study Shows Jesus as Rabbi”, Roy B. Blizzard and David Bivin, biblescholars.org )
Hence, to ask where a rabbi lives is rather secondary and even immaterial. What really matters is being with him wherever he goes. That is why, instead of answering their question, Jesus replies with an invitation: “Come, and you will see” (v. 39). It is an invitation, not to a place of abode, but to a relationship, to be part of his life. “So they went and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day” (v. 39). That one day of experience inspires them so much that it radically transforms them, from being followers to evangelizers. One of them, Andrew, looks for his brother, Simon, and eagerly breaks the good news to him: “We have found the Messiah” (v. 41).
Every day the Lord invites us: “Come, follow me.” Like the two disciples, many of us would readily follow him. But he would invariably pose the same question: “What are you looking for?” As the great philosopher Aristotle wrote, “Those who wish to succeed must ask the right preliminary questions” (Metaphysics). And I believe this is one of the important preliminary questions we need to ask ourselves before seriously deciding to follow Jesus.
People follow Jesus for various reasons, depending on one’s idea about him. As Thomas Merton said, “Our idea of God tells us more about ourselves than about Him.” This has been adequately shown in the Gospels. Many see him as the great Healer. And so they follow him in order to be healed of their various ailments. Others acknowledge him as the one who teaches with authority. They follow him because they like to listen to his teachings. Still others admire him as the Miracle Worker and they want to witness his miracles. And some, like the Pharisees, consider him as enemy and threat to their authority and status. So, they follow him to catch him in his speech and have something to accuse him of.
This Sunday, therefore, Jesus asks us: “What you are looking for?” In other words, he wants to know why we are following him. This is a crucial question that has to be answered honestly in order to purify our motivations and intensify our commitment to follow him. Peter accurately responded: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of everlasting life.”
On this second Sunday, as we begin a new series of lessons from the Gospel, let us be clear about our motivations. We follow Jesus because we profess our firm belief in him as our Lord and God. We humbly acknowledge that without him, we are nothing, and we can do nothing. He is the reason for our being and existence. In him alone can we find fullness of life, happiness and salvation. Fully knowing this, we are strengthened and encouraged to face whatever challenges and trials life may give us. As Viktor E. Frankl said, “Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’” (Man’s Search for Meaning). It is only Jesus that makes our life meaningful and fruitful even in the midst of pain and suffering.
As we look around us, we see so many lost and wandering souls. They go through life looking for meaning and happiness in the world of drugs, vices, materialism and selfishness. Like St. John the Baptist, we have the duty to tell them about Jesus: “Behold, the Lamb of God!” And like St. Andrew, we must bring them to Jesus that they, too, may find the true meaning of life.
Admittedly, this is no easy task. People in modern society have become intoxicated with worldly pleasures and selfish ambitions that the Lord’s words fall on deaf ears and hardened hearts. Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI is fully aware of this. That is why he is calling for a “new evangelization.” He said that, “proclaiming Jesus Christ, the sole Savior of the world, is more complex today than in the past…” Hence, the Church’s message “needs to be renewed today in order to convince modern persons, who are often distracted and insensitive. That is why the new evangelization must find ways to make the proclamation of salvation more effective…” (Speech to members of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, May 30, 2011).
It is precisely with this “new evangelization” in mind that the Church has launched the “Year of Faith”, from October 11th, 2012 to November 24th, 2013. It coincided with the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council and the 20th anniversary of the publication of the new Catechism of the Catholic Church. According to the Pope’s Apostolic letter, “Porta Fidei”, the goal of this celebration is conversion and to re-discover faith, so that all members of the Church can become credible witnesses of truth. (ROME Reports TV News Agency, Jan. 07-12).
The world is in deep crisis. But this is not reason to fear and do nothing. Instead this is an opportunity for us to strengthen more than ever our faith in the abiding presence of Jesus Christ. And as Pope Benedict XVI told the young people gathered in Madrid, “Dear friends, may no adversity paralyze you. Be afraid neither of the world, nor of the future, nor of your weakness. The Lord has allowed you to live in this moment of history so that, by your faith, his name will continue to resound throughout the world.” (Homily of Pope Benedict XVI to the Youth in Madrid, 2011-08-21 Vatican Radio).
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish Palmera Springs 3, Susano Road Camarin, Novaliches, Caloocan City 1422