The Second Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

What are you looking for?

That’s the question Jesus asks us today, and it’s a good one.  For the disciples who were checking him out, I think it took them aback somewhat.  They weren’t expecting that and they honestly didn’t have a great answer.  So instead they do what Jesus usually does and they answer the question with another question!  “Rabbi, where are you staying?”  And very cryptically, Jesus answers by saying, “Come and you will see.”  That’s a wonderful line, so bookmark it for just a second.

Here we are, essentially just beginning the regular part of the new year of the Church.  We’ve been through Advent and the Christmas season, we’ve celebrated Epiphany, Jesus has been baptized in the River Jordan by his cousin Saint John the Baptist, and now it’s time to get on with the ministry he came to do.  So as he moves on, he begins to attract disciples, particularly those who had been followers of Saint John the Baptist.  Most likely, they were there when Jesus was baptized and they experienced the wonders of that moment: when the Father spoke from the heavens and the Holy Spirit descended like a dove.  That had to be amazing!  My guess is they would have wanted to get to know Jesus a little better.

And so that’s what brings them to the place we are today.  Where are you staying?  Come and you will see.  And see they do.  They recruit Simon Peter, and he joins the group.  Together they will see the sick healed, the paralyzed get up and walk, the leprous cleaned, the possessed set free.  They will see thousands fed by a few loaves and fish.  They will see Jesus’ transfiguration.  But they won’t just see glory, will they?  They will see suffering and death, and will then see resurrection.  After that, they will see what Jesus saw in them – their ability to become the Church and spread the Gospel.

But at that moment, they had no idea what they would see when they chose to follow Jesus.  Just like they had no idea how to answer Jesus’ question, they had no idea what to expect from their relationship with him.  To find out where they were going to be led, they really did have to take him up on his invitation to “Come and see.”

Which is where we are today, on this first, “ordinary” Sunday of the Church year.  And I’m going to ask you all to pray over this in the week ahead: “What are you looking for?”  What do you hope to see in this new year?  What are your dreams for your spiritual life?  How would you want God to work in your life right now?

For me, I’m looking forward to seeing Deacon Ryan ordained to the priesthood, and Mike Perkins ordained as a permanent Deacon.  I’m looking forward to seeing how some of our ministries develop, the fruits of doing some things in our school and religious education programs, and beginning to develop a parish council.  I’m looking forward to receiving some new people into the Church at Easter and throughout the year.  I’m looking forward to celebrating several marriages this year, along with First Communions and Confirmations.  I’m looking forward to seeing how God will continue to work in my life and develop my ministry.  But I know it won’t all be glory: I’ll have to celebrate funerals and say goodbye to some wonderful people.  I’ll have to make hard decisions about our budget and prioritize ministries.  Just like all of your families, there are tough decisions to be made in the running of a parish.

But I wouldn’t change it for the world.  And I look forward to the journey.  Sometimes things might not happen fast enough for my liking, or maybe they won’t happen in the way I would choose, but I know that along the way, I’ll see more of God’s grace, and that’s worth the ride all in itself.

So I’ll put this back in your court again: What are you looking for?  Whatever it is, Jesus answers, “Come, and you will see.”

Friday of the Thirty-first Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

Today, the psalmist rejoices at having reached the house of the Lord: “And now we have set foot within your gates, O Jerusalem,” he prays.  That reminds me that, in those days, a journey was a serious undertaking.  One didn’t just hop in the car and get to church in five or ten minutes.  The journey to the temple in Jerusalem was probably a long one, on rough, dusty roads, in difficult weather, mostly on foot although one might have ridden an animal.  It was difficult and would take a long time.  For those looking forward to a pilgrimage to the temple, the expectation was probably palpable, and so we can understand the psalmist singing with joy as he arrives – finally! – in that holy place.

The psalmists goal was the temple in Jerusalem.  Our goal is the heavenly city, the new Jerusalem, promised to us by our God as a place where there will be no more mourning or pain, but only basking in the light of the Lord.  Our journey to get there is also long and difficult.  We have to make our way along difficult roads, with all kinds of pitfalls, many obstacles, and much that would keep us from attaining our goal.  We may get frustrated with our slow progress, or even the many times when we lose our footing and end up in places where we’d rather not be.  Sin and frailty seem to claw at us, dragging us down yet again.

But the goal is always there, and we have our lives to travel that long and winding road.  We yearn for the courts of the house of the Lord just as much as did the psalmist.  We entrust our goal to God’s hands and pray to be open to the grace that he alone can give us to guide us safely there.  Progress along the way may seem slow, but there is progress, and one day, we will get to sing with that psalmist in the new Jerusalem, as we all go rejoicing together to the house of the Lord.