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Do you know Him?

January 15, 2017

A reflection for the 2nd Sunday, Ordinary Time, Year A. The readings are Isaiah 49:3, 5-6, Psalm 40, 1 Corinthians 1:1-3 and John 1:29-34.

“I did not know him” says John the Baptist! Imagine, John the Baptist, the relative of Jesus; his cousin, maybe, says that he didn’t know him! And he says it twice! I suppose it’s possible that he really didn’t know him, that they were distant cousins, but a different translation (that I prefer) says, “I didn’t recognize him.” It’s like they’d known each other all their lives… 30 years; they saw each other at all family get-togethers and maybe spent a few summers together; they were cousins…. And John did not recognize Jesus as the Messiah. It’s like your little niece who you remember to be so shy and quiet and next thing you know she’s all grown up and she’s class valedictorian and goes to Law School and now she’s running for Prime Minister. Wow! I didn’t know her. No idea.

Two questions I want to ask you today: Do you know Jesus? We know a lot about Jesus, but do you know Him like you know your best friend or your spouse? And if not, what has to happen in your life so that you can know him?
For all of us, something has to happen so that we can, first recognize him, and then know him.

In the first reading, we hear from Isaiah who we know had a vision of God (Is 6) and then an angel touched his mouth with a hot, burning coal. Isaiah responded, “Here I am, Lord, send me.” Clearly, Isaiah recognized God. in today’s reading Isaiah is writing about an obscure character that is referred to as the “suffering servant.” No one really knows who Isaiah was writing about – about himself? About the People of Israel? The Church, of course, interprets this “suffering servant” as the Messiah, Jesus Christ. But see – for so many years, no one knows who this suffering servant is. They don’t recognize him.

On the other hand, this very suffering servant, he himself knows God so well, so intimately, that he can say that God strength is his strength and that God’s light shines through him. Do you know God so well that you can say that God’s strength is your strength and that His light radiates through you?

In the second reading we also hear about another obscure figure: Sosthenes. Paul writes that this letter is sent from him and from “our brother Sosthenes”. Sosthenes appears twice in the New Testament. Once in this introduction to the 1st letter to the Corinthians. The other time is in chapter 18 of the Book of Acts. Sosthenes was the leader of the Synagogue in Corinth when Paul was there. The previous leader of the Synagogue had converted and Paul was preaching to the Gentiles (he was in Corinth for over a year). One day there was a mob of Jews and they grabbed Paul and took him to the Roman Governor  Gallio. But Gallio said that this was not a government matter but a private religious matter so he set Paul free. The mob in anger then turns to Sosthenes, the new Jewish leader, and they beat him up. So, at some point, Sosthenes was the Jewish leader who was against Paul but then later on Paul refers to him as “my brother.” Something changed. Something changed and he recognized Jesus Christ.

Scripture tells us that God knows you from your mother’s womb. He knows you. He wants to have an intimate relationship with you. What has to happen to you so that you can recognize him and so you can know him? Does an angel have to come and touch your mouth with a burning coal? Do you have to get beaten up? Do you have to see the Holy Spirit descend like a dove?

We can sit there and go about our busy lives, working, eating, making money, waiting and for God to make the first move or we can begin to reach out to Him; begin opening our hearts to Him so He can reveal Himself to us.

I am going to remind you of all the things we should be doing so that we can be ready to recognize Him – so that we can know Him:

1- Prayer: Are you praying every day? You should be spending between 30 minutes to an hour every day in prayer – in the car, in your room, in 5-minute increments… doesn’t matter, as long as you set space and time aside to do this. When you pray, is it only prayers that you’ve memorized or do you speak your heart? And do you spend time listening in quiet? Christ is present when we call upon His name.

2-Scripture: Part of our prayer should include time reading or listening to Scripture. Every day, a little bit of Scripture: read it, study it, pray with it. Christ is present in His Word.

3- Sacraments: Christ is made present to us in a special way in the Sacraments, especially in the Sacrament of the Eucharist and in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. You can receive those Sacraments every day. They’re free. Go to daily Mass when you can; go to Eucharistic Adoration. Pop in for 5 minutes on your way home from work or on your way to work – stay for 10 minutes. Come to Mass 10 minutes early and sit here quietly.

4-Parish/Church life: We are a community of believers. We help each other on our way to Heaven. When you go to Mass stay a bit afterward. Talk to someone. Go to parish events. And not just in your parish, but also with other Christian communities. Next week is the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Christ is present when people gather in His name.

5-Service/charity: Christ is present in the poor, the marginalized, the discarded, the homeless. Make a point of reaching out to that homeless person you see every morning on the way to work; reach out to the annoying person at work or at school. This Sunday is the World Day of Prayer for Migrants and Refugees. Pray for them, yes, but also reach out to them. Do something.

And, maybe lastly, don’t beat yourself if you struggle with this. If you haven’t recognized him or you haven’t had a deep and meaningful personal encounter; Paul, John the Baptist… they also didn’t recognize him at first; you’re in good company! (if you remember, when John the Baptist is in prison towards the end of his life, he sends his disciples to ask Jesus if h really is the one: He still doesn’t know!)

God is already in your life. Look for him. Look around you right now. Open your heart. Reach out to Him. When you recognize Him, proclaim it to others, like the Baptist: “There is the Lamb of God!” When you come to know Him, I believe you’ll really get to know yourself and you’ll be able to say, “Here I am, Lord: send me!”

Image: Behold the Lamb of God Icon by Peter Murphy.

From → English, Reflections

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