January 15, 2017

A HOMILY FOR THE SECOND SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME – CYCLE “A” –  1/15/17  –  SMG

+ Pax et Bonum!    Peace and goodness to you this day!

I would suppose that most of us have needed a recommendation or a referral before, for some reason.  Many times this comes in the form of a request for a Letter of Recommendation.  And today, people need letters of recommendation for schools, for scholarships, for jobs, and even for different social organizations.  There are even some parishes that ask for a letter of recommendation from the pastor of a family’s previous parish, before they will let them register in the new parish.  Once, I went to buy a pair of really good walking shoes, and I needed a letter from my doctor, in order to buy them.  Probably, the most important letters of recommendation that I’ve ever needed, were the ones that I needed when I was joining the seminary.  And one of those that was required, had to come from one of my high school teachers.  Now, my favorite high school teacher, was my history teacher, Mr. David Lehnis.  It was very easy to decide that he was the one who I wanted to write my letter of recommendation for the Diocese.  But I was very much afraid to ask him.  What if he said no?  What if he laughed at the idea of my becoming a priest?  What if he said he didn’t know what to write?  Then what would I do?  Then who would I ask?  I was very nervous about this.  It was like asking a pretty girl out on a date!  So one day, after school, I worked up all my nerve and I went into Mr. Lehnis’s classroom, and I asked if I could speak to him for just a few minutes, and then I got so nervous, that all that would come out of my mouth, “Do you think that there was any way that the South could have won the Civil War?”  Now, I didn’t want to talk about the Civil War.  Mr. Lehnis probably didn’t want to talk about the Civil War either.  But that was the question that came flying out of mouth that afternoon.  It was a very awkward encounter between teacher and student who actually got along very well.  What was worse, the next day, I had to go back in, apologize for my fear and anxiety, and actually ask for the letter of recommendation that I needed.  It was like going to Confession again, right after you just went to Confession.  Mr. Lehnis did give me the letter, by the way.  I’m not always exactly sure why!

Today we come to Mass, and as we head into Ordinary Time, St. John the Evangelist has St. John the Baptist give Jesus his reference and referral.  John the Baptist doesn’t write a letter.  But the John the Baptist does have a lot to say about his cousin, Jesus.  The Baptist gives us a credible and trustworthy reference.  John the Baptist was well-respected.  Today he boldly proclaims the truth that Jesus is the Savior.

In this Gospel text,  John the Baptist does this in three distinct ways:  First, he refers to Jesus as the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.  John is immediately making a connection for the Jewish people, and also for the Judeo-Christians Church, who hear and read these words, that make a connection with the Passover, and saving blood of the lamb from the Exodus.  This is the testimony that the Baptist gives that Jesus is the bearer of forgiveness!  John sees Jesus as the liberator whose self-sacrifice will bring true freedom from sin to all of God’s children.  Secondly, John the Baptist speaks of Jesus as the One who comes after him, but Who ranks ahead of him, because He existed before him.  God has given John the Baptist special knowledge that lets him see Jesus’ divinity and God’s plan, way before anybody else.  And finally, John the Baptist refers to the event that we just celebrated this past week, and at which John the Baptist was a pivotal player, and that is the Baptism of the Lord.  John can say  with complete and total conviction that he heard the voice of the Father and saw the outpouring of the Holy Spirit there at the Jordan River that day.  He was an eyewitness!  This is one extraordinary reference!

So, we hear this today.  What’s the point for us?  Shouldn’t John the Baptist’s reference and referral give all of us the confidence to really believe that Jesus is truly who He claims to be?  This reference gets confirmed over and over again in the lives of the Saints over the past two-thousand years!  Even today in our second reading, it is St. Paul also giving reference to Jesus, when he describes Him as the sanctifier and Lord.  But as with all references, I suppose they can only bring us so far.  In many ways, they are really second-hand knowledge, or hear say.

We must also have our own personal, intimate knowledge of Christ, found only in our own life of Faith and service, with which we can truly, and personally, witness to what we believe and know about Jesus Christ.  His story has to be as real to us, as it was to St. John The Baptist!

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And do you know why?  It is because the reference, the referral, that we give to Jesus Christ this week, with our lives, has to be one that speaks from our hearts,  and gives honest witness to the difference that He has made in our lives!  In 2017, Jesus needs our recommendation.  There are too many people out there who don’t know Him.  And yet, how many of those people just might be intrigued by His story, by His life, if we just bore witness to it.  How many of them, might just ask, “How can I too, encounter the Lamb of God?”    Today, they aren’t going to be asking that of St. John the Baptist, or St. John the Evangelist, or St. Paul.  Today they are going to be asking that question of us!  Let’s make very sure, that today in 2017 we know the way to point to Jesus, Who is still the Lamb of God.  May we give Him the best of recommendatons!

+  God bless us this day,  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit…                                                    AMEN !!!

St. Maria Goretti…                                             Pray for us !!!