The Call to Follow Jesus

Homily for the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time | Year B | Holy Trinity Catholic Church |January 14, 2024

The Call to Follow Jesus
1 Sam 3:3b-10,19; 1 Cor 6:13c-15a, 17-20; John 1:35-42

As this new liturgical year begins, we are presented once again with the original “call to follow Jesus.” In the Gospel reading we hear the call of Andrew and his brother Peter to follow the Messiah. In the second reading we hear the call to Holiness…the call to personal holiness is the fundamental call of all believers. In the first reading we hear the call of the prophet Samuel to listen carefully to the voice of God. “Speak Lord…your servant is listening.” The overall theme of all the readings is that WE are being called anew right now to follow Christ more faithfully.

Let’s look at the call of Peter and Andrew. John the Baptist is standing with two of his disciples, one of whom we are told is Andrew. John the Baptist points to Jesus and says: “Behold the Lamb of God.” (the Altar Call at every Mass) So, Andrew and another follower of John take off in pursuit of Jesus. Jesus sees these two men following Him, and asks what do you want? More precisely: “What are you looking for?” The same question could be asked of us: What are we looking for? Why exactly did you come to Church today? Wise men still seek Him. The answer to this question will determine your destiny. There was a popular song by the group U2, from 1987:

“I have climbed highest mountains, I have run through the fields, Only to be with you, only to be with you. But I still… haven’t found…what I’m looking for.”

“Where are you staying?” was the disciple’s next question. “Come, and you will see,” Jesus said. Jesus invites them to become his disciples. So they went, and they saw, and they stayed with him that day. The first point I’d like to make is that the call to follow Jesus is first of all a call to abide with Jesus. To STAY with Him.

A little story to illustrate the importance of staying. In the book, No Bad Dogs, British dog trainer Barbara Woodhouse says dogs understand love better than people do. She writes, “In a dog’s mind, a master or a mistress to love, honor, and obey is an absolute necessity. Love is dormant in the dog until brought into full bloom by an understanding owner. Thousands of dogs appear to love their owners, they welcome them home with enthusiastic wagging of the tail and jumping up, they follow them about their houses happily and, to the normal person seeing the dog, the affection is true and deep. But to the experienced dog trainer this outward show is not enough. The true test of love takes place when the dog has got the opportunity to go out on its own, as soon as the door is left open by mistake, and it goes off and often doesn’t return home for hours. That shows that the dog loves only its home comforts and the attention it gets from its family; it doesn’t truly love the master or mistress as they fondly think. True love in dogs is apparent when a door is left open, and the dog still stays happily within earshot of its owner. For the owner must be the be-all and end-all of a dog’s life.”

The real measure of our discipleship is not to be seen in our work or activity, or our knowledge of doctrine. It is found in our desire to remain with God. When we have an opportunity to wander away, to disobey, to leave His presence, do we choose instead to stay close to Him? Do we stay with Jesus when we are home? Do we stay with Jesus when we are at work? Do we stay with Jesus on Friday and Saturday night? “Stay with me” is the first step in discipleship. Always remain in a state of grace.

The call to follow Jesus is also a call to personal holiness. The second reading helps amplify this message. St. Paul says to the Corinthians: “Avoid immorality.” “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?” “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you?” Paul calls everyone who follows Jesus to “Glorify God in your body.” Corinth was notorious for its sexual immorality. Avoiding immorality is a fundamental call for every Christian.

By the way, immorality should never be confused with immortality. The second reading says the body was not made for immorality. The body Was made for immorTality, NOT immoRality. Try to keep that straight. (1:Cor 15:53) Morality means right conduct…conduct that is reasonable and proper. In case you hadn’t noticed, the morality of the culture we live in is radically different from the morality that Christ calls us to. The Bible and the Church teach that marital acts are only morally right when people are married. Period. Any sexual activity outside of marriage “misses the mark.” Did you know the word sin literally means to miss the mark? Sin was originally an archery term. To sin was to miss the target. The target for glorifying God with your body is a faithful and fruitful (God willing) marriage between a man and a woman. Don’t let any recent news reports about the blessing gay marriages deceive you. The rules and doctrines or marriage have not changed. The news recently has been very misleading. First read the actual document, then come see me if you still have questions. In our culture, the Church’s morality is considered archaic, impossible, even just plain wrong, and no one said it would be easy. To obey moral law requires both self-discipline and supernatural grace. Nonetheless, sexual morality is still a key component in the call to follow Christ.

Finally, we have God’s call to Samuel in the first reading. Samuel was the prophet who anointed King David. What we have here is the story of Samuel as a young boy hearing Gods voice for the very first time ever. “Samuel was sleeping in the temple of the Lord where the Ark of God was.” Notice Samuel is in the Temple very near to the Ark when God spoke to him. We have opportunity to come near to the Ark or true presence God in the tabernacle when we come here to Church. God is still present in the tabernacle, in the Eucharist, in adoration. If we want to hear God’s call in our life, maybe we just need to come closer like little Samuel. You can’t sleep here, however. Sorry. At first young Samuel does not recognize Gods voice. He thinks Eli, the older prophet, is calling Him. “I did not call you, go back to sleep, Eli says.” From this learn it may take time to recognize God’s voice in our lives. Are we able to distinguish Gods’ voice from all the noise pollution and false testimony that is out there? The third time God called; Samuel finally knew what to do. “Speak, for your servant is listening.” He said to God. This sums up very well the attitude we need to have to be a follower of Jesus “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.” We will never hear his call if we don’t stay, and pray, and listen.

Going back to the Gospel, after Andrew went and told His brother “We have found the Messiah.” Jesus said: “You are Simon…you will be called Cephas”–which is translated Peter. Cephas, Peter, both mean the same thing: ROCK. The message for us is this: When we find Jesus, we find what we are truly looking for…our true selves…Our vocation in life…Our purpose and identity. The call to follow Jesus is the call to be the person God made us to be.

May God help us respond to the call of Christ: The call to stay with Him, the call to personal holiness, and the call to listen attentively to hear the call of His voice and to do His will.

―Fr. James Glass