NEW BEGINNINGS

1 Samuel 3:3-10, 19;
Psalm 40;
1 Cor. 6:13-15, 17-20;
John 1:35-42

It is fitting that the readings of this Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, in the first weeks of 2021, speak of “firsts” and “new beginnings.” The young boy Samuel, while asleep in the temple, hears the Lord’s voice for the first time and thus begins his prophetic mission. Andrew meets Jesus for the first time and begins to follow him, later to become one of his Twelve Apostles. Today’s readings urge us to hear, encounter, and obey the word of the Lord.

FIRST BOOK OF SAMUEL

In the two verses immediately preceding today’s selection, we are told that “the word of the Lord was rare in those days and there was no widespread revelation” (1 Sam. 3:1). So when Samuel hears his name called in the night, he thought it was the priest Eli who was summoning him. This happens three times before Eli realizes that it must be the Lord who was calling Samuel. Eli tells the boy to respond with those now-famous words: “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”

Psalm 40, the Responsorial, is a favorite psalm of mine and I try to pray it often. I especially love the verse, “To do your will, O my God, is my delight, and your law is within my heart.” This reinforces the whole point of the first reading, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening…here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.”

GOSPEL

Our gospel today presents Andrew as a disciple of John the Baptist, which was something like a novitiate in preparation for his subsequent calling to be a disciple of Jesus. He is the model and example of a true disciple, immediately following Jesus after John the Baptist pointed him out as the Lamb of God. Andrew is also the model of an evangelistic and apostolic Christian; his first impulse is to want to introduce his brother Simon to Jesus.

We also see the humility and detachment of John the Baptist. John indicates that Jesus is the Lamb of God and then releases his disciples to follow Jesus.

Today’s gospel is one of invitation: “What are you looking for?…Come and you will see.” This is a new beginning for Jesus as he meets with his first disciples. It is a new beginning for Andrew, as he begins to spend time with Jesus. And it’s a new beginning for Simon, who has his name changed to Cephas, Peter, (Rock). May the gospel likewise bring about a new beginning in our lives as well.

FIRST CORINTHIANS

We’re back to another “third rail” again! A few weeks ago, I referred to the electrified third rail of a subway line. The “third rail” has come to mean any topic or issue that is so electrified that no one wants to get near it. That exactly describes today’s second reading concerning sexual immorality. Homilists generally don’t want to deal with it.

St. Paul, however, had no such fear or hesitation about warning against sexual sin in his epistles (cf. 1 Cor. 6 9-11; Rom. 1:26-32; Gal. 5:21; Col. 3:5; 1 Thess. 4:3-8; 1 Tim. 1:10). Several times he states that “fornicators and adulterers will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Today’s passage says: “Avoid immorality. Every other sin a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral person sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have received from God, and that you are not your own?”

It is interesting that this reading occurs at the start of a brand new calendar year. To avoid sexual immorality, however, is more than just a good New Year’s resolution – it’s a matter of eternal salvation!

SPEAK LORD…COME AND YOU WILL SEE

Today we hear how the Lord called Samuel and invited Andrew. Samuel responded, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” Andrew responded, “Where do you stay?”

May our new year mark a new beginning with the Lord even as Samuel and Andrew both experienced. Let us resolve to listen more closely to his word and resolve to spend more time with him in prayer. Most importantly, however, let us resolve to do his will, obey his word, and keep his commandments.

“To do your will, O my God, is my delight and your law is written in my heart” (Psalm 40:8).


Al Mansfield