A reflection on the readings for Sunday, January 14, 2024 — The Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
We have all seen photos of ourselves when we were younger. Many of us who are younger have even had the opportunity to see videos of ourselves as children.
Look at how we have all grown!
These glimpses of old memories provide us with perfect opportunities to reflect on the directions our lives are taking. But right now — without photos — let’s briefly remember our childhoods. Those moments that made us stronger and those moments in which we carried crosses. Let’s travel to the past in order to remember events that have marked us. Each of us has had a unique journey in life.
Looking back on our journeys, let’s ask ourselves, “What has happened in my spiritual life?”; “What has been my relationship with God?”; “When have I moved closer or further away from him?”
We may not have physical photos of our spiritual lives, but we can still see our journey as we reflect on it. Some of us see times when we were far from God, and God called us to come closer to him — to the church, to a new life. Or perhaps our relationship with God was always palpable from the beginning, but through trials and virtues, God himself has strengthened us.
Today in our liturgical calendar we are beginning Ordinary Time, which will continue until Ash Wednesday. The readings for this day invite us to reflect on the theme of God’s call on our lives. A couple of weeks ago it was still Christmas time — the child was born! Last week was the feast of the Epiphany where we reflected on the Magi from the East who found the child and recognized in him the promised messiah. Today, we see that that child has grown up. It is time for him to begin his mission.
Today’s readings make us reflect on our own call to become disciples of Jesus. This message begins with our first reading, where Samuel is called to be a prophet of God and continues in the gospel reading when Jesus himself calls the brothers Andrew and Peter.
Let us consider two points within this message.
How God calls each of us differently
The first point is that the call occurs in different ways. For Samuel, his vocation comes through the voice of God himself in the calmness of the night: “The LORD called to Samuel, who answered, ‘Here I am.’” Yet for Peter and Andrew it was different. Their call to mission began in the regular daily routine of life:
Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them,
“What are you looking for?”
They said to him, “Rabbi” — which translated means Teacher —,
“where are you staying?”
He said to them, “Come, and you will see.”
So they went and saw where Jesus was staying,
and they stayed with him that day.
Later, Jesus looked at one of the brothers and said,
“You are Simon the son of John;
you will be called Cephas” — which is translated Peter.
Samuel received his call in the middle of the night; Andrew and Peter in the middle of the day. Samuel received his call while everyone was asleep; Andrew and Peter received it while everyone was busy. Samuel received his call once everything was silent; Andrew and Peter received it while society was busy at work.
Furthermore, God enters Samuel’s heart through a supernatural event, a mysterious voice that came from “I don’t know where.” But with Andrew and Peter, God enters through human interaction. God calls us in different ways because we are different. Each of us has a different vocation; we each have a different path to follow. We have to be careful not to fall into the temptation of wanting to mold people’s lives to our own personal standards or according to what I think the Church should be or how life itself should be lived. We are each different, with different challenges, with different gifts, with different orientations, with different abilities. God calls us all, just in different ways.
Answering the call plants the seed for our vocation
Our second point to consider is that, in both cases, the vocation began to take root after the encounter with God. In the first reading, Samuel did not see God physically but when he gave himself to him (“Here I am Lord, I have come to do your will”), his vocation could begin to flourish. Likewise, Jesus’ invitation to Peter and Andrew comes with an encounter: “Come and see.” Samuel, Andrew, and Peter were in different places, at different times, in different emotional and spiritual situations. But God stops in both cases and allows himself to be found.
For this reason, every time we hold back and do not respond to God’s call, we are in a certain way delaying that encounter that will make our vocation give fruit. We forget that every call is the result of God’s love for us. If we allow ourselves to be guided, if we dare to respond to God’s mission, the relationship will transform us. We must take into account that God’s call makes us more human because we assume the identity for which God created us. The same thing happens in the reality of others. When we take an attitude of blocking others’ access to God — through what the Church itself offers, through sacramentals, through a blessing, or through a welcoming attitude — we interfere with the plan that God has for that person.
In the same way we want to share the news of a milestone in our life, such as a graduation, those who have experienced the love of God want to help others to experience it as well. This is where one becomes a witness. We are called to be missionary disciples, not judges, who preach the wonders of God to others.
Father Bernardo Lara is a priest of the Diocese of San Diego and pastor of three Southern California parishes: Sacred Heart and St. Margaret Mary in Brawley and St. Joseph in Westmorland.