Father David's Reflection for Sunday of Week Two (Ordinary Time)
THE SECOND SUNDAY OF THE YEAR A
“A Light to the Nations”
Seeing and Being the Light of Peace
To what do you look for peace, both in your heart and in your world? Or have you concluded that there is no use looking at all?
The Entrance Antiphon invites us and “all the earth” to “break into song.” Inspired by what? The answer is “your name, O God, Most High.” What puts music on our lips is the desire to give God “worship and praise.”
The Opening Prayer tells us that our Father’s “watchful care reaches from end to end.” He is present to everything that happens. And he “orders all things in such power that even the tensions and tragedies of sin cannot frustrate [his] loving plans.” Is this a reason to “break into song” and give God “worship and praise”?
Because we believe it is, we have enough faith — and hope — to ask God to “show us the way to peace in the world.” And to show it to others through us: “Give us the strength to follow your call” — to live out what we believe — “so that your truth may live in our hearts,” and be seen in our actions, and “reflect peace” to all who “believe in your love.”
In the Prayer over the Gifts we recognize the role Eucharist plays in this: when we “celebrate the Eucharist” we “proclaim the death of the Lord.” We publicize the love he showed on the cross, the unconditional, self-sacrificing love that is the only way to true peace in the world. When we celebrate Mass we make him present, expressing his love. In this way the Father “continues the work of his redemption.”
In the Prayer after Communion we recognize the Father, Son and Spirit working together: “You [the Father] have nourished us with bread from heaven [Jesus, the Son]. Fill us with your Spirit, and make us one in peace and love.”
“May all the earth give you worship and praise, O God Most High.”
Light to the Nations
In Isaiah 49: 3-6 God says that through his servant “I will show my glory.” Whomever Isaiah meant, we apply this to Jesus and to the Church; that is, to ourselves. God wants us to be “made glorious in the sight of the Lord.” Of us he says, “I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” 1
To this we respond with: “Here am I, Lord. I come to do your will.” As his servants we say, “He put a new song into my mouth,” and his “law is within my heart.” Because of the light, the truth his word reveals to us, each of us says, “I did not restrain my lips, as you, O Lord, know” (Responsorial, Psalm 40).
We know we are sent to be “a light to the nations,” so that, enlightened by the Good News and the words of God, “all the earth will give you worship and praise, O God Most High.”
If we absorb his words, believe what we read, and live out what we believe, then God’s truth will live in our hearts, and be seen in our actions. We will “reflect peace” to all who believe or can be brought to believe in God’s love. Isaiah’s prophecy will be fulfilled: “They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.” Is the prospect of this enough to make us “break into song to your name, O God Most High”? 2
“Come and See”
In John 1: 29-34 John the Baptizer testifies that he “saw the Spirit descending [on Jesus] from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him.” It was because of this that he was able to say, “Now I have seen for myself and have testified, ‘This is the Son of God.’”
Can you give that same testimony? And give it because you have “seen for yourself” who Jesus is? When John the Evangelist bore witness to Jesus, he said:
We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life....
This is the only witness that is credible — to others or to ourselves. To those who want to know him, Jesus says, “Come and see.” 3
“All right, fine. How do we do that?”
Obviously, we have never seen Jesus in the flesh. And most of us have never had a vision like St. Paul (who also never saw Jesus in the flesh). But that doesn’t mean we haven’t seen him. And heard him. And been touched by him.
What made Paul’s vision real on the road to Damascus was not the “bright light” or the “voice from heaven,” or even being struck blind. It was the gift of interior enlightenment. The Acts account does not even say Paul “saw” Jesus in a vision. But he met him, and he knew who he was, and he bore witness for the rest of his life to what he knew and felt and heard. We can encounter Jesus and know him in the same way. And his self-revelation to us does not have to be dramatic.4
In the Second Vatican Council the Church spoke of a real presence of God in the reading of Scripture:
The Church has always venerated the divine Scriptures just as she venerates the body of the Lord, since from the table of both the word of God and of the body of Christ she unceasingly receives and offers to the faithful the bread of life, especially in the sacred liturgy.
In the liturgy God speaks to his people and Christ is still proclaiming his Gospel.
In the sacred books the Father who is in heaven meets his children with great love and speaks with them.5
The encounter with Jesus, and with the Father and Spirit, that we have in reading God’s words in Scripture is just as real as the encounter Paul had on the road to Damascus. And much more reliable than any private vision of him that we might experience. When God reveals himself to us this way, we are able to declare with certitude “what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes,” and been touched by in our heart. We have seen and we can testify, “This is the word of life.”
If you don’t believe this, the Lord says, “Come and see.” Pick up the Bible and get absorbed in it. Give God’s words time to grow on you and grow in you. The day will come when you will have no doubt that you have been enlightened by God. Don’t expect it tomorrow, but work for it today — and every day. You have to persevere until you know.
“Called to be holy…”
Does it shock you to hear that Jesus Christ — and the Father and Spirit — will speak to you personally through their inspired word? Does it shock you o hear Jesus saying in John’s Gospel, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them”? Or “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come”? These words were not meant just for the Twelve apostles; they were Christ’s parting promise to all who would be joined to him in grace.
We know God as the One who created all things by his word, identified himself as the Word made flesh, and his “sheep” as those who “listen to my voice”; who urged us to “let my words abide in you,” spent his time on earth verbally “teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom,” and promised that although “heaven and earth pass away, my words will not pass away.” Why, then, do we insist on treating him as someone who does not want to communicate with us any more? Why do we consider it a marvel when he does? 6
In 1 Corinthians 1: 1-3 Paul addressed the Christian community as “you who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be holy.” Does that shock you? Do you think of yourself as “called to be holy”? As “sanctified”? But that is, literally, the Gospel truth of what you are. Why, then, should it surprise you to hear that God will speak to you through his words when you read them, give you the light you need to understand them and the love you need to put them into practice?
Re-read what was quoted above about the Liturgy of the Word. The Church believes that the word of God:
• enlightens the faithful through the working of the Holy Spirit;
• moves the heart and its desires toward conversion and
• toward a life resplendent with both individual and community faith.
Can God do that without talking to us!?
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
What do you know you have seen, heard and felt from God in reading his word?
Decide to make the word of God as much a part of your life as water, food and air. Be as specific about your time for reading Scripture as you are about meal times.
1 The four songs of the “Suffering Servant” are Isaiah 42:1-4; 49:1-6; 50:4-9; and 52:13 to 53:12. The Servant’s identity is disputed. It could be collective (e.g. Israel as a whole) or individual. The New Testament applies it to Jesus (Acts 3:13; Matthew 3:17, 8:17, 12:18; Luke 22:37). “The identification of Jesus with the Servant is best attributed to Jesus Himself. The title and the conception... permitted Him to assume a role which fell into none of the existing categories of charismatic leader and savior.... The identity of the Servant and Israel is paralleled by the identity of Jesus and the Church. Jesus is the Servant who brings Israel to fullness. He is the true and perfect ‘corporate personality,’ one with the Church which is his body.... the Servant who suffers in his own person and who sanctifies the sufferings of the group which he represents.” See J. McKenzie, S.J., Dictionary of the Bible.
2 Isaiah 11:9.
3 1 John 1:1; John 1:39.
4 Acts 9:3-9. And see Galatians 1:10-19.
5 Vatican II, “Liturgy,” no. 33; “Revelation,” no. 21.
6 John 14:23;16:13; Psalm 95:7; John 1:14; 10:14-16; Matthew 4:23, 24:35.