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St. Dorothy Catholic Community Orlando/Winter Park, Florida
2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings

First Samuel 3:3-10, 19

Psalms 40:2, 4, 7-8, 8-9, 10

First Corinthians 6:13-15, 17-20

John 1:35-42
2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Jan 17, 2021

History's great philosophers and religious leaders have given various answers to humanity's central question: What is the meaning of life? But only Jesus Christ has given us the complete answer. And he gives it in today's Gospel passage.

He is about thirty years old, and the time has come for him to leave behind his simple life as a carpenter in Nazareth and take up his public ministry of preaching to the crowds and training his twelve apostles.

And where does he go to find those apostles? To John the Baptist, who had been preparing his own disciples to recognize and welcome the Messiah. So, as Jesus walks along the bank of the River Jordan, John the Baptist points at him and tells his two disciples that he is the One, the Lamb of God, the Messiah.

John and Andrew can barely believe their ears; they decide to check out this new Rabbi. Jesus hears them approaching, turns around, looks them in the eye, and asks: "What are you looking for?"

It's the key question. In other words, where are you searching for meaning in your life?

Struck by the simplicity and warmth of Jesus' greeting, and maybe surprised by the question, they just say, "Teacher, where are you staying?" Maybe without realizing it, they have given the perfect answer: "Jesus, we are looking for you; we want to stay with you."

A smile spreads over Jesus' face, and he says to them, "Come, and you will see." He invites them to walk with him, to follow him, to be his companions - and that is Christ's answer to the question of life's meaning. The meaning of life is not a thing to be possessed, or an abstract doctrine to be understood. The meaning of life is a relationship to be lived out: it is a personal friendship with Jesus Christ.

Of course, since the meaning of life is a relationship, it doesn't depend just on us; it also depends on God's willingness to offer us his friendship. And today, he is reminding us that he is not only willing, but developing that friendship is his deepest desire!

Notice how personal God's call to Samuel is. It's so real, so human, so personalized, that Samuel keeps thinking that Eli is the one who's calling him. And Eli is someone who knows Samuel, someone Samuel knows, a close companion in life. That Samuel was able to confuse God's voice with Eli's shows just how personal and intimate God's offer of friendship was. God knows Samuel, through and through, and calls out to him not from far away, but from very near. 

This is how God calls each one of us.

In fact, God knows us even better than we know ourselves; he is "nearer than my nearest self" as St Augustine put it. In today's Gospel, when Jesus meets Simon, Andrew's brother, the future leader of the Twelve Apostles and of the whole Church, he actually gives him a new name. It's a way of calling him to the fullness of his identity, to fulfill the mission he was created for.

That's how God relates to each one of us - at least, that's how he wants to. The Catechism expresses this truth wonderfully. It says: "... at every time and in every place, God draws close to man ... God never ceases to draw man to himself." So on the one hand God is always coming close to us, and on the other hand he is always drawing us closer to him. This is Christ: a personal, interested, attentive, loving King who wants to befriend all his subjects
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If the meaning of life is to be found in friendship with Christ, then our highest priority in life should be to constantly deepen that friendship.

There are three essential ways to do this.

First, we have to gradually develop a mature life of prayer. Prayer involves saying prayers and asking for good things from God. But it also involves reading and meditating on Scripture and filling our hearts with gratitude for God's many gifts.

Second, we have to build our lives around the sacraments. When John the Baptist called Jesus the "Lamb of God," he was alluding to the Old Testament lamb sacrificed right before the Exodus from Egypt. The blood of that lamb saved the Israelites from slavery.

In New Testament times, that prophetic image is fulfilled in the Eucharist - the body and blood of the real sacrificial lamb, Christ himself, who saves us from sin. Adoring the Blessed Sacrament, receiving Holy Communion, and opening our hearts to God in being sorry and contrite for our wrong doings, anointing of the sick, and the other sacraments draws us deeper into that mystery of salvation by linking our lives more intimately with Christ's.

Third, to deepen our friendship with Christ we have to make God's will our first concern. One key aspect of friendship is wanting and liking the same things. Friendship with Christ, then, means wanting and working for whatever Christ wants and works for. Today's Psalm puts it beautifully: "Here I am, Lord, I come to do your will... To do your will, O my God, is my delight." And what does God's will include? The Ten Commandments, first of all, and loving our neighbor as ourselves.

Prayer, sacraments, and obedience to Christ's plan: these are the foundation stones of a meaningful life, a life anchored in heaven, where our friendship with Christ will reach its everlasting fulfillment.

Readings

Jonah 3:1-5, 10

Psalms 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9

First Corinthians 7:29-31

Mark 1:14-20
3rd Sunday in OT - January 24, 2021

Jesus' first words in the Gospel of Mark that we just heard proclaimed by Deacon Matt are mysterious. He tells us that the time of fulfillment has arrived, and he says, “Time’s up! God’s kingdom is here. "God’s Kingdom" is one of Christ's most frequently used phrases. He came to establish it; he rules it; and he taught us to pray constantly for its coming: "Your Kingdom come," we pray in the Our Father, "Your will be done." Clearly, we can be sure that this concept is central to Christ and Christianity.

In this initial announcement of the arrival of his Kingdom, Jesus gives us the first lesson about what it entails. After proclaiming that “Time’s up! God’s kingdom is here.” he adds, " Change your life and believe the Message.” And so, the "Kingdom of God" refers to wherever things are done God's way, wherever his will and his loving heart are allowed to guide people's lives.
To change your life means to stop doing things our own, selfish way, which is our default tendency ever since Adam and Eve poisoned human nature with original sin. And to believe in the Message means to trust that God's way, God's will, is always the best choice.
If we trust in the love, wisdom, and power of God, we will have the courage to fashion our lives according to his standards, the ones taught in Scripture and by the church as a whole. If we recognize our own ignorance, limitations, and selfish tendencies, we will have the necessary humility to change our lives. In other words, if we want to enter this Kingdom and share in its unequaled vitality and meaning, we simply need to trust in God more than other voices (at times, even our own) - over and over again.

This trust in God is never unreasonable, even though it is often difficult and hard to understand. Christ's encounter with his Apostles in today's Gospel is a good example. Jesus had a plan for Peter, Andrew, James, and John. He wanted them to join him in his mission of redeeming the world and conquering the forces of evil. He wanted them to become intimate friends of Abba God, to share the wisdom, joy, and purpose that comes only from that friendship, never from “This world as you see it, which, according to St. Paul in today's Second Reading, " is fading away.” But Jesus knew that he couldn't explain all this to them; it was too much for them to grasp.

And so, he simply invites them to follow him.

We know from the Gospel of John that this wasn't the first time he had met them. He had already spent time with them and let them get to know him; he even attended the wedding at Cana with them. He wasn't some fanatic unexpectedly demanding an irrational abandonment of family, career, and previous plans. No, Jesus built up a relationship of mutual knowledge and trust before he invited them to become his full-time disciples. And yet, he still asks them to give up their old ways, to leave behind their fishing nets, those nets which represented their livelihood, reputation, and stability.

John and James even leave behind their father and the family business. Why? Because they trusted Jesus; the Kingdom of God had begun to rule in their hearts. And what was the result? They became saints; they changed the course of history. They discovered a purpose, a wisdom, a joy, and a meaning far beyond what their nets and their family business ever could have given them - they entered the Kingdom of God.

Two crisis-situations can be especially challenging to our trust in Abba God. Reflecting on them before the crisis hits, we better prepare ourselves for when it does.

The first is the when someone we love is stricken with painful suffering. Our immediate reaction, besides feeling helpless and frustrated, is to wonder why an all-powerful and all-loving God would let this happen. In such times, theological explanations can help, if we have thought about them deeply beforehand.

Theologically, we know that God didn't invent evil. All evil flows from first sin, as tradition tells us, just like pollution poured into a stream at its source will affect the whole course of the waterway. But we also know that God is able to bring good out of evil, just as he brought the Resurrection out of the Crucifixion.

When we are faced by this kind of crisis, our best recourse is to kneel in front of a crucifix and pray. There we can also speak with Mary, whose own trust was sorely tested as she watched her innocent Son be humiliated, calumniated, tortured, and executed.

The second type of crisis that tests our trust is when God gives us a special vocation. When he called Jonah to be his messenger to Nineveh, at first Jonah ran the other way. When he called John and James, they had to leave behind their father and the family business. When God calls us to serve his people in a special way, through the priesthood or consecrated life, or through dedicating more time, talent, and treasure to God, it means putting our personal plans and preferences in second place.

That takes trust.

But today Christ is assuring us that it's worth it, "f This world as you see it is fading away. ," but our friendship with him will last forever, because it is the life of his Kingdom. During this Mass, let's renew that friendship, and keep it strong this coming week.