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January 14, 2018 - The Cost of Discipleship

Second Sunday of Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

I was watching a show on the Hadron collider, the most expensive scientific experiment ever done. The collider conducts experiments in particle physics to recreate the same condition that existed when the Big Bang occurred. How much do you think has been spent on this experiment? Thus far $ 6 billion has been spent and another 5 billion has been dedicated to it. This makes experiment controversial. Is this experiment really worth it? Should we not be spending this money on other urgent human needs? Particle physicists justify the experiment by saying that the more we discover about the origin of the world the more we can say about ourselves and build a better future. I personally think that it is important that we know about ourselves, but there is another significant question. If our experimentation is only going to tell us about the origin of the world and how the world is held together, how much should we spend for knowing the meaning of life? If we take today’s scripture seriously the most significant question about the meaning of life does not cost us money, but rather, it sets us on a life-long quest.

For us today, the 'meaning of life question' is connected with the person of Jesus Christ. More particularly, the question of the meaning of life is integrally connected to the call that Jesus gave to those whom he called. This is further emphasized by the story of Samuel in today’s first reading, where he was called by God. I do not want to labor the point. At our baptism we received our basic call. However, sometimes our lives can be like the Hadron Collider. We buy homes and invest money to make our lives secure; we have children and educate them to further our families; we exercise and eat right to be healthy. But that is only part of the answer. What about meaning? What brings meaning to our lives?

The answer that today’s scripture suggests is that to live meaningful lives we must in some way find connection with the call of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the answer. Here are my three points for today.

  1. Don’t be Caught Sleeping

The call of Samuel is a very powerful story of God calling a mere youth to accomplish God’s purpose. Samuel must be commended for his sensitivity to God. However, allow me to use an analogy in this story to make a point. Samuel was asleep when God called him the first and second time. In other words, may we never be caught sleeping by God. More than anything else this sleep is a numbing of our internal sense to the spiritual and mystical in us. Think about it! Between making ends meet, paying our bills, keeping up with sports, social media, and other consumeristic pursuits, unless a person trains to be very sensitive to God it is very easy to miss God completely. Also, simply because we are church-going people does not mean that we are necessarily sensitive to God. Church-going people must guard themselves against complacency. Perhaps that is why Jesus did not go the temple or the synagogues to call his disciples, but rather, he went to the sea shore. Often complacency can dull the inner senses of church going people. Let me repeat my point once more. Let us not be caught sleeping least we miss the call.

2. Asking the Correct Question

Often, discerning the call takes the right question. For the longest time the question I asked God, “Lord, what do you want me to do?” I never got an answer. In today’s gospel, Andrew, the very first disciple asks the correct question. He says, “Lord, where are you staying?” Jesus answered, “Come and see.” Folks, our call is not a one-line answer. Rather, our call is a process. It is a process because discovering our call is not about finding Christ in our life, but rather, finding our life in Christ. That is why the right question is not, “Lord, do you want me to do?” but rather “Lord, who do you want me to be?” It took Andrew, Peter, James and John a life-time of learning and following to finally know that they had lived up to their call. Asking the right question is only the first step. Then we must very consciously and deliberately strive to follow the words, the life, and the example of Christ. This takes spiritual discipline of prayer, of reflection on God’s word and being part of a community of disciples. And yes, there are times we will ask the wrong question, or fail, or even sin seriously on our way to answering the call or even lose focus. It happened to Andrew, Peter, James and John. As long as we never give up our search, we are on the right track.

3. The Catholic Answer

As Catholics, there is an added dimension in discerning and living out our call – the concept of the Body of Christ. We Catholics believe that we not only receive the body of Christ but that we “become” the body of Christ. This is a Catholic’s most basic call – the call to be a disciple of Christ by being the real presence of Christ in the world. As a spouse, as a teenager, as a student, as an engineer, or accountant or a housecleaner or a priest – we have a common call – to be the body of Christ. Whether I am watching the Ohio State game, having a drink with friends, on a vacation or simply paying our bills – we Catholics have a common call – to be the real presence of Christ in the world. Whether we are in conflict in our relationships, trying to work out the marriage, trying to get a promotion, taking care of aging parents or an ill spouse, or simply living a retired life – we Catholics have a common call – being the body of Christ.

I said earlier that scientists are willing to spend $ 11 billion to discover the answer to our origins. What about you and me? Are we willing  sharpen our inner senses? Are we willing to ask the right questions? Are we willing to be disciples by bring the body of Christ in the world? 

Fr. Satish Joseph