Second Sunday In Ordinary Time
“Ordinary Time” begins today and will lead us to the season of Lent. The boy Samuel was born as a special gift to a woman who sadly had remained childless. She made a promise to the Lord at the shrine of the Ark of the Covenant at Shiloh that, if the Lord would give her a son, she would dedicate him to the Lord. The priest Eli was in charge of the shrine. He noticed this woman, Hannah, praying silently at the shrine. To him, moving lips without a sound was a sign of drunkenness, “Get rid of your wine,” he said to her. She explained her silent petition. He blessed her and her petition. In due time the boy Samuel was born. Hannah kept her promise. After the child was weaned, she and her husband Elkanah “lent him to the Lord.”
As our first reading begins, little Samuel is asleep in the priestly quarters of the Shiloh shrine.
The Lord calls Samuel. He answers, “Here I am.” But he thought that the priest Eli was calling. Eli told Samuel to go back to sleep. As is necessary for a Semitic story, things have to be repeated. So the same call and the same response happen again. This occurs a third time. Finally, Eli knew that the Lord was calling Samuel. The fourth call came through. Samuel answered in a tone that is reflected in Mary’s consent to the Incarnation, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
Why this selection as the first reading for this Sunday? Because it reflects the readiness of Jesus’ disciples to answer his call to follow him in today’s gospel. In Ordinary Time, the first reading and the gospel reading share a theme. In this case, readiness to obey the call of the Lord. The Responsorial Psalm also reflects this theme, “Behold, I come to do your will, my God.” The people’s response to the verses of the Psalm pick up on Samuel’s response to the Lord, “Here I am, Lord,” and words from the Psalm itself, “Lord, I come to do your will.”
The second reading begins a series of five selections from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians. On the Sundays of Ordinary Time, the second reading does not usually share a theme or themes with the gospel. It is frequently an instruction from the pen of the Apostle to the Gentiles, as it is on this Sunday. Paul is concerned with reports of public and private sexual and other kinds of immorality among his new Christians at Corinth. He warns them that their body no longer belongs only to themselves. They have become “a temple of the Holy Spirit within you.”
He reminds them of the ransom paid for them, “For you have been purchased at a great price. Therefore glorify God in your body.” Advice as current now as it was then. Perhaps even more so now, considering the various addictions so easily acquired through the internet.
Although we have begun the year of the Gospel of Mark, from time to time the liturgy moves us into the Gospel of John. This Sunday’s major theme in the gospel reading is Jesus’ call of his first disciples. They were disciples of John the Baptizer. Was Jesus raiding the Baptizer’s followers to gain them for his own mission? No way! As the Baptizer and his mission were preparatory to the mission of Jesus, so John’s formation of his disciples was preparatory to their more perfect formation by Jesus. John himself said to his own disciples, “He must increase. I must decrease.” The author of this gospel reading paints a simple picture. John was standing with two of his disciples. As he watched Jesus walk by, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” An unusual introduction! Not in the mind of the Baptizer nor in the mind of the author of the gospel.
Both would have known some current background to this title.
What currents of thought surround this title? There are ancient Jewish writings that did not make it into the Old or New Testament. One of these, the Testament of Joseph, speaks of a conquering lamb overcoming evil beasts and crushing them under its feet. That trend of thought surfaces in our Book of Revelation. Revelation 17:14 speaks of evil kings joining “the beast” to make war against the Lamb, “and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings…” The oracles of the Book of Isaiah were well-known and used by the inspired authors of our New Testament documents. One of those oracles describes a lamb, “that is led to the slaughter, cut out of the land of the living, struck down for the sins of his people.” Although the Baptizer would not have been aware how this oracle was later applied to the death of Jesus, the author of the Gospel of John did know and wrote accordingly. He used a theology already developed by St. Paul – that Jesus was the ultimate sacrificial Passover Lamb. See John19:36; 1 Cor 5:7.
When the Baptizer refers to Jesus walking by as Lamb of God, he is speaking to the two disciples standing with him. They take this as an invitation to follow Jesus. He asks them what they seek. The answer, “Where are you staying?” Jesus replies, “Come, and you will see.”
They stayed with Jesus that day. One of the two disciples was Andrew, brother of Simon Peter. The other disciple remains anonymous. This may indicate that the gospel author wishes every Christian to see himself or herself as accepting Jesus’ invitation and staying with him.
A true disciple is not satisfied to have Jesus just to and for himself. Therefore Andrew finds his brother Simon, proclaims Jesus as Messiah (Christ), and brings him to Jesus. Jesus, who knows the hearts of all, does not need to be introduced. He takes the initiative, “You are Simon, the son of John.” Jesus gives Simon a new name, thus appropriating him and his talents for the mission,
“You will be called Cephas.” The noun Cephas is the Aramaic word for “Rock”. John is writing for Greek readers, so he translates the Aramaic into Greek, Petros. Simon has received an august title which he shares with two V.I.P.s – God and Abraham. See Psalm 18:2 and Isaiah 51:1.