Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Homily / January 17th, 2021

When I prepare a homily, I start by reading the readings over and over throughout the week. It amazes me how by the end of the week, I find something in those readings that I hadn’t noticed when I started on Monday.

People are familiar with the phrase, “The devil’s in the details.” When it comes to a homily, I believe that “the homily’s in the details.” In today’s Gospel, put yourself in the very setting of John the Baptist and his two disciples. John tells them, “Behold the Lamb of God”, and they take off. How would you feel if your two disciples just up-and-walked-away to follow someone else? And we have no indication that John felt bad at all about this. John the Baptist must be the patron saint of letting go! We know this about John already from the readings of Advent in which John frequently says that he is not the Messiah. Someone else greater than he is coming. John could have gotten a big head about all the attention coming to him. But he was honest and true about himself and his mission. John is truly the patron saint of letting go. He has no pretentions about who he was. He is one of the healthiest, balanced people in all the Bible.

Think for a moment about how you and I are challenged to let go. Certainly a pandemic has forced us to let go of much of our normal life. But even there we see how some people fight and refuse to let go. Something as simple and beneficial as wearing a mask is resisted by people who cannot let go of their own comfort for the sake of others. In every election, someone wins and someone loses. But how many Americans still struggle to let go of their own choice for leadership and even resort to physical violence in an effort not to let go of what they want. This weekend, we commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his struggle for justice and equality for all people. But still today, we witness the struggle of America to let go of its identity [and power] as a white European country and embrace the changing face of America. By 2045, the majority of this country will consist of minority populations. We can look at letting go of our history as a white nation, or dig ourselves in, resisting the change that is inevitable.

Fear prevents many from looking at change as something positive. St. Francis Parish is a great example of the new life that comes from letting go and embracing how God calls us to something more, just as God called Samuel in the first reading today. I am so proud to be pastor of a church where white, African American, Latino, LGBTQ people and others pray together, work together, and are friends with one another. Those who truly believe in Jesus have no fear of letting go. In the Gospel today, Jesus asks the two disciples this question: “What are you looking for?” The same question might well be asked of us. What are we looking for? We look for the assurance of knowing that God is with us especially in the difficult moments of letting go in our lives. We find an answer in the New Testament letter to the Hebrews where it says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” With that kind of confidence, we can let go. With that kind of confidence, God promises us only good when we make that personal sacrifice to let go.

St. John the Baptist, patron of letting go, pray for us.