Preached at Holy Sepulcher Parish on January 17 and 18, 2015 on the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B) at the 4:00PM (Vigil), 8:00AM, and 10:30AM Masses
Each year about half of us make New Year’s resolutions to improve our lives and ourselves, whether it’s to lose weight, exercise, quit smoking; or maybe it’s to be more happy and less stressed, or being more patient, loving, and forgiving. Each day I can see many people working on their resolutions. Despite the cold weather when I look out the window at home I can see more people walking and running. As I walk past the gym downtown the windows are all steamed up from all the weight training, treadmill running, and stationary bike work going on inside. But according to a recent news story that I read people are already breaking their resolutions, over half of them will be broken by the end of the month, and less than ten percent of them will succeed.
But another recent news story that I read reported that we might not have to make any resolutions because each one of us is already doing something this very minute that improves our lives and makes us better people – going to Mass. The article was about a recent Baylor University research study that found that people who regularly attend religious services, who pray regularly, who spend time in devotions like Eucharistic adoration, those who dedicate regular time in their lives to God have a higher quality of life. They are healthier, in better shape, smoke less, have better relationships, and they are more patient, loving, and forgiving. Another study mentioned in the article even concluded the brains of religious people were larger, more active, and better at handling stress and anxiety.
This research seems to suggest that our dream to lose those extra pounds, run the marathon, bench press twice our body weight, and increase our IQ twenty points will happen if we resolve to attend Mass regularly and pray more often. But I believe this research confirms what we should already know and believe: the way to improve ourselves and our lives is to resolve to spend more time with God.
The Lord is interested in far more than just helping us with our resolutions, however. He wants to be involved in all aspects of our lives. So often we turn to God when we need something from him, like when someone we know has died or has fallen ill, or when we’ve lost a job or need help with our marriage. But the Lord wants to be involved in everything we do, even what we might think to be the seemingly ordinary and unimportant parts of our lives: as you go about your regular routine each day, getting ready in the morning, riding to school or work, when you’re walking through the neighborhood or steaming up the windows at the gym, standing in line, doing chores, or just sitting quietly. Whatever you are doing the Lord is there and is waiting for you to involve him.
Now that we have put away the Christmas decorations and returned to the green of ordinary time, it’s an opportunity for us to recognize the presence of the Lord in the ordinary moments of our lives: each day, not just Sunday morning, not waiting until Lent or Easter or when we need something from him, but always. He wants to be the good friend that we share everything with, not a friend that we only turn to only when we need something. In today’s first reading Samuel responds to the Lord, “Here I am,” and because of this, “the Lord was with him.” Each time that we involve the Lord in our lives, we are saying to him, “Here I am, Lord” and he is with us in a very special way, just like he was with Samuel.
Today’s gospel is another example of the Lord being with someone in a very special, and yet ordinary way. There is nothing special happening. Jesus is not preaching to large crowds or performing miracles. It’s not the Transfiguration, the Last Supper, or the Resurrection. It is simply an ordinary day. But as Jesus walks by John the Baptist recognizes Jesus and says, “Behold, the Lamb of God,” and so Andrew follows Jesus. It is simply an ordinary day, ordinary in every way except that Jesus was recognized and Andrew spent time with him. By the end of the day Andrew knew that he had found the Messiah, and shortly after he and his brother Peter would become good friends and disciples of Jesus. This seemingly ordinary day with Jesus changed Andrew forever. We don’t need resolutions to change our lives and ourselves, we just need to recognize the Lord and spend time with him.
The research I mentioned earlier concluded that the reason people who regularly attend religious services and spend time in prayer and other devotions had such a higher quality of life than those who didn’t was that they had built up strong relationships with people in their faith community. Certainly our relationships with people are important and has positive effects on our lives, but what the researchers failed to recognize is that having a relationship with the Lord is what transforms us. Encountering God is what makes a tremendous difference in our lives and in our ourselves, just as it did for Andrew and for Samuel.
Shortly we are going to behold the Lamb of God as we kneel in the presence of our Lord in the Eucharist, an opportunity for us to quietly say, “Here I am, Lord.” Nourished by this gift of grace, we will again return to our everyday lives. But if we resolve to behold the Lamb of God and recognize his presence in our ordinary lives, if we pause during our busy day wherever we are and whatever we are doing to simply say “Here I am, Lord,” he will be with us in a very special way and our seemingly ordinary lives are going to become extraordinary, because absolutely nothing is ordinary when Jesus is involved!
Rejoice and be glad!