Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
For God and for Jesus
First Reading (1 Sam 3: 10,19 ) : The calling of Samuel
Second Reading (1 Cor 6:13-20 ) : The faithful's body is Christ's Mystical Body
and the temple of the Holy Spirit
Gospel ( Jn 1:35-42 ) : John's unselfish witness
Chinese Classics: “If by rubbing smooth his whole body from the crown to the heel he could have benefited the world, he would have done so.”(1)
Devout Christians believe that all that they do is ‘for God and for Jesus’. They work for God and Jesus, and offer to God and Jesus all that they are and possess – themselves, their time, talents, money, and love.
While I was in seminary training, before going to bed and especially early in the morning, we prayed first, offering everything to God and Jesus. Priests and nuns today offer their entire lives to God, to live and work for Jesus. What attitude should those who offer themselves entirely to God adopt?
Scripture today relates the heart-warming story of Samuel. When the boy Samuel was sleeping in the temple, God appeared to him and called him several times. At first, he did not realize it was God himself, and thought that it was Eli, the priest. Eventually Eli realized it was really God calling Samuel and told Samuel, “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, 'Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.' So Samuel went and lay down in his place. Now the LORD came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” ( 1 Sam 3:9-10 )
Those who devote themselves to God are exactly like this. They respond to God's call, listen to God whole-heartedly, and loyally carry out God's will. They are like the giant Genie who lived inside the lamp in the story of Aladdin. The Genie always said to his master, “Master, your will is my command!” How can those who dedicate themselves entirely to God not try to spend all their energy for God and be totally loyal and responsible to their Lord? And yet, are we sure that we are truly ‘for God, and for Jesus’? Are we really so generously offering all that we are and possess to God? Do we sometimes try to save a tiny little bit for ourselves?
In today's gospel, John the Baptist truly offers himself to God and Jesus, and it is a whole-hearted, selfless gift. John's Gospel describes how John the Baptist testified to Jesus in the presence of his disciples. The result was that his disciples left him to follow Jesus, becoming Jesus' first apostles. The story of John's witness to Jesus is simple: “John was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, ‘Look, here is the Lamb of God!’ The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus” ( Jn 1:35-37 )
John the Baptist was a great teacher himself. He had his own prestige, status, admirers and followers. He knew well what would result from his testimony to Jesus. He knew it would be as he himself had predicted, “He must increase, and I must decrease.” (Jn 3:30) But he still announced his testimony. The inevitable result was as anyone could have predicted: his best disciples left him and followed another. It is worthwhile for us to reflect ourselves: when we say we are ‘for God and for Jesus,’ how much , in fact, is for ourselves?
When a parish claims that its patron is particularly ‘efficacious’, could it be that it is in fact competing with other parishes? When superiors ask subordinates to obey instructions, are they speaking of God's will, or stubbornly holding on to their own biases? How much competition for prestige, status or power is there behind a minister, preacher or pastor, or to what extend might they be pursuing, consciously or unconsciously, some personal advantage or material profit?
Do teachers punish their students for the good of students or to vent their own anger? When parents scold their children, how much is for the good of their children, and how much is to save their own face? Do those who sing Christmas carols for hospital patients do it to make the patients happy, or rather, to fulfil their own ‘need’ to serve others? How many government officials, world leaders, even church officials who claim to be motivated by the ideals set by both Jesus and Confucius, ‘Do unto others as you would have them do to you,’ truly ‘serve’ others as Jesus did?
Christmas has just passed with its clear message that ‘the Word was made flesh.’ This means that our faith must be activated in our lives, spirit must be transformed into action, ideals must be changed into reality. For the saying ‘for God, and for Jesus' to ‘be made flesh’ demands that we empty ourselves, follow God, adopt God's will as our foundation. We need to look upon the world with Christ's eyes, and with Christ's heart love, serve and dedicate ourselves to God, to Jesus, to other people and to the world.
In the works of Mencius, there is a quotation from the philosopher Mocius. “If by rubbing smooth his whole body from the crown to the heel, he could have benefited the world, he would have done so.” ( Mencius, Book VII, Tsin Sin Part I, Chapter XXVI) (1) . With these words, Mocius, who loved all equally, set a model of total sacrifice and unconditional self-offering. If he had lived in Jesus' time, he and John the Baptist would have been close comrades following a similar path.