The Second Sunday in Ordinary Time [B]
I Samuel 3:3-10,19 + 1 Corinthians 6:13-15,17-20 + John 1:35-42
January 17, 2021
“You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas ….”
In my family growing up—as in most families, I would imagine—when our parents called one of us children, the more names they used, the greater the trouble we were in. In ordinary conversation, our parents used our nicknames to call our attention. If they used the proper form of our first names, they were saying to us, “Stop that.” If they used our first and middle names, they meant it as a reprimand for something that was going to have consequences. If they used our first, middle, and last names, it was time to call Greyhound and check for the next bus to Mexico.
Our names identify us. They reflect who we are. In Sunday’s Gospel Reading we see our Lord calling Simon to follow Him, and He does so by giving him a new name, saying in effect, “You are Simon, but your name shall be Cephas, which means Peter, which means, ‘Rock’.” On the Rock of Peter Jesus built His Church, a structure that has remained in place for 2000 years. In a similar way we see the Lord calling Samuel by name, so that Samuel would speak on behalf of the Lord and help establish the monarchy for the nation of Israel.
Like Peter and Samuel, we are called by name when God speaks to us. God knows us better than we know ourselves, much like our parents who know us and call us by name (or names). Children often try to deceive themselves and others about what they’ve done, and who they are. But parents, who give life itself to their children, know their children. Parents understand their children’s faults, as well as their strengths. Children often don’t want to work to develop the skills and talents they have, and, trying to convince themselves and others, will say, “I’m just not good at that. I can’t do it.”
Of course, it’s not only children who think this. We adults are just as good at running away from something that we don’t want to do, using the handy excuse that we’re “just not able to do it.” St. Peter did this all the time. But God, the Father of each one of us, knows us better than we know ourselves. When He calls us by name, He’s calling us to be honest to the truth about who we now are, and who He wants us to be.
The truth of the matter is that each one of us is called to share fully in the life of Jesus Christ. This call, for each one of us, begins with the Baptism of the Lord, which the Church celebrated last week. Of course, each Christian lives out the promises of his or her own baptism in a unique way. Some are called to die to themselves and give to others through married life, some through the consecrated life, and some through ordained ministry. Yet no matter what one’s particular vocation may be, it is rooted in the mystery of Baptism. All of the particular vocations of Christians flow from the waters of Baptism.
But even given the graces of our particular vocations, we cannot live the calling God has given us alone. We live our vocations well only inasmuch as we accept the help of others, and in turn serve others. As St. Paul tells us in the Second Reading, our bodies are members of Christ: of His Mystical Body, the Church. We cannot live out our vocations as isolated individuals.
We can see this in the examples of the Gospel Reading. How is it that Andrew heard his call from the Lord? Through John the Baptist. Then, after spending one day with the Lord, what is it that Andrew does? He cries out to his brother Simon, “We have found the Messiah!” The Rock—Peter—upon whom Jesus would build His Church, came to the Lord through His brother. These are two simple examples of one of the most important principles of the Catholic spiritual life: the power of intercession for others, not only through prayer, but also through deeds. The vocations of all of us are bound together, drawing us and others to the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.