Eli, John and Andrew – Homily for the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

Grandmother and GranddaughterIn the first reading we hear that “Samuel was sleeping in the temple of the LORD.”
Now that doesn’t mean you get to sleep here in church during the homily!
But we do have something in common with Samuel: at one point, we, too, were not familiar with the Lord.
Samuel is called three times, but he does not recognize who is it is.
It is the priest Eli who helps him understand that it is the Lord who is calling.
In the gospel, too, Andrew and an unnamed disciple don’t know Jesus.
It is the prophet John the Baptist who points to the Lord and says, “Behold, the Lamb of God.”
There was even a time when Peter did not know Jesus, and it was his brother the apostle Andrew who brings him to the Messiah.

As we stand at the beginning of another season of Ordinary Time, today’s scripture shows us these three people at the beginning of their relationship with the Lord.
Today, then, is a good day to remember that there was a time in all of our lives when we did not know God, when we did not know Jesus, and it is a day to be grateful for those brothers and sisters who first brought us to the Messiah.
At some point in the life of every Christian, we learned about Jesus from someone who loved us.
Each of us is gathered around the altar here today because someone introduced us to God.
The priest Eli told Samuel about the Lord.
The prophet John the Baptist told Andrew about the Lamb of God.
The apostle Andrew told his brother Peter about the Messiah.
Someone told you and me about Jesus.

If John was writing the Good News of your life, who would take the place of the prophet John the Baptist in telling you, “Behold the Lamb of God”? Or who is your apostle Andrew, bringing you to Jesus for the first time? Who has been the priest Eli in your life, advising you to say, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening”?
In other words, who introduced you to God? Who first told you about Jesus?
For many of us, it was our parents, bringing us to the church for Baptism when we were infants. But that was so long ago we probably don’t remember it.
What is your earliest memory of knowing that Jesus loved you?
Imagine that moment in your life, hearing about Jesus for the first time.
Maybe you can’t pinpoint one particular moment the way Samuel, Andrew, or Peter can. Maybe your introduction to Jesus was more gradual, over the course of your childhood. That’s probably the experience of most people who come to know God.
After all, the reason Samuel was in the temple in the first place was because his mother Hannah had brought him there.
So whether your first experience with God was a single moment in time, or a gradual process locked away somewhere in your memory, the important thing is that it came from people who loved Jesus and who loved you enough to bring you together.
This is how we meet Jesus: through people we trust, through people who care for us and want what’s best for us.

They evangelize us.

Sometimes we might wish that Jesus would speak to us directly, that we could hear his voice or see his face.
But God has chosen a different way.
And as always, God’s way is better.
There’s a bond that forms when you hear about Jesus from people who love you.
When parents share the gospel with their children, for example, or when friends pray with friends, then the Body of Christ is strengthened, the Church is built up.
We become a closer, more interconnected, more loving community.

There’s also a dignity in knowing that God has entrusted us with spreading the Good News to the world.
We received that dignity at our Baptism when we were anointed priest, prophet, and king.
And with that dignity comes a responsibility, the responsibility that Jesus gave to all of his disciples:

“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father,
and of the son, and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

There’s someone in your life right now who trusts you just as much as you trusted the people who first introduced you to Jesus.
There’s someone you love, who loves you, waiting to hear the Good News that only you can give.

Who is it? What is it they need to hear?

We might hesitate, afraid that we don’t know what to say, or how to say it.
God has heard that before. When Moses was called to lead the Israelites he said, “What if they don’t believe me or listen to me? I’m not eloquent.”
When God called the prophet Jeremiah, Jeremiah said, “I don’t know how to speak, I’m too young.”

But today’s liturgy shows us how simple it really is to evangelize: a little conversation between Eli and Samuel; a brief recognition of Jesus’ presence by John the Baptist to his two disciples; a brief but excited exchange between the two brothers Andrew and Peter.

This is the kind of evangelization Pope Francis writes about in The Joy of the Gospel where he says,

“…there is a kind of preaching which falls to each of us as a daily responsibility. It has to do with bringing the Gospel to the people we meet, whether they be our neighbors or complete strangers. This is the informal preaching which takes place in the middle of a conversation….Being a disciple means being constantly ready to bring the love of Jesus to others, and this can happen unexpectedly and in any place: on the street, in a city square, during work, on a journey.” (#127)

In another part of The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis writes,

“Every Christian is challenged, here and now, to be actively engaged in evangelization; indeed, anyone who has truly experienced God’s saving love does not need much time or lengthy training to go out and proclaim that love.” (#120)

Every Christian. Here and now. Daily. That is our challenge. To be Eli, John the Baptist, and Andrew to the people in our lives.

And as Pope Francis concludes,

“What kind of love would not feel the need to speak of the beloved, to point him out, to make him known? If we do not feel an intense desire to share this love, we need to pray insistently that he will once more touch our hearts. We need to implore his grace daily, asking him to open our cold hearts and shake up our lukewarm and superficial existence.” (#264)

Today we are grateful for all those in our lives who loved Jesus so much, and who loved us so much that they introduced him to us and continue to proclaim him to us.
And today we also recognize the dignity and responsibility we have been given to introduce others to Jesus.

Through our baptism, we have been anointed priest, prophet, and king.
Like the priest Eli, we can help our loved ones recognize God and say, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.”
Like the prophet John the Baptist, we can point to Jesus and say, “Behold the Lamb of God.”
Like the apostle Andrew, we can bring our brothers and sisters to the Messiah.

Prayer for Teachers and Students Returning to School After Christmas Break

School in WinterHeavenly Father,
Thank you for the blessings of this Christmas Break.

Since last we gathered in this classroom,
we celebrated the birth of your Son,
we rang in a brand new year,
and we watched the magi give their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

As we meet in school again,
help us celebrate your Son’s presence in every moment of every day;
inspire us to use this new year to draw closer to you;
and grant us the desire to give our most precious gifts to those in need.

Give us the energy, enthusiasm, and strength
to withstand the doldrums of January, February, and March,
so that when Spring Break comes,
the hard work we have done
will blossom into new achievements, successes, and opportunities.

Grant this through Christ your Son,
the Light of the World,
the hope of the new year,
and your most precious gift to us.

Amen.

Poetry Video Project Using Chromebooks, Librivox, and WeVideo

Fire and IceWhen school starts up again this week, one of my Tech classes is going to begin learning about video editing with a free online tool called WeVideo.

Students will browse through public domain poetry at Librivox.org and find a narrated poem they like. They’ll download the mp3 narration of the poem to their Google Drives and then search for accompanying images. I’ll be showing them how to use Google’s image search to find images that have been labeled for “reuse with modification,” so that they use the images legally.

After they have the mp3 and the images in their Google Drive they’ll use WeVideo to assemble them into a video that brings the poem to life. At least that’s the plan. I’ve never used WeVideo with students before, but now that students have switched from MacBooks to Chromebooks we had to find an alternative to iMovie. WeVideo has some nice basic video editing features including transitions, overlays, and audio tracks.

I had fun this weekend making a sample video to give students something concrete to visualize as they prepare to make their own videos. I selected Robert Frost’s “Fire and Ice,” because I wanted something a bit dramatic. Here’s how it turned out:

After the students finish their videos maybe I’ll post a few of them here.

Discovering Yourself by Getting to Know Jesus Better

The Gift of Being Yourself by David BennerThe Gift of Being Yourself by David Benner was one of my favorite books from last year. and I’ve been slowly rereading it, trying to taking in all he has to say and put it into practice. One of the best chapters explains how to get to know Jesus better.

He strongly encourages daily meditation on the gospel and on life experiences in the Ignatian style:

”First, take a moment to quiet yourself in God’s presence. Close your eyes and ask God to take the words of Scripture and, by the power of his Spirit, make them God’s Word to you. Ask for the gift of a few moments of Spirit-guided imaginative encounter with Jesus. Then slowly read the [gospel passage] several times—preferably out loud.”

After reading the gospel passage:

”Now allow yourself to daydream on the situation presented in the story…Then, as if you were a spectator, observe the events as they unfold. Watch, listen and stay attentive to Christ….And don’t try to analyze the story or learn lessons from it. Just be present to Jesus and open to your own reactions.”

And concerning a prayerful review of our day (what Ignatius called the examen), he has this to say:

”The goal of a prayerful review of recent life experiences is not self-analysis…Instead the goal is simply increased awareness of God in the events of life and the depths of my being. It is attending to the God who is present. In general, ‘what’ questions (such as What was I feeling? What disturbed me about that comment? What exactly made me anxious?) are better than ‘why’ questions (Why did I feel threatened? Why did that bother me?)….Just accept whatever comes from each experience, each day.”

Finally, he suggests taking fifteen minutes at the end of each day to do the following:

  1. First, take your journal and find a quiet place where you can sit undisturbed.
  2. Select a Gospel account of one event in the life of Christ. After a brief prayer inviting God to allow you to imaginatively enter this experience and encounter Jesus, spend five minutes daydreaming on the passage.
  3. After thanking God for the gift of time spent with Jesus, ask for help in reflecting on your day in order to better discern Divine Presence during it.
  4. Allow the events of the day to replay before you. Accept whatever comes into focus, no matter how trivial it initially appears to be, as a gift from God. Ask for help to discern Divine Presence in the experience.
  5. End your time by thanking God for gifts received during this process.

This fifteen-minute exercise would be a peaceful, fruitful way to end the day. The gospel passage could be taken from the next day’s Mass readings.

If you’re feeling a desire to become more authentic, more integrated, and more in tune with the person you were created to be, then I highly recommend The Gift of Being Yourself: The Sacred Call to Self-Discovery.