Homily for the second Sunday of the year

Year B - Jn. 1:35-42


by

Father Daniel Meynen
 
 

"The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples; and he looked at Jesus as he walked, and said, 'Behold, the Lamb of God!' The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned, and saw them following, and said to them, 'What do you seek?' And they said to him, 'Rabbi' (which means Teacher), 'where are you staying?' He said to them, 'Come and see.' They came and saw where he was staying; and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.


"One of the two who heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first found his brother Simon, and said to him, 'We have found the Messiah' (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him, and said, 'So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas' (which means Peter)."





Homily:


"The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples; and he looked at Jesus as he walked, and said, 'Behold, the Lamb of God!' "


He who would deepen his understanding of the Church - if indeed it is possible to grasp all the concepts involved in such a mystery which, like every mystery, surpasses human intelligence - has in this Sunday's gospel a truly inexhaustible source. And with reason, for Saint John, the narrator, speaks to us here of the first meeting of Andrew, probably accompanied by John himself, and the Messiah: Jesus of Nazareth, who had just been baptized by John the Baptist. Saint John then describes the meeting between Jesus and Simon, he who would thereafter be known as Cephas, an Aramaic term which means "rock", in the material sense of the word.


There is no doubt about it: we are here at the very source of the entire Mystery of the Church, the edifice which the Spirit of God builds, day after day, setting in its place each of the "living stones" mentioned at a later time by the great Apostle in his first epistle (cf. 1 Peter 2:5). Certainly, the Church of God is, before anything else, spiritual, but she is constituted of men and women, each of whom is composed of a soul and a body. Certainly, God is Spirit, but Jesus, who has risen from the dead, did not come to save only the soul of every man and woman: he came to earth the first time so that, at the end of time, he could return a second time to resurrect all bodies, some of them to enjoy eternal glory, and others to undergo endless ignominy...


It is this corporeal dimension of salvation in Jesus Christ which John the Baptist sets in relief when he declares, speaking of the Messiah, "Behold, the Lamb of God." We hear this same expression each time that we participate in the Eucharist and the celebrant presents to us the Sacred Host: "This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world." Surely, the primary sense of these words refers to the Passion of the Lord, that painful trial announced by the Prophet Isaiah when he spoke of the suffering Messiah: "He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter..." (Is. 53:7) But we cannot dissociate the Passion of Jesus from his Resurrection. Jesus is the ever-living Lamb who resurrects our bodies! How often do not the prayers after communion speak of the health of the soul and the body which the sacrament of the Eucharist has just given us?


"The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned, and saw them following, and said to them, 'What do you seek?' And they said to him, 'Rabbi' (which means Teacher), 'where are you staying?' He said to them, 'Come and see.' They came and saw where he was staying; and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour."


"What do you seek?" This is the question Jesus addressed to the disciples of John who followed him... But is this not something done by the entire Church? Do not all Christians claim to follow Jesus, the Messiah of God? Yes, the entire Church has the intention of following the Savior of the world and bearing her cross, like her Master. But is this all the Lord expects of us? Does he not have any other goal for us? Of course he does, and we know what it is: Jesus wants to take us into his eternal abode, he wants to lead us to Heaven, where he reigns with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit! This is his desire. Is it also our own? Is this also our prayer to Jesus, as it was that of the disciples of John: "Rabbi, where are you staying?" If we listen to the breath of the Spirit, we shall hear God say, "I am staying there, in your heart..."


"One of the two who heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first found his brother Simon, and said to him, 'We have found the Messiah' (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him, and said, 'So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas' (which means Peter)."


Saint John here describes the very first meeting of Jesus and Simon. He who would become the Prince of the Apostles was not yet called Peter, but rather Simon. It is Jesus himself who gives him the name that would characterize his entire mission: Cephas, that is, "rock", in the material sense of the word. Simon receives this name for the first time when he is taken to Jesus by his brother Andrew. And he would receive it a second time when he publicly confessed the divinity of Christ, the Son of God, at Caesarea (cf. Mt. 16:18).


Why did Jesus twice give Simon the name of Cephas, or "rock"? Because the first time, at the meeting described here by Saint John, Simon is but an ordinary man, a sinner among sinners, a man who had not yet received the extraordinary grace that would make him the Prince of the Apostles. It is for this reason that Simon was not the first of the Apostles to meet Jesus: the first one named by Saint John is Andrew, the brother of Simon. So Simon meets Jesus after his brother does, led and guided by him to the Messiah: this is the common path followed by everyone who enters into the community of believers.


At this first meeting of Jesus and Simon, the Lord looked at Simon... What was said in that look? It does not belong to us to know: it is the secret of the King, the secret of the Husband and the Wife... But, surely, Simon received a grace that made him a new man, the man that must now be called "Cephas". Simon received on that day the grace to dare to say, before everyone, that he is "Cephas", or "rock". Simon is still a sinner, but he is also "rock", the foundation of the edifice being built by Jesus day by day, despite the difficulties of the times and places. So, strengthened by this grace, first received when he first met Jesus, Simon, when the time would come to confess faith in the Son of God, would not hesitate to be the first to speak, on behalf of all: "Simon Peter replied, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.' " (Mt. 16:16)


May the Most Blessed Virgin Mary help us with her prayer, in order that we might become, day by day, the "living stones" which Jesus shapes and polishes in order to make them part of his eternal Kingdom!