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January 15, 2006: SECOND SUNDAY OF THE YEAR

Readings: 

I Samuel 3:3b-10, 19
I Corinthians 6:13c-20
John 1:35-42

We can identify with Jesus' first disciples in today's gospel pericope. Who hasn't experienced and treasured a moment of discovery in their lives - something both surprising and life-changing? In this case, the three men discover that the man they'd know only as a carpenter, a fellow disciple of John the Baptizer, is actually the Messiah whom Jews had been anticipating for centuries.

After his eye-opening encounter with Jesus, Andrew seeks out his brother Simon and tells him, "We have found the Messiah." He quickly brings him to Jesus, who looks at him and says, "You are Simon, son of John; Your name shall be Cephas (which is translated Rock)."

It's significant that John the Evangelist immediately tells us about Simon's name change. It goes hand in glove with the discovery dimension of the narrative. Considering the biblical belief that someone's name is synonymous with someone's personality, Simon is no longer Simon once he finds out who Jesus really is. Such a discovery will change anyone who experiences it.

In the same way, Paul's reason for speaking against sexual immorality springs from his discovery that the Christian is part of the body of Christ. Remember how Luke describes Paul's conversion in Acts 9? The basis of his turnabout revolves around the discovery that the people he's persecuting are actually the manifestation of the risen Jesus. The line that determines the rest of the Apostle's life and ministry is Jesus' statement, "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting!" (9:5) That insight forces him not only to look at himself with different eyes, but also to begin seeing Christians from a totally different perspective. There's an identification between the risen Jesus and the Christian which even today we rarely acknowledge. Thankfully, Paul, as a good Christian, believes and acts on this.

But, as a good Jew, Paul also is convinced of the teaching found in the earliest tradition of Genesis that two people become one body during intercourse. That's why he can't understand how Christ's members can become "members of a prostitute." As his reminds the Corinthian community, "You must know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own."

From his Jewish tradition Paul believes the prostitute and the "client" become one. From his Christian tradition Paul believes if that client is a Christian, that person is already one with Jesus. That can only mean Christ has become one with the prostitute. The implications boggle his faith.

What a discovery that identification with the risen Jesus must have been for Jesus' first disciples. Not only were they preaching Jesus' death and resurrection, but by imitating those two events, their bodies were joined to the body of the risen Jesus. What happened to one automatically happened to the other.

Essential to any discovery is the ability to listen. Those who go through life with preconceived notions about what they're going to see or hear, will see and hear only what they're expecting - guaranteeing a none-discovery life.

That's why the author of I Samuel makes a big thing about Yahweh first speaking to Samuel. After describing the "Abbot and Costello" exchange between the young boy and the priest Eli, the writer zeroes in on the core of the passage. "If you are called," the priest eventually tells the boy, "reply, 'Speak Yahweh, your servant is listening!"

In this context of discovery, it's good to remember the second century comment of St. Ignatius of
Antioch: "I listen. I learn. I teach." Our sacred authors believed that faith discoveries must be preceded by lots of listening. If not, our faith teaching will quickly become suspect.