2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time – Cycle B
1 Sam 3:3b-10,19 Psalm 40:2, 4, 7-8, 8-9, 10, 1 Cor 6:13c-15a, 17-20, Jn 1:35-42
[[SET UP A CARD TABLE AND TWO CHAIRS IN FRONT OF THE ALTAR. SIT AT ONE OF THE CHAIRS AND FACE THE CONGREGATION]]
I know that you are wondering why I am sitting here at this card table for our homily. I wanted to use the idea of the kitchen table to help us reflect on some rather difficult issues that affect our Church and our families today.
The Kitchen Table
One of the places that our families regularly meet is around the kitchen table. Most days, after a long day at work, or school, or keeping up the house we gather here to share a meal, to give thanks to God and to talk about our day. Sometimes the kids dread the ritual questions such as – “What did you at school today?” It’s ok though, because most kids have equally ritual responses such as “Nothing”, or “Not Much”.
The place where families share life
At other times we share times of great joy, or love, or sadness. We might have a heated discussion, or laugh about a funny story, or just be happy hearing about a new friendship. Sometimes, we gather here in grief, to mourn the loss of loved ones, or some other family tragedy. It is around our kitchen tables that we share the joys and the struggles of life. Here at our table we share life with one another.
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with a good friend of mine who will always have an empty chair at her kitchen table, a chair that does not have a child to fill it.
When Bernadette was 33 (thirty three) years old she was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer. The doctors said that she would be lucky to live. This news hit Bernadette like a ton of bricks because 3 (three) days earlier she had discovered that she was pregnant with her second child. One of her doctors said that she would probably die, and if she died then her baby would die as well. The doctor said “You’re going to have to fight this with all that you’ve got – without the baby on board”. Bernadette was confronted with the choice – die from cancer, or get an abortion and fight for all its worth – and you might live.
Bernadette’s story is not an isolated story. The truth is that in our community one in three women have had an abortion. This means, that one in three women live with a kitchen table that has at least one empty chair at it – the chair for their missing children.
Women confronted with Abortion
Bernadette’s story is not uncommon in other ways. Most of the women who end up having abortions make those decisions in a time of crisis in their lives. Often women struggle with the issue of abortion not in clinical, academic debate, but in the nitty-gritty reality that we often find at our kitchen tables. Many times we face this decision in a state of psychological distress, and quite often we don’t end up making the best of choices. Many times we suffer the consequences of this crisis for years and years to come.
Men shirking responsibility
Men too share in this culpability to abortion – typically we panic and frantically look for a way to avoid our responsibility. There are probably men here today who have been responsible for paying for, or encouraging their wives or girlfriends into getting an abortion. We too have empty chairs at our kitchen tables. We too are in need of healing, forgiveness. The church teaches that those who have procured an abortion are in a state of mortal sin, and in need of receiving Christ’s forgiveness.
The quick-fix is a lie
Here is where our society fails us. Our culture teaches that happiness is a quick fix. We thrive on instant gratification, because it’s all about me. We like things to end up nice, neat and tidy, no muss, no fuss. It doesn’t often end this way at our family table, because it is here, when we are home, alone that we have to face the reality of the empty chair at our table. Mothers often suffer from guilt, anger, sadness, depression. These feelings come and go over time – but the wound remains, unhealed and bleeding deep inside of us.
Behold the Lamb of God!
John the Baptist begins today’s gospel with the expression – “Behold the Lamb of God!” With these words he points out to us the one person who we can meet that is able to bring forgiveness, healing and peace into our lives. With this expression – “The Lamb of God” St. John recalls to us that Christ is the paschal lamb, the sacrificial lamb who has taken on flesh like us, has joined us to offer himself in sacrifice, to assume the responsibility that we have shirked, to take away our sins, to wash us clean in the blood the cross.
Rabbi – where are you staying?
How can I ever approach Christ with sin on my soul? This is where we see the good news of the Gospel today. Andrew comes up to Jesus and asks an important question – “Rabbi – where are you staying?” Jesus answers him saying “Come and you will see”. Andrew stayed with Jesus for the rest of that day, and it convicted him in his heart that Jesus truly is the Lamb of God, that He is the one who was sent to take away the sins of the world. The beauty of responding to Christ’s invitation to follow him is that through our relationship with Him he purifies our lives, he washes away our sins allowing us to be transformed from a life of darkness in sin into the joy and peace of Christ.
Wounds bleed, only Christ heals
The wounds of abortion hurt us intensely. Personally, the wounds that we carry from abortion remain with us the rest of our lives. Often we hide them away behind grief, denial, shame where they fester and weep slowly in our souls for years. Today, the Gospel invites us to change that – to come to the “Lamb of God” and invite him into our wounds. Modern psychology gives us many wonderful tools for managing and understanding our pain and our suffering, but only Christ has the power to wash away our sins, to cleanse and heal our wounds with His loving grace. I invite all of those present who suffer from these wounds to look into Project Rachel – a ministry of the Church where those who suffer from the effects of abortion can find support, healing and peace in their lives.
Pray and write a letter
The Gospel calls all of us to action. For those who are not directly involved in abortion, we still suffer the consequences of a society without children. What can we do? Two things; Pray and write a letter.
Prayer and Fasting
This Thursday is the 36th (thirty-sixth) anniversary of the Supreme Court decision Roe vs Wade that legalized abortion on demand in our country. This is a day of penance for our Church. This means that we are all to pray in a special way, and go out of our way to perform works of charity and to deny ourselves through fasting and abstinence.
The second is to take some action to protect the children of our country who are in the womb. This week, congress is considering the Freedom of Choice Act – a law that will permit abortion in all 9 (nine) months of a woman’s pregnancy. I want to encourage all of you to sit down and write your senators and representatives encouraging them to oppose this horrible piece of legislation.
Learn the providence of God
Bernadette was faced with a crisis. She and her husband turned to Christ and prayed. After much struggle and discernment she chose to forego an abortion, and to have surgery to remove the cancer. After the surgery she had to wait until her child had grown large enough to survive the chemo-therapy, which she began starting in her second trimester. Bernadette delivered a healthy 8 (eight) pound baby girl, and survived her cancer at the same time. She did this by choosing to trust that God’s plan was the best for her. This is not the easy choice for her to make – but it was the best choice – because through it she learned to trust in the providence of God.
[[GET UP AND MOVE BEHIND THE ALTAR]]
Come and you will see
Like Bernadette, we too are invited this week to learn to trust in the providence of God so that we can learn that He truly has the best plan for us. God’s plan isn’t always the easiest plan, but it is always the best plan. God is calling us as He called Samuel in the first reading. He is calling us to gather around his kitchen table in heaven. This week we are invited to begin to share our life with God anew.
Do we have the courage to invite Christ into our lives?
Do we have the faith to listen to Him?
“Come and you will see!”