11 January 2012

His purpose is our command

1st Week OT (W)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, New Orleans

Listen Here (5.30 Mass)

After healing Simon's mother-in-law and curing a town's worth of sick folks and exorcising a host of demons, Jesus takes a well-deserved prayer break out in the desert. When his friends find him there, they say to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” Given the gifts our Lord has demonstrated, it's no wonder everyone is seeking him out! Jesus—ever the enigmatic one—replies, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.” Without saying so explicitly, Jesus indicates that though he is happy to preach and heal and exorcise in this village, his larger purpose is to preach to and heal and exorcise the larger world. Mark writes, “So he went. . . preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee.” The Lord makes it absolutely clear that his purpose in coming among us is to preach the Good News. That's why he is here. Simon tells Jesus that everyone is looking for him. The villagers respond to him b/c they recognize his power. They acknowledge his authority to heal the sick and drive out demons by seeking him out for help. Even the demons know who he is and obey his word. How do we respond to Jesus and his stated purpose? When the Lord preaches, do we feel his power? Do we recognize his authority as the Son of God?

It would be strange for any of us to answer this question in the negative. Yes, I'm sitting here at Mass, taking communion, praying to God, but I don't acknowledge Jesus' authority. I don't recognize him as the Son of God. That would be more than just strange, it would be a form of self-condemnation, a public lie. So, we can safely say that those of us here at least understand Jesus to be who and what he says he is. But is that acknowledgment enough to lead us to holiness? It's a good start, that's for sure! But more is needed. When God calls Samuel to serve, Samuel confuses God's voice with his boss, Eli. Finally, after being awakened a couple of times by an eager Samuel, Eli tells the boy to answer the next call, saying, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” Samuel hears the Lord's voice again and answers obediently. Because of this obedience, the Lord makes Samuel a prophet, never allowing him to speak a false word. When the Lord calls us to attention and gives us a task, our response, if we believe that he is who he says he is, can only be, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”

Jesus tells his friends that the purpose of his coming among them is to preach the Good News of his Father's forgiveness to the sinner. He does this—he preaches—by healing the sick, exorcising demons, feeding the hungry, and teaching the truth for salvation. He does all this in the company of his friends, his students, those whom he will eventually name apostles, “the ones sent out.” Each of these men heard the Lord call his name and each of them responded, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” What did the Lord say to them? He said, “Follow me.” Do as I do, preach what I preach, teach what I teach. And I will be with you always, guarding your words against error and blessing your work by multiplying the fruit you produce. These men heard his voice and urged him to speak to them. This is our response as well. The Lord has called us, is calling us right now to serve him by serving his Church and the world we live in. His purpose was to preach the Good News. We follow him; therefore, our purpose is to preach that same Good News. Samuel said, “Here I am. . .here I am. . .here I am. I'm listening, Lord. . .just say the Word. Your servant is ready!”

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