Having concluded the Christmas season, the Church in her liturgy now enters the time formerly named the season after Epiphany. It is appropriate that we reference that illuminating mystery, since it is in that same mystery that we encounter Christ fully manifested to us. These days after Epiphany not only illuminate our minds but also draw us to use our other senses to discern Christ. The Scripture texts for this Mass call us towards using our sense of hearing so as to listen to God speaking to us.
For our God is not some far-off maker, some tinkerer who creates but then leaves His creation alone, like a forgotten watch on the upper shelf. God is not merely turned towards action, but, perhaps far more than that, is turned towards interaction. We encounter this first within God Himself, for the mystery of the Trinity reveals to us that, at His core, God is communion, God is interaction in a very personal way. The Three Persons of the Trinity, sharing in the divine substance, are united in the ultimate bond of love, that selfless love which has produced all of humanity.
The Bible records for us from the very first moment of creation the interaction between God and the universe: most specifically, the interaction of God with mankind. Even when our first parents fell in the Garden, God did not cut off this relationship; He promised, instead, that He would restore it in a most marvelous manner. God continues to speak to humanity throughout the ages: sometimes speaking to a whole tribe or nation, as He did to ancient Israel; sometimes speaking one on one, almost face to face as it were, as He did with Moses and Samuel, whose experience we recall in our first reading.
Samuel, at first, could not distinguish who it was who called out to him. He thought it was Eli the high priest, his earthly master. But Eli, with a wise heart, discerns that the heavenly Lord was calling Samuel, and instructs the youth what to do. It is the same in the life of each individual. God calls to every human soul, beckoning them towards He in whom our hearts will find our true rest. But how many truly hear the call? And who can help them to know how to hear? Our modern world screeches with the cries of so many discordant voices. Voices on the television, voices on the computer, voices on the phone, voices everywhere. Who has ears to hear? Who will proclaim this God who speaks, who is speaking to us, and will teach others to hear that call?
Who else can proclaim this God but God Himself? Thus do we return to Christ, whose birth and manifestation we have so recently celebrated. The one voice that is able to speak most clearly and most definitively about God is the one Word which God has uttered from the very beginning, that Word which is also God. How does the Word of God speak to us? He speaks to us with the cry of a baby, with the voice of a child, with the voice of a man. When Jesus Christ speaks, God speaks. And if God speaks, then we must listen.
Yet God does not work alone in the work of redemption which He promised to Adam and Eve after their disastrous fall. Consider the Gospel account before us today: God spoke to John the Baptist, leading him out into the desert. John the Baptist then points out to those who will hear that the Christ, the Messiah, the Lamb of God, is passing by. Andrew and another disciple, upon hearing this, go and encounter Christ, and come to know Him better. Andrew in turn goes to his brother Simon and tells him of this Messiah, this Savior of the world. Simon listens and follows, and hears from the lips of the Word Himself that he will be more than a fisherman; Simon hears that he will be the rock, the Cephas, the Petrus, upon which Christ will build His Church.
Saint Andrew demonstrates to us that we must be prepared to listen, to encounter for ourselves this Word made flesh, this Messiah living among us. Saint Peter demonstrates for us that we can only listen to this Word, we can only encounter the Christ, within the context of the Church. For wherever Christ is proclaimed, there is the Church to proclaim Him. Wherever and whatever it is that Christ proclaims, there is the Church found listening to what the Word proclaims. We cannot encounter Christ without the Church, nor can the Church be encountered with encountering Christ.
But are we listening? Do we truly desire to encounter Christ, to listen to the Church? Our age it seems, instead of being an age of listening, seems to be an age of doing, most especially doing only that which concerns the body. This is the great warning which Saint Paul proclaims in our second reading. For so many are like the sinful Corinthians whom Saint Paul chastises: desirous of finding fulfillment not in a relationship with another, with the God who is completely other than us, but finding fulfillment with the fleeting pleasures of the flesh. This is not why we were given a body, so that it would be an instrument of pleasure. Every time we hear in our text the word “immorality” or “immoral”, we should actually hear the term “fornication” or “sexual immorality,” for that is the full importance of the Greek word porneia which the author uses. We were not built for mere pleasure; we were created for relationship, for love.
Let us begin to listen to God speaking to us, in Himself and in His Church. Let us abandon any and all immorality and sin, most especially those sins of lust and fornication, so that we may begin to glorify God in our body by becoming temples of His Holy Spirit. Let us be like Samuel, like Andrew, like Peter, and say to God, “Here I am: I come to do Your will.” Only in saying this can we begin to discover the true joy and delight of Christian discipleship: fulfilling the will of our heavenly Father, our sanctification. Only when we begin to abandon sin and listen to Christ’s words and dwell in Christ’s Spirit will we begin to bring to fruition that law written upon our heart which binds us towards the one who has paid the ultimate price for our bodies and our lives. Let us come and see this Messiah among us: in the Scriptures, in the Church, but above all in the Eucharist, where He dwells among us so as to draw us to Himself and to the Father. May we come to listen and encounter Christ, so that we may stay where Christ dwells for all eternity: in the glorious delights of eternal life.