1 Sam 3: 3-10, 19; I Cor 6: 13-15, 17-20; John 1: 35-42
I would guess that most are aware that the Person of the Year on Time Magazine was not a person, but rather #MeToo. It was the “Me Too” movement that had begun months ago and then showcased in that edition of women, and some men, who had been sexually assaulted from persons of authority, abuse of power, or however you want to describe one taking advantage of the other. The first question often asked afterwards is why does it take so long for someone to step forward in such a situation. My personal opinion, if you even have to ask the question you probably have not done a great deal of interior work otherwise you’d know the courage it takes to confront the truth of our lives and the stories that make us up and that we become identified with, and more often than not, the negative. They tell us we’re not good enough. There’s something wrong with us. I’m not worthy enough. Yet, it often takes another person whom we can trust, someone who can love us unconditionally in return, and can help us face the truth of our lives before we can take that step forward and begin to see ourselves as something more. That’s why it takes so long for someone to come forward because it takes us all a great deal of time to come forward in our own lives and have an encounter with the real.
It is that type of encounter that will change the course of the lives of the disciples as we hear their call this morning in John’s gospel. As much as it is the call, this week is really a continuation of last week, Epiphany, and the Magi’s own encounter with the real. As you remember, they have the encounter with the Christ, with truth, with that unconditional love, and their lives are sent in a different direction. There was no going back. The same is true for all who have the courage to step out of their own social and cultural norms. We see what happened to many of the women in the #MeToo movement. No sooner they come out, especially when it involves politicians or famous people, shame is almost immediately cast upon them. It is the reality of the disciples being called forth as well today. It’s why the call of the disciples involves often two leavings. They leave their families and they leave their work behind, the two places where our own image and identities are thrust upon us and it’s not until the encounter, like the Magi and the disciples, where we begin to see that there’s something more about us and for our lives. The natural inclination, even for the disciples, will be to try to return to what they had known, only to find that it’s no longer enough and the desire for more will push them forward once again.
When we hear the first reading today from Samuel, we encounter two people who seem to still be trying to step forward in a courageous way and experience God differently. Even Eli, this wisdom figure, doesn’t seem to understand this call and encounter that Samuel has received. He too is going to have to let go of his own expectations and who he thought this God was before it begins to make sense. Samuel, like the disciples, will be called forth with great courage to do what seems to be the impossible, to be that voice of truth, that presence of unconditional love, to speak honestly to Eli and where he has gone astray in his own life, leading to a deeper understanding of God and himself. So often it’s through that person we trust, that can love us unconditionally, who can be present to us in our story who then lead us to the path of freedom and to become our fullest selves.
Although it may not sound like it, it’s also what Paul is trying to convey to the Corinthian community in today’s second reading. They are a newly converted community but like most, as it seems to begin to wear off, they want to return to their former way of lives. He not only speaks of the body, as in ourselves, but that too because some began to look for love and intimacy in the wrong places, seeking encounters not with the Lord but with prostitutes! Paul challenges them as a community that they must become that encounter for all who have gone astray. They weren’t to just leave them go off; rather, lead them back to the real, to an encounter once again of unconditional love, to the Lord who gives them life. It often feels like you’re giving up so much when taking that step forward, over and over again, but in the end we gain everything. When we have that encounter with the Lord, the direction of our lives are changed and we no longer settle for social norms, cultural norms, and our own past that often holds us back.
As we enter into these weeks of ordinary time, we’ll continue to see that manifestation of that unconditional love in healing stories and forgiveness. We’ll see it in the encounters Jesus has with people on the way, who’s curiosity is peeked as it was with the disciples today. Even John knew there was more. They would leave behind family, political affiliation, religious affiliation as it was with John, to step into and out of something new. It takes a great deal of courage to face our own past and to become aware of the identities that we cling to in our own lives, running back at times to what gives us comfort, even if it means living in the shame of our hurt as it was with the #metoo movement. We know it when we have the encounter with the real, with the Christ because like so many who we hear of in Scripture, when it happens, life is changed forever. They’re never satisfied with the norms anymore and are liberated from their own fear. We pray for that grace in our own lives, to be cracked open by the invitation to encounter the Lord in a new way, to leave behind our old identities and now seek our identity in Christ. We encounter that in that presence, in that unconditional love, and the acceptance of the Other, who calls us forth to a fuller way of life and to no longer settle in fear for anything less than more.