Written as an aid for homilists and a resource for the faithful, this doctrinal homily outline (1) provides insights into the Lectionary readings, (2) explicates a doctrine of Catholic Faith or morals from them, and (3) shows specific ways lay persons can live these truths. (To read more about this approach, click here.)
Central idea: God calls men to serve. Doctrine: “To reign is to serve.” Practical application: To reign by being a humble, obedient servant.
To view Lectionary 65, click here.
Central idea: God calls men to serve.
Reading 1 1 Sm 3:3b-10, 19
Samuel was sleeping in the temple of the LORD
where the ark of God was.
The LORD called to Samuel, who answered, “Here I am.”
Samuel ran to Eli and said, “Here I am. You called me.”
“I did not call you, “ Eli said. “Go back to sleep.”
So he went back to sleep.
Again the LORD called Samuel, who rose and went to Eli.
“Here I am, “ he said. “You called me.”
But Eli answered, “I did not call you, my son. Go back to sleep.”
At that time Samuel was not familiar with the LORD,
because the LORD had not revealed anything to him as yet.
The LORD called Samuel again, for the third time.
Getting up and going to Eli, he said, “Here I am. You called me.”
Then Eli understood that the LORD was calling the youth.
So he said to Samuel, “Go to sleep, and if you are called, reply,
Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.”
When Samuel went to sleep in his place,
the LORD came and revealed his presence,
calling out as before, “Samuel, Samuel!”
Samuel answered, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
Samuel grew up, and the LORD was with him,
not permitting any word of his to be without effect.
- God was calling the youth, Samuel, to tell him something, but Samuel could not recognize the Lord’s voice because he was not yet familiar with it.
- Yet Samuel had something which disposed him to listen to God’s word once he discerned it: he had the humble, obedient heart of a servant. When he thought Eli called him he got out of his bed and went to him. Being a boy, Samuel probably ran.
- How many of us need to develop that kind of heart to dispose ourselves to listen to what God has to say to us? Maybe we are not willing to spring out of our comfort and go with alacrity to a person in need who calls us. Maybe we are willing but nevertheless just don’t actually do it.
- If we got into this habit of serving, we would then be better disposed to hearing God calling to us in all sorts of ways. And then we would already have the habit of listening and acting at once.
- What we find is that very often what the person in need is saying is exactly what the Lord is saying. The Lord is saying, I want you to supply what that person in want wants.
- Sometimes we don’t want to hear God’s word because we don’t want to hear God’s will. It’s giving us an order we don’t want to obey. We don’t have the heart of a humble, obedient servant.
Responsorial Psalm Ps 40:2, 4, 7-8, 8-9, 10
R. Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.
I have waited, waited for the LORD,
and he stooped toward me and heard my cry.
And he put a new song into my mouth,
a hymn to our God.
Sacrifice or offering you wished not,
but ears open to obedience you gave me.
Holocausts or sin-offerings you sought not;
then said I, “Behold I come.”
“In the written scroll it is prescribed for me,
to do your will, O my God, is my delight,
and your law is within my heart!”
I announced your justice in the vast assembly;
I did not restrain my lips, as you, O LORD, know.
- What better prayer is there than, “Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will”?
- What better desire is there than to want God’s will?
- What better habit is there than always being ready to do God’s will?
- Samuel and all the prophets and many other servants of God in the Old Covenant had this disposition.
- Jesus Christ perfectly embodied this, and by doing so redeemed the world.
- Our Lord taught this same virtue to the apostles and disciples he personally called.
- We have learned this disposition through the word and example of Christ’s followers who came before us.
- God calls others to this outlook through our word and example—all of us are evangelizers.
Reading 2 1 Cor 6:13c-15a, 17-20
Brothers and sisters:
The body is not for immorality, but for the Lord,
and the Lord is for the body;
God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power.
Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?
But whoever is joined to the Lord becomes one Spirit with him.
Every other sin a person commits is outside the body,
but the immoral person sins against his own body.
Do you not 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?
For you have been purchased at a price.
Therefore glorify God in your body.
- It is clear from the context what St. Paul means here by the “immorality” which the Christian must avoid. He is referring to sins against the virtue of chastity. He specifically condemns practices that people today want to permit.
- Our bodies belong to Christ because he has purchased them at the price of his Passion.
- Paul makes the startling statement that “the Lord is for the body.” God made us not just as animals or not as angels but as embodied souls. Our bodies are good in themselves. In addition, our intellect, free will, and ability to love and to be in communion with others are all expressed through our bodies.
- God being “for the body” goes even farther than how he has created us. In redeeming us, he has also glorified our bodies by making them temples of the Holy Spirit. This is all the more reason that we should live the virtue of purity.
- Frankly, one of the obstacles to being able to say “Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will” and why we don’t have the humble, obedient heart of a servant is that we don’t want to hear God’s word because we don’t want to hear God’s will in the matter of chastity of the body.
Gospel Jn 1:35-42
John was standing with two of his disciples,
and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said,
“Behold, the Lamb of God.”
The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus.
Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them,
“What are you looking for?”
They said to him, “Rabbi” — which translated means Teacher —,
“where are you staying?”
He said to them, “Come, and you will see.”
So they went and saw where Jesus was staying,
and they stayed with him that day.
It was about four in the afternoon.
Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter,
was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus.
He first found his own brother Simon and told him,
“We have found the Messiah” — which is translated Christ —.
Then he brought him to Jesus.
Jesus looked at him and said,
“You are Simon the son of John;
you will be called Cephas” — which is translated Peter.
- The Church began first as a family—the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Now, Jesus begins to bring in men, men who will become his Apostles, to build his Church with its hierarchal structure.
- According to the Gospel of John, Andrew and John were followers of John the Baptist. John the Baptist gives these two disciples what seems to be a signal: He points out Jesus as the “Lamb of God.”
- What would Lamb of God mean to them? There was the paschal lamb, whose blood saved Israel from the final plague in Egypt (Ex 12). Jews were reminded of this lamb every Passover. And there also was the mysterious suffering servant who was led like a lamb to the slaughter as an offering for sin (Is 53).
- So, these two young men followed Jesus, who turned and asked them a question which was both an “ice breaker” and one of the most profound questions one person can ask another: “What are you looking for?”
- It sounds as if Andrew and John don’t know what to reply, so one asks, “Where are you staying?” But if Andrew and John are disciples of John the Baptist, they must be looking, most of all, for the Messiah, God’s anointed one who will restore Israel.
- So they stayed with him. We don’t know what Our Lord said or did but by the next day Andrew was able to go to his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah.”
- When Andrew led Simon to Jesus, this man, whom John gave the mysterious title Lamb of God, gave Simon a mysterious name, Cephas, meaning rock. Simon and the other Apostles and disciples whom Christ gathered to himself would eventually learn that Simon Peter is the Rock on whom the Lord will build his Church.
Doctrine: “To reign is to serve”
- Christ perfectly embodied the words, “Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.” He was the servant of the will of the Father. His heart was meek, humble, and obedient.
- “Christ, King and Lord of the universe,” exercised his royal office, his kingship, by making “himself the servant of all, for he came ‘not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’” (Mt 20: 28; CCC 786).
- Each Christian shares in the royal office of Christ. How? “For the Christian, ‘to reign is to serve him,’ particularly when serving ‘the poor and the suffering, in whom the Church recognizes the image of her poor and suffering founder’,” as Lumen Gentium puts it (LG §8; CCC 786).
- Our Lord underlined this servant leadership at the Last Supper after he had donned an apron and washed the feet of his disciples. “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you” (Jn 13:12-15).
- In this light we can be helped by a passage some atheists try to use against the Faith, because it is advice that St. Paul gave to slaves who converted.
- “Slaves, be obedient to those who are your earthly masters, with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as to Christ; not in the way of eye-service, as men-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that whatever good any one does, he will receive the same again from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free” (Eph 6:5-8).
Practical Application: To reign by being a humble, obedient servant
- We are all slaves of God because we have been purchased by Christ at the cost of his Passion, as St. Paul reminded the Corinthians.
- We all have earthly masters.
- We all have someone or many persons to whom we owe legitimate obedience, because they have just authority over us.
- We all also have another kind of earthly master—anyone in need of our service, because whenever we serve anyone in need, we serve Christ. Lumen Gentium reminds us this is the case “particularly when serving ‘the poor and the suffering, in whom the Church recognizes the image of her poor and suffering founder’.” Keep in mind, though, that poverty and suffering come in many forms and degrees and are all around us.
- Thus, opportunities to serve are always close at hand.
- We serve with purity of heart. This is the fear, trembling, and singleness of heart that St. Paul refers to.
- The “eye-service” and men-pleasing St. Paul refers to is duplicity in which we serve or obey to look good, to be well thought of, to be praised, to flatter others, to manipulate others in some way, or even just to keep out of trouble.
- There is in Christian service something that looks like duplicity but is not. If it is necessary—because the service is hard—the Christian servant looks through the person he is obeying or serving, or through the task that is onerous, and sees Christ in that person or the will of God in that task. This is why the will remains good and praiseworthy in the eyes of God. The Christian recognizes the image of her poor and suffering founder in that person or work.
- Real service is also attentive: “The eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress” (Ps 123). We do this so as to anticipate need and to supply. In other words, we see what needs to be done and do it without being ordered or asked.
- Service is very often—almost always—physical and humble. It is changing the diaper, or putting paper in the copying machine, or emptying the dishwasher, or listening to the person speaking, or putting aside the “important” thing you prefer for another.
- The motivation for Christian service is to receive back from Christ what we have given in our service. But even more we are moved simply to be like Christ, being real children of God who are really princes and princesses, kings and queens, who reign in this world by serving.