SECOND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
There’s a story that’s told about a three year old girl.
It seems that she was the only child in her family, but now her mother was pregnant again, and her daughter couldn’t wait until the baby was born. So, soon after her parents brought a new baby boy home from the hospital, the girl excitedly made a request: could she be alone with her new brother in his room all by herself for just a few minutes? Her parents were a bit uneasy about this idea, but, since they had installed an intercom system, they reluctantly granted her wish. So, once their daughter went into the baby’s room and shut the door, they raced to the intercom to listen to what she was doing. What they heard was their three year old daughter tiptoe across the room and whisper to her new-born brother: “Tell me about God – I’ve almost forgotten.”
This story makes us smile, but it also makes us uncomfortable. Because the story suggests that when we are young we clearly know that we come from God. But, in the process of growing up, we start to forget – we forget from Whom we came and in Whom we live.
This sense of increasing forgetfulness as we become more conscious of our own self-centeredness reminds us of the central meaning of the Genesis story in which Adam and Eve become estranged from God and begin to live in exile “east of Eden.”
Little by little, each of us as we mature starts to descend into the world of self-concern and self-interest. And as we do so, we little by little begin to become blind to the needs of others, and more and more immersed in our own self.
Just like the little girl in the story, we start to forget.
“What are you looking for?” This is the question Jesus is asking these two men in our gospel reading today – and each one of us.
“Come and you will see.” This is the invitation Jesus offers to all who are looking for another way to live.
Come, he says, and I will show you a road that will lead you on a return from exile. Come and I will introduce you to a way in which you can recover your True Self. Come and I will lead you on a journey in which you can begin living inside out, instead of outside in. Come and I will help you remember – remember who you truly are and how you came to be.
What Jesus is talking about is how we can be “born again,” not in some dramatic one-time event, but through a life-long process that will involve our developing within us a new heart, a new way of seeing, and a new way of relating to the world in which we live.
St. Paul speaks of it as being a life “in Christ.” It will be one that will be noticeable to everyone because it will be distinguished by four major qualities: freedom, joy, peace, and compassion.
In other words, we will become a people who will live out of our hearts, not out of our compulsions.
The word “heart” appears over a thousand times in the Bible. It’s a word that stands for the deepest part of us, the part that still remembers – remembers from Whom we came and in Whom we live. It’s that part of us that desperately wants our blindness restored, our hunger fed, our sickness healed, our sinfulness forgiven.
In our first reading from the prophet Isaiah, we heard God, hundreds of years ago, continually call out to Samuel. But here’s the good news: He’s still calling out – to each one of us – right now in our daily lives.
He does it through Sacred Scripture. He does it through the Eucharist that we celebrate together each Sunday. He does it through prayer. He does it through hearts that are open to the cries of so many people around us who live in hunger and homelessness and loneliness and despair.
And he’s still hoping to find you and me possessing the kind of heart that is open to His call – a heart that is willing to respond with the very same words that Samuel so eagerly and so passionately spoke centuries ago: “Here I am, Lord. Speak for your servant is listening.”
But to do that, like the little girl in the story, we have to remember, and then fall to our knees.
Ted Wolgamot, Psy.D.