Sunday Sermon for January 14, 2018, the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B
Readings: 1 Sam 3:3b-10, 19; 1 Cor 6:13c-15a, 17-20; Jn 1:35-42
Before addressing anything by way of a homily, I would like to focus first on an apologetics point. At the end of the Gospel reading today from St. John we hear about Simon being brought to Jesus by his brother Andrew. When Simon meets the Lord, Jesus says “’You are Simon, son of John; you will be called Cephas’ – which is translated Peter.”
Many question Catholics about the passage from Matthew 16 where Jesus says “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church…” They rightly point out that the word used there is Petros, which is normally translated as a pebble or a small stone; in Greek the word for rock is petra. This has led to many strange interpretations of the passage, but regardless, it almost always comes down to a rejection of Peter being the rock on which the Church is built and, therefore, a denial of the authority Jesus has given to Peter and his successors.
The reason I bring up this point regarding St. John’s Gospel is because it makes the Lord’s intention very clear and illuminates the implications of the passage in St. Matthew. In our Gospel today Jesus calls Simon Cephas, which is most often pronounced with the first syllable sounding like “see.” The Aramaic word Jesus uses is pronounced with a “kay” sound; kephas is the Aramaic word for rock.
To make this point even more convincing, St. John even tells us how the word is rendered in Greek. Normally, Kephas would be rendered as Petra, but St. John translated it as Petros. This is the exact same word Jesus calls Peter in Matthew 16. It only makes sense because Petra is a feminine noun whereas Petros is masculine. Gender ideology aside, Peter, as a male would be called a masculine name. Hence, Petra would be inappropriate, not because Peter is a pebble instead of a rock, but because Jesus is speaking to a male person for whom a female name would not be fitting.
So much for the apologetics lesson. Now, to the homily…As long as our focus has been on the Gospel, we will keep it there. At the beginning of the Gospel St. John the Baptist points out Jesus to his disciples, calling Him the “Lamb of God.” For the Jewish people this title would have had at least two meanings. The first goes back to Isaac when Abraham was going to sacrifice him on Mount Moriah. The second meaning refers to the Passover Lamb sacrificed by the children of Israel in Egypt when they were commanded to eat its flesh and put its the blood was put on the doorposts and lintels of each home so the Angel of Death would pass over them.
I think we have to understand this title according to both meanings. Mount Moriah is where Jesus was crucified; it is also where our Lord fulfilled the answer given by Abraham when Isaac asked where the lamb was for the sacrifice. Abraham’s answer was “God will provide Himself the lamb for the burnt offering” (Gen 22:8). Note it is not “God Himself will provide,” but “God will provide Himself.” What God refused to allow Abraham to do to his son, God allows for His own Son.
Jesus is also the Passover Lamb, sacrificed at the time when the lambs were being sacrificed in the Temple for Passover. He requires that we eat His Flesh and His Blood is sprinkled on us so death has no power over us. So, the insight of St. John the Baptist into the Person and Mission of our Lord is astounding.
Equally amazing is the conversation that follows when those disciples of John come to Jesus. Our Lord asks what they want and they ask where He stays. What they actually ask is “Rabbi, where do you remain?” Because this sounds strange in English it is translated to make it sound like they are asking about His residence. But Jesus tells them to come and see. The text says they went with Him and saw where He remained; and they remained with Him that day.
We too are invited to come and see where Jesus remains. As the Lamb of God He remains with us in the Eucharist, but in that form He also enters into our hearts. He is present within us in His indwelling presence as well. So, if we follow Jesus into the pages of the Gospel, He tells us if we love Him, He and His Father will come to us and tabernacle, i.e., pitch His tent, within us. The Lamb of God, sacrificed for us, remains (tabernacles) within us, when we are in the State of Grace. Come and find Him there and remain with Him!
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.