Sunday, January 17, 2021

Discovering Water

2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

Readings: 1 Samuel 3:3-10,19; Psalm 39(40):2,4,7-10; 1 Corinthians 6:13-15,17-20; John 1:35-42

Picture: cc Ryndon Ricks

My dear friends, do you know what water is? Believe it or not, this is how a famous college graduation speech in the US begins. Actually, to be more exact, the speech begins with a story of two young fish, who happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way. Morning, boys! says the senior, How’s the water? The juniors swim a little further along, then turn to each other and ask, What the hell is water?

The point of the story, the speaker goes on to explain, is that the most obvious important realities are often the ones that are the hardest to see and talk about. The young fish are surrounded by water. They swim in it. They are filled and sustained by it. Yet they have no knowledge of it. They’re not even conscious of its presence…

And can we not say the same about God? The Bible tells us that in God we live and move and have our being (Ac 17:28). Yet how many of us are actually conscious of God’s presence? How often do we recognise God’s voice, heed God’s call? Learning to recognise and to respond positively to God’s presence, God’s call. This is also the subject of our readings today. What is needed for this to happen?

Perhaps the first and most obvious thing is guidance. Just as the younger fish have the older one in the story, so too does Samuel have Eli in the first reading. The Corinthians have Paul in the second reading. The first disciples have John the Baptist and Jesus in the gospel. But it’s important to see the form that such helpful guidance takes. Notice how it’s less about expounding on complex ideas than pointing out obvious things that often go unnoticed. Less about providing easy answers than posing evocative questions. Look, there is the lamb of God… Our bodies are members making up the body of Christ… Your body… is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you… What do you want?

Even so, on its own, guidance is not enough. It needs to be accompanied by receptivity. A willingness to learn, to look and to listen, to ponder and to question. And to keep doing so, even if an answer is not immediately forthcoming… What the hell is water? … Speak, Lord, your servant is listening… I waited, I waited for the Lord… Rabbi, where do you live? … Also, receptivity needs to be expressed in a willingness to make time and space. As the first disciples did, when they came and saw, and stayed with Jesus for the rest of that day.

Guidance and receptivity, time and space. These are some of the more important things by which we learn to recognise and to heed God’s call. Not just in spectacular extraordinary experiences. But also, and more importantly, in the mundane humdrum routine that characterises daily life. If all this is true, then what are its implications for how we cultivate and share our faith, how we teach our children, promote vocations...?

Sisters and brothers, what must we do to better help one another deepen our experience of water today?

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