Homily for the Day
Shortly after beginning my ministry at St. Mary’s in Caledonia, a parishioner asked me which book of the Bible was my favorite. I answered, “The First Letter of John.” We hear from that letter today in our first reading.
John writes that the world does not recognize us because it does not recognize Jesus. (1Jn 3:1) He then goes on to say that we are to be children, children of God.
We sometimes wonder why we Catholics are so often misunderstood, ridiculed, even persecuted. We wonder why we are not better known and accepted in our culture. We can start blaming the world for all this. St. John gives us another answer. He says that we are not accepted and recognized because Jesus is not known. Why is Jesus not known and accepted in the world? Because we have not borne good witness to him. We have not made him known by the way we live.
“How can we make him known?” you may ask. Yes, how can we make Jesus known and accepted? The Gospel reading gives us an answer. John the Baptist says twice in the reading “I did not know him” because no one had yet given witness; not until the Holy Spirit witnessed to John, who then pointed him out to the people by saying, “Look! There he is!”
Are our hearts as open to the Holy Spirit as was John’s heart? Are our hearts receptive to God’s voice? What makes us sensitive to God’s voice?
John the Baptist went about baptizing people because he knew they had to be free from sin in order to recognize Jesus, the Messiah. He knew that they had to be as innocent as children if they were going to be able to recognize Jesus, and if they were going to make him known.
What does this have to do with us?
Jesus is not recognized by the world because we have not made him known to the world. Why have we not made him known? It is not because he hasn’t been spoken about, or written about, or painted in pictures, or sculpted in stone. No. We have not made him better known because we have not become as innocent as children. In other words we have not become holy. We don’t look like Jesus. We are not living like Jesus. And why is that? Because of our sins keep us from it.
Our lives will either lead other to Jesus or away from him. If our lives are holy, if we confess our sins, and seek to live lives of virtue, then we can and will make Jesus known in our world. If we avoid confession of our sins, we will lead others away, because they will not see Jesus in us and in our lives.
All of us are called to become holy, to grow more and more into the likeness of Jesus.
We are not recognized by the world because we do not look like Jesus, and Jesus is not recognized because he doesn’t look like us when we are marred by sin. The world will recognize Jesus if we look and live like him, if we become more and more like him, and bear his image. That can only happen if we are free from sin and become children of God, made in his image and in his likeness.
We are that closely united to Jesus. Jesus is that closely united to us.