A Formula for Becoming Authentic Disciples

The following homily was given by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde on January 15 on the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time at St. Joseph Church in Alexandria.

Is there a formula for becoming an authentic disciple of Jesus, for becoming truly holy? The Word of God today provides us with such a formula. It is found in Samuel's response to the Lord: “Speak, for your servant is listening.” In these six words, there was reflected sensitivity and a willingness to receive what God wished to tell Samuel. Notice how open Samuel was to the Lord; he attached no strings nor placed any conditions. Because he was so open, the Lord used Samuel as his prophet, “not permitting any word of his to be without effect.”

There it is: a formula for us who do desire to be authentic disciples of Jesus, followers of Christ, who do desire to let the Lord work in us and through us. “Speak, for your servant is listening!” If we mean those words, we can also pray: “Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will,” for these words also reflect a heart that is sensitive, open and willing.

As you and I pray “Speak, for your servant is listening” and “Here am I, Lord, I come to do your will,” we are truly focusing on Jesus, Who is “the Way, the Truth and the Life.” Indeed, was this not God the Father's instruction at the Transfiguration of Jesus: “This is my beloved Son, listen to Him”? Is this not what St. John the Baptist is doing in today's Gospel account, pointing to Jesus and saying “Behold, the Lamb of God'? Does not Jesus invite us, as He did those two disciples; “Come and you will see”? If we go to Him and stay with Him, we shall more eagerly listen as He speaks and more readily do His will.

In fact, as we reflect upon our daily efforts to live a genuine Christian life, are not our personal prayer and liturgical worship a tangible expression of “Speak, your servant is listening”? Does not our continuous formation in the faith, from childhood into adulthood, enable us more and more to listen to His voice in Word and to obey faithfully His will? As we listen, is He not reminding us over and over to love God above all else and to love one another as He loves us? Does not our love become more genuine and tangible as we seek to live out the words of the prophet Micah: “Only to do the right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8)?

Yes, if we are listening to the Lord as He speaks to our hearts, He is telling us that we must live in the real world the Gospel He proclaims “the Gospel of God's love for man, the Gospel of the dignity of the person and the Gospel of life (cf. Evagelium Vitae, 2); there can be no dichotomy between what we believe and how we act.

This weekend, we are honoring the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., especially today, which would have marked his 77th birthday. Like Samuel, Dr. Martin King heard the Lord's voice, calling him to cry out against injustice, violence and racism and to point towards a future where all peoples would live together as brothers and sisters, regardless of their race, color and creed. He himself tells us: “My call to the ministry was not a miraculous or a supernatural something; on the contrary, it was an inner urge calling me to save humanity” (cf. Searching for God in America). Dr. King kept his focus on Jesus and found in Him the source of his strength amidst insurmountable obstacles and the reason for his hope even in the darkest of days. Again, to quote him: “Whatever the cause, God has been profoundly real to me in recent months. In the midst of outer dangers, I have felt an inner calm and known the resources of strength that only God could give. In many instances I have felt the power of God transforming the fatigue of despair into the buoyancy of hope"” (Ibid).

Our society remains weighed down by a pervasive neglect of God and a denial of our total dependence on Him. Our society continues to be stained and shattered by injustice, violence, racism — fundamentally, by an increasing disrespect for the dignity of each human being, beginning with life at conception. If we are listening, the Lord is telling us to draw closer to Him, so that we can be recreated more and more in His image and simultaneously be sent by Him to proclaim His Truth and His justice to our contemporaries and to root out the causes of injustice, violence and racism. The Lord is speaking to us in order that we might respond with sensitive and willing hearts and become, more in fact than in name, the heralds of His Gospel in the real world. Others before us have been heralds of justice and peace, like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Now, it is our turn!

Yes, there is a formula for becoming authentic disciples of Jesus: “Speak, for your servant is listening.” Perhaps, this formula can be even further summarized in this way: “Listen — Follow — Act, always in union with the Lord!” Today — now — is the moment to say to the Lord with every fiber of our being: “Speak, for your servant is listening! Yes, here am I, I come to do your will!” Amen!

Bishop Paul S. Loverde

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Bp. Paul S. Loverde is the bishop of the Diocese of Arlington in Virginia.

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