Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

January 15, 2023. At every Sunday Mass, the second reading is from one of the New Testament epistles – letters from the apostles to a specific person of a certain community of those first Christians.  They are reverenced as the inspired word of God.  Peter, James, John, and Jude wrote a few of them.   

But the majority are written by Saint Paul, that’s why we hear them the most at Mass. The letters contained teaching, reminders, requests, encouragement, and even sometime admonitions, more or less: I hear what’s been going on.  Knock it off.  That’s not what followers of Jesus do.   

Paul wrote the letter we heard today about 20 years after the resurrection of Jesus.  It was to small Christian community that numbered a couple dozen people that Paul founded at Corinth – a Greek town between Athens and Sparta.  I wonder when he was writing it, did he ever think that this letter would be saved along with other ones.  And that it would be read 2000 years to a Christian community on Trindle Road on a continent that Paul didn’t even know existed.   

Who knows?  But God knew.   Because Paul identifies in this letter what is the mission of every person.   He says:  To you who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, you are called to be holy.  

What does it mean to be holy?  How do we become holy?    

The call to holiness is not just for certain people, a special select group.   It’s not just for clergy and nuns, for the saints, or for the uber or super Catholics.  The call to holiness is for everyone.  It’s universal.  Each and every person is called by God to be holy.     

We might think to be holy we have to run away from the world.  We might think that to be holy were not allowed to have any fun, or enjoy ourselves at all.  

But holiness doesn’t beat us down, it lifts us up. Holiness doesn’t stifle us; it sets us free. It brings us to life.  

Throughout history, those who respond to God’s call to holiness were joyful. They enjoyed life.   Even in the midst of suffering they are able to feel a peace and a joy that got them through what was happening to them or around them. The holiness of saints is reflected not only in how they overcame struggles, but by their ability to share the joy that comes from being loved by God.  

What did Pope Francis say few years back?  If we truly love God and realize that He loves us, then we wouldn’t be pessimistic, grouchy, miserable, or look like we just drank some vinegar. He was the first pope on record to use the term sourpusses in a homily  

The Church – the whole world – needs people of hope, of joy,  those who do not just focus on what is wrong, but takes steps to make it right.   

Matthew Kelly – whose book Holy Moments we gave at Christmas this year – describes holiness as being the best version of ourselves.    

The signs of holiness are not only how time we spend in prayer, the number of rosaries and novenas we say, or even the number of good works we perform.  

Please don’t misunderstand.  They are all parts – very important parts and truly necessary parts – of being holy.    

But we can’t forget that holiness is the insatiable desire to become all God created us to be, an unwavering commitment to the will of God, and an unquenchable concern for others – even those who are not so holy.   

Living a holy life means letting our decisions be guided by the Holy Spirit.  

Every day – each event – in our lives is an opportunity to change, to grow, to become holy – to live God’s dream for us.  To live what we sang in today’s Responsorial Psalm:  Here I Am Lord, I come to do Your Will.     

At the same time, our path to holiness – by its very nature – means that we need to share Jesus with others.   To show Him to others.  To point Him out to others.  In the first reading today, God calls us to be His servants, but He also says we need to be lights in the world.  Lights that reveal Him.  In the gospel, John the Baptist points out Jesus.  That was John’s path to Holiness.    

The Christmas Season has come to a close and Ordinary Time has begun.  Even though our trees are down, the lights turned off, and the mangers are packed away until next year, now the real work of Christmas begins.    

To allow God to fill every corner of our being.  To be the-best-version-of-ourselves, knowing that it is a journey and we are works in progress. To see Jesus in our lives and world and to point Him out to others.   

Simply, to do our best to be holy.  

Father Neil Sullivan 

January 14, 2023