“Where is Jesus?” Sunday Homily- Deacon Rick Stachura-1/19/2020
2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time
Isaiah 49:3, 5-6 I Corinthians 1:1-3 John 1:29-34
How many of you have small children or have small grandchildren? How about those of you who have grown children? Do you remember the book “Where’s Waldo?” That poor guy was hiding in plain sight all over the world. It used to frustrate me when I sat down with my kids, who are now in their thirties, to plow through the book looking for this guy in his red and white striped shirt and red and white knit cap hiding among the buildings or trees or mountains in many different countries. It seems like he always would blend in to his surroundings. And it always happened, being the competitive person that I am, that my kids would find him first.
This is what John the Baptist was doing, looking for Waldo. John was looking for Jesus among all the clutter that he experienced in everyday life back in first century Palestine. We heard this in some of the gospel readings before Christmas. I often wondered why John didn’t recognize Jesus, after all they were cousins. And you would think that his mother Elizabeth would have told John of the experience she had of John leaping in her womb when the pregnant Mary came to see her before John was born. Yet John continually asked if Jesus was the “one who was sent.” John even sent some of his disciples to Jesus to ask that question. And Jesus sends them back saying just look around you, the blind see, the deaf hear, the lepers are healed, the lame walk. It’s as if Jesus is saying there are plenty of signs of my divinity, just open your eyes.
In today’s gospel John finally sees Jesus for who he really is. Remember that last week John saw the dove, the Holy Spirit descend upon Jesus after he Baptized him. John notes that it was the Holy Spirit, and that it had been revealed to him that whoever received the Holy Spirit and had the Holy Spirit dwell within him was the “one who was sent.” He recognizes Jesus as the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.”
John said he did not know Jesus, but that he was sent to make Jesus known to Israel.
So where is Waldo in your life? Do you recognize Jesus in your life? Do you see Jesus around you? Are you even open to letting Jesus enter your heart and give you direction to guide you through life? Are you willing to get out of the driver’s seat and let Jesus do the driving? Or do you still want ultimate control?
So how do we find Jesus? For starters, developing a good relationship with Jesus is as easy as stopping and saying a simple prayer, “Jesus, I love you.” It’s as simple as asking Jesus to heal you, “Jesus, have mercy on me a sinner.” It’s as easy as spending time talking to Jesus thanking him for all of the gifts you have received; a wonderful family, healthy children, wise old parents, a good job, busy retirement. But it is especially important to receive Jesus in the Eucharist when we come to Mass, to receive Jesus as the bread of life, to receive him body, blood, soul and divinity into our hearts. The question remains though, do you really recognize Jesus in the Eucharist and do you really want a relationship based on prayer?
So where can you also find Waldo hiding in the world around you. Do you see Jesus in the person sitting next to you? I know that there are times when we feel that the devil has possessed our kids, especially our teenage kids. And I know from experience with my own mother that we become frustrated with our frail parents or the seniors we encounter while shopping, or the co-worker or fellow student who is really, really needy. Do you see Jesus in them and each and every other person you meet or interact with? Consider this. That every person we see was made in the image and likeness of God. We are told this in the book of Genesis. Yet, do we recognize Christ in others? That person might have been sent by God to help you or to extend God’s grace to you in ways that you many never know.
Here’s an example. A number of years ago I attended the Catholic Men’s Conference where I heard a Captain from the San Diego Fire Department speak. He told the story of a scruffy, elderly gentleman who would come by every day and sit on the bench outside the fire station. The firefighters complained that this old guy was sitting on their bench. So the Captain went out to talk to the guy and found out that he was hungry, not having eaten for a few days. So the Captain went and made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, poured a glass of milk and gave it to the old guy, who proceeded to scarf it down. When he was finished, the Captain asked the old guy if he knows Jesus. The response shocked the Captain. The old guy said, “I just met him.” The next day the bench was empty and the old guy never returned.
That Captain recognized Jesus in another person, a person made in the image and likeness of God. He provided for that person in a simple way, by offering milk and a sandwich. Was that old guy someone sent to that fire station by God to challenge those firefighters? Were they able to see Jesus in the eyes of that old guy? Who is that old guy for you, an elderly parent, or a struggling son or daughter having issues with school or a relationship or a spouse? Maybe that old guy is your boss who is becoming unbearable because of a family issue. Maybe that old guy is really the old guy down the street who could use some help and understanding after his wife died. Pray for them, and extend a hand if you are able.
Where is Waldo? So where else can we look for Jesus? Who else can help us find Jesus in our lives? There is only one answer, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Jesus’ mother, the Mother of God. Mary is the perfect intercessor. The Church has taught for ages that one way to Jesus is through Mary. We have been asked to consecrate ourselves to Mary by completing the do-it-yourself retreat “33 Days to Morning Glory.” Reading the reflection each day, saying the prayer and taking a few minutes to truly reflect on what we read will bring us closer to Jesus through his mother. The plan throughout the diocese is for the pastors to consecrate those who have completed the 33 day retreat on February 2nd by praying the prayer of consecration over them and with at the weekend Masses. If you have a copy of the booklet and are behind in the reading, take some time to catch up. If you haven’t started, then start today and double up on the reading. It does take a commitment, but it will sure be worth it in the end.
So where is Waldo? Can you truly say you have become like John the Baptist and recognized Jesus? Or is that still a work in progress? Do you need to recommit yourself to a better prayer life, or maybe improve on the one you have? Do you need to witness to others around you at home or work or school or in public that you, as a Catholic Christian, look for and see Jesus in those you interact with? Where is Waldo? He is right here with us today and every day, we just need to open our hearts and minds to the graces Jesus is offering us to deepen the relationship we want and he wants for us.
So as we leave this church today, recommit yourself to looking for Jesus out there in the world. Recognize him in everyone you meet. Pray for the grace to deepen that relationship with him and pray that others will also find him. Where’s Waldo?
May the blessings of Christ bring us peace.