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See, Love, Follow

Updated: Jan 15

Homily of His Excellency Most Rev. Pablo Virgilio S. David, D.D.

Bishop of Kalookan and President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines

Mayap a gatpanapun pu kekayu ngan! Good afternoon, everyone!

Allow me to share three points today about discipleship, on the basis of our three readings for the 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (1 Sm 3:3b-10, 19; 1 Cor 6:13c-15a, 17-20; and John 1:35-42). I draw my inspiration from the theme song of that old stage musical, Godspell (1973). The theme song there is “Day by Day”. To grow in our life of Christian discipleship “day by day”, there are three things that we must experience: “to see the Lord more clearly, to love the Lord more dearly, and to follow the Lord more nearly, day by day”; but I will add something to each one of the three.

To See You More Clearly, and To Listen to Him More Attentively

Let's start with “to see you more clearly”. Discipleship is a call, not just “to see the Lord more clearly”, but also to listen to Him more attentively. Iyon ang dagdag. The Gospel tells us that when Jesus saw the two disciples of John [the Baptist] following behind Him, He asked them “What are you looking for?” (Jn. 1:38). In my reflection on this Gospel in our talk show Men of Light, which I know many of you are following, I began by saying that when God calls us for a mission, He deals with us as intelligent people who are capable of making informed decisions for ourselves after going through a process of discernment. Therefore, even if we know that obedience is important, we do not equate obedience with subservience or blind obedience. That's not a value for us, because God's call never comes as an imposition. Hindi kailan man namimilit ang Panginoon. God’s call comes, rather, as an invitation that awaits a free response. Nag-aanyaya lang naman Siya.

So, in addition to the “seeing more clearly”, I will add one more thing: to listen more attentively. Our First Reading is about “The Call of the Little Boy, Samuel” (1 Sm 3:3b-10, 19), who would later on become a great prophet. How he was introduced to his vocation? By learning to listen well, and to be familiar with God's voice. According to the author, Samuel was not yet familiar with God’s voice, God’s will. He needed some mentoring from the old priest Eli, who understood, the reason behind the boy’s repeated waking up and coming to him saying “You called me?” “Did you call me?”. Well, finally, the old man understood that maybe it was God’s voice that this child was hearing. That is why after the second time, the old priest gave him the following instruction: Go to sleep, and if you are called, reply, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” “Your servant is listening.” Eli taught the boy Samuel how to listen to the voice of the Lord. You know what I call that? “A lesson in prayer”.

Unfortunately, we commonly associate prayer with talking to God. I’m sure, when you come to church, you talk to God. There is nothing wrong with that. That is presupposed. While prayer is indeed an opportunity to express ourselves to God, actually, the more important thing is to listen to God. If we talk to God, let listening be our response to God who talks to us.

To Love the Lord More Dearly, and to Stay with the Lord

What the disciples saw and heard motivated them to stay, and to remain with the Lord. Now, this is what we're going to add to the second dynamic of discipleship: to love the Lord more dearly. Not just “to love the Lord more dearly”, but to stay with the Lord, to remain with the Lord, and to be part of the Body of Christ.

When the Lord asked the two disciples what they were looking for, they answered, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” (Jn. 1:38). They were not just asking for an information about his home address. The invitation of Jesus, “Come and see for yourselves”, did not end with the seeing. Hindi ‘yung sumama sila, nakita nila, tapos umuwi na sila. No. John tells us, “They went and saw where Jesus was staying, and they stayed with Him” (Jn. 1:39). That's very important. “They stayed with Him.”

This reminds me also of the two disciples on the way to Emmaus (Lk. 24:13-35) who did not feel that it was enough to have walked with Jesus and listened to Him. Of course, they did not know that it was Jesus they were walking with. All they knew was their hearts were like burning in listening to Him speaking. So, as He he was going on farther, they said, “Stay with us, Lord” (Lk. 24:29). “Stay with us a little bit longer.” Of course, Jesus stayed with them. That led to the table fellowship, and at the breaking of the bread, their eyes were opened, and they recognized who this stranger truly was: it was the Risen Lord.

Well, discipleship is a call to a relationship. It is a call to friendship. Jesus, in John chapter 15 said, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know what his master is doing. Instead, I have called you friends” (Jn. 15:15). So, the response of loving the Lord more dearly, is supposed to lead to staying with the Lord, to the act of remaining with the Lord, to enter into a committed relationship with Him. “Remain in me as I remain in you” says the Lord (Jn. 15:4a).

John tells us, “They went and they stayed with the Lord” (Jn. 1:39). “They stayed”, the other word is “They remained with the Lord. “Remain”, that is a favorite vocabulary of John, the fourth Gospel writer. Remember? In John 15, again, the beginning of the chapter itself, John is using the image of the vine. “I am the vine, you are the branches, apart from me, you will die” (cf. Jn. 15:5). If you want to bear fruit, you must remain connected to Jesus. That’s a beautiful description and what it means to stay.

In English vocabulary, we usually talk about the beginning of love as “falling in love”. Yet, the important thing beyond falling in love is remaining in love. I know that some people, yes, they fall in love, and sometimes cannot sustain the relationship, and they fall out of love. Remain in love, through thick and thin. St. Paul uses the vocabulary “in season or out of season” (cf. 2 Tm. 4:2). Napapanahon man o hindi. Sometimes, there are reasons why we are tempted not to stay. There are situations that could lead to a falling out, or to a parting of ways.

Do you remember that scene when some disciples who could not take the teaching of Jesus about giving one's flesh as food, or giving one's blood as drink? We've heard that they were scandalized and they abandoned Him (Jn. 6:60-66). John tells us there was a point when Jesus faced Peter and He asked him, “Are you also going to leave me?”, and this was the response of Peter, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (Jn. 6:67-68). It is his way of saying, “Hindi Panginoon, walang iwanan.” We call that “commitment”. It is no longer just a feeling that comes and goes. It is an act of the will.

Sa totoo lang, may nagtanong sa akin ng ganito, ang sabi niya sa akin, “Bishop, okey lang ba na magsisimba nalang ako kapag ‘feel’ ko? Kasi parang napaka-hipokrito ko naman kung nagsisimba ako pero wala naman akong gana.” Ang sabi ko sa kanya, “Alam mo, noong maliit ka pa, noong musmos ka pa, noong sanggol ka pa, sa palagay mo ba, all the time, ‘feel’ ng nanay mo na gumising sa gitna ng hatinggabi para palitan ang lampin mo? Sa palagay mo ba, sa lahat ng pagkakataon na kailangan mo ng konting atensyon ay ‘feel’ nila iyon? Sigurado ako na kung minsan, pagod na pagod na rin sila. Sigurado ako na kung minsan, inaantok na rin sila, pero gigising sila. Bakit? Dahil mahal ka nila.

Love is not just a feeling. Sometimes, you’ll do what you do not feel like doing. You will do it anyway, as an act of love. Because love is more than just feelings. It’s an act of the will.

To Follow You More Nearly, and Represent the Lord

That brings us finally to the third point: to follow You more nearly. Our addition here is, well, discipleship as not just following the Lord, but by being sent to represent the Lord. This is the point of St. Paul in our Second Reading (1 Cor 6:13c-15a, 17-20). Once you have seen the Lord more clearly, and once you have listened to Him more attentively, once you have loved the Lord more dearly, and stayed and remained with the Lord through thick and thin, once you have followed the Lord more nearly and become His friend, like St. Paul, you will be able to say, “Ang buhay ko ay hindi na akin. Ito’y kay Kristo, na nabubuhay sa akin” (cf. Gal. 2:20).

In our Second Reading today, from 1 Corinthians chapter 6, St. Paul says, “Your bodies are members of Christ, and whoever is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with the Lord” (v. 15 & 17). That is what happens to us when we receive the Lord, in Word and in Eucharist as spiritual food. According to St. Augustine, “Unlike physical food that we absorbed into our bodies, what happens when we receive the Lord as food is we are the ones who are transformed. We are the ones who are absorbed by Him to become part of His body, the Church.” When that happened, Saint Paul says, we become “temples of the Holy Spirit.” Then we can say, “We no longer belong to ourselves anymore, we belong to the Lord”, and because we belong to the Lord, the Lord becomes present in us, and the Lord becomes present through us. We become the very presence of the Lord in the world.

When people look for Christ, therefore, it's not enough to point at symbols and images. However important our symbols and images might be, like the Sto. Niño and Nazareno, once you become configured to Christ, you become the most visible image and representation of Christ. More real than the image itself.

We follow Christ in order to be sent by Christ as His embodiment. Christian discipleship is not just to follow Christ; it is the call to be Christ, to become a part of Christ, to participate in the life of Christ, and the mission of Christ.

There you are. The three elements of discipleship, with some little additions. Again, not just to see Christ more clearly, but also to listen to Him more attentively. Secondly, not just to love Christ more dearly, but to stay with Christ and remain with Him. Thirdly, not just to follow Him more nearly, but to be a part of His body, to represent Christ, to take part in His life and mission, to witness to the good news of the Kingdom.

Transcribed by Joel V. Ocampo

File photo by Ryan Rezo, Diocese of Kalookan

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