Sermon Notes by Fr.Eugene A. Thalman M.M. for homilists and religion teachers. Embargo: Catholics are welcome to read after Noon, Sunday
[Our Lady of Fatima is a Catholic parish of the Hong Kong diocese. It is located on a one-square mile island. The total population is over 30,000. About 50 Filipino Catholics attend the English/Tagalog Sunday Mass and about 120 Chinese Catholics attend the Chinese Mass. The Church is also a center for pilgrimage. The pastor, Fr.Gene Thalman M.M., ordained 1960 is a Maryknoll missioner. He enjoys sharing with you his weekly struggle to make the Word of God relevant to this particular community.[email protected] and his Social Concerns Lessons on www.acpp.org under " library"]
I SAW IT WITH MY OWN EYES!
01/15/02 2nd Sunday of Year Jn 1: 29-34
ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST’S POINT OF VIEW
Since John the Baptist was Jesus’ cousin, we can assume that John and Jesus met at least once a year when Jesus went with his folks to Jerusalem to worship in the temple. While the grown-ups talked, John and Jesus played kid games. Later John went into the desert and he experienced the call of God to undertake a mission—to prepare folks for the arrival of the Messiah—whoever the Messiah might be.
Then one day as John was going about his task of baptizing and preparing the folks for the arrival of the Messiah, he "sees" his cousin, Jesus. Jesus wanted to be baptized. By this time, John must have been well aware of his cousin’s unique holiness. Yet John the Baptist tells us today (Jn 1: 31): "I confess I did not recognize him, though the very reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel."…until------.
In today’s passage, suddenly the Holy Spirit enables John to "see" the person that Jesus really was. Today John is truly convinced that his cousin, Jesus, is the long awaited Messiah. With his own eyes, John "saw the Spirit descend like a dove from the sky and it come to rest on Jesus."
And John full of confidence, addresses the crowd of simple people: "I would like to introduce to you God’s chosen one. I can testify that he is the genuine Messiah. He is the Lamb of God who will take away the sins of the world. He arrived after me but he existed before me."
And in the concluding verses of this first chapter, not included in today’s reading, John introduces his own disciples to Jesus. These disciples will say "Good-by, John. We are going to follow Jesus." And John doesn’t get huffy and accuse Jesus of "disciple-napping". Rather John is tickled pink. You see, John is a witness. That is exactly what witnesses like to do: "Introduce people to Jesus."
ST. JOHN THE EVANGELIST’S POINT OF VIEW
Now we will look at the other John. This other John was Jesus’ beloved Apostle. When he got real old John wrote a gospel account of the things he witnessed Jesus doing.
St. John’s gospel was written about 60 years after the Resurrection of Christ. St. John and his little Christian community had many years to deepen and mature their understanding of who Jesus was. More importantly, these early Christians had 60 years of seeing and experiencing the power of the Risen Lord at work in their community. Now this community wanted to officially give witness to the whole world of what they saw happen with their own eyes. The qualifications for a witness are simple.
"To qualify as a witness one needs to
personally experience first hand
the events to which one testifies
and not act from hearsay."
"Witness" was a very important word in John’s gospel. Another "kind of word" that John uses over and over especially in his first two chapters (John: 1:29 – 2:11) are words about "seeing". John the evangelist only spoke about what he personally "saw" the Risen Lord do. And John’s little Christian community at Ephesus not only believed because of John’s testimony, they also believed because of what they "saw" Jesus continuing to do in their community throughout the previous sixty years. How else could this little Christian community have survived sixty years of ridicule, skepticism, persecution and squabbles in the Christian community itself?
Not only did they survive; they flourished and grew They reached out to the poor and distressed. , Jesus present in this persecuted community loved and served the old, the forgotten, the abandoned and those who found life meaningless. Sometimes Jesus and this community turned selfish rascals into fervent apostles. These were the things that the little Christian community in Ephesus saw with their own eyes. And they wanted to tell everyone what they saw with their own eyes. They were a community of witnesses.
I think this is a true story. One day in England, a wise-guy was ridiculing the Faith of a day laborer and asked: "Can you explain how Jesus changed water into wine?"
The laborer didn’t have much of an education. He answered honestly: "No, I can’t explain how Jesus turned water into wine at Cana. But fifteen years ago I was a drunk. I was cruel to my wife. My children were afraid of me. I can’t explain how Jesus did it. All I know is that Jesus changed a worth rascal into a loving husband and a responsible daddy?"
Response of Our Lady of Fatima Community Dear senior Catholics of Our Lady of Fatima you already have been baptized and have been faithful witnesses here on Cheung Chau. You know how important it is that witnesses such as yourself should belong to a Christian community. The Catechism reminds us:
"#165… faith is not an isolated act. No one can believe alone, just as no one can live alone. … I cannot believe without being carried by the faith of others, and by my faith I help support others in the faith."
We are a community of witnesses who give testimony to one another of our experiences of the Risen Lord. We witness to what we have "seen.".
This year Our Lady of Fatima celebrates its fiftieth anniversary. Like St. John’s community we celebrate so that we can testify to all on Cheung Chau about the marvels that the Risen Lord has been doing here these past fifty years in our community. We testify that the Risen Lord has been faithful to his promises.
In 1952, there were only about ten Catholics who gathered for Mass once a month in a small house near St. John’s Hospital. Today, we have over two hundred members. Some of these baptized have moved away to other areas and are now witnessing in other areas of Hong Kong. Others have traveled farther. They are witnessing in Asia, Canada, America and Europe about the things that they saw happen here at Our Lady of Fatima.
FINALE: I will now give you three minutes to think about what you personally will volunteer to do to make Our Lady of Fatima’s 50th Anniversary Year a truly holy celebration.
HOMILETIC NOTES AND STUFF
01/15/02 2nd Sunday of Year Jn 1: 29-34
ONE WORD: Witnesses
THEME: Christians are witnesses to what they have seen.
As Christians we are witnesses to that which we have seen. Like St. John we give witness to the identity of Jesus so that others will follow and love Jesus. Like St. John the Baptist, Christians introduce (kaai3 siu6) Jesus to the people of Hong Kong and China.
"The next day, when John caught sight of Jesus coming… ‘I saw the Spirit descend.’"
Father, as a result of your homily, I am going to start talking to a senior Catholic and get stories about our parish history. Then I will tell folks about these marvelous things that the Risen Jesus has been doing here at Our Lady of Fatima these past fifty years..
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH:
" #165 Faith is a personal act – the free response of the human person to the initiative of God who reveals himself. But faith is not an isolated act. No one can believe alone, just as no one can live alone. … I cannot believe without being carried by the faith of others, and by my faith I help support others in the faith." Catechism of the Catholic Church, (Mission Hills: Benziger Publishing Co, 1994), pp. 45-46.
"…Christian faith as [is] personal knowledge of God in Christ." Richard P. McBrien, Catholicism, Study Edition, (Minn, MN: Winston Press, 1981), p. 45.
"Although faith is personal knowledge of God, that knowledge is always achieved and activated within a given community of faith, whether the Church as we know it or some other religious body, and beyond that within the whole human family." Richard P. McBrien, Catholicism, Study Edition, (Minn, MN: Winston Press, 1981), p. 45.
ALTERNATE OR ADDITIONAL RESPONSE
Response of those preparing for Baptism: I would like to say a few words to those of you who are preparing to be baptized at Easter Vigil Mass, on March 30, 2002. Dear catechumens, perhaps a Catholic friend introduced you to Jesus. He/she told you what Jesus has done in his/her life. You trusted the testimony of this friend. You decided that you would like to "see" Jesus for yourself. You joined one of our catechumen class. You learned many things about what Jesus did and taught. You memorized the Our Father, Hail Mary and the Act of Contrition.
You began "seeing" signs that the Risen Lord was active in the life of Our Lady of Fatima. You "saw" that the old and the poor are being looked after. You saw the unselfishness of those who organize catechism and activities for the children in the area. You also began having some personal and intimate moments of prayer. And one day you experienced that the Risen Lord loved you more than anyone else you ever knew. You began experiencing his presence and his support. Gradually Jesus became a real person to you. More and more you sought his companionship in prayer. Your picture of Jesus sharpened. Perhaps you saw Jesus as a loving savior, a loyal friend, traveling companion, older brother or a younger brother? Jesus was FOR REAL!
Before you knew it, Jesus became a part of your daily life. Jesus has become as real to you as a member of your family.
And one day you decided that you wanted to be his special friend for your whole life.
Recently four of you wrote me letters: "Dear Father Hoh [Thalman], I want to be a close friend of Jesus all my life. I would like to be baptized this Easter?"
In that letter, you said in so many words: "Father, I testify that:
I have experienced the presence of the Risen Lord in my life.
I have a personal friendship with the Risen Lord.
I have placed the Risen Lord in the very center of my life.
I have decided to follow Jesus through good times and tough times.
If necessary I would rather die than betray him.
I testify that I see the Risen Lord is active and busy in my life.
Father, I wish to be baptized on Easter Sunday.
Gospel Bending During the past three years, I have been trying to let the writers of Sacred Scripture speak for themselves. Often in the past, I would first look for a good story. I would then bend the liturgical texts to accommodate the story. Now the illustrations come at the tail end of my preparation. And usually during the course of preparation, a story or example will eagerly volunteer to serve the gospel message. These illustrations suffer bending without complaint: an added detail, a re-interpretation, a change in terminology to echo the gospel terminology. Often a scripture reading like today’s gets so exciting that an attention-getter is like "painting-snake-adding-legs." (Waak6 she4 t’im juk.)
Chewing, Digesting and Practicing God’s Word
01/15/02 2nd Sunday of Year Jn 1: 29-34
nAME_________ fAVORITE NAME FOR mOTHER MARY______ Grade_____________
In chapter 1, 19 to 1: 51, John introduces Jesus to first, the priests verses 19-23, ,secondly to the Pharisees verses 24-27. And in today’s passage verses 28 to 34, John the Baptist will introduce Jesus to the ordinary folks.
[Thierry Maertens and Jean Frisque, Guide to Christian Assembly lst to 8th weeks—2nd- to 8th Sundays, Revised Edition (Notre Dame, Indiana: Fides Publishers, Inc., 1969, pp. 30-31.]
"To qualify as a witness one needs to
personally experience first hand the events to which one testifies
and not act from hearsay." [Teresa Okure, "John" in The International Bible Commentary, ed. by William R. Farmer (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1998), p. 1461.]