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John R. DonahueJanuary 01, 2000

The liturgical year involves the festal cycle comprising Advent-Christmas and Lent-Paschaltide, and ordinary time, which is the weekly celebration of the extraordinary event of the proclamation of the word, and the eucharistic paschal mystery. After the Baptism of the Lord the readings of the second and third Sundays of this time focus on discipleship, a sign that our "ordinary" lives unfold as a following of Christ.

The theme of call and response permeates the readings. Samuel, who was to be the great prophet who anointed David, receives a threefold call while sleeping (an encouraging note to preacher and people on a gray mid-January Sunday) and finally responds: "Speak, Lord for your servant is listening." The Lectionary unfortunately omits 1 Sam. 3:11, the words Samuel hears from God: "I am about to do something in Israel that will cause the ears of everyone to ring." God is literally commissioning a "wake-up" call to the people.

The Gospel from John depicts the call and response of Jesus’ first followers, as part of a series of initial revelations of Jesus that culminate at the wedding feast at Cana, at which Jesus "revealed his glory and the disciples believed in him." The "calls" reflect distinctive Johannine themes. John is a witness who points out Jesus as "lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world," evoking the suffering servant of Isa. 53:5-12 and the sacrifice of the paschal lamb. The two disciples follow Jesus, but, unlike the Synoptics, Jesus asks, "What are you looking for?" They respond "Rabbi" (an inadequate answer), but Jesus invites them to stay (abide) with him. On the next day Andrew finds his brother Simon, tells him, "We have found the Messiah" and brings him to Jesus, from whom he receives the name Kephas (Peter).

This narrative is a Johannine "coming to faith" story not only for John’s original readers but for Christians today. The questions and commands highlight the process: "What are you looking for?" "Where are you staying?" "Come and you will see." People come to Jesus on the testimony of others; Jesus enters their lives as a response to their deepest longing, and only after "staying" with him can they confess him as "Christ."

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