We have two homilies by Father Hanly for 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B. We have a recording and transcript for each homily.
Father Hanly’s heart-warming homily for 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, delivered during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, is on Christian Unity.
First Reading: First Samuel 3:3-10, 19
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 40:2, 4, 7-8, 8-9, 10
Second Reading: First Corinthians 6:13-15, 17-20
Gospel: John 1:35-42
This is a very important feast for me, personally, because I remember my first ecumenical adventure was with Grandpa Gunther.
Now, when I was very, very little, a little boy, we moved out of Brooklyn into a little town. It was all German. In fact, the main language of this little town at the time was German, and not English, among the old people. And Grandpa Gunther was not my Grandpa, but, because my parents had no relatives in the United States, they assembled a whole group of relatives for us, and my favourite was Grandpa Gunther.
He was from Germany and he had those long moustachios, you know, and he looked kind of fearsome, but he was really very kind and very gentle, but he could be a little bit gruff.
He decided that my mother didn’t know how to raise children, which was common in those days, and he decided to come on Sunday morning and take me to his church, instead of my mother taking me with my father to the Catholic church.
It was the Lutheran church. Now it was a Lutheran town, a German Lutheran town, so they had lots and lots of churches. And Grandpa would say, “Your mother knows nothing about this now. You come along with me.” And so we’d go walking off and he’d take me to the first Lutheran church. And most of the Lutheran pastors, lovely men that they were, were all kind of young, so Grandpa would bring me in, and we’d sit in the front row, and then the young pastor would get up and deliver himself of a sermon.
But Grandpa was a man of the old school and, when he heard the new school from this poor pastor, he would get internally outraged that there were new messages coming in this great old Lutheran church, so he’d say to me, “Denis, we get up.” And we’d get up. And he’d say, “And we get out.” And we’d walk out of the church.
Well, after about six weeks or so, I’d walked in and out of every Lutheran church in Hicksville and, finally, he decided maybe that maybe this education wasn’t helping me. In fact, it was a kind of a negative approach to informing him of the wonders of this Lutheran church and how much better it was than if my mother took me to the Catholic church.
Grandpa, also, though, as a little reward on the way home, he would buy me a lollipop. But these were wonderful lollipops. I don’t think they make them anymore. They had the sticky part on both ends of the stick, so that you could hold it in the middle and you could lick both ends, you see.
This was a great thing for a kid, but it was terrible for mothers, because you’d put it in your hair, and then you’d drop it on the ground and you’d lick off the dirt, and I was just So I’d come back, all nice and clean on the going out and on the coming back I’d be full of this kind of chocolate juice. And my mother would look up to heaven and look at Grandpa and he would look a little sheepish and he would say, “I think you’d better take care of him from now on.”
That was a great relief for my mother, so I went back from my Lutheran beginning to the Catholic Church.
It’s a life story. But thinking about it now, whenever we have this Christian unity octave, I think of Grandpa Gunther and how kind he was. And the thing that I admired about him was he really believed with his whole heart. He had a belief that you could touch and feel, and you knew when he said the prayers, they were coming out of him with all the pain of leaving his homeland and his people, and praying for them. And then his son was my father’s best friend, Uncle Fred. And Uncle Fred went off to the First World War, came back and he found out that his own mother had died in the First World War before he could come home and it was very sad.
So old Grandpa, he used to come out and sit on the porch and tell me stories. And I admired him and I admired his faith. He was able to go through those terrible times in the war, the loss of his wife, great faith in his son, and he was a good man up to the end.
I don’t know why we’re so separated from Protestants. It’s another people’s time, and another people’s war, and another people’s problem. And yet it keeps being handed down, and handed down, and handed down, despite the words of Jesus, despite the words of popes, despite everything. For some reason, there seems to be, still existing among us, between one family, after all everybody that’s baptized is Christian. And we’re supposed to work at it.
Certainly there’s problems in families. People in ordinary families have fights. I knew, in Hicksville, one family where the two sons didn’t talk to each other for thirty years. And they didn’t even know why they’d stopped talking to each other.
It’s a natural human thing, but it should not exist in the heads of clear minded, healthy minded, good people. And yet there is something about it, we find bringing our broken church together, putting it together piece by piece once again to become the church that Jesus prayed for and longed for.
The best positive experience after Grandpa, was when I was sent to Taiwan. And, in Taiwan, there was a doctor, Dr Landsborough. Dr Landsborough and his wife were doctors, but they were Presbyterian missionaries as well. He was a medical missionary from England. And he was born and raised in Taiwan.
And in those days (this is the 1940s and 50s) Taiwan was quite different from what it is today. But I was assigned to the same area. He had a hospital in Changhua and I was assigned as the assistant parish priest in Changhua. And whenever I had someone who was very, very sick, I used to go to ask Dr Landsborough if he’d come and look at him, because he was probably the best doctor in the whole area.
And, of course, one night, one of our parishioners got very sick, an old man. And I hated to do it, but I knocked at his door, and he came in slippers and a bathrobe, got dressed and came down. It was in the village next to the city and he looked at the man and he said, “We’ve got to find medicine for him.”
So we went and we woke up the Chinese medicine store doctor. And, naturally, while he was preparing the medicine, he said, the great question in Asia has always been (Father says something in Chinese). It means, “What’s the difference between the God of Heaven religion and the Christian religion?” Because the name in Chinese is not Protestant, but (Father says something in Chinese). It means “the religion of Christ.” And this thing is always asked.
So I look at the doctor, and he looks at me, and I look at him, and I said, “You tell him,” because I got tired of trying to explain the difference between the Reformation, and it goes back to 1066 and the invasion of…
Anyhow, he looks at the Chinese doctor and he says, very quietly he says, “Once, we were one family. And then something happened and we became separated. And, now, we pray, that with God’s help, someday, we will be one family again.”
That’s it. That’s the answer.
In the meantime, we reach out to our brothers and sisters every opportunity to work with them together, every opportunity to take advantage of friendship, of association, of family, and become one, not in the feelings, and in the history, and in overcoming all those problems that come down, but one in the heart.
Because, my feeling was I had become one already, because of Grandpa. Grandpa and I, there was nothing that separated us. We both loved Jesus. We both cared about God. We were people who were made one by the Holy Spirit. This is what we have to do. And let the organizational part fall in line. Because once the heart is won, then the rest will follow.
I’d like to read finally to end this. You must remember this now. Jesus is in Gethsemane. He is facing his death. He has asked his Father to take the chalice away. The one prayer that he asked was not answered positively. And he said, “Well then Thy will be done.” And, then, as he was about to be arrested, his final prayer in this world, his final prayer in this life, was recorded by John.
Jesus looked up to Heaven and he prayed:
“Holy Father, I ask not only on behalf of these, my disciples, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may know that you have sent me. The identity that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
The Call of Discipleship
In this excellent homily for 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, Father Hanly tells us Jesus is walking by all the time. He has to be stopped. He has to be followed. He has to be followed with faith.
First Reading: First Samuel 3:3-10, 19
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 40:2, 4, 7-8, 8-9, 10
Second Reading: First Corinthians 6:13-15, 17-20
Gospel: John 1:35-42
Christmas is over. I love Hong Kong, though: you get Lunar New Year right after Christmas. It seems like, when I was young, it was a long wait after Christmas to Easter. But, in Asia, we all celebrate Chinese New Year’s, and, kind of, I look forward to it. It’s very much in keeping, though, with what happens today.
As you see, the kings have all departed and gone home. Nobody’s left in Bethlehem. In fact, it’s about twenty-eight years later that we find, in today’s Gospel, we find the beginning, the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, and that’s quite important to us all.
This chapter is called “the call of discipleship,” for the first thing that Jesus does is he calls people to follow him. But it’s very interesting and I think, if we go over the reading of today’s Gospel, we’ll see why.
There’s John the Baptist, who is Jesus’ cousin. We all know that. And he came out to prepare the way of the Messiah, the Lord. And he was standing there with two of his disciples. Many people followed John, and some thought that he was the Messiah, but he always denied it. He said, “One coming after me. And he will baptise with fire.” Yes.
And as he watched Jesus at this time, John the Baptist was standing there and he watched Jesus passing by.
John the evangelist, who is writing all of this, is very interesting, because he’s writing on three or four levels all the time.
Jesus walks on by. It’s kind of a catch phrase if you know the Bible very well. And now what you do is you put yourself in there with John the Baptist, and he says to you: “Jesus is walking by.”
And, of course, what he expects you to respond is, you turn and leave John the Baptist and follow. Yes? Or, you just go home and have a nice supper and go to bed.
You see, the calling of God is quite different from the calling that we do.
We make arrangements, we’ll meet at a certain place, we call you to get a job or whatever it is.
But God is so very different. Jesus walks by every day. He walks by all of us every day. He’s walking by all the time. He has to be stopped. He has to be followed. He has to be followed with faith. If you don’t have faith, you’re stupid to follow this man who is walking by.
And, very often, Jesus will walk through a city, and walk through a village, or walk through a town. And it is the thing that God wants people to come and listen and become one with his Messiah, the one who will save them and heal them. But nobody stops him, we just walk on by.
Anyhow, these two, they follow Jesus right away.
We know who the first one is: Andrew, that’s Peter’s older brother. The other one is not named, but we already know why he’s not named because the one who’s writing this is the other one, and that’s John the evangelist.
And, of course, they work in Galilee, and they came up from Galilee where they live, and they became part of John the Baptist’s disciples, in a way, awaiting for the Messiah.
And so, when he says these strange words, “Behold, the Lamb of God,” John the Baptist says as Jesus walks on by, and they follow him right away.
Because the Lamb of God is the lamb that is sacrificed at the great feast of the Passover, and represents the self-sacrifice of all the people of Israel to God Himself, you see. So it’s a Messianic title, and the two know that, so they follow him.
What do they do? Jesus turns to them, and he saw them following him, and he says, here’s the other one now, “What are you looking for?”
“What are you looking for?” Well, let’s suppose, for a minute, that you begin to feel that there’s something special about Jesus, and so you begin to follow him. What do you want from him? What are you looking for? What is it that draws you to him? Is it physical things, success, something that you yearn for? But what is it?
Now, you notice two things. You have to look into your own heart. So far, “Jesus walks by.” Do you follow him and why? Now, “What are you looking for?”
They said to him, and the two disciples said, “Rabbi.” Rabbi means teacher. It’s an honourable word. “Rabbi (teacher), where do you live?” You know, “Where do you live?”
Where does Jesus live? Up in the sky? It must be, he’s living up in the sky there, so we pray to him on our knees, and we pray up to the sky and all our prayers go up, and is that where he is?
Jesus himself says, “I am with the poor. I am with the suffering. I am with those who have no hope, no help.”
That’s another one: “He is with them.” Then it means that you must search out the poor and the needy, and the people that you know need help desperately, and you will find Jesus, you see.
But you won’t find him up in the sky, because the Incarnation means Jesus, Son of God, infleshes himself in the world. If you’re looking for him, you have to look for each other, especially the needy, especially the people that he hung around with, those that were sort of questionable, and not accepted by the ordinary people of their time.
He said to them, “I’ll tell you where I’m staying.” No, he didn’t. He said, “You come and you see.”
“You come and you see.” He’s not telling you what he is, or what you must do, or passing orders.
What he’s saying is, if you want to know me, you have to live with me. If you don’t live with me, you’ll never know me. I’m not in books. I’m not in the mouths of others. To know me is to love me, and to love me is to know me better, and to know me better is to love me more, and you’re only going to find me where I am, infleshed in the people all around you, in the world in which you live.
But he’s not telling you to do that. Why?
Because he is the Saviour of the world, he is the one who is the source of our Father’s love, he is all these things. And they’re not supposed to be talked about, or organized. What they’re supposed to be is to tease you into changing your life. You must live with him.
“Come follow me” means do not try to imitate me — I am the son of God. “Come follow me” means be my chosen companions, the ones that I love, the ones I want near me, not in a God-like way, up in the sky, but in a human way.
God has made Himself very vulnerable. God can now feel pain, feel want, feel desires, feel all these things that we take for granted.
Because God’s son takes on human flesh and is indeed one with us. You used to be able to say it’s okay for God up there, but think of all the people suffering down here.
And, all of a sudden, you see a cross. And on the cross he is man. And he’s destroyed. And everything he hoped for and hoped to gain is just taken away. And he cries out to his Father, “Forgive them they know not what they’re doing.” And that makes him our Messiah.
Out of the depths of, the edges of despair, when he had no hope as a human being except he had faith in his Father and he believed in people.
Because, remember the words, he didn’t say they’ll reform, he didn’t say anything, he just said, “Father, if you enlighten them through me, maybe they will begin to understand what it means to be a human being.”
A human being is one who loves, a human being is one who forgives, a human being is one who cares. And all of that is in this simple little gesture of the two disciples begin the walk with Jesus.
You all know the two: there’s Andrew, and there’s Peter’s brother. And so the first thing Andrew does is, he runs home and he says to his brother, these are fisherman, Peter’s out there pulling in the lines, and he says to Simon, he says: “Brother, come and see,” you see, “Come and see. We have found, discovered the Messiah, the long-awaited Messiah, the Christos” – for Christ is another word in Greek for Messiah – “We have found the Messiah.”
And he, not only that, but he brings Jesus to him. And Jesus looks at Peter and he says, “Simon, son of John, you shall be called Cephas,” and Cephas means Peter.
And what does Peter mean?
The rock. You shall be the rock on which I will found a new community, and that new community will people who will feel in their heart, my call.
For I’m not going to broadcast it, I’m not going to be on television, I’m not going to insist that you follow me. If you look for me, you will find me in your heart, and that is where I am. And listen to your heart, but also listen to your head. Because the heart without a head is dangerous, but a head without a heart is an empty, empty gourd with nothing in it except a few noisy little seeds that when you shake it, it rattles.
This is a wonderful passage, and I’m giving you just an insight. Never take the Gospels…The only way to take the Gospels is to take it very seriously and realise that the more you go into it, the deeper it becomes and the more your life takes on a new understanding, a new relationship, a new world.
And that is the meaning of today’s Gospel. Jesus comes to invite us into a new world, a new understanding, a new joy, a new pain, a new worry, a new everything. And this is what makes today’s so wonderful.
And that’s where it ends. He brought him to Jesus, Andrew did, and Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon, the son of John,” that’s his real father, “but you will be called Cephas,” the rock, the beginning of the Christian community in our world.
For the next many, many, many months ahead, we will begin to see how Jesus brings people home to the Father, how Jesus walks into darkness to bring light, into hatred to bring hope in and love.
And as we go, step by step, you will notice two things: Jesus never demands, and, if you want him, you’ve got to find him for yourself. And you will only find him by questioning your own heart and longing to be one of his disciples.
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Information about Father Hanly’s homilies for 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
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Father Hanly's sermon for 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, "Christian Unity" was delivered on 18th January 2009. Father Hanly's sermon for 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, "The Call of Discipleship" was delivered on 15th January 2012. It is sometimes hard to accurately transcribe Father Hanly's reflections, so please let us know if you think we have made a mistake in any of our transcripts, and let us have your suggestions.
We hope that Father Hanly’s homilies, always kind, always wise, always full of love, will restore you to peace and harmony through a new understanding of what is important in this world. We believe these homilies are inspiring for everyone, not only for Roman Catholics or other Christians.