Fr. Bill Carroll – The Second Sunday after the Epiphany, January 15, 2023

Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

“Veni, vidi, vici.”  (I came, I saw, I conquered.)  Julius Caesar wrote these words to report a famous conquest.  They may remind us of three other words:  “Just do it.”  It’s a famous ad campaign for a shoe company.  It’s the one named for a pagan goddess of victory.  

Caesar’s words are far more eloquent than they seem in English.  In just three two-syllable Latin words (with the same final vowel), he reports what he “just did.”  

Today, we hear similar words from Jesus:  “Come and see,” he says to two of the disciples of John.  Unlike Caesar, though, he isn’t bragging about a victory.  He is inviting us to come and follow him all the way to the Cross.  There, we see his glory.  There, we behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.  And with Israel, we confess that “victory belongs to the Lord.”

Jesus wants us to come and make our home with him.  He is calling us to go out on the road with him—to share his love with our families, friends and neighbors—so that they too might “come and see” for themselves.

But Jesus is always on the road.  He has “nowhere to lay his head.”  He also is himself the road.  He is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”  With him, we are going back to the Father’s heart, which is where he came from.  Every other dwelling-place is temporary.  Jesus never stops. He never gets complacent.  He seeks only God’s will and his ever-greater glory.  For Jesus has been sent on a mission by his Father.  He has come to bring us the Kingdom.  He has come to set us on fire with the Holy Spirit of love.  

Today, we see God’s suffering servant:  “I will give you as a light to the nations (says the Lord), that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”  The prophet bears witness to a great theme of the ministry of Jesus—and of this missionary season.  Isaiah tells us about God’s expanding mission to all people, everywhere.  Like Andrew leading Peter to Christ, we are called to share Jesus with other people, so they too might come and see for themselves.

Throughout the season, we also hear from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians—where he proclaims Christ crucified as the wisdom and power of God.  In that letter, Jesus on the Cross shows us God’s love for sinners.  As Fr. Pedro Arrupe once said, by loving sinners, “Christ strips hatred of its last pretext—religious zeal.”  Jesus shows us how to love, and he gives us power to love.

This week, I have been reading a book called Extravagant Love.  It is by Ruth Burrows, a Carmelite nun who turns one hundred years old this year.  Burrows entered the convent when she was just eighteen.  She has spent hours in prayer every day since.  A recent book about her spiritual teaching speaks of “going to God with empty hands.”

Extravagant Love shares several short meditations on the “self-emptying of Jesus.”  Burrows begins every chapter with a drawing of Jesus on the Cross and the words “Christ crucified.”  It is, in many ways, the only point of the book:  We come to God (we come to Christ) with empty hands, and he does all the work.  In one of the final chapters, she offers the following prayer.  She is speaking out of eight decades of incredible intimacy with Jesus in prayer but also a life of hard, spiritual struggles:  

Silent, hidden, powerless Love (she prays)
the world does not recognize you
but by your gift we recognize you
and fall in silent worship.  

We entreat you to draw us,
wrest us away from our self-centered selves,
and assume us into yourself.

May we seek ourselves in nothing, 
but by living by you and in you,
devote ourselves entirely to the fulfillment of your holy will.

O humble, powerless Love, 
yours is the kingdom, [and] the power and the glory,
Forever and ever.  Amen.

Beloved, we live in a time of great uncertainty and confusion.  We live also in a world of selfishness, divisions, violence, and fear.  And, into this world (which has no room for him) Jesus is born.

Today, he invites us to come and see where he is staying.  He invites us to follow him on the road—to come and see his love (God’s love) at work.  Above all, he calls us to come and see him on the Cross—where he gives his life for us all.

And so, beloved, come to Jesus.  Come to the stone that the builders rejected.  Come to the giver of the waters of life.  Come and drink without limit or price. Come and see his face of love.  Come and see and surrender.  Come to him and lay your burdens down.  For Jesus is the slain Lamb who conquers all.  And we come to him “empty-handed” or not at all.

Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.