A Commentary and Reflection on the Readings for the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year B. The Liturgical Sense of the Scriptures Podcast, by Catholic Author and Theologian David L. Gray. READINGS: 1 Samuel 3:3-10, 19, 1 Corinthians 5:13c-15a, 17-20, John 1:35-42.
Call, Response, and Procession are the Keys to Living a Liturgical Life
Let the readings for the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time – Year B serve as your never-fading reminder that you have been called, you are being called, and you will always be called to your destiny in Christ. This reminder is essential for us to lay hold of at the beginning of Ordinary Time in our liturgical calendar. The purpose of Ordinary Time is to orient our whole self (mind, body, and soul) in the direction of the liturgical season we are headed.
We are always headed or on the way to somewhere. We are on our way to Mass, on our way to work, on our way home, or on our way to the kitchen. Even our minds are racing to the next thing to pray about, think about, or speak about. Inasmuch as we are constantly processing somewhere, the liturgy of Mass is
rhythmically and repetitiously teaching us to imitate her by making all of our processions towards the altar, which is Calvary. In this way, Ordinary Time, symbolized by the color green, representing life, serves as our guide and sure path to stay on the path to our hope in the parousia (the presence of Christ) at Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost through our anemeno (our perpetual wait for Him). As the procession of the Mass first leads us to repentance in the opening Penitential Rite, so too does Ordinary Time lead us to the seasons of repentance in Advent and Lent.
Just as we are always procession somewhere, we are also constantly being called somewhere by someone. In this way, procession and call are intimately related because we only process in the direction we have been called, and we only orient ourselves to the places where Christ Jesus was called on earth and in Heaven. The caution point in this life is discerning an authentic call from God versus an assassin’s call from the world, the flesh, or the devil. Whereas the former call is easily identified by the unwavering desire to serve God and lower oneself, the latter is distinguished by an embellished passion for self-indulgence and self-importance.
While procession and call are intimate and essential to each other, neither of them completes the other. Rather, procession and call are completed by response. That is, our response to the call is how our procession begins. In other words, we are called to the altar and respond by processing to it. We are called to communion, and we respond with acts of faith. We are called to take up our cross and follow Christ Jesus, and we respond by taking up our cross and following Him wherever He leads us. This is what the call and response feature of the liturgy is trying to teach us – Christ calls, and we respond. In Persona Christi, the Priest exclaims, “Let up your hearts,” and we respond, “We lift them up to the Lord.” “The Lord be with you,” he says, “And with your spirit.” “This is the body of Christ,” he says as he elevates the host above our eyes, and we respond, “Amen.” Indeed, Christ calls, and we respond.
Today’s First Reading from 1 Samuel 3:3b-10, 19, has several nods towards the liturgy of the Mass in this regard. Now, where the text reads, “Samuel was sleeping in the temple of the LORD where the ark of God was,” means that he was already in anemeno and parousia when the Lord called to him. However, he was unable to discern whether it was a call from God or a call from the world, the flesh or the devil, because he “was not familiar with the Lord,” meaning that the Lord had not yet spoken to him; therefore, he could not distinguish God’s voice from the voice of the High Priest Eli, the fourth son of Aaron, who was the closest person to God he knew. Then, Samuel responds on the third occasion of his calling, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” What was Samuel listening for? He was listening for an opportunity to respond with service to the Lord. 1 Samuel 3:19 offers another nod to the ‘Lord with be with’ call and response of the Mass and to the Liturgy of the Word, saying, “Samuel grew up, and the LORD was with him, not permitting any word of his to be without effect.”
Sometimes, our response to the call is not with words but actions. Such is the case in our Gospel Reading from John 1:35-42, where John the Waymaker initiates the call to procession by announcing the Agnus Dei to two of his disciples in the presence of God, saying, “Behold, the Lamb of God,” and then the text says when “the two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus.” Here, again, with John and the disciples, we see the hope of anemeno being satisfied by parousia.
The transcendent nature of the call, response, and procession is composed in the act of faith. When we respond to God’s call, we acknowledge that all we are and all we have belong to Him, who created us for Himself. In today’s Second Reading from 1 Corinthians 5:13c-15a, 17-20, the Apostle Paul wrote about the transcendent reality in this way, “The body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body . . . Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? . . . Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body.” For Paul, call, response, and procession meant becoming one with God, as he wrote later in 10:17, saying, “Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.”
This teaching on call, response, and procession is not in any way related to a call to prayer, which is a mere summons, typified by church bells ringing, as well as in anti-Christian religions such as the Adhan call to prayer in Islam, the Trisandya call to prayer in Hinduism, and the Barechu call to prayer in Judaism. On the contrary, in the divine life, it is God Himself calls, and it is our heart that was created by Him and for Him that responds in faith and fealty to its core desire. Lastly, we are not processing to a worldly temple or to synagogue without sacrifice, but to God Himself, who comes to us daily as the Holy Eucharist.
This is just one way the readings at Mass this Sunday connect to the liturgy and how the liturgy is forming us in how to live our lives in the world. Be in the world what you have received through the liturgy.