Hi everyone, and welcome to Weekly Homilies with Father Mark Suslenko, Pastor of SS. Isidore and Maria Parish in Glastonbury, Connecticut. We are part of the Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford. I'm Carol Vassar, parish director of communications, and this is Episode 8 of Season 6 for the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time: Jan. 15, 2023. Our Gospel reading is from John: Chapter 1, verses 29-34.
John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. He is the one of whom I said, 'A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’ I did not know him, but the reason why I came baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel."
John testified further, saying, ”I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven and remain upon him. I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, 'On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.'
Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God."
The Gospel of the Lord
“Let Go! Let God!” by Father Mark S. Suslenko, Pastor, SS. Isidore and Maria Parish, Glastonbury, Connecticut
From the time that we are born into this world, our lives become an amazing journey in self-discovery. This amazing human adventure brings us to so many unique and different places. We learn so much about who we are and what it means to be a human being. Even from a very young age, others have told us about ourselves, and those messages that we receive can, in one way, be positive, but for others, may be negative.
The images and the impressions that we receive about who we are either enable us to flourish as a human being or they can easily cripple us as well. And so as we journey through adulthood, we have opportunities moment to moment, day after day of coming to understand who we really are, and what are unique gifts and talents and purpose in life may be; to sift through those things that are true and discard those things that are false.
For you and I, as believers, understanding who we are starts at a particular place. It starts with our relationship with God. And we have to remember that regardless of what life has told us, regardless of what life has done to us, our place in God, our origin, is specific and centered in our truth.
God chose, in his infinite love and with the greatest of intention, to create each and every one of us as the person we find ourselves to be. He put every fabric of our being together. He knit us together in our mother's wombs. Not just because, not in some random way, but with loving intent and purpose and design. He gave each one of us gifts and talents, each one of us a unique purpose and mission, each one of us the potential to build up his kingdom here on earth and to show positive seeds of the Gospel message of joy. God gave each one of us the uniqueness of our soul, a gift given to no other individual in any place or time.
As we begin to discover and learn more about ourselves, as we move throughout the world, we realize just how special and necessary we are in the journeys of our lives.
Bring to mind one person in the fabric of your life, and consider yourself if they were not present to it. Or consider yourself and how different life would be if God didn't choose to create you in this time and place. One solitary life - one - has ripple effects in the lives of so many others, and often even without our notice.
Even though we often get up in the morning and the person we see looking back at ourselves may not be somebody we're particularly happy with or even like. Each human being has a necessary purpose, a necessary presence in the life of the totality of God's design.
And there are these folks, and we see them throughout history. We see them through the pages of scripture, who simply, for whatever reason, can get to that core of themselves. Can see and touch their divine blessedness. They understand that they have a unique purpose and mission, and they're very in touch with their particular gifts and talents. Folks like John the Baptist, St. Francis of Assisi, Gandhi, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and so many others. Even someone like Rosa Parks left an impact not only on history but on the lives of individuals.
Somehow they figured it out. Somehow they got within themselves and recognized and embraced their truths and were able to do something and speak of something that they were passionate about, committed to, and created for.
That same vocation exists within each one of us, but it's our job to peel it away, awaken it, and then to live it. Besides understanding that we are all children of God, divinely blessed and endowed with unique gifts and talents. What else can we do to allow all that God has done in us to flourish?
Pope John the 23rd is attributed with this phenomenal quote that I think we can use to uncover the truth about who we are. And all of this comes through a habit of prayer in those moments when we're alone with God, and we're allowed to see the truth of who we are and recognize those things that may be blocking the true expression of myself.
The first thing Pope John the 23rd says is this: "Consult not your fears, but your hopes and dreams." All of us have hopes and dreams. We all have desires. We all have passions that we would love to be able to express, but quite often, our fears cripple us. We cut ourselves short before we even give ourselves a chance.
"I'm afraid of saying what I really want to say to you because I may get rejected."
"I'm afraid of bringing what I know to be true out into the world and speak toward an injustice or a wrong, but I'm afraid I'm outta place."
"I may have this passion to do and create something spectacular, but I'm afraid that I'm going to fail because the world has told me that I fail."
And so often, our fears cripple us. They get the best of us, and they prevent us from realizing our hopes and our dreams and those things that really would connect us and express us. Because guess what? God's not in our fears. God works in our hopes and dreams. But if they're inhibited, how can God do what God does best?
Pope John the 23rd further goes on, and he says, "Think not about your frustrations, but on your unrealized potential." and that is so true. Because there's so much in life that can frustrate us. There are so many walls that we can face, so many injustices, so many weaknesses, so many wrongs.
We look at our relationships sometimes, and sometimes they're a source of more frustration than they are freedom. We look at ourselves, and we get frustrated with ourselves and sometimes the ability to put the pieces of life together or be successful as others would want me to be successful. And we find ourselves so burdened by our frustrations that we lose focus of our unfulfilled potential. Those gifts and those talents that can be used for so much good go untapped because I'm falling into anger, and then to resentment, and then to apathy because I'm bumping up against frustration, frustration, frustration.
Pope John the 23rd continues and says, "Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what is still possible for you to do." And again, those words speak volumes of wisdom because we do get caught up in what we tried and failed in. And that we allow it to cripple us so that we don't even begin to act again, and we lose sight of the fact that God's love, God's presence, is always bringing us to a place of more. That God's presence is always bringing us to something we can yet do. Something positive that can come from simple actions and gestures.
So as you look at all of those folks: the Reverend Martin Luther Kings of the world, John the Baptist, St. Paul, we look at St. Francis of Assisi, we look at Mother Teresa of Calcutta, we look at Rosa Parks. Anyone who did significant things. And even those who are not officially recognized, and they're here among us today. People who just have a self-assurance and know who they are in Christ, and present themselves with this confidence and the giftedness of themselves. They're not held down by their fears. They're not crippled by their frustrations, and they don't let their failures get the best of them. They persevere, forge ahead and embark upon these creative, challenging journeys of life in which they do not alone venture forth but with the power and presence of God behind them because they were designed and fashioned and made to do so. Just as you and I are designed and fashioned and made to do so, we just have to uncover our gifts and figure out how God can use us by getting out of the way ourselves and presenting us ourselves before him.
No greater words were ever spoken than “Here am I, Lord, I come to do your will.”
Get out of the way. Put your fears away. Release yourselves from life's frustrations and disappointments. Forget about what you failed in, and open yourself today to be used by God in the way that he made you to be, in simple and ordinary but holy ways.
Father Mark Suslenko is the pastor of SS. Isidore and Maria Parish in Glastonbury, Connecticut. Learn more about our parish community at www.isidoreandmaria.org. And follow us on social media: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Our music comes free of charge from Blue Dot Sessions in Fall River, Massachusetts. I’m Carol Vassar. Thanks for joining us.