Sunday, January 19, 2020

Do Your Job!

(Second Sunday of the Year (A): This homily was given on January 19, 2020 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read Isaiah 49:3-6; Psalm 40:2-10; 1 Corinthians 1:1-3; John 1:29-34.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Second Sunday 2020]

“Starting at tight end for the New England Patriots: John the Baptist.”

I’m not sure that would have worked.  I’m not sure that John the Baptist could have replaced Rob Gronkowski at tight end for the Patriots this past season—or anyone else on the team for that matter.  After all, John probably wasn’t a really big guy to begin with.  The Bible says that he lived on a diet of “locusts and wild honey”.  That’s not the kind of diet that’s going to pack on the muscle—the kind of muscle you need if you want to play tight end in the National Football League.

But regardless of whether or not John the Baptist (if he had lived in our time) could have actually played for the Patriots and their coach, Bill Belichick, one thing’s for certain: John the Baptist and Bill Belichick—at least on one very important matter—would be in total agreement.

Let me explain. 

As many of you know, Coach Belichick is famous for one command that he constantly gives to his team.  Coach Belichick is famous for telling his players, “Do your job.”  Do—your—job!  In other words, “Don’t worry about the other 10 Patriot players who are on the field with you for a particular play.  Worry about yourself!  Worry about yourself and what YOU’RE supposed to do on that play—even if it’s only a very small job.  If every player does that—if every player does his own personal job on the play—the play will be successful.”

John the Baptist had a similar attitude—not about football, but about life: about the history of salvation and his role in it.  For example, when John was asked by some Jewish priests and Levites if he was the Messiah, he said very directly and very clearly, “I’m not the Messiah.”  John knew that that was not his role in God’s salvific plan.  That wasn’t his “job.”  John understood that he was only the “voice”: the voice that was to prepare the people of Israel for the coming of their Messiah; the voice crying out in the wilderness: “Prepare a way for the Lord, make straight his paths.”  He was the best man, not the bridegroom; and he understood that he needed to fade more and more into the background as the bridegroom—his cousin Jesus—took center stage. 

“He must increase; I must decrease,” John said.  Or, as he put it in today’s gospel reading, “The reason why I came baptizing with water was that he [i.e., the true Messiah] might be made known to Israel.”

You see, in effect, God told John the Baptist exactly what Coach Bill Belichick tells his players: “Do your job!”

And John did!  He knew his role; he accepted his role and he made the most of it (which is one of the reasons Jesus called him “the greatest man ever born of woman”).  And this was at the root of John’s humility.  He didn’t try to be or pretend to be someone he was not.  He knew who he was, he knew what God expected of him—and he acted accordingly.

Do I know my job?  That’s the question that each of us needs to reflect on today.  Do you know your job?  And, by the way, when I use the term “job” here I’m not talking about the place you go to from 9 to 5, Monday thru Friday (although that’s part of it); I’m talking about your vocation in this world and how you’re being called to live that vocation in the situation, in the setting, in the circumstances that you find yourself in at the present time.  For example, today’s second reading from the first chapter of 1 Corinthians begins with these words: “Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God … to the church of God that is in Corinth.”

Now there’s a guy who knew his vocation (his vocation was to be an apostle); and he knew how the Lord was calling him to live his vocation at that moment (he was called at that moment to live it by writing to the Corinthians and instructing them on how to be more faithful to Jesus).  And Paul did his job!  He did it extremely well.  We know that because we have his two magnificent letters to the Corinthians preserved for us in the Bible.

For most people, the “job”—the vocation—that God gives them involves marriage and the raising of children (which means it’s extremely important!).  If that applies to you, then the question you need to ask every day is, “Lord, how do you want me to live my vocation as a spouse and a parent; how do you want me to ‘do my job’ today?”  I can tell you with absolute certainty: on Sundays and holy days God will always tell you to do your job as a parent by taking your children to Mass; he’ll tell you to do your job by teaching your children (by your words and actions) that their relationship with Jesus Christ is more important than basketball, or football, or gymnastics, or making money—or anything else in this world; he’ll tell you every day to do your job by praying for your children; he’ll tell you every day to do your job by making the effort to live your life according to the commandments so that you can be a good moral example for your children.

And on and on it goes.

Can you imagine what kind of world it would be if every Catholic parent did his or her “job” as well as St. John the Baptist and St. Paul did theirs?

Can you imagine what kind of Church it would be if every Catholic priest did his “job” as well as St. John the Baptist and St. Paul did theirs?

It would be a very different Church, wouldn’t it?  There would certainly be no scandals to deal with. Praise God!

Well, unfortunately we can’t change the whole Church on our own; we can’t change the whole world on our own.  But we can change the part of the Church and the part of the world that we live in!  We have that power!  We can do that first of all by discovering what our job is, and then by doing it well.  By doing it, in other words, in a way that would please Coach Bill Belichick—and, even more importantly, by doing it in a way that will please Almighty God.