Homily: Dropping Pebbles

January 17, 2021 – Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings: 1 Samuel 3:3-19 / 1 Corinthians 6:13-20 / John 1:35-42

In early 2004, I got in the habit of checking the employment ads in The Criterion (the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis) each week. I had my brand-new school administrator’s license and was keeping an eye out for principal jobs at area Catholic schools.

My daughter, Laura, was looking through The Criterion one night and said, “Hey Dad, here’s a job that would be perfect for you.” I was surprised to hear her say that, as I thought I had reviewed the paper thoroughly.

She pointed to the ad that indicated Fatima Retreat House was looking for a director. I was curious why she thought of me for this position, so I asked her to share her thoughts. She went on to list the skills she thought I had and why they matched up well with what Fatima needed. I appreciated her opinion, but privately I dismissed it – I was, after all, looking for a principal job.

Less than an hour later, I received a call from my other daughter, Mary, who was off at college. We chatted a bit and then she said, “I saw an ad in The Criterion for a retreat house director at Fatima. That would be perfect for you.” She went on to tell me why I should consider the opportunity.

Since I had heard from both of my daughters, I felt like I should at least look into the job at Fatima. Long story short, I did some research, applied for the opening, and ended up landing the job.

It changed my life. My faith life exploded.

As a bonus, one of the groups that used the retreat house regularly was a group of men in formation for the diaconate. I did not even know what a deacon was before going to Fatima. Not only did I learn about the role of a deacon, I realized that God was calling me to explore the vocation for myself.

God had been calling me, but I didn’t understand his call or how to respond. My daughters had seen things in me that I had not. Further, they encouraged me to be open to something new.

Their encouragement was a pebble dropped into the water, causing a powerful ripple effect. I would not have considered the job at Fatima without it, and further, I would not be a deacon today had Fatima not been a part of my life. One pebble dropped into the water and the ripples continue to impact my life.

In two of our readings today, pebbles are being dropped into the water. On the surface, our first reading is about the calling of Samuel as a prophet of God, and the gospel is about the calling of Simon Peter as a disciple of Jesus.

However, I suggest we focus on the people dropping pebbles: Eli, John the Baptist, and Andrew.

In the first reading, the Lord was calling Samuel. Samuel heard the call but could not pinpoint the source. In other words, he did not recognize the Lord’s voice. It was Eli that encouraged Samuel to consider the possibility that God was at work in his heart.

We heard in the reading: Then Eli understood that the LORD was calling the youth. So he said to Samuel, “Go to sleep, and if you are called, reply, Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.”

After having his sleep interrupted three times, Eli could have dismissed Samuel as crazy or told him to ignore whatever he was hearing. However, he had experienced the love of God throughout his life. So instead, Eli embraced the grace of the moment and trusted it was the Lord speaking to Samuel. He introduced Samuel to the voice of God.

Eli dropped a pebble into the water. As a result of the ripple effect, Samuel became a great prophet. There is no prophet Samuel without Eli.

In today’s passage from John’s gospel, John the Baptist was with two of his disciples when Jesus walked by. The gospel tells us, as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus.

John himself had baptized Jesus. He had been there when the heavens opened and a voice spoke to Jesus from the clouds, saying, “You are my beloved Son.”

John had experienced Jesus as the Son of God. When Jesus walked by, he could have fondly recalled that moment in his heart. He could have kept it to himself. However, he chose to share the good news, saying aloud for all to hear, “Behold the Lamb of God.” With those words, he dropped a pebble into the water.

Two of his disciples were recipients of the ripple effect. Hearing the words of John, they immediately followed Jesus. They spent the day with him. They, too, had the opportunity to experience Jesus.

One of those disciples was Andrew. When Andrew went home that evening, he could have kept his experience of Jesus to himself. He did not. Instead, he went to his brother, Simon Peter. The gospel tells us, Andrew found his own brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah”. Then he brought him to Jesus.

Andrew dropped a pebble into the water. Simon Peter, the eventual rock upon which our Church was built, was a beneficiary of the ripple effect.

The power of the pebble: Without John the Baptist, Andrew would not have come to know Jesus. Without Andrew, Simon Peter would not have come to know him.

A question for all of us to consider: What are we doing with our pebbles?

We have all experienced God throughout our life, and it is likely that we continue to experience him on a daily basis. God’s grace is everywhere! In the light of a new day, in the laughter of children, in the squeeze of a hand from a loved one, or a kind word from a friend when you need it most. In the calm that comes from time spent in prayer, in a long-forgotten note of affirmation you find folded up in a drawer. Here, in our faith community. There, in a pastor that signs his bulletin letter – Love, Father Jim…and means it.

God is constantly tapping us on the shoulder to remind us of his loving presence, offering us pebble after pebble of grace.

What are we doing with all those pebbles? Are we taking in our experiences of God and hoarding them in our hearts? Have we labeled them as “private use only”? What if Eli or John the Baptist or Andrew had decided to keep their experience of God to themselves?

The grace of God is intended to be shared. We need to tell others about the beauty of our experience of God. We need to tell others that we see the face of Christ in them. We need to affirm their God-given gifts and encourage them to use them to build up the Kingdom of God.

Like Andrew did for his brother, we need to bring people to Jesus. We never know how many people will be impacted by the ripple effect of one pebble.

We need to be about the business of dropping pebbles in the water.

What are we doing with our pebbles?


If you would like to listen to the above homily as delivered at last night’s anticipation Mass, click below:

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