Homily for the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time January 15, 2023

Keeping the divine life flowing

There was a quiet forest dweller who lived high above an Austrian village along the eastern slope of the Alps. The old gentleman had been hired many years ago by an earlier town council to clear away the debris of leaves and branches from the pristine springs up in the mountain ravines. These springs fed the pool from which the town gathered its water via a canal system.


With faithful regularity, the old man patrolled the nearby hills, removed leaves and branches, and cleared away the silt that otherwise would have clogged and contaminated the fresh flow of water. The village became a popular tourist attraction and a favorite spot for vacationers. Graceful swans floated along the canals. The mill wheels from many businesses cranked away day and night, farmlands were irrigated, and the view from the village was postcard picturesque.


Years passed. One evening at a town council meeting assembled to review the budget, one member noticed the salary figure contracted to the obscure keeper of springs. He felt that wasn’t needed any longer. So by unanimous vote, the council dispensed with the old guardian’s services.


For several weeks nothing changed. However, by early autumn, the trees began to shed their leaves. Small branches snapped off and fell into the springs, hindering the rushing flow of sparkling water. Then one afternoon someone noticed a slight yellowish-brown tint in the pool. Within another week a slimy slick covered sections of the water along the canal banks, and a foul odor was detected. The mill wheels ground to a halt. The swans left, as did the tourists.


Quickly, an embarrassed town council called a special meeting. Realizing their error in judgment, they rehired the old keeper of the springs, things started to get cleaned up, and within weeks the sparkling water began to flow again. And renewed life returned to the village in the Alps.


I refer to this story because in our Gospel reading we have a reference to John the Baptist, who, obviously is associated with river water. The Baptist points to Jesus as the Lamb of God, the Savior, the giver of life, present in the midst of the people.


Perhaps we could look at the divine life flowing into us as so many streams of life-giving water, celebrated at our Baptism. I thought we could reflect on various ways in which those streams of life could get plugged up. For instance:


  • Healthy life flow can stop if we become icily cold and indifferent, living as if we don’t really need God, or significant people in our life that we have shut out or turned our backs on.
  • Healthy life flow can stop if we allow it to be dammed up by stubbornness, or the refusal to forgive someone who has hurt us.
  • Healthy life flow can get clogged up by attitudes and deeds of selfishness, pride and self-centeredness—thinking that we are the center of the universe and that we are self-sufficient.
  • Healthy life flow can be turned into a mere trickle by our pride, or jealousy, or judgmentalism that makes us feel wounded, or superior to everybody else.
  • When healthy life flow is choked off, it can leave us depressed, anxious and fearful—failing to trust in the goodness of a God who wants us to be happy and fulfilled.


So, perhaps we need to turn more seriously to Jesus, the Lamb of God, who loves us and is always ready to forgive our failings and restore us to a full life. When God created human beings, they were not placed in a lifeless and arid desert, but in a lush and green Garden of Eden. It is by turning to Jesus, and being taught and nourished by him on a regular basis, that we can get life flowing fully and freely. And, if we have a huge blockage, or even a lot of muckiness that’s clogging things up, the Sacrament of Reconciliation can really help us to get back on track. And, of course, we turn now, as we do at every Mass, for the nourishment and strength that Jesus gives us in the Eucharist. Let’s keep the divine life flowing!