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Bishop Justice

Bishop Justice celebrating the Mass for deaf pastoral workers gathered from around the country. At his left is a translator. (Arne Fokedal/Catholic San Francisco)

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Homily: through curiosity we can know God's will
January 27th, 2009
By Auxiliary Bishop William J. Justice

At St. Patrick’s Seminary and University Jan. 18, Bishop Justice celebrated the opening Mass for the National Catholic Office for the Deaf Pastoral Week. Following is a transcript of his homily.


Curiosity seems to be very much a part of our human experience as well as the experience of the animals that surround us. Cats have a mysterious sense of curiosity - at least to our observation. They can quietly slink around a room taking in the positions of the sofa, the table and the drapes or curtains. Then suddenly they pounce on the top of the sofa, jump off quickly and land in a human lap.


With dogs, their curiosity takes them into wherever they smell food, or into the yard, where they may follow a caterpillar, and finally bark at it as the fur-covered worm, accordion-like, traverses the field.


Human children, especially young ones, are much like the cat and dog. They crawl or run in spurts, checking out whatever they can touch - horrifying their parents by sticking anything they can find in their mouths to determine if it tastes good!


Hopefully we adults are not immune from curiosity. What makes us try unfamiliar foods? What pushes us to climb a high hill? What calls us to search for life’s meaning? Is it not the innate curiosity to explore our surroundings? Is it not to find out more about the wonder, beauty and tragedy of living?


Well, we meet curiosity head-on in our scripture readings today. Andrew could not contain his curiosity about this Jesus that John the Baptist had pointed out to him. He could have just watched Jesus walk by, and his life would have been so different. He may not have had to die as a martyr. But no, he had to walk along near Jesus. And when Jesus asked, “What are you looking for?” he blurted out, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” When Jesus responded, “Come, and you will see,” curiosity had hooked him. He went to see and that made all the difference in his life.


I am sure that most of us are in the chapel today because at the core of our being our curiosity led us to ask Jesus the same question that Andrew asked, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” For some of us, it was a question that seemed to be a part of us since childhood: Who was this Jesus we pray to, who rose from the dead, and who told us we could be forgiven? For some it could be a question that was ignored, or from which we ran away for years - but it finally had to be consciously asked. And then we could, with enthusiasm, or fear and trembling, accept the invitation that Jesus was putting forth: Come and See!


Today’s first scripture reading, from the First Book of Samuel, gives us advice on what to do once we accept that curiosity has brought us to the place where Jesus lives. It is at once simple and awesome advice. Eli the prophet gives the advice: “...If you are called, reply, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” Once curiosity brings us to Jesus, the best thing to do is to listen. Listen with all our being to the presence of Jesus. Listen with our hearts for as the Little Prince finds out, it is only in the heart that one sees rightly. Listen for the peace that only Jesus can give. Listen for the touch of a friend’s embrace. Listen for the handshake of peace - the forgiveness of the Lord. Listen to the joyful stillness in your heart and allow the Spirit of Jesus to form the deepest prayer in your heart, “Abba,” that is, Daddy, Father. In that listening, we come to where Jesus is staying, and our hearts join with the Responsorial Psalm, “Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.” Curiosity leads to heartfelt listening which then leads to doing the will of the Lord.


In our Gospel story, Andrew becomes an apostle. He finds his brother, Simon Peter, and brings him to Jesus. The will of the Lord is to be bearers of the Good News, evangelizers. Because of our curiosity, we have found the place where Jesus lives: a listening heart. But that heart grows so full of Jesus’ sacrificial love that we are driven to live the life of Jesus in our own lives, inviting others to let their curiosity lead them to follow Jesus to the place where he lives, so that they, too, can have listening hearts and join the legion of Jesus’ followers in being of service to the poor, the lonely, the imprisoned and those who are afraid to listen.


We are all here because of curiosity, heart-filled listening and reaching out to others in Jesus’ name. It is so important that we bridge the gap for those to whom we minister; those who are afraid to go beyond curiosity; those who just listen but do not act; and those of us who are the ministers who do not return again and again to our listening hearts to be renewed to proclaim with joyful hearts the way to the place that Jesus lives.


Let us take bread and wine and bless it so Jesus will feed us with his life that we might have renewed curiosity to truly and deeply let our hearts hear him and share that good news to God’s people.


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