Second Sunday in Ordinary Time Isaiah 49:3, 5-6; 1 Corinthians 1:1-3; John 1:29-34 Saint John Baptist de la Salle/Saint Stephen, January 15, 2023 We have all heard the old saying, no one can avoid death or taxes, well here is another word we can add to that list, "suffering," no one escapes suffering. When we tell a person's life story, it is usually from beginning to end, from birth to death. However, today I would like to tell you the story of Anna Guardipee from the day when everything in her life turned upside down. Anna, and her best friend Jenny were traveling back to Roanoke West Virginia from Charlotte in October of 2019. They had attended Anna's granddaughter's baptism and were now on 177, heading home. But because of construction, traffic stopped, and Anna's car was behind a trailer truck. The trailer truck behind Anna's car did not stop, and they were crushed between the two. Emergency personnel flew Anna and Jenny to Baptist Hospital, and although they were both alive, Jenny died a few days later, and Anna was left paralyzed from the neck down. About a month later, Anna was transferred to Pruitt Rehab Center in Elkin, where doctors hoped she would gain enough strength to return home. Beth Orta, a parishioner at Saint Stephen who works at Pruitt, called Sr. Janis to tell her that there was a Catholic patient who needed prayers and wanted to pray. Sr. Janis went to see Anna at once and then called me to tell me Anna's story and asked that I come and celebrate the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick with her. Over the next few months, Sister visited with Anna many times, Anna's condition slowly began to improve, and she was moved to Charlotte Memorial Hospital Rehab Center. Every couple of months for the next year, my sister and I went to Charlotte to visit with Anna. as we saw a wonderful, miraculous healing occur. Anna gained more and more strength, was able to move some parts of her body, and by the end of the year, Anna returned to her home in Roanoke. To this day, Anna still cannot walk or stand without help; her suffering is intense, and some days it takes over an hour for her to turn over in bed just so she can put her clothes on. Her recovery is not just happening, Anna is still struggling to recover just as we do. Yet, just three years after Annas' horrific accident, she has spoken before Congress about truck safety and works for the Truck Safety Coalition. So, the moral of Anna's story becomes one of acceptance. When we can change our lives for the better, we should, and we should not rest until we try.
But there is so much in life that does not come around, that takes a turn from which it never recovers. From what life presents to us, we must learn acceptance. We must become the Lamb of God. The first time we see Jesus in today's gospel, he is an adult, walking toward us. His cousin, John the Baptist, tells us to turn and look: "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world." Why John uses this title, "Lamb of God," for Jesus is rather difficult to explain. Lambs were sacrificed animals, and they did not die without suffering. Perhaps it is easier for us to understand that the people of Israel believed that the Messiah, the promised one, would come to his people to suffer, to be a sacrificial lamb. For this very reason, we are also called to be lambs of God, to join our suffering with Jesus, to suffer on behalf of others. No one escapes the suffering sin brought into the world. There are no comparisons between the sorrows of one person and those of another. Yet it would not be suffering if it did not strike each one of us at the core of our being. Our faith doesn't remove suffering. It simply says, in the words of John the Baptist, which we repeat at every Eucharist, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world." In response, we either choose to imitate Jesus, surrendering our lives to God, or we choose to close in upon ourselves as we give way to despair. When Jesus walked into his adult life, he became the Christ, the meaning of our lives. "He is the one of whom I said, A man who ranks ahead of me is coming after 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 known to Israel." A terrible accident cut Annas' life into pieces, but she has labeled each of them, giving to each their eternal meaning. This is what she said: "What I have been given by the Lord is what I give back to the Lord."