A reflection for the second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Patrick Saint-Jean, S.J. reflects on the readings for January 15, 2023.
Catholic Voices

Readings (Year A):

Isaiah 49:3, 5 – 6
Psalms 40:2, 4, 7 – 8, 8 – 9, 10
1 Corinthians 1:1 – 3
John 1:29 – 34

Reflection: Healing from the sickness of complacency

I was born into a strong family. My dad was a high-rank official in the Haitian government. My mom was a southern Baptist preacher and businesswoman. My grandmother was a diplomat. Going to school with a driver and two bodyguards, I was very privileged. I was surrounded by powerful people.

I was comfortable in my complacency. My deep sense of apathy told me I needed no one. This wall around me gave me an illusion of self-sufficiency. I believed I was tough, nearly perfect, capable of pretty much anything. My ego, that false sense of myself, was comfortable—but my true inner self was never at peace.

When I decided to leave home, everything changed. I was on my own. With not much money, no security, and not many friends, I was lonely and anxious. One day, as I was talking with my grandmother, she said, “God is with you, as God always was, but now that you are weak, poor, and lonely, you will be better able to sense God’s Presence.”


As always, my grandmother was right. Uncomfortable externally, now I found peace internally; I found my true self and my calling. As Dr. King said, “the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

As today’s first reading reminds us, “the Lord has spoken…[so] that Jacob may be brought back to him, and Israel gathered to him.” In fact, sometimes, it is in our weakness that we are able to come back to God.

As we are also commemorating Martin Luther King Jr., who was a soldier of the weak, we are invited to not settle for complacency and comfort. We are challenged instead to take a stand for justice, to speak out with the energy of the Holy Spirit. As Maya Angelou wrote, “surviving, [complacency] is important. Thriving is elegant.”

This weekend, we have an opportunity for spiritual conversion as we move away from apathy to action. We hear God’s call to reach out to those who have been weakened by our society’s racism, classism, xenophobia, and rejection. We wake up from our complacency and recommit ourselves to the work of justice and love. As Dr. King reminded us, “In this unfolding conundrum of life . . . is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.”

In the gospel reading, John reminds us that Christ, in his coming as “the lamb of God,” longs to bring us back and heal those of us who are sick with our inflated egos, due to our privilege. We need the healing work of the holy physician who calls us back to our true selves, even as the Holy Spirit empowers us to work on behalf of those who have been weakened by the sin of injustice.

Let us answer the Holy Spirit’s call. Let us get up out of our privilege and take an active stand for love.

About the author

Patrick Saint-Jean, S.J.

Patrick Saint-Jean, S.J. is a native of Haiti and a member of the Midwest Province of the Society of Jesus. He currently teaches psychology at Creighton University in Omaha. He is the author of Home-Going: The Journey from Racism and Death to Community and Hope (Anamchara Books).

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