Readings: Isaiah 49: 3,5-6; 1 Corinthians 1:1-3; John 1:29-34
Probably many or maybe even most of us like to have someone travel with us when we make a long journey. It helps to lighten the burden of all the time, energy and stress entailed in getting from point A to point B, whether we travel by car, bus, train or plane.
Our spiritual journey too is enhanced with the help of others. God and the Church untiringly provide many to assist us along the journey through life, and that could be a sermon in itself.
An important “scriptural traveling companion” for the seasons of Advent and Christmas is the prophet Isaiah. The same prophet continues to walk with us in what we call Ordinary Time, the season we have entered upon once again after our great Advent, Christmas and Epiphany celebrations in our sacred liturgy.
What we recounted and hopefully experienced in the liturgy during those weeks was not just things that took place some two thousand years ago, but a living and active involvement of our God in our daily lives. Meeting our God “in the midst of the pots and pans,” as the Spanish Carmelite and mystic Saint Teresa of Avila (who lived from 1515 to 1582) expressed it, wonderfully describes our spiritual journey as well. Another Carmelite mystic, Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection (1614 – 1691), a cook at his Paris monastery, used to pray, “Lord of all pots and pans and things, make me a saint by getting meals and washing up the plates.”
In other words, God meets us where we are, not on cloud nine, but in the very throws of our daily struggles and setbacks, our joys and sorrows, progress and growth in faith, hope and love. Again, Brother Lawrence advises, “Make it your study, before taking up any task, to look to God, be it only for a moment.” Brother Lawrence felt that, “everyone is capable of such familiar conversation with God, some more, some less. God knows what we can do. Let us begin, then.” I hope you have read his book, “The Practice of the Presence of God.” It has inspired me for decades.
On this Second Sunday of Ordinary Time we hear the prophet Isaiah speaking important words concerning the mission of the Servant-Messiah. The Servant of God is to be light to the nations and the means of universal salvation. Isaiah’s words serve as a fitting introduction to the Good News of the saving mission of our Lord Jesus Christ that we ponder in the Gospel text of this Sunday.
The prophet Isaiah, writing in the eighth century before the birth of Christ, proclaims that God will be honored and glorified in the work of the Servant, who comes for Jew and Gentile alike. Just as the all-embracing love of God was the hope of the people of the old covenant, so too the Servant-Messiah Jesus comes not to offer redemption to just a few, but to all who are willing to hear, convert to God and there find the path of life.
In the second reading for Mass this Sunday, Saint Paul addresses the believers at Corinth. It seems Paul spent about two years there enlivening the faith of the people. After his departure, though, the fervor of the believers began to wane and it was necessary to bolster their faith and encourage the community there. As an “apostle of Jesus Christ,” Saint Paul sees himself primarily as a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, now risen from the dead and ascended into heaven.
Saint Paul addresses his hearers as “the Church of God at Corinth,” as well as “God’s assembly,” but perhaps most surprising Saint Paul calls them, a “community of saints,” that is, a people who by a special call from God have been led from the world of sin to a life consecrated as God’s very own people, united with God, because they have been “sanctified in Christ,” as Saint Paul expresses it.
We believe this honor is not reserved to the people of old of Corinth, but extended to all, including us, part of the great community of those who “call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (see Romans 10:9; Philippians 2:11).
The secret of Saint Paul’s apostolate and proclamation of the resurrection of Christ is not a theoretical, but an experiential knowledge of Jesus Christ. This is the guiding principle for all of Saint Paul’s actions and words and should be the inspiration of our thoughts, words and deeds as well. Like Saint Paul, we are meant to truly know Christ as the center of our lives. In Christ to go to the Father, where we hope to enjoy forever the fullness of life in God’s presence, what we call heaven, Paradise, or eternal life.
The Gospel assigned for this Sunday presents John the Baptist, the last of the prophets, as he has come to be known, looking intently at Jesus and declaring, “Behold the Lamb of God.” John says this to an unnamed audience, presumably a group of his own followers, some of whom in fact begin to follow Jesus thereafter.
This important expression, “the Lamb of God,” indicates one who is both leader and victim. The lamb-leader is chosen by God for a specific mission and will especially lead his followers to become God’s very own. The mission of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, is to take away, that is, undo the sins of the world. Put in other words, the estrangement from God that people experience as the result of original sin has the possibility of being reversed to union with God, by the sacrifice of the Lamb who gives his life for the sheep.
The witness of Saint John the Baptist is an important one for the revelation to the nations of who Jesus Christ is. The Prophet-Baptizer John is very clear that Jesus ranks ahead of John, for Jesus was before John. In fact from all eternity Jesus was with God and in time born in the flesh. Jesus takes precedence over John, then, and over all humankind, because Jesus is God’s only-begotten Son and the redeemer of the human race.
At the beginning of what we call “Ordinary Time” in the liturgical calendar, which is not to be confused with “uneventful time,” we are invited to greatly rejoice in the tremendous gifts our God has bestowed upon us. We think here especially of the gift of Jesus Christ our Lord, born in time, yet God from all eternity. Jesus remains with us and we remain with him.
In communion with the Holy Trinity we partake of God’s very life in a very special way in the Eucharist, when we receive in faith and eat the very Body and Blood of Christ.
Last Sunday we commemorated the Baptism of the Lord and pondered on the fact of Jesus as the one upon whom the Spirit of God had descended in a singular way. In this same Jesus Christ we are baptized in the fire of the Holy Spirit. We believe the very Son of God was made visible to the nations. This is God’s chosen and beloved one, on whom God’s favor rests, the Messiah.
Let us go out to meet our God who is always extending love and life to us.