Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Book of Isaiah furnishes this weekend’s first reading from the Scriptures. Relief and joy uplifted the atmosphere. Hopes centered upon a bright future because after the humiliation, uncertainty, and anguish of being conquered by Babylonia, and then after generations of exile in Babylon for many, God’s People were entering a new day of return to their homeland and hopefully to lives of prosperity and security.
Lest anyone think this fortunate turn of events was the mere outcome of changing politics, or luck, the prophet eloquently insisted that the plight of the people was improving because of God’s direct and merciful intervention into human affairs. God brought their relief. God promised to protect and sustain the people despite the misfortunes that might befall them, and God was faithful.
In turn, the Hebrews, God’s people, human instruments on earth of the divine will, bearing witness among them, were faithful during their years of trial. They never succumbed to the paganism of Babylon.
For its second reading, the Church this weekend selects a passage from St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians. Today, the Apostle Paul ranks among the greatest Christian figures of all time and certainly he stands as a most extraordinary figure in the development of Christianity in the crucial time of the 1st century AD.
Attaining this distinction was not without personal cost for Paul. He had to contend with converts to Christianity who were not always loyal to the Gospel. The very culture in which they lived not only surrendered without a whimper to human instincts but also elevated these instincts literally to the level of the divine, delighting in lust, gluttony, drunkenness, and so on.
The Christian converts in Corinth, then one of the major cities of the Mediterranean world, literally were awash in this culture.
Another burden for Paul was that he had to defend his very credentials to preach the Gospel. He had to insist that Jesus had called him to be an apostle.
The last reading is from St. John’s Gospel. The author of the Fourth Gospel was impressed by John the Baptist. Some even wonder if the Evangelist came from a group influenced by John the Baptist. Among John the Baptist’s qualities was his absolute intellectual and religious honesty. He was fearless. He thoroughly believed that God had called him to be a prophet.
So, St. John’s Gospel presents John the Baptist in most admiring terms.
In this reading, John the Baptist saw Jesus in the distance and acknowledged Jesus as the Redeemer. The element of sacrifice was vividly present. John identified Jesus as the “Lamb of God”.
Finally, treasured Old Testament symbols testified to the identity of Jesus. The dove descended from the sky and from heaven to rest upon Jesus. God is in Jesus.
At Christmas, the Church excitedly told us that Jesus was born. Son of Mary, Jesus was a human, as are we. The shepherds, representing all humanity, adored the newborn Jesus.
At the Epiphany, the magi found Jesus after searching for God. To assist them, God led them and protected them. In Jesus, they found God.
In recalling the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan, the Church introduces us to Jesus as the Savior of doomed humankind. With Jesus, humans would have access to eternal life.
Now, continuing the process, John the Baptist, so reliable and so insightful in his holiness, proclaimed Jesus as the Lamb of God. In all these settings, the Church carefully puts before us the person of Jesus the Lord and tells us about Jesus.
It invites us to follow Jesus. It invites us to know Jesus. He is one of us. He taught us. He died for us. Finding Jesus, we find God.
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