Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Book of Isaiah furnishes this weekend’s first reading from the Scriptures. There is an overtone of relief and joy. There is the promise of a bright future. It was all because of the fact that first, after the humiliation 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. Hopefully they would return 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 insists that the plight of the people is improving because of God’s direct and merciful intervention into human affairs. God brings their relief. God had promised to protect and sustain the people, despite the misfortunes that might befall them. They were God’s people.
In turn, the Hebrews, God’s people, earthly human instruments of the divine will, had been faithful during their years of trial.
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 religious figures of all time, and certainly he stands as a most extraordinary figure in the development of Christianity in the crucial time of the first century A.D.
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. They delighted in lust, gluttony, drunkenness and so on. Such was the case with the Christian converts in Corinth, then one of the major cities of the Mediterranean world.
Another burden for Paul was that his very credentials to preach the Gospel were questioned. 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 attracted to John the Baptist, to say the least, possibly coming from a group influenced by him.
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.
Here, in this reading, John the Baptist sees Jesus in the distance and acknowledges Jesus as the Redeemer. The element of sacrifice is present. John identifies Jesus as the “Lamb of God.”
Finally, treasured Old Testament symbols testify to the identity of Jesus. The dove descends from the sky, 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 adored Jesus, representing all humanity.
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.
At the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan, celebrated last week, the Church introduced us to Jesus as the Savior of doomed humankind. In Jesus, humans would have access to eternal life.
Now, continuing the process, John the Baptist, so reliable and so insightful, proclaims 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 is an invitation to follow Jesus. Hearing the Scriptures of this season, we know Jesus. He is no stranger; however, truly knowing the Lord depends upon our willingness to respond to this invitation.
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