January 19, 2014 — Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
“Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” With those words John the Baptist introduces two of his own followers to Jesus, and they follow the Lord. Stewardship asks us to follow the Lord as well. Today’s readings on this Second Sunday in Ordinary Time point to Jesus as the Messiah and appeal to us to recognize the Lord and to follow Him as good stewards.
The first reading from Isaiah refers to the Messiah as Israel. This may seem confusing on the surface, but we need to understand first of all that the meaning of “Israel” is “governed by God.” This prophetic reading is not talking about what we know as the land of Israel, but of Israel as the Messiah to be embodied by Jesus Christ. “You are my servant, O Israel.” Jesus was truly not just the Lord’s servant, but ours as well. He was to become the sacrificial lamb in our behalf.
St. Paul wrote to the people of Corinth because of disputes which had developed there. It is well to understand that the Corinthians were in large part Gentiles, Nevertheless, the few Jewish people among them constantly provoked them to embrace Jewish Law and the traditions of Jewish life. Paul writes to them in his two letters to set them straight.
Everything in Paul’s ministry and approach is based upon Jesus Christ. In the first chapter of his first letter to the Corinthians he refers to Jesus and Our Lord Jesus Christ six times. Although our second reading is only Paul’s greeting, St. Paul sets the stage for everything he is about to say by totally putting the focus on “our Lord Jesus Christ.” As good stewards that is where our focus needs to be as well. Stewardship is living a God-centered, Christ-centered life. All peace and all satisfaction are found through Christ, and Paul knows that.
Were you aware that the term “Lamb of God” only appears in the Gospel of John? John was the youngest of the Twelve Apostles. His Gospel was the last of the four Gospels written (estimated around 90 AD). His Gospel is also unique among the four Gospels in its approach and in its style. John lets us know why he wrote it: “…that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:31)
For more than 1,300 years the Lamb of God (Agnus Dei) has been a standard part of our Catholic Mass. That term reminds us at every liturgy that Jesus allowed Himself to be sacrificed in our behalf. It was the ultimate act of love. In a small way we are asked to respond to that sacrifice by living lives of stewardship — by giving of ourselves in many ways. Father Henri J. M. Nouwen, a prolific writer on what it means to be Catholic, said “Our humanity comes to its fullest bloom in giving. We become beautiful people when we give whatever we can give: a smile, a handshake, a kiss, an embrace, a word of love, a present, a part of our life…all of our life.”