January 15, 2017 — Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
IS 49: 3, 5-6: PS 40: 2, 4, 7-10; 1 COR 1: 1-3; JN 1: 29-34
Today we celebrate the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time. Many Catholics do not fully understand the meaning and importance of Ordinary Time. Ordinary is based upon the fact that the Sundays during this time are numbered, and that is because they do not fall into the various seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent, or Easter. That does not make this time of year unimportant; in fact Ordinary Time is far from unimportant or uninteresting.
As indicated in today’s Gospel Reading from John, John the Baptist refers to Jesus as the Lamb of God. That means this is the time of year when Christ, the Lamb of God, walks among us and can transform our lives. There is certainly nothing “ordinary” about that.
On most Sundays within the readings for the liturgy there are some gems and special messages that might get lost in the midst of everything else. This Sunday is no exception. The prescience of the prophet Isaiah who was writing some six centuries before the birth of Christ is sometimes amazing. Today’s First Reading from Isaiah closes with this statement: “I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” How often do we hear the Lord called the Light of the World, not just the light of Israel, but the light to everyone everywhere? Jesus does not just bring salvation to all of us; He is salvation for all of us.
The Second Reading comes to us from the very beginning of St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. Paul understood the forms and traditions of his day. When someone was writing a letter, they needed to state at the very beginning whom the letter is for and from whom it comes. That in part is the gist of today’s reading. Paul spent as much time in Corinth as he did anywhere during his ministry. As a result we may know more about the faith community in Corinth than we do about any other community in the New Testament.
Perhaps the two key ingredients of this introductory message of the letter is that first of all Paul makes it quite clear that he is a “called” apostle. He is not an elected apostle or an appointed apostle, but one called by God. Each of us is also called to apostleship. That is what being a steward and being a disciple of Christ involves. We need to recognize and accept our calling, and then live it out.
Also, Paul makes reference to the people of the Corinthian Christian community as “the church of God that is in Corinth.” Too often we may think of a church as being a building, but the Greek word that is translated as “church” is ekklesiae. That means literally an “assembly of people,” quite often a group that gathers for a very definite purpose. That is what we are as Church, not so much a structure, but a group of people with a common purpose and commitment, which should be to serve God and one another.
As is the case on many a Sunday, this entire reflection could be on the Gospel Reading from John. The first witness to Christ is John the Baptist. As he states in the Gospel, “I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.” Personal witness is still important within our communities, as individuals and couples and groups witness to their own realization of what John the Baptist maintains. This Gospel is from the very beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, but John already accurately states that “Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” The shadow of the Cross is over Jesus then and throughout His existence on earth.
John the Baptist additionally emphasizes the divinity of Jesus when he says, “…He existed before me.” In truth John was born before Jesus and was older than the Lord, at least in terms of earthly existence. However, when John says “He existed before me,” he is testifying to the pre-existence of Jesus. Jesus was and is God. More than thirty times in the New Testament Jesus is referred to as a lamb. We are called to live lives similar to His, not as representatives of strength and power, but as symbols of obedience and love and peace and humility. It takes great strength to show that kind of acceptance and love, but that is what we are called to do.