Saturday, November 9, 2013

Homily - 2nd Ordinary Sunday (Year A)

2nd Ordinary Sunday (Year A)

First Reading: Isaiah 49:3, 5-6            Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:1-3          Gospel Reading: John 1:29- 34


Miss Miriam Booth, daughter of the founder of the Salvation Army, a beautiful, brilliant, cultured woman, began her Christian work with great promise, and had unusual success. Very soon disease laid hold upon her and brought her down to the point of death. A friend visiting her one day told her that it seemed a pity that a woman so capable should be hindered by sickness from doing the Lord's work. She replied with gentle grace, “It is great to do the Lord's work, but it is greater to do the Lord's will.”

The feast of the Lord’s baptism, which we celebrated last Sunday, ushered us into the Ordinary Time and today is its second Sunday. After celebrating the radiant mysteries of the Lord’s incarnation, we now have the time and leisure to contemplate the public ministry of Jesus – his words and deeds – that eventually led him to fulfill the will of his Father and to save the mankind through his suffering, death on the cross and resurrection. “Here I am Lord, I come to do your will.”
On most Sundays, we are going to hear principally from St. Matthew’s Gospel, which is the primary Gospel for our current Liturgical Year A, with occasional interjections from St. John's Gospel, as we see it today.
Today’s Scripture Readings tell us about the identity of Jesus, who he is and what his mission is. In the Gospel Reading of today from St. John, we have John the Baptist fulfilling his role as a witness and proclaiming to people that Jesus is 'the Lamb of God' who takes away the sins of the world; again, he testifies that Jesus is 'the Greater One' and also 'the Son of God.' The First Reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah connected with the Gospel Reading of today tells us of the mysterious 'Servant of God.' God himself has chosen him from all eternity and has sent him on a mission and has made him 'a light to the nations.' The Second Reading of today from St. Paul's 1st Letter to the Corinthians is St. Paul' opening greeting to his Christian converts in Corinth. He reminds them of his apostolic calling and tells them that they are sanctified in Christ Jesus and are called to be saints.

The First Reading of today from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah presents us with a part of the second of the 'Servant Songs.' The Suffering Servant of Isaiah says, “The Lord said to me: You are my servant, Israel, through whom I show my glory.” Also, “The Lord formed me as his servant from the womb,” and “God is my strength.” The Servant is 'the beloved' and 'the chosen one of God.' God feels glorified in His Servant and this faithful Servant, carries through a work that is not just for the people of Israel, but is for all human beings, for all creation even. He is to bring back Jacob and to gather Israel, but he is also “to be the light of the nations” so that God's salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.
This prophesy of Isaiah about the 'Suffering Servant' who was led meekly to slaughter, can clearly be seen as being fulfilled in Jesus, who is the Light of the whole world and who offers salvation to all people in obedience to the will of God the Father. “Here I am Lord, I come to do your will.”
In the Gospel Reading of today, we have another telling of the story we were told about 'the Baptism of Jesus' by St. Matthew last week, but this time by the Evangelist John. It is to be noted that there are a few differences in this version of Jesus’ baptism. One thing for sure, it is completely from John the Baptist’s point of view. This is the first appearance of Jesus in public but he does not speak out his message. The John the Baptist does all the speaking. In fact, the whole reading is basically John the Baptist’s witness and testimony of who Jesus is. The Baptism of John the Baptist as presented in John, unlike in the Synoptic Gospels is not for the forgiveness of sins. Its purpose is to reveal Jesus to Israel as the Messiah.
a) “Behold, the Lamb of God ...”:
In today's Gospel we are told that as John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him, he recognized him immediately and announced, “Behold, the lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.” In the Synoptic versions, we remember, John the Baptist apparently wasn’t sure who Jesus was, and sent his disciples to Jesus to ask if he was the one he had been prophesying.
In identifying Jesus, John the Baptist describes him as 'the Lamb of God.' A metaphor, one weighty with import. Why is Jesus called by this strange title, the Lamb of God? Lambs were slaughtered and eaten by the Hebrews in the moment of their deliverance from the land of Egypt. The blood of those lambs marked the houses that the Lord 'passed over.' The lamb then became the sign and symbol of the liberation of God's people from slavery and oppression. The annual remembrance of the Passover that began their journey towards a promised land, still involved, in Jesus' days, the slaughtering of lambs in the Temple.
But for us – and this is John the Baptist's meaning – Jesus is the new Lamb which brings freedom and liberation from the oppression of evil and sin. He sacrifices himself to take away our sins. Through his death he liberates us. It is no coincidence that Jesus' sacrificial death took place at the Passover, when the Temple priests bloodily slayed paschal lambs. Also, while hanging on the cross none of Jesus' bones were broken, in contrast to the two thieves, just like those of the paschal lambs. Jesus is the new Paschal Lamb who both sacrifices himself and is sacrificed to liberate us. And it is his Blood poured out that is the sign of our salvation.
b) “Who ranks ahead of me...”:
John the Baptist further says, "After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me." By saying this John the Baptist admits that priority indeed meant superiority, and he accepts that Jesus is 'The Greater One.' We notice the strong superiority of Jesus over John the Baptist. There is also a reference to Jesus having existed before John the Baptist, which echoes what the Evangelist says in the Prologue of his gospel, "In the beginning was the Word,... All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be." And yet, this Jesus Lord is standing in the river water of Jordan, together with many sinners.
Again, as to John the Baptist's superiority, because he was the one who baptized Jesus, the Evangelist dropped the account of Jesus' baptism by him altogether. He also tells people that he is not the Messiah but he is the one who prepares the way of the Messiah who is to come and that he is not even worthy to untie the laces of his shoes. John now points out to Jesus and tells his disciples that he is the Messiah and encourages his disciples to follow him.
c) “He is the Son of God.”:
Finally, John the Baptist makes his declaration of faith, “Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.” When did he know? When he saw the Holy Spirit descending from heaven like a dove on Jesus and it remained on him, and had been told by God that the one who received the Spirit was the Son of God, the one who would baptize with the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit will remain with Jesus throughout his life and his ministry. Here it signifies the permanent presence of the Spirit with him. With this testimony John withdraws himself completely as he has fulfilled the task he was called upon to do.

In the Second Reading of today we hear the first three verses from the 1st Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians. It is really just a salutation of the Letter. But there must be something more to it than just the opening address of a letter.
In the opening words of his First Letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul speaks of himself as 'called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God.' The idea of calling to apostleship is an important one. The word 'called' appears three times in this short introduction; so obviously, St. Paul feels that the call is a part of discipleship. St. Paul feels that he has been called and that God is working through him. As John the Baptist was called to bear witness to Jesus, St. Paul has now been chosen to proclaim the good news of Christ. But the faithful too, by the will of God, who are sanctified in Jesus Christ are 'called to be holy' with all those everywhere who call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. In other words, they too have been chosen by the Lord and set apart to be witnesses to Christ. St. Paul concludes with the words of blessing, 'The grace and peace from God the Father and Lord Jesus be with you.'
This short passage thus opens to us the reality of our unity and the universality of the Church. In Christ, the faithful become the people of God, forming a sacred assembly, the community of God. The vocation and mission of Jesus Christ is replicated in our life. We too are called to fulfill the Father’s compassionate plan to bring salvation to all peoples of the earth. So let us say, “Here I am Lord, I come to do your will.”
To conclude, today we are invited to behold the immense and universal expanse of our Christian vocation and mission. Aware that we have been anointed by the Spirit of power in baptism, we open our hearts daily to the outpouring of grace and the peace that comes from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us likewise share this gift of grace and peace with others that we may continue to grow in the mystery of salvation.
The readings of today tell us that if we want to be the true disciples of Jesus then we must first find out who he really is for us and we also need to know what his mission is in the world; for, the mission of Jesus is also our mission. Every disciple of Jesus is a true follower of the master and is also an apostle who carries the good news to all. The Christian disciple not only follows the Gospel of Jesus but also helps others to hear and accept it also and practices it in their life. May God help us to work together with Jesus to establish his Kingdom in the whole world and especially in that part of it where we live out our lives. Let us then pray and humbly say, “Here I am Lord, I come to do your will.” And this is the Good News of today.


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