2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time A – Jan. 15, 2023

 

2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time A – Jan. 15, 2023

Is 49: 3, 5-6; 1Cor 1: 1-3; John 1: 29-34

Theme: Jesus is the Lamb of God who Takes Away our Sin

The feast of the Baptism of our Lord that we celebrated last Monday, January 9th, (usually, we celebrate it on Sunday after the Epiphany of the Lord’s Sunday), marked the end of the Christmas season and the beginning of the liturgical season called “Ordinary Time”. This Sunday is the second Sunday in Ordinary Time. Why is this period called “Ordinary Time”? The term “Ordinary” is not to say that this time is unimportant. From Latin ordinalis, “Ordinary” means “numbered”. So, “Ordinary Time” is the period of thirty-four weeks that stands outside of the all-important seasons of Christmas with its preparatory time called Advent and Easter with its preparatory time called Lent. These thirty-four weeks of Ordinary Time mark the movement of time and unfold the story of our salvation. The liturgical color used in Ordinary Time is green, meaning that this is a time of spiritual growth.

The liturgy of this Second Sunday in Ordinary Time is connected to those of the Epiphany and Baptism of our Lord in the Christmas Season as all three liturgies aim to reveal the divine nature of Jesus. As I mentioned in my homily of the Epiphany of the Lord last Sunday, the early Church identified three specific events that reveal Jesus’ divine nature, and the modern Lectionary and liturgical calendar maintain the theme together. First, the visit of the Magi (Epiphany); second, the Baptism of the Lord; and third, the Sunday after the Baptism of the Lord (the second Sunday in Ordinary Time) always has either a Gospel passage of the Wedding at Cana (John 2: 1-11), which is read in the Liturgical Year C or John the Baptist’s testimony to Jesus, the section that comes right before the Wedding at Cana (John 1: 29-42). The Liturgical Year A reads the first part of it (John 1: 29-34) and the Liturgical Year B takes the second part (John 1: 35-42). All these three events in various Gospels show forth Jesus’ glory before his public ministry.

Thus, today’s readings focus on the commissioning of the servants of God to reveal Jesus’ divinity and so God’s plan of salvation for humankind. Our first reading is taken from Isaiah 49: 1-13 which is called “the second servant Song” of the book of Isaiah. Altogether there are four “servant songs”. They are poetic compositions that explain the role and the attributes of an unknown character who is identified as the “servant of the Lord”. In chapter 49, it is the first time that the “servant of the Lord” speaks. He tells of how the Lord commissioned him and reassured him of his protection (Vv. 1-4). The section that we heard in our first reading starts with v. 3 in which the Lord reveals his glory to all people through the “servant of the Lord”. God called him since he was in his mother’s womb, and he assigned him a mission to bring the people of Israel back and gather them to him. (v.5). Note it is not the “servant of the Lord” who reveals the glory of God, but it is God himself who reveals his glory through the “servant of the Lord”. This is the continuation of the teaching of the Epiphany that we heard in the visitation of the magi and in the Baptism of our Lord. It was not the magi who discovered the divinity of the babe Jesus, but God who revealed himself to them through the newborn Jesus. Also, in the Baptism of Jesus, it was not John the Baptist who discovered the divinity of Jesus whom he baptized, but God himself who revealed to him that Jesus is God’s Son.

Notice how the “servant of the Lord” is called “Israel” in our first reading. (v. 3). “Israel” here cannot personify the nation of Israel because he is sent to the nation of Israel. The narrator does not intend to say the nation Israel is sent to the nation Israel. To solve this situation, “Israel” here is to be understood as a representative figure. V. 6 brings more clarification when the Lord says that it is too little for this representative figure “Israel” to be his servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and restore the survivors of Israel. As a solution, God’s plan is to make him a light to the nations (note here it is not one nation but many) so that “my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” This prophecy is fulfilled with Jesus whose birth we celebrated three weeks ago. He is the “Israel” or the “servant of the Lord” whom Isaiah talked about. His coming to our world has a specific mission: to bring salvation to God’s people and this salvation must reach the ends of the earth. Thus, you and I are called to be the “other Christ” of our time who continue the same mission of bringing salvation everywhere we live.

The Gospel we heard also reveals the divine identity of Jesus. The evangelist John here uses John the Baptist as the narrator of the baptism event. John the Baptist speaks to his own disciples. Our account starts with John the Baptist speaking of Jesus to his own disciples, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”. Note that the Church uses these words of John the Baptist in the liturgy of the Mass before we receive Communion. The priest, raising up the Eucharist and the chalice of the Blood of Christ, says, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”. To this invitation, all the congregation responds, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof; but say only the word, and my soul shall be healed.” In these words, John the Baptist calls Jesus, “The Lamb of God”. There are several explanations to understand the title “Lamb of God” that John the Baptist attributes to Jesus. First, this title alludes to a powerful and victorious lamb depicted in the book of Revelation. The author of this book tells us that he saw in a vision a Lamb standing before God’s throne (Revelation 5: 6) and presiding over an army of God’s holy ones (Revelation 14: 1-5). Second, the title of the “Lamb of God” can refer to the Jewish day of atonement called “Yom kippur”. Here the Jews sacrifice an animal and offer it at the Jerusalem temple for the sins of the people. The third explanation is my favorite one. The “Lamb of God” is an allusion to the Passover Lamb in the Exodus story. On the night before the last plague, Moses, by the recommendation of God, asked each family of Israel to slaughter a one-year-old unblemished lamb, and put its blood on the lintels and doorposts of their houses. That night the angel of death killed all firstborn males (human and beast) of the Egyptians but “passed over” the Israelites because their homes were marked with the “blood of the lamb”. (Exodus 12: 1-36). By pointing to Jesus as “the Lamb of God”, John predicts that Jesus will die on the cross and his blood will take away the sin of the world.  

Then, John the Baptist reveals that Jesus is the Son of God. (John 1: 33-34). As the Word of God became flesh, Jesus existed before him. Unlike Matthew and Luke who say that the baptism of John the Baptist was for repentance, here in the fourth Gospel, the function of his baptism is revelatory: “(…) but the reason why I came baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel.” (John 1: 31). John’s mission was to let God reveal himself in Jesus through his witness to the world testifying that Jesus is the Son of God. This is the mission the Lord gave to the “servant of the Lord” in our first reading. It is the same mission that God gives you and me today. We are called to let God use us and reveal himself to the people through our Christian lives.

Saint Paul, in our second reading, gives us an example as he calls himself “an apostle”, meaning the one who is sent. He says that it is by the will of God that he receives this mission to make Jesus known to the people of Corinth. Notice how Saint Paul reminds the Corinthians that they belong, not only to their local church but to a much larger community of faith including all of us today who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 1: 2).

Today, January 15th, we the Divine Word Missionaries, are celebrating the feast day of our founder, Saint Arnold Janssen. Born on November 5, 1837, in Goch (Germany), Arnold Janssen died on January 15, 1909.  He was beatified on October 19, 1975, and canonized saint on October 5, 2003, by Pope John Paul II. His life was filled with a constant search for God’s will which led him to found three religious congregations, two of which are for women (the Servants of the Holy Spirits (the actives) and the Servants of the Holy Spirit of Perpetual Adoration (the Cloistered branch.)) and one for the Missionaries priests and brothers called in Latin Societas Vebi Divini which means “Society of the Divine Word”. I am one of them. We are well known as SVD priests and brothers. As for 2023, we have 49 bishops, 3990 priests, 470 religious’ brothers, and 1324 seminarians working and studying on five continents. Both congregations of sisters count over 4200 sisters working around the world. Together, the bishops, priests, brothers, and sisters of our big religious family of Saint Arnold Janssen, we continue the mission of John the Baptist and Saint Paul as we heard in today’s scripture readings which consists of making Jesus known to the people whom we serve.

As the members of our local Church Saint Bartholomew/Saint Augustine, let us continue to make our local Church the place where Jesus reveals himself to us through the scripture and the sharing of his Body and Blood in the Eucharist. Then, let us become his apostles strengthening the faith of our brothers and sisters everywhere we live, starting in our families and neighborhoods.  Amen.

Rev. Leon Ngandu, SVD

 

 

 

 

 

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