January 15, 2017 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time Fr Jim Miller

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
January 15, 2017

Reading 1IS 49:3, 5-6

Responsorial PsalmPS 40:2, 4, 7-8, 8-9, 10

Reading 21 COR 1:1-3

AlleluiaJN 1:14A, 12A

GospelJN 1:29-34

Homily— January 14 & 15, 2017

             We have heard about a servant in the reading from Isaiah today.   Scripture commentators debate the identity of the “servant” in this passage.  Is it the prophet Isaiah or is it the people of Israel?  The text would seem to support both possibilities.  In any case, the focus of the Lord’s pronouncement is the mission of the servant.  The mission is twofold.  First, the people will be brought back to the Lord and returned from exile.  Second, the servant will be a light to all the nations.

            The Dictionary of the Bible(John Mackenzie, 1965) explains that when someone is called a “servant” of a king or of God, it’s a title of great honor.  It implies that the servant holds a high rank simply for being part of the entourage of the illustrious individual.  But, Isaiah describes a servant who is countercultural, someone whose armament will be his tongue rather than a sword, who suffers in apparent weakness and whose victory can only be understood in the light of faith.

Christian Scripture authors interpreted Jesus through the lens of Isaiah’s suffering servant.  How did Jesus struggle with his call to be God’s servant?   What was it that led Jesus to understand the cross as glory?   How can we see Jesus as a model for learning to rely on God as our strength?

            Now we can ask ourselves just what is entailed in being a servant of our Lord, Jesus:   When was the last time I reflected on my vocational call, on what God hoped for from me before I was born?  How willing am I to rely on God?  Am I on the path of living as a baptized Christian?

            The Gospel gives us John the Baptist as the model of a servant of God so dedicated that he could recognize God’s chosen one and so humble that he could step aside when the time came.  John saw the Spirit come home to rest in Jesus.  Because John recognized the Spirit’s presence in Jesus, he called Jesus the Lamb of God.  That title, so familiar to us, occurs only here in the Christian Scripture.  The unique feature of the Baptist’s phrase is that Jesus is the Lamb of God.  As this relationship to Jesus was always, “He must increase, I must decrease,” and John’s proclamation that Jesus came from God acknowledged that clearly.  John recognized that his vocation was different from Jesus’.

            Father Ron Rolheiser once explained that it’s one thing to impress someone with acts of faith and virtue and holiness.  It’s an entirely different thing to motivate someone to actually change her life, his habits, her decisions, and those things that so often stand in the way of being a saint.  Like John the Baptist, we can point to Jesus, but unlike John the Baptist, we struggle effecting transformation in ourselves and others around us.  Maybe that’s why we need Mass over and over again.  We try to be John the Baptist, but we don’t always reach our potential, because rather than living our faith, we merely preach about our faith.  What is it that we need to finally overcome the hurdles of our human condition and change ourselves, our families, our world?

            This is the point of our Gospel today.  As Father Rolheiser says, we aren’t saints yet.  We’re trying to be, but we’re still lacking.  We’re still grasping for the holiness needed for calling the world to authentic Christian change.  He tells a wonderful story about the great Indian pacifist Gandhi.  One day, a woman whose daughter was addicted to sweets approached Gandhi.  Her addiction was starting to cause health issues.  The mother asked Gandhi if he could help her daughter.  Gandhi told her to bring the daughter to him in three weeks.  After three weeks, the mother brought the daughter back to Gandhi.  He took the girl aside and spoke to her for some time.  Then he brought her back to her mother, and the girl said she was now ready to quit eating sweets.  The astonished mother asked Gandhi why he didn’t speak to her daughter three weeks earlier.  Gandhi explained that three weeks ago, he also ate too many sweets, and he needed three weeks to quit.

            We must do more than just point to the Lamb, more than just tell people what they ought and ought not do.  We actually have to walk with them.   Our actions are the preaching behind our words.

            The gestation period for a lamb is about five months.  The gestation period for our coming to know fully “the Lamb of God” is much longer than five months:  it begins at our baptism and continues our entire life.  During this gestation period we are to announce the Lamb we have come to know by the way we live.  “Behold, the Lamb of God.”.

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