Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us.
To those who accepted him,
he gave power to become children of God.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel JN 1:29-34
Homily for Nativity on the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time 1/19/2020
I have been the Pastor here at Nativity for just over six months now, and I hope you are starting to figure me out a little bit, and hopefully you have realized that one thing that I believe is really important is understanding the Mass.
I take just about every chance I can to talk about elements of the Mass when they come up in our readings, I try to mention it. The book that I bought everyone for Christmas is directed at understanding the Mass better. There are four boxes of those left so feel free to take more if you know someone that could benefit from them.
My fear, or my concern, is that people are going through the motions. We repeat many of the same prayers at Mass every time, and I am worried there is no depth to it, there is no understanding of why we do what we do, and say what we say.
I am also worried that Protestants, or should I say fallen away Catholics here in Dubuque, will make the claim that Catholics don’t read the bible, that we don’t focus on scripture enough... but it's not true, our entire Mass comes from scripture, and I hope that we would be able to explain that to them if necessary.
Today, there are two lines in our readings that I want to focus on as related to the Mass. First, in the Gospel which Dcn. Steve just proclaimed, we hear what John the Baptist says about Jesus. Jesus doesn’t speak in this reading, only hear what John says about Him.
It started by saying, “John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”
This is a line that I say at every Mass, at one of the most critical points, right before we all receive communion. I hold a piece of the host and the chalice, I present the body and blood of Jesus to everyone and I say, “Behold, the lamb of God. Behold Him who takes away the sins of the world.”
The word “Behold” is important, it’s like saying, “everyone, stop and look up, this is important.” John gives Jesus this title, the “Lamb of God” and then John prophecies His mission, or his purpose, that Jesus “takes away the sins of the world.”
This is important because in Judaism, they would sacrifice innocent lambs at the passover, and other times, in atonement for sins, but not to take away sins. However, this innocent man Jesus, God became man, actually takes away our sins, as the finally atoning sacrifice, as the final passover lamb. Jesus is the end of the old covenant and the start of the new.
Interestingly, at the exact time that Jesus was dying on the cross for our sins, the Passover lambs were being slaughtered for everyone’s Passover meal. This was not just a coincidence, this was timed to show how Jesus was truly the Lamb of God, the beginning of the new covenant which would truly take away our sins.
It is important to note that both at the Atonement and the Passover, the Jews were required to eat of the flesh of the lamb to fulfill the old covenant. This is why it is right and just that we participate in the Eucharist every Sunday to renew and fulfill the new covenant.
So at Mass, it is worth looking up from our prayer and beholding this Jesus, focusing our full attention of Him, and reflecting on what that means that He “takes away the sins of the world” which allows us to join Him here at the altar for communion, but more importantly in Heaven for all eternity, “Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.”
This supper here is a foreshadowing of supper in Heaven. So just before we receive communion, I’ll say these two lines from today’s Gospel, “Behold, the lamb of God. Behold Him who takes away the sins of the world.” and then I will say another line from Revelation 19:9, “Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.”
And our response to that is all scripture too, from Matthew 8:8, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof…” but we’ll save that for when it actually comes up in the lectionary.
The second part that I’d like to look at is just a few words from the psalm, in the refrain we said, “Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.”
“I come to do your will.” We always talk about doing God’s will, especially in the familiar “Our Father” prayer. “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done.” But what does that mean, to do God’s will?
Well, here is the primary meaning, and it comes from our second reading, it says “to you who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be holy.” “Called to be holy.” This is God’s primary will for us, that we would be holy. Everyday we should be looking for ways to grow in holiness, simple ways, growing in virtue.
I’m going to give three virtues that I see in scripture today, those three are humility, gentleness, and peacefulness.
First, with humility, we see that demonstrated by John the Baptist when he says, “A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me.”
We should recognize more and more that Jesus ranks ahead of us, that He is God and we are not, and we should be humble enough to let Him be in control. Other people rank ahead of us too… are we humble enough to admit that?
We live in such a competitive world, where we always have to be the best, where we always have to be right, but we aren’t and it takes humility to admit that God or others might know better than we do.
Second, with gentleness, we see that as a characteristic of Jesus as part of being a lamb. A baby lamb is soft and gentle, Jesus treats us gently and we are to treat others gently.
Being mean and rude to anyone is unacceptable, even if they have wronged us, even if they have been mean and rude to us, we must grow to be more gentle with those around us.
For example, today I am annoyed because three people parked their cars in our lot right before the snowstorm, so now it is not cleared in those spots, it is dangerous, and it would be expensive to get our snow removal people back up here, but I have to be gentle when I find these people and talk to them, and ask them to please not do that again.
Third, with peacefulness, we see that as a characteristic of the Holy Spirit, specifically in this Gospel represented by a Dove who descends on Jesus.
If we want to have peace in this world, we must start by being peaceful people ourselves.
God’s will for our lives is to grow in Holiness everyday, and these three virtues go a long way towards that, so my challenge is to grow in humility, gentleness and peacefulness.
John the Baptist came to testify to who Jesus was and His presence in our midst. As we grow in holiness, we will also testify to Jesus present in our midst, here in the Catholic Church and active in our lives.
To summarize, we need to know that coming to Mass is one of God’s ways to encourage us and give us the strength to become Holy, that the prayers at our Mass come directly from scripture, and that our readings and prayers at Mass show us the way to grow in Holiness.
May God bless us all as we seek to do His will by growing in Holiness.