January 15, 2017
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Our Christmas Season ended with the Baptism of the Lord on Monday. Since then we have been celebrating the first week of Ordinary Time. And so to begin the second week of Ordinary Time, we need to celebrate the second Sunday of Ordinary Time today. In other words, there was no first Sunday of Ordinary Time, and there never will be. In a similar way, we always celebrate the Solemnity of Our Lord, King of the Universe on the last Sunday of the year. This is followed Monday to Saturday by the 34th Week of Ordinary Time. So there’s no actual celebration of the 34th Sunday of Ordinary Time either. Just interesting quirks in our Liturgical Calendar.
Today’s Gospel immediately follows the Baptism of Jesus and raises some interesting questions. First, as Catholics we are very familiar with John’s words when he says that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. What would it have meant in a first century Jewish context? Second, John was 6 months older than Jesus and in the mission field before Him. So why does John say that Jesus came before him and that He ranks before him because He was before him? Third, John and Jesus were cousins. How can John say that he didn’t know Jesus? He says this twice! And finally, what is the significance of John’s testimony?
The plan now is to cover all of these points in my homily this weekend. But just in case the homily changes or I forget one or two, here are partial answers to the questions above.
The first question: It is clear that they knew their scriptures. This saying of John would have pointed them in two directions. Clearly they would have turned to Exodus Chapter 12 and the famous story of the sacrifice of the Passover lamb. This event set the Exodus in motion and was always associated with deliverance from death. But it doesn’t say anything about the Passover Lamb taking away sin. For this they would have recalled Isaiah 53, a passage that speaks of the mysterious suffering servant who not only will take upon himself the iniquities of all the people, but who like a lamb will be led to the slaughter. Question two: John is pointing to the mystery of Jesus’ divinity. We know this from the first chapter of John’s Gospel. Third question: Even though they were cousins they didn’t grow up knowing each other. Luke 1:80 tells us that John was in the wilderness till the day of his manifestation to Israel. Many believe he was raised by the desert Essene community. And finally the significance of John’s testimony is this… He is the SON OF GOD; follow Him!
Catechism Question of the Week: “The ruptures that wound the unity of Christ’s Body do not occur without human sin… However, one cannot charge with the sin of the separation those who at present are born into these communities… the Catholic Church accepts them with respect and affection as brothers.” What are the three ruptures? (see CCC 817-818)
With family, friends and those you meet, please discuss the following Question of the Week: What does it mean to me when Jesus says that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand?
In Christ’s Peace,