Isaiah 49:3, 5-6
Psalm 40:2, 4, 7-8, 8-9, 10
1 Corinthians 1:1-3
Thirty years ago there was published a popular book whose name was, “What Do You Say After You Say Hello?" It had to do with the interpersonal transaction which can take place as relationships develop. I remember books and pamphlets in high school helping us shy adolescents how to begin and sustain friendships with girls, whom I assumed, were reading the same books. Today begins a short four-week course, before we begin Lent, in Jesus’ relating with us.
Jesus moves towards us slowly, not coming too close nor too quickly. As comforting as it is to gather around His manger and even consider His being a boy-carpenter in Nazareth, Jesus has more fashioning and fixing to do with the furniture of our lives. He comes on quietly without His saying anything in last-week’s or this week’s Gospel. What do you say, God, as Your first hello? Jesus has been baptized as the Light of which Isaiah speaks in our First Reading today. God’s first hello has been the long greetings made through the Prophets.
Israel was the first to hear the saving salutation and lived with God’s opening promises and invitations. Isaiah announces in today's liturgy that this greeting will become incarnated in the life of a Servant who will both reinvite Israel, and ALSO extend this enlightenment of salvation to the ends of the earth. God’s “hello” is a promise; what God says after that is Jesus.
In the Gospel, we see Jesus walking toward the main character on stage, John the Baptist. He does the talking in this first scene of John’s account of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. This is the Baptist’s first “hello” and his words testify to what he has seen and heard so far.
John was at His Baptism and heard the ordaining words pronounced over Jesus. John after his “hello” tells the audience, “Now I have seen and testify that He is the Son of God.” Here at the beginning, John stands where the audience, the readers of this Gospel are to be after the signs, the teachings, the death and the resurrection of Jesus are all revealed. After John has said “hello,” he makes his profession that he, himself, is not the light, not the Messiah, not the final word. We have our first lesson then in what we are ordained by our having been baptized eventually to say in our lives. We will have time to ponder the signs, the words, the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and then live our response.
All those books which I read about relating and dating always sounded good, but none of them ever told me about the particular girl I was trying to dazzle. They never had met her and so there, I was, left to my being myself and wondering whether that would be good enough. To be humbly honest, I was usually good enough, but it was so unique and personal. It was always an adventure to begin being myself after I charmingly said something like, “Ummm, want ta dance?”
Jesus has been born, has come of age and desires to bring us to life and mature in our confidence that we are good enough to dance with Him, relate uniquely with Him. There are no books written specifically for each of us on just how we are to respond to His coming towards us. WE can therefore feel as inadequate as a rookie romancer.
WE have the blessings of the lives which the saints have shared with us. We have books on prayer, devotion and how to live virtuously, but none has been written about how you and I are to relate with Jesus after He says, “Want to dance?” This then is what the faith-life really is. God does not lead and we’d better follow. God’s grace adapts to our personalities, our style and slowly attracts us by our watching Jesus and watching our steps as well.
Today we watch and listen to John who apparently was unique in his life’s style. Jesus came towards him and he pointed out to his own followers how Jesus was coming towards them and they had to decide what to do after that on their own. What we say after He says “hello” is what we call the Christian Life, the Spiritual Life, or simply, the “dance.”
“Here am I Lord, I come to do your will.” Psalm 40
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