We have three weeks of “ordinary time” before the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday, February 6th. My, how liturgical-time flies. Now is now, though, and we are praying our way toward our communal celebration of this weekend’s Eucharistic gathering.
We can pray with the events of our week which invite us to turn from self-preoccupations to the occupations of revealing the goodness that God has shared with us. We hold that God is infinitely “good” so our goodness is a sharing in that Divine Goodness. When we allow that gift to us to be shared with others, that is called “revelation” or “Epiphany”, or “living the Eucharist”.
As members of the Eucharistic Community we are ordained, sent, extended from the Table of the Lord to the people of the Lord. We can pray with the images in our minds of those to whom we are sent. We can pray in thanksgiving with the awareness of the goodnesses God has shared with us and shares through us.
In the First Reading for this liturgy, we hear a boast - a self-accepting proclamation - in which the speaker or pray-er is exalting in the call of God. This person is a servant whom God has called and is made “glorious” in the mission offered. This “servant” is to bring back the exiled tribes of Jacob and Israel and God’s strength is relied upon.
Then the “servant” hears that this regathering of the tribes is only part of the servanthood. There is more! This “servant” is to carry the message, the “light” beyond the borders of Israel to the “ends of the earth”. This is the beginning of quite a change for Israel.
God had made Israel “God’s people”. They were to stay undisturbed, pure, separated from all the other ungodly,“pagan” tribes. God had chosen Israel as God’s own nation. Now the change begins. The Messiah, the Light, the Word is for Israel and through Israel to bring about the world as the kingdom of God. This “servant” does not seem upset by the change.
The verses of the Gospel are from the first chapter of John’s narrative of the life of Jesus. Right here, in the beginning, John is pictured as stating most clearly that he, himself, is not the Christ, but the “witness”, the one who is to point out the Christ and he does so. John testifies and declares that Jesus is the “lamb of God Who will take away the sins of the world” and that “Jesus is the Son of God”.
These last two protests about the true identity of Jesus is a kind of prologue statement. This follows the first “Prologue” formed by the first nineteen verses of the Gospel. Each person who comes to believe in Jesus in this Gospel will come to state it in similar words. The entire Gospel of John is a presentation or introduction for anybody wishing to enter the Way, by hearing the Truth and experiencing the Life. In a sense, John is the first convert. He is baptizing, but according to the ritual traditions of Israel. John testifies that Jesus will be the One to cleanse and then enliven or bring into community those whom He will baptize both with water and the Holy Spirit. John tells us that he himself has seen the Spirit descend upon Jesus and He turns all those who seek life to see Jesus and believe.
We will be spending most of the “Ordinary Time” watching Jesus through the eyes of Matthew. Jesus does much teaching in those pages. In John’s Gospel Jesus presents Himself as the One who takes away the sins of the world. We hear the Baptist call Jesus the “lamb”. This “lamb” will be sacrificed like the lamb of the Passover. He will be poured out for the sins of all. For John, Jesus teaches by His doings, His “signs” which reveal God’s saving love. It is easier for us to let Jesus be our Teacher and we the learners. It is more difficult and yet more important, for us to let Jesus be our Savior. It is easier to admit that we do not know that we need to know. It is far more humbling to admit that we are in need of being saved from spiritual death to live toward life eternal.
The Baptist says to his followers, “Look, see, take in, over there is the Savior; I am His advertising agent.” This is the beginning of how John’s gospel is really a kind of introductory or initiating catechism. The Gospel invites its readers to “look, see, follow” and when you have seen, then as with Peter at the end of the Gospel, you will want to follow Jesus into the heart of the Christian Way or community. For John it is all about seeing the signs, the gestures, the doings of Jesus and our being attracted by those signs to be a member of Christ’s Way, Truth, and Life.
We become initiated into this Way through baptism of water and the Spirit, but to live this Way truthfully is to allow ourselves to watch, look, listen, and be attracted by His ways of inviting, healing, feeding, finding and constantly calling us to real life. God so loved the world that God did not send an idea or set of practices. God sent a Sign of our being loved even though we can and do choose our own “way”, our “truth”, and our ways of “life”. Slowly by slowly we will come to our own personal stating that He is the Christ, the Savior of the world.
“We know and believe in God’s love for us.” 1 John 4, 16
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