January 11, 2020
by Dennis Hamm, S.J.
Creighton University's Theology Department
click here for photo and information about the writer

Saturday after Epiphany
Lectionary: 217

1 John 5:14-21
Psalms 149:1-2, 3-4, 5-6A and 9B
John 3:22-30

Celebrating Christmas

What our U.S. Catholic Bishops name as ‘Saturday after Epiphany’ is called in my Jesuit Ordo ‘Saturday of Christmas Time.’ The combination helps me remember how the two feasts go together: Epiphany (“revelation” to the nations or gentiles – the ‘others’) spells out the meaning of Christmas. And this weekday following Epiphany in a period called Christmas Time provides an occasion to apply the meaning of Christmas and Epiphany to the continued particularities of daily life. The readings chosen for today provide images and phrases that are ‘points of light’ that can help our reflection and prayer on daily-life implications. Here is one sampling of passages (especially from John 3) that draw me today:

So they [the disciples of John the Baptizer] came to John and said to him,
“Rabbi, the one who was with you across the Jordan,
to whom you testified,
here he is baptizing and everyone is coming to him.”

John’s disciples are challenged, and apparently drawn to, the temptation of “othering,” that is, allowing themselves to be divided from other members of the human family by suspicion of bad will. If their mentor John is truly the one to follow, then this other Jew (Jesus?) and his followers must be resisted.  To that, John replies:

No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven.
You yourselves can testify that I said that I am not the Christ,
but that I was sent before him.
The one who has the bride is the bridegroom;
the best man, who stands and listens for him,
rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice.
So this joy of mine has been made complete.
He must increase; I must decrease.

In effect, John is saying [my paraphrase], ‘Wake up to God’s project. If you are following me because you recognize me as sent by God, remember what I said. I’m not the Messiah. I’m sent by God to prepare the way of the Christ. Remember how the prophets spoke of the relation of the Lord God to his chosen people as being like a bridegroom related to his bride. Now comes Jesus inviting people to allow themselves to be “chosen” by our God who truly “delights in his people” because that makes us part of God’s own project to serve the whole human race. To be chosen means to become part of God’s own mission. As for me, and my baptizing, I’m not the bridegroom! I’m the “best man” – the friend of the bridegroom. My role is to be alert to the signs of his coming to prepare the way for his homecoming with the bride. I’m preparing, not competing. That coming is happening now. Join me in taking part in his project of saving the world by becoming the community the human family was meant to be.’

Gracious God, we dare to claim to identify of the mission of the people of God, privileged with ‘chosenness,’ to allow ourselves to be sent to participate in your mission that moved to a fresh re-creation when you sent Jesus to be a light to the world starting with his becoming human flesh in the womb of Mary. At this current moment, Father of mercies, when we are beset by division, not only between nations but within nations and even within the worldwide church, but also nationally and locally, awaken us and re-create us. Enable us to sing to you a new song of praise in the assembly of your faithful. You delight to have chosen us, like John and Jesus, to turn privilege to practice, to sow the seeds of peace and justice in humble service of all your beloved family. Come Lord Jesus.

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