|"The Crucifixion of the Lamb of God" by Matthias Grünewald (1515)|
Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year "A") - January 16, 2011 JESUS IS THE ONE ON WHOM THE SPIRIT REMAINS [Texts: Isaiah 49:3,5-6 [Psalm 40]; 1 Corinthians 1:1-3; John 1:29-34]
Today's reading from Isaiah is an extract from the "book of consolation" (chapters 40-55). \
This part of the Isaian scroll contains four songs which speak of a mysterious "servant of the Lord" (42:1-9; 49:1-6; 50:4-9; 52:13-53:12). There has been scholarly discussion whether this "servant" is to be interpreted as an individual or refers, in a collective sense, to Israel.
In the sixth century B.C., God had responded to the distress of His people exiled in Babylon. Through the prophet, God spoke a word of encouragement to a "faithful remnant", a small portion of God's people. These were the ones God had chosen to relieve the burdens of, and to offer consolation to, the other exiles.
This remnant kept alive in their hearts a trusting spirit of hope in God. Also, they were filled with a readiness to do God's bidding, whatever that might entail. Their sentiments are beautifully summarized by the psalmist's words, "Here I am..., I delight to do Your will, O my God".
In tender fidelity towards Israel, God had expressed through Isaiah His intention of gathering the exiles and restoring them to their homeland. So great would the Good News of this restoration be--a veritable second exodus--that it would become known among all the peoples of the world.
As it unfolded, this "return" would serve as a beacon revealing the one God to all. In truth, as God's chosen people, Israel had been called to a mission of serving all nations.
Today's gospel reading is a contemplative interpretation of the Baptism of Jesus celebrated last Sunday. Yet, in John's gospel, there is no account of Christ's baptism. Instead, readers hear the Baptist's witness to what transpired during the baptismal rite.
The Baptist's testimony led him to point Jesus out to several of his disciples. This unleashed a spiritual movement among them so that they left John and began to follow Jesus, God's servant par excellence.
In his witness, John referred to Jesus as the "Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world", suggestive terms with several possible meanings.
As the term "Lamb of God" indicates, Jesus comes from God. And in biblical thought only God takes away or forgives sin. Thus in proclaiming God's Son Jesus as the Lamb of God, John declared that through Him God would remove the sin of the world.
We might ask, however, why the term "Lamb of God" was used?
Jewish thought employed the image of the lamb in several different ways. There was the suffering "servant of the Lord" whose life evoked that of a sacrificial lamb (cf. Isaiah 53). Revelation knows of a triumphant lamb (7:17; 17:14).
Other Jewish traditions tell of a lamb chosen to lead God's flock. And, of course, the Passover lamb was fundamental to the story of Israel's foundation as a faith community.
In effect, for the Israelites the lamb was a figure that stood for sacrificial rites of communion and reconciliation with God after sin. Though Jesus, as Lamb of God embodied some of these notions, He also surpassed them. In Jesus, God was offering not only Israel, but the whole world, the fullness of pardon and perfect reconciliation.
The Father sent His Only Begotten Son Jesus into the world not to condemn it but to redeem it (cf. John 3:16). On him, at the baptism, the Holy Spirit descended and remained throughout his ministry.
After his resurrection, Jesus fulfilled the communication John had received from God, "He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the One who baptizes with the Holy Spirit".
The manner of life of those baptized with the Holy Spirit--poured out on and by Jesus--is the topic of Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians. We will hear excerpts from it on the Sundays between now and the beginning of Lent.
Next week, we will learn how Christians, called to oneness in Christ, have become such partisans of different religious leaders that Paul blurted out in exasperation, "Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel".
For now, however, Paul stresses the call to holiness of the Church in Corinth "called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ".
BTW, this fits in very well with our theme for this Pastoral Year in the Archdiocese of Ottawa: "Called to Holiness--the Saints Among Us".
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Almighty ever-living God, who govern all things, both in heaven and on earth, mercifully hear the pleading of your people and bestow your peace on our times. Through our Lord.
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Wednesday Evening's Haiti Anniversary Mass
A moving Eucharist on Wednesday evening brought a large congregation to Notre Dame Cathedral; there was a reception in the Parish Hall afterwards.
Having forgotten to arrange for photos, I am dependent on local media for these (with credits to: The Ottawa Citizen, Le Droit respectively).