THE SECOND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – B – January 19, 2014

 

From the Book of the Prophet Isaiah 49:3, 5-6

From the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians 1:1-3

From the holy Gospel according to John 1:29-34

With the celebration of the Second Sunday we enter Ordinary Time.  The Christmas Season concluded last Sunday when we celebrated the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.

We should be warned that there is a risk involved if we make this journey through Ordinary Time and sit beneath the complete cycle of readings for the year.  The risk is that we might not be the same at the conclusion as we were at the beginning.  That might be stating the obvious because the fact of the matter is conversion is a possibility each time we gather to hear the proclamation of the Liturgy of the Word and move on to celebrate Eucharist.  It always amazes me how casually and nonchalantly people come together for Liturgy.  What if the action works this time?  What if the Spirit rushes through the Assembly this time and accomplishes the same transformation of the assembly that happens with the bread and the wine?  Strange isn’t it, that the faithful are very ready to venerate the Body and Blood of Christ present in the Eucharist?  Are they, we, ready to be the Body of Christ?  Then shouldn’t we have the same reverence for the Christ present in the Assembly?

If the Liturgy works, then Christ is present in those who have gathered, in those who have heard the Word and have eaten and drunk, and are to be sent.  Perhaps the realization takes time.  But how much time?  If it works, it will take about the same length of time that it takes to transform the Bread and the Wine.  No wonder one spiritual writer opined that the assembly should wear seat belts during the Liturgy.

The human experience is one of gradually unfolding and growing awareness.  The potential plant is contained in the seed.  Watch as that seed sprouts and the plant grows and the blossom bursts forth.  You know that your understanding and appreciation has grown through each stage of the plant’s development.  That is what happens as we journey in faith and yield to the Spirit.  Our understanding of who and what we are called to be and to do grows with each step we take, with each celebration of the Liturgy of the Word, with each celebration of Eucharist.  Better put, it will happen if we respond.

Hear the First Reading.  It will be one experience if you hear the Lord speaking solely to Isaiah.  Of course the prophet is sharing with us the wonder of his faith awakening.  What a glorious moment that was.  Now hear those words addressed to you.  If you hear them in that light you will come to be aware that from the first moments of your existence God loves you.  Secure in that knowledge, is there any adversity that could defeat you?  If the world turns against you, if your health fails, God’s love remains.  Jesus rejoiced in that in the final moments of his crucifixion.  So will you when the day comes that you prepare to breathe forth your spirit.

God’s love for Isaiah involved a vocation, a call to do something for others, secure in that love.  Isaiah, by his life, was to bring the news of God’s love to bolster Israel’s sagging faith, and beyond that, to bring good news to the nations.  That is Jesus’ vocation.  Jesus reaches out to the poor and the outcasts, the sinners, and the lepers, and ministers to them in their poverty, telling them that they are God’s beloveds.  Jesus lifts them up.  That is the vocation of the Baptized, of those who have put on Christ and identified with him, live as the beloved of God.  Now do you see what Pope Francis is urging us to recognize as he calls us to be a poorer church serving the needs of the poor?  I have sent you to bring glad tidings to the lowly.

The Rite of Christian Initiation (RCIA) process is meant to provide the atmosphere and means for those awakening to faith to understand the call to Baptism.  The catechumens are invited to make their journey in the midst of a believing Assembly and through the Assembly’s witness and ministry to come to understand what believers do and how they worship.  It is a process that entails journeying with Jesus through the full cycle of readings in a Liturgical Year.  Sometimes it takes even longer; but that is how they come to understand who it is that is calling, what it means to follow, and find the courage and the faith to believe that God knew them from the womb, and through them God will show God’s glory.

They will understand something as they stand at the Font’s edge and take their first step into the waters.  As they emerge on the other side, reborn in Christ, the will continue to grow, to be transformed until, in the fullness of time, Christ comes to full stature in them.

Understanding our relationship to Christ is a growing process.  No one knows and understands it all at once.  Even Paul, after his blazing encounter on the road to Damascus, had to be led by the hand back into the city where he would learn how much he would have to suffer for the name.  In the packed greeting to the Corinthians that is today’s Second Reading, Paul wants his converts to understand what has happened to them through his preaching.  They (and we) have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be holy, with all those everywhere who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.

If you know the history of the Corinthians, you know that they had a reputation for licentiousness.  They struggled with the temptations of the flesh and sometimes succumbed.  Theirs was a divided community and they were prone to pride, even from spiritual gifts.  Those with the gift of tongues thought they were superior to those without the gift.  It is not a stretch to recognize those same faults, scandals, as present in the church today.  Paul wants them (and us) to remember that they and we were bonded in Christ, our gifts are from the Spirit, and we should do all in the name of the Lord Jesus for the glory of God.  See how our conversion is on going?

In the Gospel we hear John the Baptist’s proclamation about Jesus, whom he baptized and over whom he witnessed the Spirit’s descent, there to abide.  John’s vocation, his calling by God, was to prepare the way for the Lord’s coming.  The more successful he was, the more he had to keep that vocation in mind.  In that moment that Jesus submitted to John’s Baptism, John’s transforming enlightenment came.  He knew that his real vocation was to testify that Jesus is the Son of God.  Do you see the connection for us?  His insight will grow in us, if, under the Word, we yield to the same Spirit who will dwell in us.

So the journey of this year of faith begins.  If the Lord were to ask you at the outset, what are you yearning for as you begin this journey again, how would you respond?  There may be many things you think you seek.  Ultimately, though, it is Christ you seek and your ongoing transformation in Christ.  So on this Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, the Lord invites us to be disciples, to walk with him, observe him, be transformed by him and then to go and do what he does.

Listen as you stand at the Table of the Word.  Observe as you fully, actively and consciously participate at the Table of the Eucharist.  Be transformed as you take and eat.  And if it works, you will be transformed and newly convinced that your are the beloved of God, sent to be the continuation of Christ’s presence in the world until all have eaten and have been fed and have come to know.

Sincerely,

Didymus

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