Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A
15 January 2017
1 Corinthians 1:1-3
The first reading is taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah 49:3, 5-6 and is the second of the “suffering servant” prophecies, found in Isaiah. These were prophecies uttered during the Babylonian exile to encourage the Jewish exiles to persevere in their trust in Yahweh, who would soon liberate them from Babylon, and eventually send them the long-expected Messiah, promised to Abraham.
The second reading is from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians 1:1-3. The opening verses of this letter have been chosen for the reading because they show the prophecy, read in the first lesson, as fulfilled among the pagans, as well as emphasizing the purpose of the Messiah’s coming: the sanctification and true enlightenment of all nations.
The Gospel is from St. John 1:29-34.
This Sunday we break from our reading of Matthew’s Gospel (the primary Gospel for our current liturgical cycle, Cycle A) to read from John’s Gospel. We heard Matthew’s account of Jesus’ baptism last Sunday, on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Today, we hear John the Baptist’s testimony about Jesus as found in John’s Gospel. John’s Gospel differs from the other Gospels because John does not describe Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist. Instead, John the Baptist announces that he knows that Jesus is the Son of God.
In today’s reading, John the Baptist sees Jesus approaching and cries out, giving witness about who Jesus is. In John’s testimony he says that he saw the Spirit descend upon Jesus. By this sign, John the Baptist knew that Jesus was the one who is to come after him.
John the Baptist uses two titles for Jesus that are familiar to us. John calls Jesus the “Lamb of God” and the “Son of God.” By using these titles, John the Baptist identifies Jesus’ ultimate purpose: to redeem sinful humanity.
John the Baptist’s testimony about Jesus clearly distinguishes John’s baptism from the Baptism that Jesus will inaugurate. John baptizes with water; Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit. John also puts his practice of baptism in the context of Jesus’ ministry. The purpose of John’s baptism was to make Jesus known to Israel.
John the Baptist’s sense of purpose is clearly identified in this reading: he baptized in order to prepare for and make known the ministry of the One who was to follow. John’s witness is an excellent example of what it means to be a disciple. By our Baptism, we are called to make Jesus known to all the world by our words and by the witness of our lives.
John’s testimony is centred on Jesus. He proclaims the presence of the Lord and then steps into the margins: ‘I am not the Christ’ and he goes on to affirm ‘I am the one who has been sent to go in front of him. ‘It is the bridegroom who has the bride; and yet the bridegroom’s friend, who stands there and listens to him, is filled with joy at the bridegroom’s voice. This is the joy I feel, and it is complete. He must grow greater, I must grow less.’(Jn 3:28-30)
Today’s Gospel offers us an eloquent example to imitate.