15 January. 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Saint Ita, Virgin
1st Reading: Isaiah 49:3, 5-6
God is preparing his people Israel to become a light for all nations
The Lord said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.”
And now the Lord says, who formed me in the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him, and that Israel might be gathered to him, for I am honored in the sight of the Lord, and my God has become my strength; he says,
“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
2nd Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:1-3
Paul greets his converts in Corinth, who are called to be saints
Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sos’thenes, To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Gospel: John 1:29-34
John the Baptist announces the One who will baptise us with the Holy Spirit
John saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” John also testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.”
For Kieran O’Mahony’s exegetical commentary on today’s texts, click here.
With the fire of the Spirit
(José Antonio Pagola)
The first Christian communities saw a clear difference between John’s baptism (that immersed people in the river Jordan) and Jesus’ baptism (that communicated his own Spirit, to cleanse, renew and transform the heart of his followers). Without that Spirit of Jesus, the Church could simply close up shop and die. Only the Spirit of Jesus can put more truth and life into today’s Christianity. Only his Spirit can lead us to recover our true identity, letting go of paths that lead us further and further away from the Gospel. Only that Spirit can give us light and energy to fire up the renewal that the Church needs today.
Pope Francis is quite clear that the greatest obstacle to a new surge of evangelization is spiritual mediocrity. He says so left and right. He wants to spark a process that is «more burning, joyful, generous, bold, full of love to the end, and full of contagious life», but knows it will be insufficient «if the fire of the Spirit doesn’t burn in their hearts».
That’s why he is looking to find in today’s Church «evangelizers with Spirit» who open themselves without fear to the Spirit’s action and who find in that Holy Spirit of Jesus «the power to announce the truth of the Gospel with audacity and in every time and place», even when it is against the current of today’s culture.
The renewal our Pope wants to promote isn’t possible if our lack of a deep spirituality translates into pessimism, fatalism and mistrust, or we think that nothing can change or even that it’s useless to even try, or we just give up. Pope Francis warns that enthusiasm can be lost «if we forget that the Gospel responds to the deepest needs of each person». But that’s not the way it should be. Our Pope declares: «it’s not the same to have known Jesus as to not have known him; it’s not the same to walk with him as to walk aimlessly, it’s not the same to listen to him as to ignore his Word. And it’s not the same to try to build the world on his Gospel as to try to do it based only on our own ideas». We need to discover all this from our own personal experience in Jesus; for «anyone who isn’t convinced won’t convince anyone else».
Taking stock of ourselves
Two thoughts call for our attention: first, John’s dramatic call to behold the Lamb of God; second, that we do some personal stock-taking during this first month of the new year: Where are we going? and what resolution/s might raise the quality of our life? The Baptist urges us to ask what we truly want and then seek to reset our lives. St Paul reminds us that we are “called to be saints together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
An honest stock-taking may unveil the selfish, egotistic motives that often direct our lives. To rise above these we need to lean on someone larger than ourselves, the God who cares for us and for the whole human community. Can we hear John’s call to restore what is broken, and Jesus’ call, to bring light to the world? How, with our cooperation, can the sin of the world be stopped?
Taking stock is always difficult; it calls us to not just drift along with this world’s evil, taking the line of least resistance. Discipleship is urgent and costly, but it is also possible and it is the way to the deeper joy and fulfilment our soul longs for. If we hear the Baptist’s call, our response will be a stock-taking that goes to the root of our being. It may even reveal to us the truth that sets us free.