Sunday Sermon for January 19, 2014, the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Readings: Is 49:3, 5-6; 1Cor 1:1-3; Jn 1:29-34
In the Gospel reading today St. John the Baptist testifies that although he did not know Jesus to be the Messiah prior to His baptism, the reason John was baptizing in the first place was to that Jesus might be made known to Israel. As one who came in the spirit and power of Elijah, it was precisely his task to prepare the people of Israel for the coming of the Messiah.
However, the revelation given to St. John the Baptist went further than what he had first understood. He says that the One Who sent him to baptize with water had told him that the One on Whom the Spirit would rest is the One Who would baptize with the Holy Spirit. So, he could surmise from this that our Lord was the Anointed One. However, now as the Baptist sees our Lord coming toward him, he points Him out as the Lamb of God.
This is an insight beyond just being the Chosen One of God. St. John certainly knew the Scriptures and the teachings of the Rabbis, but the Rabbis did not say anything about the Lord being God nor of being the Lamb our Heavenly Father would provide for the redemption of His family. Just as St. Peter could know that Jesus was the Son of God only by revelation from the Father, the same can be said of this profession of St. John the Baptist.
What is interesting is that while God gives some people graces of revelation to know certain things, He does not necessarily give them the full understanding of the meaning of that revelation. In this case, although St. John came to know that Jesus was the Lamb of God, he later states that he was sent to prepare the people of Israel for His coming.
The Prophet Isaiah, in the first reading, tells us that it was not enough for the Lord’s Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors if Israel; instead, he says, the Servant will be a light to the nations so that God’s salvation will reach to the ends of the earth. This was also the revelation God gave to Simeon at the time of our Lord’s presentation in the Temple as he prophesies that Jesus would be the light to the nations and the glory of the people of Israel.
It is light that enables us to see. In this case, it is spiritual insight enabling us to recognize the truth in general and particular truths that are beyond our ability to know without revelation. This revelation was given first to the Jewish people but then, in and through our Lord, to all the people of the earth.
This is the point we see in the second reading where St. Paul addresses the people of Corinth telling them that they have already been sanctified in Christ and that they are called to be holy with all those everywhere who call upon the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is the full revelation of the Father and the source of salvation to anyone throughout the world who will call upon Him.
Our Lord tells us that He came first for the lost children of Israel, but He did not stop there. He gave further revelation to His Apostles to know that they were to take the Gospel to the Gentiles who were overjoyed to hear that they were included among God’s people. In fact, St. Paul tells us that this is the mystery which was kept hidden, but revealed only to the Apostles: that the Gentiles are now coheirs with the Jews and members of the same body.
These are points that we have all heard many times and we know them quite well, but we really have to ask how much they mean to us. Are we overjoyed to be among those who hear the message of salvation? De we really realize our dignity as children of God and heirs of Heaven? Do we take salvation for granted or do we live as people who are redeemed in Christ?
These are important questions for us because most of us do not have Jewish blood and were not among those incorporated into the people of God. We know Who redeemed us and we also know the cost of that redemption. Jesus, the Lamb of God, continues to sacrifice Himself for us at Mass so that the work of redemption can continue.
The beauty of these truths has been given to each of us, but the fullness of God’s revelation remains always with us in the Person of Jesus truly present in the Holy Eucharist. He wants to reveal Himself, His love, His truth to you. Are you willing to open your heart of receive Him?
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.