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Second Sunday – Year A – Ordinary Time
Readings: Isa 49:3, 5-6; 1 Cor 1:1-3; Jn 1:29-34.
1/ Reading I: RSV Isaiah 49:3 And he said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.” 5 And now the LORD says, who formed me from 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 eyes of the LORD, and my God has become my strength — 6 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 preserved of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
2/ Reading II: RSV 1 Corinthians 1:1 Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes, 2 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: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3/ Gospel: RSV John 1:29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, `After me comes a man who ranks before me, for he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him; but for this I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John bore witness, “I saw the Spirit descend as a dove from heaven, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him; but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, `He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”
I. THEME: Jesus’ witnesses
We are in the early period of Jesus’ public ministry, beginning with Jesus’ baptism by John Baptist in Jordan River. In order for people to recognize and to believe Christ is God’s son, the Messiah, he needs many witnesses. The most important witness is God Himself. People heard His voice from heaven, bearing witness for His son as follows, “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased. Listen to him.”
Today readings continue to give us Christ’s witnesses. In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah reported God Himself witnessed for His son, the Suffering Servant. His mission isn’t only to lead the Israelites back to God, but also to become the light of the world to bring God’s salvation to all the ends of the earth. In the second reading, though living after Christ’s time, Paul also witnessed for him by his preaching for the Corinthians. In the Gospel, John Baptist witnessed for Christ by pointing his hand to him and introduced him to all people, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” The reason for his confirmation was the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment that helped him to recognize Christ’s truth and his mission.
1/ Reading I: The Second Song about God’s Suffering Servant
1.1/ God’s Suffering Servant: In Deutero-Isaiah, there are four songs which described God’s Suffering Servant (42:1-4; 49:1-6; 50:4-9; 52:13-53:12). Who is the Suffering Servant which Isaiah mentioned in these songs? There are three different opinions:
(1) Some says it is the Israelites seen as a collective whole: This opinion is based on God’s words in verse three of today passage, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.” This opinion isn’t correct because the following verses of today passage and of other three songs indicated that the Suffering Servant is an individual, not a collective whole as Israel.
(2) Some says it is Cyrus, the Persian king: The reason for this opinion is the king did God’s will by releasing the Israelites so that they could come back to re-establish their country. This opinion is also incorrect because the Suffering Servant’s mission isn’t only limited in leading the remnant of Israel to come back but also to become as the light of the nation so that he shall bring God’s salvation to the ends of the earth.
(3) Others say that it is the Messiah: This opinion is accepted by many because the Suffering Servant must be an individual coming from God; having a body to endure sufferings and to take away human sins. By these sufferings, the Suffering Servant can take away sins and bring salvation for all, both the Jews and the Gentiles.
1.2/ The origin and the mission of the Suffering Servant
(1) The origin: The Suffering Servant himself certified he came from God by these following words, “And now the Lord says, who formed me from the womb to be his servant.”
(2) The mission: of the Suffering Servant are both “to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved of Israel” and to be “a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
2/ Reading II: Paul certified that he has become an apostle of Christ according to God’s will.
2.1/ Paul was selected to be an apostle of Christ: To understand clearly Paul’s witnessing words, we need to come back to the most important event of his life—the event in which he was felt from his horse and became blind on the way to Damascus to persecute those who believed in Christ. Before this event, Paul didn’t know Christ. But Christ chose to appear to Paul to reveal his glorious resurrection and to certify that he is the one whom Paul was persecuting. After that event, Christ used Hannaniah’s hand, the high priest, to heal Paul from blind. He taught him during his three years living in Arabia deserts so that he could understand the mysteries of the heavenly kingdom before handing to him a special mission which is to preach the gospel for the Gentiles. Paul ascertained with the Corinthians about his vocation and mission as follows, I am “Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus.”
2.2/ The purpose of the apostolic vocation and the mission of witnessing are for people to recognize and to believe in Christ. He didn’t call Paul as an apostle as giving Paul an honorary title, nor for Paul to be respected by the faithful. He didn’t reveal himself for Paul to help him to enjoy the salvation. In opposite, Christ gave him a mission and sent him out to preach and to witness for him so that people might recognize and believe in him in order to receive the salvation.
Paul eagerly went out to preach and to witness for Christ. He established many communities, including the Corinthians, after helping them to believe in Christ. He wrote many Letters to console them and to explain many difficulties about faith which they must confront with. He respected the faithful as saints and taught them to respect each other and all members of God’s people. He wrote, “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.”
3/ Gospel: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
This is the declaration which we only find in the Fourth Gospel; and the title “the Lamb” is used here and the Book of Revelation. The Church uses this declaration in the liturgy of the Mass to prepare the faithful’s souls before they receive Christ’s body.
3.1/ The meaning of the declaration: John revealed for people two important things about Christ in this declaration:
(1) He is the Lamb of God to save humankind: Why does John Baptist call Jesus “the lamb?” This title had a historical background in the Book of Exodus, the Passover lamb, which the Israelites killed and took its blood to smear on their house’s doorpost. The purpose of this act is to preserve the Israelites’ firstborns, human and animal, when God’s angels passed by to destroy all the Egyptian firstborns in the Passover night. When the angels see the blood, they pass by all the Israelites’ houses.
John introduces Jesus as “the Lamb of God” because he shall also pour out his blood to redeem all human sins. In the Fourth Gospel, the Passover lamb has an important meaning because the date and the time when Jesus is killed are also the time during which the Israelites kill their Passover lambs.
(2) He himself is God: John Baptist declares Christ is the son of God because only Jesus fits properly with what John said, “This is he of whom I said, `After me comes a man who ranks before me, for he was before me.’” If we consider Christ in his divine nature, he exists before John because he exists from the beginning and is much higher than John; but if we consider Christ in his human nature, he incarnated and be born after John.
3.2/ The differences between the two baptisms: John Baptist differentiated clearly between his and Jesus’ baptism:
(1) The baptism of John is done with water: The purpose of his baptism is to show repentance and to prepare for people to receive Christ.
(2) The baptism of Jesus is done with water and the Holy Spirit: It is done with water to wash away all sins which people committed; it is also done with the Holy Spirit to sanctify people through the bestowing of the Holy Spirit’s seven gifts on them.
In these seven gifts, the first is the gift of wisdom which helps people to differentiate between what belong to God and what to the world. John declared that he didn’t know Christ before his revealing of himself. He only knew Christ when the Holy Spirit enlightened and urged him. It is the Holy Spirit’s wisdom which helped John to recognize Christ when both were still in their mother’s wombs according to Luke’s gospel. In today John’s gospel, John recognized Jesus as the Lamb which God selects to redeem people’s sins.
John also witnessed for Christ by other words, “I saw the Spirit descend as a dove from heaven, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him; but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, `He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– We believe in Christ not because we see him with our eyes, but by the words of the other important witnesses, such as: the Father’s voice from heaven which John Baptist and the apostles reported; the Holy Spirit’s image and effect in John; the prophets’ foretelling about the Suffering Servant and fulfilled in Christ; Jesus’ preaching and miraculous deeds; the apostles’ witnesses; the martyrs’ blood and countless witnesses through generations, even in our own generation. Many people continue to witness for Christ with their life.
– After having faith in Christ, we are also called to be Christ’s witnesses through the sacrament of Baptism which we received.
– To be witnesses, we need to know Christ because no one can witness for people whom they don’t know. Learning about and with Christ can’t be lacked before we could witness for him.
– The Holy Spirit who worked in Christ must also work in us to help us to fathom the mysteries of the heavenly kingdom before we can become Christ’s witnesses.
– When we preach and witness about Christ for people, our faith is also strengthened and perfected.
– If we don’t fulfill our duty as witnesses, who shall bring Christ for the next generation and to all four corners of the earth?
– If we don’t fulfill our duty as Christ’ witnesses, we are not worthy to enjoy all privileges which Christ poured out his blood for.