15 January 2017: Second Sunday in Ordinary time

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
Is 49:3, 5-6 Ps 40:2, 4, 7-8, 8-9, 10 1 Cor 1:1-3 Jn 1:29-34

Seeing and not seeing

Green_banner_sm During Ordinary time the Lectionary invites RCIA participants and the believing community to hear and to reflect on stories and teachings from Jesus’ everyday ministry. This week’s readings tell us to look, to see, and to perceive who Jesus is.

The first reading from Isaiah presents the second (of four) Servant Songs. Jewish readers see the Servant as the prophet Isaiah, or a messianic figure descended from David, or the personification of Israel. Christian readers see the Servant as Christ who reconciles all humans to God. The Lectionary editors matched this Servant Song to the Baptizer’s insight that Jesus is the “Lamb of God.”

The second reading begins Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. Paul writes to clear up misunderstandings in the Corinth ekklasia (believing community). The Corinthians are too focused on themselves, and are disconnected from the larger ekklasia. In today’s reading, Paul introduces the letter’s themes. He prays for “peace” because the Corinthians lack peace. He prays for “grace” because the Corinthians misunderstand the charisms (graces, gifts) they have. Paul will spend the rest of his letter correcting these errors.

In the gospel, John the evangelist plays with words and meanings. The Greek word εἴδω (EYE-doh) can mean “to see with eyes” or “to know” and “to perceive.” The Baptizer admits that he didn’t see/know Jesus. But at Jesus’ baptism, the Baptizer has an insight from God, and suddenly he sees, recognizes, and knows exactly who Jesus is and gives his testimony about Jesus’ identity and Jesus’ role in salvation:

  • The Lamb of God. The Baptizer calls Jesus the “lamb of God.” John may be thinking of the paschal lamb, whose blood saved Israel (Ex 12); or the Temple lambs, sacrificed to purge people’s sins; or the suffering servant, offered like a lamb as a sin-offering (Is 53:7, 10). In Aramaic (the language the Baptist and Jesus spoke), the word talya can mean “lamb,” “child/son,” and “slave/servant.” The Aramaic word ties Jesus’ title back to the first reading’s Servant Song. In this phrase, the Baptizer sees Jesus’ identity: suffering servant, lamb of sacrifice, Son of God.
  • The one who takes away the world’s sin. John recognizes Jesus as more than a paschal lamb or Temple sacrificial lamb. Jesus is the Lamb/Servant/Son of God who alone can completely reconcile God and humans. The Baptizer sees the Spirit descend on and remain with Jesus. Jesus pours out this same Spirit on everyone he encounters. In this phrase, the Baptizer sees Jesus’ role: to restore all humans everywhere to God.

Today’s readings challenge RCIA participants and the believing community to see who Jesus really is: God-made-flesh who remains with us reconciling us with God. Like the Corinthians, we sometimes “get in our own heads” and can’t see the larger picture. Or like the Baptizer, we see someone without really perceiving that person. Today’s readings remind us that we need regular spiritual eye exams. Do we really see and know Jesus? Do we see and know ourselves and our role in reconciliation?

—Terence Sherlock

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