Sunday Sermon for January 15, 2023, the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Readings: Is 49:3, 5-6; 1 Cor 1:1-3; Jn 1:29-34
In the first reading today, we hear about the Servant of the Lord, Whom we know to be Jesus, but this was written 700 years before our Lord’s birth. We are told that this Servant came to bring Jacob back to the Lord and to gather Israel to the Lord. However, the reading takes a turn that is great news for all of us who are not of Jewish descent. The Lord says through Isaiah that it is not enough for the Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and restore the survivors of Israel; rather, the Lord will make His Servant a light to the nations that His salvation might reach to the ends of the earth.
When Jesus came into the world, He Himself says He came for the people of Israel. However, before He ascended into Heaven, Jesus told His disciples to teach all nations and to baptize them in the Name of the Holy Trinity. This fulfills the prophecy of Simeon when our Lord was presented in the Temple. Using the words of Isaiah, Simeon told our Lady and St. Joseph that this Child would be the rise and fall of many, a sign to be contradicted, and a light to the Gentiles.
To this day, our Lord continues to be a sign of contradiction and the fall of many. Thankfully, however, He also continues to be the rise and the salvation of many. His light continues to shine in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it. Satan and his minions, both human and demonic, have been trying to extinguish the Light for centuries, but their only “success” is in the minds and hearts of those who reject the light and freely choose darkness. Even in these persons, the Light continues to shine; they have chosen to put on spiritual blinders to keep the eyes of their souls from experiencing the painful effects the Light causes to those accustomed to darkness.
To choose this Light requires making an act of faith. When we listen to what St. John the Baptist said about our Lord in the Gospel, we realize that his words convey something far beyond what his eyes could see. He calls Jesus the Lamb of God, He says our Lord came after him but existed before him, then he says Jesus is the Son of God. The Baptist said he was told by the One Who sent him to baptize that “on whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.”
St. John had to make an act of faith to believe these words, but they gave him the insight he needed to know, from the many people he baptized, Who the One was for Whom he was looking. But, even with this, there is no way he could simply infer that Jesus was the Son of God, the Lamb of God, or even that He existed before the Baptist. After all, we know from Scripture, that St. John was born about six months prior to our Lord’s birth.
So, St. John the Baptist’s faith allowed him to believe what he was told and to understand the deeper meaning of these revelations. His faith allowed his disciples to make an act of faith in Jesus and, ultimately, to become His disciples. Those first two people who heard St. John speak of Jesus were St. Andrew and St. John the Evangelist. They brought, and continue to bring, the light of Truth to the nations by proclaiming Jesus outside the confines of Israel.
As the heirs of this treasure, the words St. Paul addressed to the Corinthians (previously pagans or Gentiles) can be addressed to us: those “who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be holy, with all those everywhere who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.” We see in these words that salvation in Christ is offered to anyone who is willing to accept Him and that we are all called to holiness. We are all called to be saints!
This is true only because Jesus is the Lamb of God Who was sacrificed to take away the sins of the world. This is possible only because Jesus is the Son of God and we are baptized into Him, sharing His life and sharing His inheritance. God gave the nations to Jesus as His inheritance; in other words, us. In turn, Jesus gives us an eternal inheritance, God Himself. Jesus is Lord because He is the Servant Who is the light and salvation of the world. We who have received this salvation must now bring that Light into the darkness that continues to plague the world.
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.