Breaking Open the Word

January 17, 2021

 

2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

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Introduction

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When was the last time you received an invitation?  Probably not as often as you used to during these COVID times.  Some invitations are expected others are not. After His baptism in the Jordan River, Jesus, the Lamb of God, now sets out on His Great Mission.  He calls His first disciples asking “What are you looking for?” An invitation for each of us to consider on our journey to becoming a disciple of Christ. 

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Gospel Explained

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In John 1:19-51, the evangelist presents six stories of witness and testimony over a seven day period. This gospel passage represents the activity of the third and fourth days. Scripture scholars see this "week" as the new creation. God created a new people, starting with the testimony of the Baptist, and ending with the miracle at the Cana wedding feast. 

 

When John saw Jesus, he proclaimed "Look! The Lamb of God!" While this title might strike us as mysterious, the title causes two men to follow Jesus. Why? As gentle, docile animals, lambs were prized for their tender meat and fine coat; they gave all they had for their masters. In the Book of Genesis, chapter 22, at the moment of the sacrifice of Isaac; God provides Abraham a lamb, to be offered as holocaust instead of his son. The lamb descends from heaven and is sacrificed so that the son may live.

 

God delivered His people from slavery in Egypt with the mark of the blood of an unblemished lamb placed above their doorpost, a sign that saved them from the angel of death. Jesus becomes the spotless lamb offered for the sins of the world. His death, which coincides with Passover, places a mark on the foreheads of His followers, so the angel of death also passes over us. He is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, opening the gates of Heaven for all who follow Him. Jesus was the One the Baptist foretold, because He gave Himself totally for His followers, even to death. 

 

This theme also resonated with Isaiah's Suffering Servant ("He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth." Isaiah 53:7)

 

Two disciples left John and followed Jesus, the Lamb of God. Since any legal testimony required more than one witness, the two disciples assure the validity of the Baptist's claim. [1:37] Even though they sought the Lord, notice the initiative of Jesus. He first asked the followers’ intent, “What are you looking for?” Then Jesus invites them, “Come and you will see.” The invitation initiated by Jesus was continued by His followers bringing others into the community for they could not contain the JOY they found in Jesus. (1:38-39)

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Today’s Theme:

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So how is John able to declare that Jesus is the Lamb of God?  It was revealed to John through the Holy Spirit.  John told everyone, "God sent me to baptize the people in water. I did not know who I was looking for until God told me, 'On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, He is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.” John saw God's Spirit come down like a dove from heaven and rest upon Jesus. And the Spirit stayed with Him. And John proclaimed, “This is God's Son!"

 

The third person of the Holy Trinity invites us, like John, to recognize Jesus as our Savior. Once we accept His invitation, the Spirit brings all of God; Father, Son, and Spirit, to live in us. As God's power, the Spirit introduces us to Jesus, invites us to believe, and brings the Trinity to live within us.

 

Whenever God acts in the world, He sends out His Spirit to get the job done. The Spirit helped create the universe and everything in it. Whenever God spoke to His people, the Spirit opened the ears of the people to clearly hear and understand the message. The prophets of Israel spoke with the power of His Spirit. The more God acted, the more the people had a thirst for His Spirit. 

 

That day came when the angel Gabriel visited Mary and gave her God's message: "The Holy Spirit will come down to you and the power of God will cover you like the shadow of a cloud. So, the child you will bear will be called God's holy Son" (Luke 1:35). With the birth of Jesus, God's Spirit came to live among people.

 

Jesus had God's Spirit. He used it when He preached and healed people. The Spirit led Him to Jerusalem to meet His death. And the Spirit helped raise Jesus to new life. Now the Risen Lord could give God's very Spirit to His followers. On Pentecost, a noise came from heaven that was like a strong wind. It filled the entire house and flames of fire could be seen above each of His followers’ heads. And they were filled with the Holy Spirit.

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Theme in Our Life

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The Spirit invites us to believe in Jesus, invites us to join the Church in Baptism, and invites us to say "yes" to God's grace, His very life. When we accept these invitations, the Spirit comes to live in us and change us. The Spirit gives us His gifts to make us better people, to help us serve others, and to strengthen our character. In the end, the Spirit will be with us when we die. And the Spirit will raise us up on the Last Day, just like it helped raise Jesus.

 

In the first reading, Samuel had received a revelation — a call from God. His responsiveness, “Speak for your servant is listening,” enabled him to receive the word of God and to speak it to others. Had it not been for the humility of Eli, the messenger of God, Samuel would not have had the courage to speak to the Lord and accept his prophetic ministry. It is Samuel who would anoint Saul and David as the first kings of Israel, transforming the entire history of the people of Israel.

 

In today’s Gospel passage, we read about the call of the first two disciples of Jesus, who are disciples of John the Baptist. There is no call from Jesus for the disciples in this passage. John’s lifetime of living his call from God, is fulfilled in the moment of clarity and recognition of Jesus. Not jealous of his own importance as a preacher and religious leader, John directs his two disciples, one of whom is Andrew, to follow Jesus, the Lamb of God. Had it not been for John would these disciples have followed the one they recognized as Rabbi, teacher?

 

The Gospel tells us that having spent the day listening to Jesus, the first thing Andrew did was find his brother, Simon. Inspired by the words of the teacher Jesus, Andrew’s life was changed. This was such a clear invitation by God to follow Jesus that he was compelled to tell his brother that he had found the Messiah. Andrew was the instrument of God’s call. Had it not been for Andrew would Simon (Peter) have come to know Jesus, who in turn called him to a life-changing vocation?

 

As followers of Jesus have we recognized Him, heard His call in our hearts, and been instruments of God’s call for others? Within our families, our jobs, and our community we encounter God every day. Do we reflect on our “had it not been for” moments when we have heard God’s call? Do we share these stories with others? These are stories of trust in our ever faithful God who continues to call us into greater relationship with Him. May we listen, be attentive and responsive to these promptings in our hearts.

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Preparing for Sunday

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As we prepare for Sunday:

 

*  Spend time deep within your heart, answering the question, “What am I looking for?”

 

*  Reflect on the people who have encouraged you to follow Jesus.  Thank God for the gift of these witnesses.

 

*  Invite the Holy Spirit to work through you to witness to others.

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