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Contents: Volume 2 - Second Sunday of Ordered Time (Year A) January 19, 2020


 

  The

  Second

 Sunday

2020

 

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

3. -- Brian Gleeson CP

4. --

5. --(Your reflection can be here!)

 

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Sun. 2A 2020

Ordinary Time calls us to put in practice what we have learned, especially about Jesus through his example. This Sunday, the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, the Gospel selection according to John builds on the happenings and message of last Sunday's selection according to Matthew which was both the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord and technically, the first Sunday of Ordinary Time. We learned that through our own Baptism, we became part of Jesus's ministry of preaching the Word, the Good News, to all whom we encounter.

So, how is following Jesus's example coming along? Have you made progress in your plans to be more visible as God's "servant" and be a "light to the nations" as mentioned in our first reading? Perhaps 2020 has been a slower start along those lines than you intended because of personal responsibilities, family issues, pressure at work, a slow down of zeal in your parish, or a concern about the uncertainty of the world stage right now.

Maybe a slow start is one reason our readings re-emphasize the power of Jesus's Baptism and ours. We sometimes need more time to absorb the power we have been given through baptismal graces. That is true whether our Baptism was long ago as an infant, recently as an adult or as our baptismal promises are reconfirmed/renewed when we are present at the Baptism of someone else.

The responsorial verse for today's psalm is "Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will". May we pray it fervently or sing it heartily this day and always! May we reflect on our lives more closely this week to find the small steps we can take to answer that call...and actually take one in Jesus's name.

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Second Sunday of Ordered Time January 19, 2020

Isaiah 49:3 & 5-6; Responsorial Psalm 40; 1st Corinthians 1:1-3; Gospel Acclamation John 1:14 & 12; John 1:29-34

Just when we get comfortable with the gospel of Matthew, the liturgists pull a fast one on us. The gospel reading this Sunday is not from Matthew’s gospel. Matthew wrote for Christians of Jewish heritage. His references draw from Jewish culture and ritual and the Law. John’s gospel, the last written, is less dependent on the history of Jesus and his predecessors. His gospel is more intensely spiritual and carries with it insights into human personality and growth of our spirits.

We go to John’s gospel this week-end to hear the testimony of John the Baptist. In the scene, John sees Jesus walking by and points him out to the crowd. John calls Jesus the Lamb of God. Even though the gospel was written in Greek, John the Baptizer would have made his testimony in his native Aram. That’s important to know because the phrase "lamb of God" in Aram also expresses the phrase "servant of God." If we listened closely to the first reading, we noticed that the Lord speaking to the prophet calls the prophet "my servant." Isaiah is commissioned to be the servant of God. What the rest of the first reading tells us about this servant is important.

Isaiah prophesizes this servant will bring Jacob back to the Lord. This refers to all the tribes descended from Jacob, the grandson of Abraham. After the settling of the promised land that territory was divided among the twelve tribes. During the kingship of David and Solomon the nation enjoyed great prosperity and security. Upon Solomon’s death, the nation split because of an huge increase in the tax burden by the son of Solomon. The split diminished the nation’s security. In treaties with pagan empires the nation’s faith in God deteriorated, often into idolatry. The Northern Kingdom, known as Israel, was eventually overrun by the Assyrian empire. Its citizens were exiled to all parts of the world. The remnant left in Israel were supplemented by exiles from other nations Assyria conquered. The Assyrian intent was to water down the national and religious bonds that held the former nation together. In such a manner the Assyrians thought to prevent revolt.

This section of Isaiah was a prophecy during the time of the Babylonian captivity. The people held as slaves in Babylon and its cities were those from the southern kingdom, from Judaea. Isaiah’s prophecy taught that the Servant of the Lord would bring back the captives of Judah to God. They called themselves the children of Jacob. But not only those were to be brought back. Even the northern tribes would be returned to God. But even more than that: this Servant of the Lord would be a light to all nations and bring salvation to all the world. This sounds like the words of a TV advertiser. "You get this; but not only this – you also get this. And if you act within the next five minutes we’ll throw in the world as well." This was a strange message for the Jews who considered themselves God’s chosen, exclusive among all peoples as God’s chosen. The hope of being released from Babylon would bring joy. But the comment about the northern Kingdom being called back. After all, these were now Samaritans, mongrels by the mixing of Hebrew and pagan bloodlines. The animosity between the northern and southern kingdoms was great. We see it reflected in the Jew’s attitude toward the Samaritans of Jesus time.

But there was more: Isaiah was to be the servant who provided light to the gentiles, those pagans who worshiped gods made of clay and wood – without life! The Jews were proud of their exclusivity. How like these hard hearted and stiff necked people we are even two thousand years after the Servant has come. We are fond of setting up barriers against foreigners. Other languages, other cultural values, other celebrations, and certainly other religions separate us and are frequently an excuse for violence. We want to be certain we’re not contaminated by those other values and customs. So we isolate ourselves from them in mind, in heart, and in our social and economic and political protocols. The mission of Isaiah is to be a light to all peoples. There is no exclusion allowed in what the Lord prepared him for his mission. The prophecy of Isaiah is not completed even now. The promised Servant of the Lord came in the person of Jesus. We are in the final age whose goal is the new creation, whose good news is that all are chosen to be privileged and gifted with daughter-ship and sonship to the Lord.

In the gospel reading today the Baptist testifies that Jesus is the Lamb of God. This was not only a reference to the prophecy of Isaiah in our first reading. This also refers to the Passover lamb whose blood was painted on doorway lintels. This was a sign to the angel of death to Passover those houses. That first Passover lamb’s blood was not a release from sin. It was a liberation from slavery imposed by the Pharaoh. Slavery meant death to the spirit of the people. It robbed their spirits of freedom to live fully as God’s chosen people. Freedom is a big deal! Our gospel, the good news we hear lets us know the lamb takes away the sin of the world. The blood of this new Passover lamb does more. It removes sin from the backs of the nation. Sin for the Jew is a "missing of the mark." Sin is not measuring up to our living as creatures sharing the "image and likeness of God." Missing the mark is a failure to be all we can be. The Baptist’s words bring a new understanding of sin. Sin is like the Pharaoh’s slavery. Sin reduces and constrains freedom of our spirits. There is no happiness and joy in being a slave. By sin we become trapped into a slavery that makes us less. Sin is a cancer that weaves itself into our spirits and deceives and seduces our thoughts, words, desires, and actions. Sin kills off the spirit within us that is the image and likeness of God.

Jewish tradition has a single day each year they call the Day of Atonement. It is also known as Yom Kippur. That term, Kippur, means to polish, to clean as we would a mirror. That mirror reflects what we are. We are creatures in the image and likeness of God. By polishing the mirror of our spirit, by removal of the filth and mold and decay that is sin clouding our spirits, the truth of our creation is again a reflection of God. This new Lamb of God of the Baptist’s testimony will pour out his life’s blood to wash and polish our reflected image.

John insists he baptizes only with water. His was a baptism of expectation, of hope for something, for someone new. That newness would change everything. The baptism of water would be replaced by a baptism with the power of God. The Baptist would not have thought of the spirit of God in our understanding of Trinity. The life and teaching of Jesus reveals a Trinity of three equal persons in one.

There is another context in which we should listen this Sunday to the Gospel reading. John begins his Gospel with the prologue that is his summary of good news. He starts the words, "in the beginning." This is the beginning of all that is. The verses that follow – from chapter 1, verse 19 to chapter 2 verse 11 – are organized as seven days. John wants us to understand that Jesus’ ministry is a new creation. He patterns his time line on the creation narrative in Genesis. It is a new creation. Creation’s relationship to its Creator enhanced. The age of promise has been completed. Now is the time all will be made new. The newness provides us with a release from the addiction and power of sin. Our roadmap is the Word of God. Our path is the Lamb of God’s healing and restoration of community. Jesus is the Lamb of God; that is, he is the Servant of God. In that part of the prophet Isaiah, there are repeated passages that identify that Servant – that Lamb – as the suffering Servant by whose suffering work the people are healed.

So begins our liturgical year. We started with the baptism of Jesus last week which began the new era. Each Sunday that follows this Sunday we gather to hear the Word of God proclaimed and explained. It is a story that unfolds and takes us along for the journey to the end Matthew’s gospel. The end is the resurrection of Jesus. It is a resurrection promised to us as well. That resurrection makes all things new: it is the new creation John promises in these first chapters of his Gospel.

Let’s not forget that Jesus is present to us in both Word and Eucharist. May we not miss the opportunity to hear and be led by the Word that comes to us when we assemble! Let us listen attentively and with open hearts. Let the Lamb of God be the shepherd that begins again our path that leads to God and all that God contains.

 

Carol & Dennis Keller + Charlie dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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THE IDENTITY OF JESUS THEN AND NOW: 2ND SUNDAY A

Who was Jesus Christ? Who is Jesus Christ? These are the most important questions that we, his friends and followers, can ask. John the Baptist has given us his answers to those questions. In introducing him to people as their Savior, John calls Jesus ‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’. He adds: ‘The Spirit of God is on Jesus.’ Let’s focus, then, on John’s insight into the identity of Jesus by asking a. What is sin? and b. How does Jesus, the sacrificial lamb given us by God for our salvation, remove it and set us free?

‘Sin’ is the word we use for anything that stops us staying open to God and to God’s loving influence upon us. It’s about anything dysfunctional, nasty, false, mean, hurtful, and unloving about us. It shows itself again and again in jealousy, hatred and hostility, cruelty and revenge, wars and class struggles. It is revealed in lies, fraud and deceit, as well as in acts of violence, torture, racial prejudice and injustice.

Sin, in fact, is the opposite of being friendly, caring and helpful, like those generous men, women, and children, reaching out with so much generosity, compassion and concern to the victims of the terrible bushfires burning up forests, grasslands, houses, people, livestock and wildlife, all over Australia.

Some of the sin that afflicts us causes us to hurt others and, in hurting others to hurt ourselves. We could act in a kind and helpful way to someone in need, e.g., but we find it too much trouble and effort. Or we are afraid that others might sneer at us if we do. So we let slip by the opportunities that come our way. That is sin, sin of omission.

We know we should not judge others. But we get some kind of perverse pleasure in putting others down. This leads us to slip in that extra anecdote that puts another in a bad light. That is sin.

We know that certain things we do upset, hurt and harm others. But we don’t care, and we keep doing them anyway. That is wilful, that is sin.

We know that we need space to be alone with God. But we avoid quiet and silence for prayer. So we never bother to ask God what God wants of us, or ask God to empower us to do it. That too is sin.

Up till now I’ve been speaking of the kind of sin that is deliberate and for which we are personally responsible. But much selfish behavior comes also from our genes and the environment around us and for which we are only partly responsible. This kind of sin includes different sorts of addictions and compulsions, and habits such as gambling that may drive us towards wrong choices.

The seagull cannot be blamed for the oil slick that clogs up its wings and makes it unable to fly. Much sin of the world is, in fact, partly environmental and hereditary. We call it ‘original sin’ for it comes more from our human condition, our human origins, and our human situations, than from malice and fully deliberate bad choices. But it is still sin and it can entangle, trap, imprison and dominate us just the same.

This brings us to the second question: How does Jesus take away both kinds of sin, the deliberate and the not so deliberate? He does it the way we take darkness away – by turning on the light. He does it the way we take hatred away – by introducing love. He does it the way we take loneliness away – by steering us towards good people.

This is not an automatic process. For we can choose to live in the dark; we can choose to remain isolated; and we can entertain hatred and resentment. But Jesus has shown us another way, and empowered us to live another way, a different way, He has baptised us with his own Spirit, the Holy Spirit. He has poured out on us the fire of God’s love.

Perhaps our awareness of all this will make some difference to the way we pray those three petitions at Mass, just before we receive Jesus Christ and others in Holy Communion. ‘Lamb of God,’ we say to Jesus, God’s sacrificial Lamb, ‘you take away the sin the world, have mercy on us ... Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world, grant us peace’.

"Brian Gleeson CP" <bgleesoncp@gmail.com>

 

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Volume 2 is for you. Your thoughts, reflections, and insights on the next Sundays readings can influence the preaching you hear. Send them to preacherexchange@att.net.  Deadline is Wednesday Noon. Include your Name, and Email Address.

-- Fr. John


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Volume II Archive

We keep up to six articles in this archive.  The latest is always listed first.

6th SUNDAY 5th SUNDAY PRESENTATION 3rd SUNDAY 2nd SUNDAY Baptism of the Lord


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