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Contents: Volume 2:

Second Sunday of Ordered Time
January 15, 2023
year A

 

2nd

SUNDAY

Year

A

 

 

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Dennis Keller

3. -- Brian Gleeson CP

4. -- Paul O'Reilly SJ

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

 

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Sunday 2 A 2023

The Gospel according to John this Sunday focuses on the importance of testifying to one's beliefs. To me, that means sharing one's story including important information about one's chronological life and spiritual life as well. Each person's story tells a bit about who they are and who they still want to become.

Sometimes based on Scripture, we only know what we think is too little about a particular biblical person or role model. We do know about Paul's past before he proclaimed the Good News. But what WAS John doing all those years before he went into the desert? Many people feel the same about Jesus, especially caregivers of children and teens! Again, both the chronological life and spiritual life are important... but it is the visible living of spiritual beliefs, even though somewhat quietly, that really catches people's attention and is the ultimate game changer.

As we grow into becoming more mature Christians, spiritually rather than just chronologically, we realize that many, perhaps most, people recognize an event, turning point or person in their earlier years that changed their lives. That is something that usually comes to light when one acknowledges God's power as the instrumental change, the Initiator of all good things. Sharing that personal information is usually gradual, again at God's initiation and direction.

No one's journey is easy and no one's journey includes just the visible part that we might see. How we live our everyday life is what attracts others to ask about our journey. Is there someone whose life suggests a deep spiritual component or belief that might assist you in following your spiritual path? Is there someone you know who might benefit from your sharing a bit of your own personal journey and beliefs as support for their wandering or troubling times?

The Christian life is not about just our relationship with the Divine. It includes other individuals and community. Might expanding where or with whom you journey now be one of those things you might consider later on as an event, turning point or person in your own spiritual life, no matter how old chronologically you are?

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Second Sunday of Ordered Time January 15, 2023

Isaiah 49:3 & 5-6; Responsorial Psalm 40; 1st Corinthians 1:1-3;
Gospel Acclamation John 1:14 & 12; John1:29-34

The Isaiah reading sets the scene for the reading from John’s gospel. This from Isaiah is the second song of four songs revealing the Suffering Servant. This is the Servant, the emissary of God through whose suffering would come salvation for the nation. Well, that’s not the whole truth. Salvation of the Nation and a gathering of all tribes lost and dispersed throughout the world was how the descendants of Abraham would have thought salvation meant. This suffering servant was of no account according to the measures of the world. He was poor and reviled, this servant would be considered worthless. But yet it was through the suffering of this servant that salvation would come to the nation. But wait! In this first reading this Sunday, it is clear that salvation would come to all peoples – not just the Hebrew peoples. This Suffering person, this Servant of the Lord would "be a light to the nations that God’s salvation may reach to the ends of the earth." In the gospel, John the Baptist identifies Jesus as the Lamb of God, truly the Suffering Servant of the Isaiah list of four songs.

Why we connect the Servant of Isaiah with Jesus, who John names the Lamb of God is that the word for Lamb that John used in the language of Aram is the same word used in the phrase in Isaiah for Servant. John connects Jesus, the Lamb of God with the Suffering Servant of Isaiah. In the gospel composed by John the Apostle/Evangelist, the choice of the Greek word for Lamb was the evangelists way of connecting Jesus to both the Servant of Isaiah and the lambs sacrificed each morning and evening as expiation for the sins of the people. The connection is made all the more clear when the Baptizer announces to the assembled crowd that Jesus walking by is indeed the Servant of Isaiah as well as the Lamb to be sacrificed as expiation for sin. That is, "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world."

Strange that word, "Sin." Why does the evangelist use the singular in describing the work and achievement of the Lamb, the Suffering Servant? Most often we think of sin as a breaking of a personal relationship with God. Sin, in that limited way of thinking, is detrimental to our relationship with our Creator. That "me and God" view of things disallows how sin is harmful to other persons and to creation. When we sin, when we miss the standard of being a child of God, we miss the benchmark of what we are and can be. We, in effect, harm other persons and creation. God’s wrath is often, especially in the Hebrew Scriptures, set off by sin. But it’s not the sinner that is the object of God’s wrath. It’s the act, the omission, the intention, the deviation from what God created us to be that arouses the object of God’s wrath. So, when John writes of sin in the singular, he summarizes in a single word what’s not right about our thoughts, our deeds, in what we fail to think and do.

The Lamb of God who takes away the "sin of the world" reminded the Jews and us as well of the expiatory lamb sacrificed in the Temple rituals of the Hebrews morning and night. It is worthy of thought and meditation to realize the prophet Isaiah’s revelation of the Suffering Servant marks a huge swing in the understanding how salvation is made present. Before Isaiah’s Suffering Servant, the great acts of salvation are connected to leaving – leaving Egypt, leaving Babylon and the tremendous change from slavery to freedom. The nation is freed and given a return to what God’s will considers normal. Yet, here in the poetry, the songs of Isaiah part two, the change is from release from effects of sin to retribution for sin, for a removal of the effects of sin. And this expiation, this salvation comes from the suffering of the innocent poor. From this it would seem that the poor among us even in the twenty first century are the ones whose suffering makes expiation for the sins of the nation. Consider the suffering of the citizens of Ukraine, of Sudan, of central America – well, of the poor in our land of prosperity and freedom. The reading from Isaiah marks a shift in salvation thinking. Prior to this prophecy in Isaiah part two salvation of the nation was through a glorious exodus. That exodus was a huge event. The Suffering Servant, the Lamb of God of the speech of John the Baptizer, is new, is available as was the morning and evening sacrifice in the Temple. We know of the salvation by exodus from slavery in Egypt led by Moses. We understand the exodus from the captivity in Babylon enacted by Cyrus the Great of Persia. Isaiah whose prophecy is during the captivity of Babylon, makes it clear there is another way to salvation through the expiatory suffering of innocent poor. In this theology, the suffering of the poor brings with it a release from the sin of the world. The innocent poor suffer and, in their suffering, expiate for the sins of the chosen people. But it is more than that. In our reading from Isaiah this Sunday, it is not only the tribes of Jacob and the lost tribes of the dispersed northern Kingdom. This servant chosen by God will be made into a light to the nations. And that is so that the salvation offered by God will reach to the ends of the earth. This is certainly not to mean that we should encourage an expansion of the suffering poor. Hardly! It is the work of the Lamb of God, this Jesus of Nazareth, who takes away the sin of the world. That’s the objective of the followers of the Christ. That the sin of the world is lifted up and away. Sin is to be removed as harm to God’s creation. That is the result of the coming of the Kingdom of God.

Another revelation in Isaiah’s four songs is that his Suffering Servant – the Baptist’s Lamb of God – is that salvation is not only for the Jews, not only for the dispersed lost Tribes of the descendants of Jacob, but for all humanity. No tribe, no race, no language, no gender, no skin color, no tradition of faith, no diversity of political structures will exclude any person from this salvation. The Sin of the world is the Lamb of God is taking away. Not many understood that salvation by the Servant would be universal. The episode this Sunday’s gospel is after the Baptism of Jesus and the descent of the Spirit. This is after the desert Temptation of Jesus. Jesus had begun to understand his mission.

The faith understanding of the Jews as revealed by Isaiah is that the Servant is alive in all of Israel’s leaders – Abraham, Moses, Jeremiah, wise men, David, and the suffering exiles. The Baptist would have thought of Jesus as one of those leaders. All those leaders are connected to this one purpose. It is a spiraling ascent to the Kingdom of God.

John insists to the crowd coming into the wilderness to hear him that this Jesus takes away the sin of the World. He is the innocent victim, the poor Lamb whose work is the expiation of guilt and responsibility for those who participated in the sin of the world. The followers of Jesus share in his mission and ministry of expiation. It is our responsibility to take away the sin of the word, following the example of the Lamb of God, Jesus. The sin of the world has many aspects: poverty is one: racism is one: sexism is another: violence is a manifestation of sin in the heart: lust whether after another person or after power, or wealth, or fame. Sin has many manifestations but one effect. Denial of the image and likeness in which each person is uniquely created. It is a disregard for the work of Creation and its reflection of the Creator.

If Isaiah changes the theology from leaving captivity to expiation for the sin of the world, then that is our role. We regain our innocence in the expiatory work and suffering of this Son of God/Son of Man. We too are to take away the sin of the world where we are, in the time in which we are placed. We join the sheepfold of lambs, of servants who suffer for the sake of salvation. That salvation is for the world, that manifestation of the amazing God in whose image we are created.

Behold the Lamb of God, that Suffering Servant revealed by the prophecies of Isaiah. Defanging the power of sin is our mission. Our model and our leader is the One who suffered in innocence to take away the power of sin, replacing sin’s self-centered destruction with unconditional love. It’s an awfully big job with which we followers of the Lamb are assigned. But we are not alone in our struggle.

As we begin this ordinary, ordered time, we have instruction, encouragement, and grace to successfully be witnesses to the presence of the Lord, the Suffering Servant, the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world.

Dennis Keller with 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 answered those questions. In introducing him to people as their Saviour, 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 to us by God for our salvation, remove it and set us free?

‘Sin’ is the word we use for anything that stops us from staying open to God and 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, 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 recently with so much generosity, compassion, and concern to the victims of the terrible floods, that kept swamping forests, grasslands, houses, people, livestock and wildlife, in many regions of 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 the opportunities that come our way. That is sin, the 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.

Until now I’ve been speaking of the kind of sin that is deliberate and for which we are personally responsible. But much selfish behaviour 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 too much gambling, that may drive us towards making wrong choices.

The seagull cannot be blamed for the oil slick that clogs up its wings and makes it unable to fly. Much sin 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 toward 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 of the world, have mercy on us ... (repeat). Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world, grant us peace.’

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

 

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Year A: 2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

"I saw the Spirit coming down on him from heaven like a dove and resting on him."

I think I saw that happen once.

When I was at school, there was a boy in my class that none of us liked. He gossiped. He made up stories about people. He sucked up to people who were stronger than him. He bullied people who were weaker than him. He told tales to the teachers that were mostly untrue and got people into serious trouble that they did not deserve. But the most annoying thing about him was that any time you spoke to him, almost whatever you said to him, even something as harmless as "hello", he always had a some crude sarcastic remark to cut you down to size. And when someone does that to you all the time, pretty soon you start to feel that you don’t want to speak to them at all.

Then, one day at school, I passed him in the corridor and said "hello". And he said "hello" back. And not just "hello", but "HeLLO!" like he was pleased to see me. I was surprised, but I said nothing and walked on. Later in the day, a couple of my friends asked me: "Have you noticed what’s happened to Peter? He’s so strange! He’s completely different!"

And for the next few days, we noticed that he seemed to have changed completely. He smiled; he was pleasant; he told dirty jokes. He had a sense of humor He was a pleasure to be with. We could not understand it. What had happened?

Then after a few days, we found out. One night, I was walking home and there on the road in front of me was Peter walking hand in hand with a very nice young lady from the nearby girls’ school. So his secret was out. And we all understood exactly what had happened. He was in love.

But, when you’re 17 - or even, I have been told, when you’re 77 - these things don’t always last. After a few weeks they split up. And Peter was very upset about it. And we were pretty sad about it too because we thought, "Oh no, he’s just going to go back to being the way he was."

But that didn’t happen. Peter’s first experience of love may not have lasted too long, but its effect was permanent. It touched him and changed him forever. Even in just a short time, that girl managed to see something in him – something to like – and, even more than that, made him see it too. And make him feel loved in such a way that such a good thing could never again be unseen. As Graham Greene once put it, "it is a strange thing to discover and to believe that you are loved when you know that there is nothing in you for anybody but a parent or a God to love." [The End Of The Affair]

And that released in him the man God created him to be.

That is the gift of the Spirit - to know yourself to be loved by God and by the people of God and to have released in you the confidence to face the world and show yourself as God created you to be. That is what it is to be a child of God, fully human and fully alive.

Love can be expressed only by those who have experienced it in their own lives. And for that you have to be loved first. And you have to be given the God-given grace to love yourself. And only then can you obey the Lord’s command and love your neighbour as yourself.

So, Peter taught me something, something I now see every day in the homeless people I work with. He taught me that most often when I come across people who are rude, hostile, aggressive, most often the reason is that they are afraid. They generally don’t look afraid: they look hostile, aggressive and potentially violent. But I now see that they are afraid, not so much of what I or anyone else is going to do to them, but they are afraid of themselves – or more accurately, of their failures. Because they do not love themselves. That is what their experience of life has taught them.

Homelessness is a disease of relationships. It is what happens when nobody in the world will give you a bed for the night. And to get to that point, you have to break a lot of relationships. And so, my people have discovered that they are not good at relationships – and they think they are not good at being human beings.

And so I believe that it is the vocation of the Church to be the people who can discover the good in all the people to whom God shall send us and show it to them. It is only when the Holy Spirit has come down and rested upon you that you can go and baptise others with that Spirit. That is what I believe the Christian church exists to do. And that is what converts people like Peter into being Rocks on which Christ is building His Kingdom.

I tell you this story today because I actually met up with Peter a few weeks ago. And, you know the way that there are some questions that you can ask after a safe (oh dear!) forty-plus years of water has gone under the bridge that you couldn’t ask at the time. So I asked him if he still remembered her.

He suddenly went very still and took a long time to answer the question. And eventually he said, "Yes, of course I do. She changed my life. I don’t know where she is now. I so wish we had kept in touch. Paul would you say a mass for her?

Let us pray that the Holy Spirit of God’s love may come down on each like a dove and rest on us."

Let us stand and profess our Faith in the Spirit of God.

Paul O'Reilly SJ <fatbaldnproud@opalityone.net>

 

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