Isaiah 49:3, 5-6 1 Corinthians 1:1-3 John 1:29-34
Today we begin the Ordinary Season of the year. Today’s readings speak about two things: the identity of Jesus, and the mission of Jesus.
We need to know who Jesus is, if we want to be his disciples. We also need to know what his mission is, if we want to be good disciples. The Christian disciple not only follows the Gospel of Jesus but also helps others to hear and accept it also.
Who is Jesus? Today’s Gospel speaks about Jesus being baptised by John the Baptist. As Jesus approaches, John announces to some of his own disciples: “There is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” This strange title, the Lamb of God, refers to the great Jewish feast of the Passover. On the feast of the Passover, the people of Israel were liberated from slavery and the lamb was sacrificed. On the night before the Israelites left, under the leadership of Moses, they had a final meal which included the eating of a roast lamb. The lamb then becomes the sign and symbol of the liberation of God’s people from slavery and oppression. This great event of the Exodus, the Going Out, was and is commemorated in the Passover meal which Jesus celebrated with his disciples at the Last Supper and which is still celebrated by Jews worldwide.
When John the Baptist says, ‘this is the lamb’, he means that Jesus is the new Lamb which brings freedom and liberation from the oppression of evil and sin. He sacrifices himself to take away our sins. Through his death he liberates us.
We see the humility of John the Baptist. He says: “After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.” Now we know that John and Jesus are related. And we know, from Luke’s gospel, that John is older than Jesus by about six months, yet he says that Jesus ranks above him and existed before him. John appears first proclaiming the Kingdom of God. But Jesus precedes John in dignity and status as the son of God.
When did John know? When, he says, he “saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself [at first] did not know him but the one who sent me to baptise with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptises with the Holy Spirit’.” And then he makes his declaration of faith: “I myself have seen and have given witness that this is the Son of God.”
Jesus is the Light of the whole world. He wants every single person to experience his salvation. He wants every single person to enter the Kingdom of God. The mission of Jesus is to bring all the people of the world back to God, their Creator, their Beginning and their End. The mission of Jesus is also our mission. We cannot be good disciples of Jesus if we are not also good apostles. To be a good Christian necessarily entails being a good evangeliser. Our duty is not only to save our own souls and “go to heaven”. Our duty is also to share our faith with others, help them to know Jesus and his Gospel, and to experience directly the love of God.
Where can we do this? We can do this in our homes and families, in our working places, in the area covered by our parish. We all know the story of foot prints. It is him we discover at the difficult moments and he will always be available to us. Let us pray that God will help us to work together with Jesus to establish his Kingdom in the whole world and especially in that part of it where we live out our lives.
Deep in his slumber, one night a man had a very real, yet surreal dream. He dreamt that he was walking along the beach with God. As he looked up at the sky, he saw all the scenes of his life flash by along with two sets of footprints: one set for himself and another for God.
After all the scenes had flashed before him, he looked back at those footprints and noticed something quite disturbing: At the most difficult times in his life, he saw only one set of footprints. This deeply troubled the man, so he turned and said to God: “You said that if I followed you, then you would always walk with me through thick and thin. In looking back, I see that during the most painful times there is only one set of footprints. Why did you leave me when I needed you the most?” He hears the voice of God, “I love you and would never leave. It was during those times when you suffered the most that I carried you.”