2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (A); 1-15-17
Is 49:3,5-6 Ps 40 1 Cor 1:1-3 Jn 1:29-34
Deacon Jim McFadden; St. John the Baptist C.C.
Ever since we were kids, we’ve learned to follow the leader. As children, the leader makes a simple challenge: “can you do what I can do? ” As we get older following the leader can be very serious business. If we don’t follow the leader out of a burning building, we can lose our lives. We follow political leaders by supporting their policies. We follow religious leaders by upholding their magisterial teachings, even when they go against the cultural grain.
We are now in Ordinary Time, that period of the liturgical year when we pay closer attention to what it means to be a follower of Jesus. On some Sundays we are going to look at the challenges of being a disciple. On other Sundays, such as today, we look to Jesus, just as John the Baptist did, and renew our commitment that He alone is our ultimate leader.
John the Baptist catches us off guard by referring to Jesus as the Lamb of God. Who, in their right mind, would make their leader a lamb? Can you imagine a politician running on such a stance? Of all the animal metaphors to choose, why that one?
On the face of it, these words, the Lamb of God, don’t belong together unless we understand who God is in Jesus. In Jesus, God becomes vulnerable and is willing to be broken and suffer so we can live fully in His love. The “lamb of God” is epitomized in the naked, bleeding, broken body of Jesus hanging on the Cross. Yet, it was that body that the Father took into His arms and raised up and proclaimed for all time that this is the sign and pattern and promise and victory for all history. If we’re going to go very deeply into the mystery of Jesus, we’d better be prepared to be turned upside-down.
We may have trouble with this metaphor because our theology tells us that God is unchangeable and almighty. Yet, when the Word of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, became human, God in Jesus is growing, developing, and maturing in complexity and consciousness.
But back to the tough question: Are we ready for that kind of God, who modeled in Jesus the price of unconditional love? Are we willing to be taken into that kind of life in which we become vulnerable and broken? Are we willing to become a Lover like Jesus and embrace the suffering of our brothers and sisters by serving them when and where they need to be ministered?
If so, we must embrace non-violence, compassion, forgiveness, humility, fidelity, and patience. That means we reject the exploitation of human beings, especially the poor and marginalized, because when insatiable consumerism and environmental degradation occurs, violence inevitably follows. Or as Pope Francis stated in a Press Conference on the Return Flight from the Apostolic Journey to Poland, “you drive out the marvel of creation, man and woman, and put money in their place” (July 31, 2016).
Brothers and sisters, the best way to respond to evil is not with more evil, but with goodness as Jesus teaches us. The best antidote to evil is love, which heals everything. And, love is at the heart of our Catholic social teaching—solidarity, the common good, stewardship of the planet, and the intrinsic dignity of every human being, regardless of race, religion, or gender.
People of God at SJB, if we are going to follow the Lamb of God, we need to allow him to take away our sin, which we acknowledge in the Confiteor. In John’s gospel there’s only one sin—everything else we call sin is a symptom of it. Sin is not to be a son or daughter of God; it’s not to believe in our Father whom we’re invited to call ‘Abba.’ It’s not to depend upon our Father, to trust him, and to accept that He moves in every aspect of our lives. We are called to begin each day with the confidence that this is the day the Lord has made and we are always and forever in His care.
If we lose that confidence and trust, if we lose that dependency, we sever ourselves from our relationship with the Divine. We then feel disconnected in the world; we feel unloved; we don’t’ feel that we belong; we feel adrift and we don’t know from where we can draw our strength. We go to all the wrong places to find it; we seek in false ways something to give our lives meaning in order to believe in ourselves—that’s what we normally call sin. Lust, pride, greed, disrespect, and lack of reverence become ways that we lash out against one another because we don’t believe that we belong or that we’re believed in or loved.
How does God convince us that we are taken into genuine life and love when we make Him the center of our lives? He becomes a lamb. That’s what we mean that Jesus is the Word of God—He is the proclamation of what Reality really means. We come to know God, we come to know ourselves by following Jesus: the Lamb of God! We become willing to be vulnerable and broken if that is what it takes to be the face of God to the world.