The Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Isaiah 49:3, 5-6
Psalm 40:2, 4, 7-8, 8-9
1 Corinthians 1:1-3
The Gospel of John 1:29-34
Deacon Mike D’Addabbo
St. Louis Catholic Church
In today’s first reading the Lord has told Isaiah, and now Isaiah is telling Israel, that they are the Lord’s servant. Isaiah says that he was born to be the Lord’s servant so that Jacob and the Israelites could gather again with the Lord. The Lord has given Isaiah the task to be a light to ALL nations. Isaiah is proclaiming to the Israelites the words and path to the Lord. He is told to do this for all nations- not just the Israelites. They are going to be the Lord’s instruments to bring the joy of salvation to everyone.
Isaiah was preaching to the Israelites after their return from the Babylonian exile. They had come back to a pretty much ruined Jerusalem. Imagine how discouraged they must have been after having been tormented in exile and then returning to a destroyed homeland. Many had lost faith during their exiled period. They are told to start rebuilding not just the Temple and the city but, more importantly, their relationship with the Lord. Isaiah is telling them they must turn back to the Lord. They will rebuild and gather together again with the Lord if they do as instructed. Isaiah’s instructions were about 550 years before Jesus Christ was born.
Today’s letter from St. Paul to the Corinthians is actually just the introductory paragraph of that letter. Corinth used to be like today’s Las Vegas a little bit on the wild side. Paul, after leaving Corinth, would write to the Corinthians if he heard (somebody tattled) that they were slipping back into their old sinful ways. So what does Paul say? He says he has been called “by the will of God” to be an apostle of Christ to the people who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy in God’s church to “all those everywhere” who call upon Jesus’ name, not just in Corinth. Paul’s ministry is not restricted to Corinth. In fact, Paul’s letter is written to the Corinthians to remind them of their obligations to follow Christ even during Paul’s absence from Corinth. Their faith is to be focused on Jesus Christ and not Paul. Now, at that time, there were no planes, trains or automobiles. Paul traveled long distances by walking, or riding an animal, or in a boat. I am willing to bet that Paul probably faced some muggers during his travels. Dangers did not stop him from following Jesus’s instructions. Paul concludes the introduction to the letter with his customary greeting extending to the Corinthians the grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Today’s Gospel of St. John follows St. Matthew’s Gospel of the Baptism of the Lord that we heard last week. Now remember, as we read last week, the people thought John the Baptist was the Messiah, the one who they have been waiting for. That was until last week when Jesus arrived at the river Jordan for baptism with water thus making Himself known by appearing to John and the crowd gathered there.
The story continues. John, even after baptizing Jesus, is still out and about preaching to the crowds. Today, John is preaching that he did not know Jesus was the Son of God until Jesus arrived and was baptized at the river Jordan. John tells the crowd that he went around baptizing with water so that Jesus would be made known. John sees Jesus walking towards him and tells the crowd “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.” John is telling the crowd ‘this is the guy, this is the one coming after me. This dove descended on this man and a voice from heaven proclaimed “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” John tells the crowd that this man walking towards them “…is the Son of God”, the long awaited Messiah who has come to save the world. John has been preaching that it is time to make straight your paths and mend your ways. Reconcile yourself with God, your fellow man and bring people to Christ. Act now and do not hesitate.
Isaiah called the Israelites, St. Paul instructed the Corinthians and St. John preached that the Messiah was coming, has come and is now here among the people. They were brave men who went out into a challenging world to be Christ’s representative to others. They placed their trust, and safety, in God. Many of their successors and followers died for Christ because they stood up to do as Christ instructed- teach and bring others to Christ. Can we be like them? Can we bring others to Christ? How do we do that?
First we need to make sure that God is the primary focus of our lives. That is a difficult thing to do especially in today’s world. Secularism seems to be on an uptrend and religion on a downtrend. People seem to have lost interest in religion. They do not focus on God. People make choices to do secular activities rather than to make time to honor God. People feel betrayed by religion due to the scandals that are so widely publicized. Those are a black eye on religion, should never happen, cannot and will not be tolerated. Yet we still have the obligation to bring people to Christ. Can, more importantly will, we still accept the challenge to be God’s assistant here on earth and work to overcome the negativity towards religion, the belief in God? Will we try to bring those lost souls back to Christ? It may not be easy for us. It was not easy for Jesus, St. Paul, St. John or all the Apostles and disciples either.
So how do we do that? It won’t be easy but it does not have to be hard either. It can be as simple as holding a door for someone, saying please or thank you, hello or goodbye or asking someone how they are and stopping to LISTEN to the reply. That gives a sense of caring and dignity to the recipient. Maybe it is lending a helping hand to a neighbor, a stranger and much harder than that a homeless person. We can smile and not frown. Do not participate in gossip, rumors, unkind conversations or any one of todays ‘Hot Button’ divisive topics. You can dispute the point by arguing but it often makes a greater impact when you just simply walk away with a shake of your head. That shows you do not justify the tone of the conversation with your presence. Peer pressure makes that a very difficult thing to do. If you get into the conversation then it has to be civil and with respect.
I will give an example. One of today’s most divisive “hot button” topics is abortion. This is also a topic that our Church is very firm on. Human life begins at the moment of conception. Fullstop. It seems that no one can have a conversation about abortion that does not end up in a screaming match. Women who have had abortions suffer severe mental anguish and depression because of that decision. It torments them for years. . Do not let anybody tell you differently. A couple of months ago I talked about the gravity of abortion and the killing of innocent infants. After that homily I was asked by someone what I thought of the death penalty. I did not get a chance to reply then but I did get a chance at a later time. My answer was that I do not agree with the death penalty either but that there is a very wide gulf between the death penalty and abortion. In most death penalty cases the offender made a choice and committed such a heinous crime that society deemed it necessary to deprive them of their own life. An infant in the womb cannot do anything but yet still receives a death sentence. My comment was put in a context they had not considered. As our conversation continued I realized this person’s dilemma. They find abortion abhorrent but they have genuine concern for a woman who insists on an abortion. Will they be forced to resort back to the old days of back alley abortions which could result in the deaths of both the mother and child? I mentioned that there are alternatives. I have an adopted grandson. His mother could have had an abortion since they are legally available pretty much on demand. She didn’t. Instead at his birth she gave him up for adoption. Our family is blessed with a very cute 3-1/2 yr. old. Adoption is an alternative for those pregnant mothers. Any woman who gives her child up, so that the child can have a better life than she believes she can give it, is the strongest and bravest woman I know. She gives her life, her child, away in the most selfless act of love possible. We are called to continue the fight against abortion.
I bring this up because this Thursday the pro-choice people will celebrate the 47th anniversary of Roe v. Wade legalizing abortion. They are going to celebrate the killing of the unborn. What is wrong with society? At the same time in Washington D.C., there will be thousands marching in the annual March to Life rally calling for an overturning of that law. Those thousands will include teens and adults from Memphis. Pray for them as they are taking a stand. They are trying to entice people to Christ by being strong for His teaching. Perhaps you are not aware but the woman who was “Roe” never had her abortion. She had a daughter. ‘Roe’ came to realize that she was a pawn of the woman’s pro-abortion movement. She later said her involvement in the case was “the biggest mistake in her life.” She became a Roman Catholic and a staunch anti-abortion advocate. Abortion is today’s modern day equivalent of King Herod’s slaughtering on all male infants under the age of 2 to try and kill the infant Jesus. The Catholic Church celebrates those infants in the Feast of the Holy Innocents. Jan. 23 is the 40th anniversary of the modern day memorial of the Holy Innocents.
We are challenged to bring others to Christ. Do not ignore our daily life issues things but do not place as priorities over God. I used to tell my boss that my life priorities were God, family, friends and work in that order. I know how difficult it is to always keep God first. I know at times something seems to leapfrog over God into first place. I have failed and let that happen more than once. We then have to work hard to put God first again. By doing so, we become an example to others of our words and faith in action. We are the people called by Isaiah, St. Paul and St. John in today’s readings. We are tasked with bringing ALL people to our Lord Jesus Christ. That requires us to have courage, belief in God and our faith. We must have the strength to act in accordance with them.
We are sinners and we are here to bring sinners back to Christ. We have to be like those who followed Jesus’s call two thousand years ago. They turned their fear over to God. Last night I read a great summation. It is this:
“You have left everything to follow me; you will have it all returned a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. “ That is the goal for us and all the others who follow Christ.