Getting to know myself, getting to know Jesus is a process.
We began our church year with the season of Advent our preparation for Christmas. We then celebrated Christmas and the feasts which followed: Holy Family, Epiphany and the Baptism of Jesus. Last week we heard the account of the Baptism of Jesus according to Matthew. This week we begin ordinary time An exception takes place in the A Cycle. This week the Gospel comes from John 1:29-34. Next week we will return to Matthew’s Gospel. And for seven Sundays before beginning the season of Lent we will hear some of Jesus’ teaching..
This Sunday’s Gospel is answering the question: John the Baptist who do you say that Jesus is? He gives a variety of answers to that question.
The day previous, in the Gospel account according to John, people were coming to John and asking him: Who are you? John the Baptist begins to answer the question: who are you by responding in a negative manner: who he is not. He is not the Christ or Messiah, he is not Elijah, he is not the prophet to come. Then he states: “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, make straight the way of the Lord.”
A first point of reflection for us this Sunday might be to ask ourselves the question: who am I? In our lives too we may have had to find out who we were not before arriving at who we are. On Jan 10th this year 2020 Richard Rohr offered this as part of his reflection: ” Culture and usually even religion teach us to live out of the false or separate self of reputation, self-image, role, possessions, money, appearance, and so on. It is only as these things fail us, and they always do, that the True Self stands revealed and ready to guide us. Some enlightened souls surrender to this truth and presence early, usually by reason of suffering.”
I spent time with each of the false or separate selves. Might be something for all of us to consider.
But the emphasis of today’s Gospel is on who John the Baptist says that Jesus is.
First he states: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” The term the Lamb of God has different meanings in the scriptures. Isaiah spoke of the suffering servant being led to the slaughter as a Lamb. (Is. 53:7,10) Some would see in Jesus’ life, and especially his being led to die, a fulfillment of this type.
We are familiar with the Pascal Lamb. (Ex. 12) The Jewish people were to slaughter a lamb and sprinkle the door post with its blood and the destroying angel would pass over their homes. By Jesus blood we are saved.
In the book of Revelation there is another Lamb. (Rev. 5-7; 17,14) This is the victorious apocalyptic Lamb who would destroy evil in the world. In the background of the title Lamb of God we come to a fuller understanding of who Jesus is.
Secondly John says: “A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.” John knows of the pre-existence of Jesus. He also knows who is more important. The picture of John the Baptist in the Gospel of John strains to make clear that John is not the Messiah, John is less important than Jesus. One way the Gospel of John does this is to omit saying that John actually baptized Jesus. John says twice in today’s passage, “I did not know him.” His own understanding of who Jesus was developed and came about through his own special faith experience.
Thirdly John states, “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven and remain upon him.” Jesus received the Spirit and the Spirit remained with him. The verb in Greek for remain is often used in John’s Gospel. (cf. Chapter 15 also–vine and branches.) The Spirit remained with Jesus and we are to remain with Jesus. The Spirit gave a particular character to Jesus’ life. We are to grow in that Spirit.
Fourthly John states: “Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.” As John grew in his understanding of Jesus so we are to grow in our understanding.
The following day John points out Jesus to his followers. They leave John to follow Jesus.
We will return to the Gospel of Matthew for the next seven Sundays. The Gospels will focus our attention on the teaching of Jesus, especially the Sermon on the Mount. Who am I, who is Jesus for me? What are the qualities Jesus teaches are part of the Kingdom of God? How can I improve my relationship with Jesus? What actions am I called to do in my following of Jesus?
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