Second Sunday in Ordinary Time January 15, 2017 at St Peter and St William Churches in Naples, FL
Isaiah 49, 3, 5-6 + Psalm 40 + 1 Corinthians 1, 1-3 + John 1, 29-34
In some ways, it can be said the whole of John’s Gospel is an answer to the question, “Who is this Jesus?” The answer comes with a series of signs that begins at a wedding in Cana and concludes at a funeral in Bethany. This is a critical and essential question for every believer. If someone asks, “Who do you believe in?” or “Who is this Jesus you trust and adore?” “Who is this one who has drawn you to this place today?” You need an answer, your answer, not something from a book or something you heard someone else say.
In the verses following today’s text, followers of John the Baptist are intrigued when they first meet Jesus. Jesus sees the question written on their faces, and he turns to them with a question of his own. “What are you looking for?” These are the very first words spoken by Jesus recorded in John’s Gospel. They are words addressed to you and me as well. “What are you looking for?” A famous philosopher (Kant) once wrote that there are three central questions in human existence: What can I believe? What should I do? And what can I hope for? Jesus Christ knows that these questions are at the heart of anyone wondering whether to follow him. So, his response is: “Come and see.” “Come and listen.” When we do, we will discover what we can believe in, what we can do, what we should do, and what we can hope for.
Today, John’s Gospel gives us answers to two of the questions from the people who actually saw and followed Jesus. The first comes from John the Baptist himself. He points to Jesus and says: “There is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” For those who heard him, there are clear echoes of the Passover. In fact, to make the point even more firmly, John has the death of Jesus occur a day earlier than Matthew, Mark, or Luke. John has Jesus death occur on the night of Passover when Jews would have been remembering their liberation from the slavery of Egypt. This celebrates not just liberation from slavery, but release from sin. So, to the question “Who are you?” comes the answer that Jesus is the Lamb of God who gives his life to bring freedom. To those who might ask Jesus himself comes his own answer, “Greater love has no one than to lay down his life for his friends.”
Going even further, John tells us that if you come and see who Jesus is, there is more than a great hero. He is the Son of God. His love is God’s unconditional love, for you, for me, for every human person including sinners. The evangelist who wrote this Gospel tells us that he is writing that we might believe that Jesus is the Son of God so that we might have life in him.
With the season of Christmas now behind us, we move very deliberately toward that day when we shall once again recall the death of the Lamb of God whose birth among us we have just celebrated with such Joy. As we unfold the Message of Matthew’s Gospel next week and for the next six Sundays, we shall be challenged again to confirm what we believe by what we do so that what we do may express what it is we hope for. When that begins to happen within us, there will be no doubt about who we are, why we are here, who it is we believe in and trust, and where we are headed. As we come to see that personally in Jesus Christ we cannot help but be filled with Joy and with Hope. Life, not death is our ultimate destiny, and at this altar where the Lamb of God spills his blood for us, we have the first taste of the eternal banquet to which he leads.