With the Christmas Season and all its celebrations now behind us, we venture forward into Ordinary Time where we begin our journey of the story of Jesus. Last week we celebrated Jesus’ baptism which marks the beginning of his ministry. This week our readings focus on who, exactly, this Jesus person is, and what happens after his baptism…
Our first reading comes again from Isaiah. For some time now our readings from Isaiah have been introducing us to the “servant of the Lord”… the chosen one who is to come. Today’s reading continues with another of his “servant songs.” This week from chapter 49, he tells us that this servant was formed in the womb… created and destined to be the chosen one. Indeed, this is what we believe of Jesus, but it is important to note that this idea of being “formed in the womb” is not new. In fact, this is how many of the prophets saw their calling. This saying, therefore firmly establishes the servant as a prophet. What is this prophet’s mission? Isaiah is quite clear… to bring back Jacob and Israel to the Lord, and further, make their light shine as a light to all nations. Remember, Isaiah at this point is speaking of a return from their Exile. Jacob, refers to the northern kingdom (which fell to the Assyrians) and Israel refers to the Southern kingdom (which fell to the Babylonians). It is not only a job description for this servant, but a message of hope for those in exile.
Our second reading comes from Paul’s 1st Letter to the Corinthians. As is typical in Ordinary Time, our second reading doesn’t necessarily coincide with the theme established in the first reading and the gospel, but instead focuses on a more in-depth study of the Epistles. For this current stretch of Ordinary Time (through to March 2nd) we will be spending the entire time with this letter. Not surprisingly, this week’s second reading is from the opening “greeting” of the letter, where he greets the community and its leader. Sosthenese. It is not entirely out of place this Sunday, however, because in Paul’s opening line, he declares himself to be “an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,” That is to say… called to be a servant and prophet of the Lord.
This takes us to our Gospel, which picks up the story where we left off last week, which as you may recall, was Matthew’s telling Jesus’ baptism. That story, however, was fairly short and to the point, and in their wisdom, the Church fathers wanted us to pause for a moment to understand the significance of this event. This brings us to John’s Gospel this week, where in typical Johnian fashion, pauses in his narrative to remind us why what we just saw was so significant. Here John the Baptist is repeating what just happened (complete with the spirit in the form of a dove). This is John’s way (both the Baptist and the Evangelist) of passing the torch to Jesus. If our narrative about Jesus is to have any meaning, his credentials must be impeccable and unimpeachable. Jesus IS the servant. Jesus is the “chosen by God” that Isaiah foretold. He is, as the gospel says, the Son of God.” In fact, these are but a few of the names given to Jesus. Scripture and Tradition have given him many names in the hope that in those names we will recognize him for who he was, and is still for us today.
Finding the Heart of Jesus’ Life: Looking at Jesus in the Gospels
Four Faces of Jesus