Opening reflection (from Magnificat magazine, www.magnificat.com): Because God formed John the Baptist “as His servant from the womb,” John’s whole being is ordered to God. Thus, when John “saw Jesus coming toward him,” he instantly cried out, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” John immediately recognizes that Christ is the one for whom his heart has been made. That immediate correspondence between what he has been waiting for all his life and what he beholds in the Lamb of God leads him to “testify that he is the Son of God.” The miracle is that the same grace has been given to us. We are the ones who “have been … called to be holy with all those … who call upon the name of the Lord.” By professing the One “who takes away the sin of the world,” we become a light to the nations through whom God’s salvation reaches to the ends of the earth. As we glorify the Lamb of God, God shows His glory through us.
(This weekend’s Scripture readings are available in the New American Bible translation – the one used in U.S. Catholic parishes – at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops website: http://www.usccb.org/nab/011611.shtml)
First Reading: Isaiah 49:3, 5-6 (Revised Standard Version)
A reading from the book of the prophet Isaiah.
(The LORD) said to me, “You are my servant,
Israel, in whom I will be glorified.”
And now the LORD says,
who formed me from the womb to be his servant,
to bring Jacob back to him,
and that Israel might be gathered to him,
for I am honored in the eyes of the LORD,
and my God has become my strength –
he says: “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant
to raise up the tribes of Jacob
and to restore the preserved of Israel;
I will give you as a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Meditation: We read more here about the coming Messiah as the “suffering servant” through whom all humanity – Jews and Gentiles alike – will be reconciled to God. In this passage, Isaiah (or the later, equally divinely inspired prophet associated with his mission) serves as the Servant’s voice. As God chose the people of Israel to be His light to the ancient world, so is the Servant the ultimate “Israel,” the most specially chosen child of God. Jesus was sent to earth first to proclaim spiritual salvation to Israel – but God never intended to save only one nation from sin. Even centuries before His birth at Bethlehem, the Messiah was chosen to bring God’s light to all people. We all have much to be thankful for!
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:1-3
The beginning of the first letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians.
Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes, To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Meditation: Corinth, once a power among the old Greek city-states, remained one of the important centers of the Greek-speaking world in Paul’s day. Paul, as we know from Acts, spent many months there preaching the gospel during his second missionary journey. But the young Corinthian Church was one easily fractured by division and disagreement, as we will see in the weekly readings between now and early February.
So Paul, likely then in Ephesus, sent the first of his two canonical letters back to Corinth to settle a variety of disputes. And he begins by reminding the new Christians there about the common bond they share. Christ has not only saved them but also called them to follow His ways in the still-pagan culture surrounding them. They share their salvation and this mission with all who bear Christ’s name. And if they share this with Christians far away, they also share it with each other. As do we all.
Gospel: John 1:29-34
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John. Glory to You, Lord.
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, `After me comes a man who ranks before me, for he was before me.’ I myself did not know him; but for this I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John bore witness, “I saw the Spirit descend as a dove from heaven, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him; but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, `He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”
The Gospel of the Lord. Praise to You, Lord Jesus Christ.
Meditation: The feast of the Baptism of the Lord is past for this year, but today’s Gospel takes us back to the Jordan once more. Remember that St. John, the “disciple whom Jesus loved,” wrote his New Testament contributions late in his long life – well after the “Synoptic Gospels” of Matthew, Mark and Luke had been completed. His readers would already have been familiar with the direct accounts of Jesus’ baptism in those three books. So St. John chooses to highlight other episodes after the baptism in which the ministry of John the Baptist crossed paths with the One whom he was sent to announce.
Just prior to this passage, the Baptist had engaged in debate with various Jews about what his own role was. He was as clear as he always was: He himself was not the Messiah. But the day after that exchange, Jesus comes by again. And the Baptist again prepares the way for his cousin and Lord: He tells the crowds about what had already happened when he baptized Jesus. It’s likely that Jesus had just returned from his 40-day temptation in the desert and was ready to begin his full-time public ministry. As we heard last week, so we hear again: “He who sent me to baptize with water” – God the Father – told John that the Holy Spirit would descend and remain on the One He had sent to baptize with that same Spirit. This man, John says, indeed is the Son of God. The reality of the Holy Trinity is once again affirmed.
Close with individual prayer, followed by Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be