15 January 20172 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
2 Ordinary Time
Second Sunday of the Year - A Cycle - John 1: 29-34

An artist was working on a church roof in Werden, Germany. His safety belt snapped and he fell. The area below was filled with sharp rocks. As fate would have it, a lamb chose that moment to have its lunch of grass. He fell on the lamb. The beast was destroyed, but the artist survived. He did the decent thing. He sculptured a lamb and placed it on the roof in gratitude. It stands there to this day. Today we come together at this Liturgy to remember and salute another Lamb. Each of us likewise owes Him much. He too gave His life for us. But with one substantial difference. Jesus voluntarily surrendered His life to save ours. This Gospel opens just after Jesus had finished His forty day fast. He was probably bivouacing in a farmer's reed hut near the Jordan River and near John the Baptist's camp. He would soon head north into Galilee to begin His life's work. One hopes He took the time to put some pounds back on His lean frame after His fast. He had to be just skin and bones. He had come once again to check out John the Baptist whom He would always admire.

He had a premonition He would never see him again. We know He was correct. What did John have in mind when He excitedly pointed at Jesus and shouted for all to hear, "Behold, the Lamb of God..." The Jews at that time would feel comfortable with this interpretation. In the 2nd and 1st centuries BC, there lived the great Jewish family of the Maccabees. The family led the Jewish opposition in Israel to their conqueror Syria and the cultural influences of the Greeks. Thanks to the family's mighty efforts, the purity of Jewish religious and political life was restored. The greatest of the family was a gentleman named Judas Maccabaeus. He was the Jewish George Washington and Abraham Lincoln all wrapped in one. The symbol of this superb general was our friend the lamb. The story is told in detail in the Books of the Maccabees of the Old Testament. Obviously John the Baptist and his Jewish audience were familiar with the Old Testament scriptures. Are you and I?

In this context, the lamb stood not for a dumb beast but a conqueror and spokesman for God. It was used also in this fashion for Messrs Samuel, David, and Solomon of Old Testament fame. The Baptist was saluting not a passive wimp or nerd, however divine, but rather a cosmic hero. He would battle Satan and would emerge from the fray as the conqueror. John was inviting his listeners to sign up with this new Judas Maccabaeus. But this new Maccabaeus, as John tells us in verse 34 of today's Gospel, is the Son of God. The Christians in Czechoslovakia on Nov 29, 1989 did precisely that. When Communism fell in their country on that day and the Church was once again free, they put a sign on a lawn of a Prague church. It read: THE LAMB WINS. The Lamb entered Christian tradition not bleating but roaring. The author of of the Book of Revelation uses the term in reference to Christ twenty-nine times in twenty-two chapters. We shall speak of Jesus as the Lamb five times in today's Liturgy. See if you can spot each one.

Recall the number of canvases, frescoes, stained glass windows, and vestments on which you have seen the Lamb drawn. It is among the most popular symbols in Christendom. If the lamb, who saved the German artist's life, had taken his face out of the grass long enough to see the fellow coming down, he would have gotten out of the way ASAP. He might well have thought, "That's not my job." But the Lamb of God is something else again. He willingly laid down His life for us. The Baptist spent most of his life out in the wilderness. Still he had been around some years in what we delicately call civilization. He was aware of the fickleness of human love. Cleverly he points out the difference between that kiss and run variety and the permanent love that his Lamb offers. He wants us to bet on a winner and avoid losers. In this short Gospel of five verses, John e-mails us the message that Jesus is in this struggle for the long haul. He is going to stay around to hold us up and, if necessary, pick up the pieces. This week make the Carthusian monks' motto your own: "To seek God assiduously, find God promptly, and possess God fully." Sources: Arthur Tonne, William Barclay, and Joseph Donders 
Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
2 Ordinary Time
Second Sunday of Ordinary Time: There He Is. Here We Are The Christmas Season ended last Monday with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Today's Gospel immediately follows the Baptism of Jesus as John tells his disciples that this Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He relates to them that after he baptized Jesus, he saw the Holy Spirit come upon the Lord. The first reading, from Isaiah, also points to Jesus, as the light to the nations of the world. In the second reading, the introduction to the First Letter to the Corinthians, Paul points out what following Jesus has done for us. Imagine that instead of writing the Corinthians, Paul was writing to you and me.

Actually, through the Holy Spirit, he was. "Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, to the church of God that is in Tarpon Springs, to the Church that is in the Smith House, the Filopkowski House, etc, to you who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be holy, with all those everywhere who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.” Paul is telling us that Jesus Christ came so we can be holy, set aside for God. I have to tell you that I have never considered myself holy. A while back one of the children at Guardian Angels School referred to me as the holy guy. I cringed. I'm not holy, at least not in the way that the little one was referring. I think he had angelic in mind. I am anything but that. I'm sure that most of you here also don't see yourselves as holy, certainly not angelic. You might consider others that way, but not yourselves. But we have an obligation to strive to be holy. We can't think that we are not good enough and will never be good enough. Jesus Christ died on a cross to make us good enough. Paul says that we have been called to be holy. But what really is holiness, at least what did Paul mean by holy?

To be holy is to be set aside for God. Jesus came, suffered and died, and then rose again to give us His life and to set us aside for God. Christ died so I can be holy. He died so you also can be holy. Actually by coming and sacrificing himself for us, he has made us holy. So holiness is not something that we do, it is something that Jesus has done for us. He has set us aside for God. He has made us holy. But why are we called to holiness? Well, in the first reading, the Servant was called to be a light to the nations. We also are called to be a light to the nations. The world needs people to bring light to its darkness. It needs people who are going to put others before themselves. It needs people who are going to reach out to those pushed aside by society. The world needs to experience the presence of God in people who are committed to his Kingdom. "I want to be holy, just like you,” Matt Maher sings. How are we to do that? Well, Matt sings in his hymn Just Like You, that we need to have reckless abandonment to his truth. Reckless abandonment to the truth. At his baptism, Jesus publically committed himself to the will of the Father. If this meant that he was to die to establish the Kingdom of God, well, so be it. Would this be easy? No. In the Garden of Olives Jesus sweat blood over what he would have to do. But He abandoned himself to the truth knowing that somehow the Father will conquer through him. All the saints did this. They all chose the Truth of God, abandoning their lives to whatever God was calling them to do. Some of the saints lost their physical lives. St. Ignatius of Antioch was adamant that Christians should not try to bribe the Romans to release him.

These well intentioned people argued that the Church needed him. But he trusted in God. He abandoned himself to God, declaring his Christianity in the Coliseum, knowing that somehow God would conquer. Skip ahead fourteen centuries. Go to Tudor England. Thomas More was confronted with a choice. Do what was politically, and even physically expedient, or die for the truth of the Lord. St. Thomas More could have joined so many others in rationalizing that Henry VIII should be the head of the Church. If Thomas had done that he would not have been beheaded. He would not have lost his family's fortune. But Thomas abandoned himself to the Lord. No one cares about Henry VIII anymore. This king is an embarrassment, even to the English. But people still care about St. Thomas More. Many, particularly Catholic lawyers, still look to Thomas More for his example and guidance. Some of the saints radically changed their lives. St Anthony Abbot felt called to give everything away to be thoroughly committed to God.

So many of the ancient Christians looked to him as a man thoroughly committed to the Lord. Saints Augustine and Benedict would begin religious orders inspired by Anthony's way. Nine hundred years after Anthony died, a young man named Francis decided to follow Anthony's example. Francis of Assisi's reckless abandonment to the Truth of Jesus Christ still inspires us to find peace in God alone. One final example among the mryriad of saints: St. Damien De Veuster, Damien of Molokai, Damien the Leper. Everyone in Hawaii, and in the world of the nineteenth century for that matter, everyone was afraid of leprosy. But when Damien first saw the lepers in the horrible Kaluapapa section of Molokai, he didn't see their disease.

He saw their tragic lives. How could he call himself a Christian and abandon these poor sick people? Sent to spend just a day or two on the island to re-assemble a small chapel, he refused to leave the lepers. A few days turned into a lifetime commitment to live his Christianity in service to the poorest people in the world. He recklessly abandoned himself to the Truth of Christ's way and the certainty that he also would contract leprosy. For all the saints Jesus' way is the way of Truth. We all want to have wonderful, full lives. We want this for ourselves and for our children. How do we get there? How do we do this? How can we get the most out of life? How can we live life to its fullest? We can live full and beautiful lives by committing ourselves to God, by abandoning ourselves to His Truth. This is how we respond to the call to be holy. There He is. There is the Lamb of God. He is there getting baptized by John. There He is, accepting the way that would lead to the cross. There He is calling us to join Him and sacrifice ourselves for others. John said that he saw the Holy Spirit descend upon Jesus. The Spirit has descended upon us too, calling us to holiness, calling us to trust in God, calling us to be light for the world.
Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
2 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father Andrew M. Greeley
2 Ordinary Time

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe,Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
2 Ordinary Time
Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Classic John 1: 29-34

Gospel Summary
These verses are the climactic conclusion of the prologue to the gospel according to John (1: 1-34). In the prologue John establishes the basic themes that will unfold in the ensuing drama of his gospel: Jesus, the Word from the beginning lives with God, is God. The Word became human and made his dwelling in our world of sin; those who accept Jesus become children of God and are at home in God. In this Sunday's gospel, John the Baptist sees Jesus approaching and identifies him as the one who will take away the sin of the world. Further, the Baptist testifies that he saw the Spirit come from heaven and remain upon Jesus. Then as Son of God, Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit, thus sharing his life with others. Life Implications Today's gospel is not only the prologue to the drama of Jesus' life; it is the prologue to the drama of every person's life. We hear that Jesus wants to share his Spirit with every human being. The first act of our personal drama is about the decision to trust or not to trust this stranger, Jesus of Nazareth.

Upon believing that the Spirit did come upon Jesus, the immediate implication is the need to discover in all the gospels of the church year how Jesus responded to the Spirit in the particularity of his life and circumstances. Through prayer we then seek to discover how the Spirit will guide us in the particularity of our own life and circumstances. Through the abiding presence of the Spirit, Jesus in his humanity was completely transparent to the presence of divine life. The meaning of his life was to do the Father's will. Because of that intimate communion, all the actions and words of Jesus were signs (miracles) of divine, saving presence. Even in the darkness of this world, it was possible to see through the eyes of faith the loving presence of God through the humanity of Jesus. We also discover in the gospels that through the Spirit Jesus lived in joy.

Thus at the Last Supper, when his final agony was at hand, he explained why he was speaking of the mystery of divine life: "I have told you this that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete” (John 15:11). A "gloomy Christian” ought to be recognized as a contradiction in terms. Even in the midst of affliction the Spirit of Joy is within us. Saint Paul wrote to the Christians of Thessalonica: "You became imitators of us and of the Lord, receiving the word in great affliction, with joy from the Holy Spirit, so that you became a model for all believers...” (1 Thessalonians 1:6). Our belief that the same Spirit who guided Jesus also guides us has profound implications for defining the meaning of human existence. Our hearts are restless until they abide in the loving communion of Father and Son through their Holy Spirit. If we are transparent to that divine life, our words and actions become signs of God's loving presence in the world. Saint Francis of Assisi said this in a way easy to remember: "You may be the only gospel a person will ever read.” Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B.
Homily from Father Cusick
Meeting Christ in the Liturgy
2 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
2 Ordinary Time
Second Sunday in Ordinary Time Homily by Father Alex McAllister SDS

We begin today the sequence of readings we call Ordinary Time. This Liturgical Season is divided into two parts. The first part which we begin today takes us from the beginning of the year up to Ash Wednesday. Once Lent and Easter have run their course we recommence Ordinary Time which carries us through the remainder of the year until it ends with the feast of Christ the King at the very end of November. The Gospel readings of this long season lead us through the life of Jesus and tell us the story of his public ministry. We hear what Jesus did, where he went and who he met; we are told about the miracles that he performed and the teaching that he gave to the people. Although the accounts of these three years are summarised in only twenty or so short chapters in each of the Gospels they do give us a wonderful overview of what Jesus achieved during this important period of his life. It is extraordinarily important for us to understand these things because they are the very basis of the Christian faith, the absolute fundamentals of our religion.

It is vital for us to know just how Jesus interacted with people and how he challenged their faith. It is essential that his priorities are revealed to us and that we are presented with the entire content of his teaching. Without these first-hand accounts of his life we would have nothing on which to build our belief in him and his Gospel of Love. The Gospels of Year A in the Liturgical Cycle almost entirely come from St Matthew but on this the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time we are actually presented with an extract from the Gospel of John which tells us how John the Baptist came to identify Jesus. In the text we are told that when John the Baptist saw Jesus approaching him he immediately declared to his disciples that he is the Lamb of God. Although we don't have it today, if we continue for a few further verses we hear how the very next day when John sees Jesus a second time he once again identifies him as the Lamb of God. At this point two of his disciples who were walking with him, one of them being Andrew, leave John and start to follow Jesus. John the Baptist's role is now over and so he retires into the background only to appear much later in the Gospels when he is martyred by the cruel King Herod.

It is with this identification by John the Baptist that Jesus begins his three year long public ministry. John reveals his identity to his disciples and they leave their former master and take up with Jesus. The new disciples follow Jesus on his journey through Palestine and besides witnessing all that he did they receive a lot of personal instruction from him. Eventually they end up in Jerusalem where they witness Christ's death and resurrection and then after Pentecost begin their own work of evangelising all the people of the world. In the coming weeks and months we, like those first disciples, also follow Jesus and are inducted into his teaching and way of life. In the Gospels of Ordinary Time we are told about his miracles and we hear the content of his teaching. Through the words of St Matthew we become closely acquainted with Jesus and we learn more and more about him. This knowledge changes us as it also changed the lives of the disciples.

The more we become familiar with his message Christ's love and forgiveness the more we change, the more we choose to follow his way, and the more we decide to leave off our own selfish interests and desires. You might think it a bit strange that John the Baptist uses the words, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God' when he sees Jesus. The words are unusual and striking. Actually this title for Jesus is unique to the Gospel of John, and even in John's Gospel it only occurs twice; once here in verse 29 and then again in verse 36 which we already referred to when we mentioned the second occasion John encounters Jesus the day after this first meeting. In the Jewish mind the use of such a title would have immediately been understood to refer to the Paschal Lamb which was consumed as part of the Passover Meal. John the Evangelist puts this title here in the mouth of John the Baptist quite deliberately in order to point out right from the start the identity and purpose of Jesus.

On the first Passover the blood of the lamb which has been sacrificed is spread over the door lintel as a sign to the Angel that he should pass over this house of the Israelites as he flies overhead on his avenging mission to slaughter the first-born of the Egyptians. This meal is repeated each year by the Jews to remind them of this seminal event in their history. So we can immediately see that the blood of the sacrificial lamb is a very powerful symbol of the salvation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and also of their identity as a people. The Christian Church looks back on the Exodus from Egypt and sees it as a foreshadowing of the salvation won by Christ on the Cross of Calvary.

The use of this title by John is therefore to be seen as firstly recalling the Exodus and the great liberation that God brought about for the People of Israel. Secondly, it is equally to be seen as a looking forward to the salvation Christ won for us on the Cross of Calvary. In the case of Christ, the symbol of the lamb becomes even more potent since it was he himself who was sacrificed to release us from our sins. Christ himself becomes the lamb of sacrifice and so these words of John the Baptist can be seen as a tremendous prophecy of what Christ was to achieve and how he was to realise it.

Of course, we are well aware that these words of John have found their way into the liturgy and have become the words the priest uses to invite us to receive Holy Communion. They are in themselves an important profession of our faith: ‘Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who comes to take away the sins of the world.' John the Baptist is the precursor of Jesus and he comes to prepare the way for him. By his use of this title ‘Lamb of God' we see just how effectively John the Baptist carries out his task. By identifying Christ and leading his disciples to him John has fulfilled his commission and handed over to the one who was to achieve the greatest act of salvation of all. John effectively tells us that there is no other who can save us from our sins and that we should place our whole hope and trust in him. On what better note could we begin this new liturgical season. What better invitation could we ever be offered. Let us grasp it wholeheartedly and commit our whole lives to Christ who is the author of our salvation.
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