January 19, 2014
Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
John 1: 29-34
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 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
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.