Reflection on the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
The liturgy of the Word for today is so rich, that I found it rather challenging to focus on only one part.
The Prophet Isaiah is my favorite prophet, so he deserves at least a mention. The first reading is a call from God to the prophet to serve by leading God’s sin-weary people back to God. Then God tells the prophet, “It is too little, the Lord says, for you to be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and restore the survivors of Israel; I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”
I am pretty sure that Isaiah responded to God with the responsorial phrase that we are using today: “Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.” As I prepared for this week’s Gospel, I reviewed all the daily liturgical readings of the week. As I followed from day to day, the constant theme was the healing power of Jesus, through the forgiveness of sin. He casts out demons, heals Peter’s mother-in-law from a fever, heals those who come to him with the sick, and he even proves to the scribes who questioned his ability to forgive the sins of a paralytic brought to him that he indeed does have the God-given power to heal the body as well as the man’s soul. This fact, he proved, when he ordered the paralytic to get up, pick up his mat and go home. People came to Jesus because they believed that Jesus could and would heal them.
The Gospel for today is the well-known story of the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist. I will not use the entire Gospel, but rather John’s words, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.”
These are the very same words we use as part of our Holy Communion ritual. We say them three times, but add the plea “have mercy on us” to the last one.
When we pray, our prayers often become rote pronunciations that we say without giving them much attention.
I need to share my reflection on these words today.
Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the word, have mercy on me.
Where and when in my life have I needed God’s mercy and forgiveness?
In the late ‘70s, I came home to El Paso after spending some time studying in San Antonio. While there I learned about the great organizing work that five priests were doing organizing their barrio parish people to help them learn how their city and county systems were supposed to work for them. I saw many of the same issues that existed in my own city. Need I say more?
As soon as our community organizing effort started, our little group of leaders was accused of being Communists, trouble-makers, ungrateful, etc.
You can imagine how I felt: angry, worried that the small group of leaders would lose their willingness to work hard to get us started. I told them that our work was the work of God, and if God willed it, it would succeed
God was merciful to me because I was called back to San Antonio, and I got out of the way, and 40-plus years later, the organization is still thriving and growing. I also had time to pray to be forgiven for the many times I judged the people who did not understand what we were trying to do.
Our minds and our hearts need to open in order to bring healing to those times, past, present and yes, even in the future.
“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.”
What needs God’s mercy and healing in our families, in our cities, in our country? How can we bring healing to the lack of trust, to the divisions we suffer in our systems of government, in our church, and yes, even in our beloved Loretto Community?
“Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, grant us peace.”
As we reflect on these requests we lift to God, we remember that the power to forgive grants peace, not only to ourselves, but to the whole world.