National Catholic Register

Sunday Guides

John the Baptist, Witness to the Light of the Trinity

User's Guide to Sunday, Jan. 19

BY Tom and April Hoopes

Jan. 12-25, 2014 Issue | Posted 1/19/14 at 10:23 AM

 

Sunday, Jan. 19, is the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A, Cycle II).

 

March for Life

Jan. 22 is the March for Life in Washington; many local pro-life rallies will be held on or near this date. April has been to the Washington or Topeka march every year she has been physically able to during our marriage. Our oldest daughter has gone every year of her life, starting in utero. We’re excited that Benedictine College will be leading the national March for Life this year, holding the main banner.

 

Mass Readings

Isaiah 49:3, 5-6; Psalm 40:2, 4, 7-10; 1 Corinthians 1:1-3; John 1:29-34

 

Our Take

In Advent, the Gospels focused on John the Baptist telling us to expect Christ. Now, Ordinary Time begins with him telling us Christ is with us, and we can expect the Holy Spirit.

John has been called more than a prophet — he is one who "witnesses to the light." The Jan. 19 Gospel shows why.

First, John sees Jesus coming toward him and says plainly: "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world."

But what he says next is even more astonishing. John describes an entirely new thing — his close relationship with a Trinity of divine Persons:

"I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven and remain upon him. I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God."

Look at God’s actions as described here by John: God the Father spoke to him. He saw the Holy Spirit. So he announced the Son of God.

This is something entirely new in salvation history: a prophet who not only gets messages and cryptic images from God’s point of view, but one who is on intimate terms with God’s interior life.

And he is not the last to have this relationship with God; he is the first. John identifies Jesus as "the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit." He is the one who will give all of us what John has.

We are already living the life in the Spirit that John the Baptist expects. That’s the meaning of the strange reading from St. Paul, which is essentially just the first line of a letter.

It reveals the essence of what it means to be Christian. Being Christian means to be "sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be holy, with all those everywhere who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."

It often seems like we are falling far short of the high-sounding status of a Christian.

But the life John and Paul are describing is not a summit we have to strain to reach — it’s the ground from which we start.

So, just as we prepared in Advent for Christmas by living our Christian life more deeply, we can spend Ordinary Time preparing for Pentecost by living our relationship with the Holy Spirit more deeply.

Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas,

where Tom is writer in residence at Benedictine College.