The entirety of this Sunday’s second reading might be seen as so much boilerplate, throwaway lines that a writer used at the commencement of his letter, something like a formal salutation. But in point of fact, almost the whole of Christianity is contained in these lines, if we have but the eyes to see. So take out your Bibles today and revisit the beginning of 1 Corinthians. It will tell you pretty much everything essential that you need to know about yourself and your mission.
This week’s readings reveal Isaiah and Paul as missionaries, as evangelists. Isaiah’s mission is to unite the people of Israel, and then spread the same light the the rest of the world. Paul recognizes that Christ is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s mission and offers himself as a servant of that fulfillment.
In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, he highlights the beauty of baptism and how it sweeps the baptized person into God’s great theo-drama. God calls us out of the world of our narrow egos to partake in his redeeming plan of love of which the Church is the vehicle. Follow Christ, and peace will be given to you.
John the Baptist’s designation of Jesus as Lamb of God is, I submit, largely misunderstood. It has little to do with Jesus’ meekness, mildness, or humility and everything to do with his being the victim of a sacrifice. To find out why this is such good news, listen to the sermon!
Cultural commentator Robert Bellah has characterized the typical American approach to religion as individualistic and driven by the desire for personal fulfillment. But this type of religiosity is inimical to the Biblical vision. Just listen to the opening line of our reading from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians: “Paul, called by God’s will to be an apostle of Christ Jesus.” Paul is not actualizing his own agenda, but rather utterly turning himself over to the higher authority who has called him, claimed him, and sent him.
John hesitates before baptizing the Lord, saying, “It is I who should be baptized by you.” The great surprise–that we have been wrestling with for two millenia–is that God’s greatness is a function of his humility, his willingness to stand shoulder to shoulder in the muck of sin with the likes of us. That we have such a God, a friend of sinners, is the reason for our hope.