The central thrust of the readings for the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time is to reveal Christ as the Messiah of God who has come to “baptize with the Holy Spirit.”
In the first reading, Isaiah tells us: “The Lord said to me: you are my servant, Israel, through whom I show my glory.” Scripture scholars tell us that the identity of this servant as an individual is not clear. Rather the term servant seems to refer to a people God is calling to Himself for His service.
Isaiah continues, “Now the Lord has spoken who formed me as His servant from the womb, that Jacob may be brought back to Him and Israel gathered to Him; and I am made glorious in the sight of the Lord, and my God is now my strength!” Scripture scholars think this refers to reuniting the exiles and bringing them back to the Promised Land.
It gets better: “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.” Isaiah reveals to us that God will make Israel “a light to the nations,” so that His salvation may reach to the ends of the earth. That includes us!
Proceeding chronologically, next is the Gospel written by John the Evangelist. John’s Gospel has a particular spiritual depth. John lived under the same roof as Mary, the contemplative, for many years. He must have spent many hours reflecting on the teachings and deeds of Jesus in the company of Mary.
John takes us to a deeper understanding of the ministry of Jesus. For example, in the story of the Samaritan woman, John seems to open up the process of evangelization taking place in the heart of the woman. We learn from Jesus step by step how He leads her along to the point where she suddenly realizes that this Messiah knows all about her sinful past but does not hold this against her. Jesus reconciles her for God and her fellow Samaritans.
In the Gospel, Jesus meets with John the Baptist a second time. St. John Chrysostom makes the point that this meeting after the Baptism of Jesus was to ensure that the people understand that Jesus didn’t come to receive repentance but rather to bestow forgiveness on all who are repentant. John the Baptist says, “He is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.” He concludes by saying, “Now I have seen and testified that He is the Son of God.”
Jesus has now been revealed as the Son of God who will baptize in the Holy Spirit and remove the sins of those who follow His teaching.
Chronologically, we now move forward to the second reading. We see clearly how Jesus, the Light of the Nations, is moving forward in time, transforming hearts, including that of Paul, who formerly persecuted the Church.
Notice the warmth of Paul’s words. “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 Corinth….” In his own life he has received the “Light” in a very dramatic way; now it’s his privilege to bring it to the gentiles. Think of his joy as he realizes Jesus is using a former persecutor of the Church to be an evangelist.
He addresses all those 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.” His heart overflows with gratitude for the transformations that Christ allows him to witness in the Corinthians. He concludes by extending to them Christ’s grace and peace.
The central thrust of the readings, then, is clear: They reveal Christ as the Messiah of God who has come to “baptize with the Holy Spirit.”
Now, we should reflect on all the gratitude in our hearts to Jesus who carries out the mission of His Father in bringing us salvation.
I am not talking about gratitude for material prosperity, but spiritual prosperity in terms of inner peace, joy, victory over the evil one, victory over compulsions, and the joy of finding oneself reaching out to the downtrodden with hope and joy! This has come in spite of intense struggles with self and with others. It has come because individuals have come to realize that they were persuaded to give Jesus a chance in their lives, by asking Him to help them in their personal struggles.
Hardships that lead to prayer can become incredible blessings for us. We joyfully find a God who is so much greater than our problems.
This is the time to be generous in thanking God for the difference Jesus has made in our lives. In daily quiet time, reflecting on Scripture, we come to realize that if there is anything in our lives that is more important than Jesus, we are missing out on a lot of inner peace, joy and hope.