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The Gospel Leads Us More Deeply into the Mystery

Mary Jo Tully
Chancellor, Archdiocese of Portland

Jan. 19, 2014
Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Isaiah 49:3,5-6
1 Corinthians 1:1-3
John 1:29-34

Today we take a brief foray into the Gospel of John. This evangelist is quite different from Matthew, Mark and Luke. He is obviously a theologian and a quite excellent writer. John’s Gospel came last and the early Christians were aware of those who came before. John wastes little time telling the stories for effect. His is a Gospel of both theology and style. It seems a more intimate Gospel to me; one written by someone who had a deep relationship with the Lord.

There are some places where the poetry is evident (see the prologue). John’s use of poetic solemnity when Jesus speaks is easily seen. Yet, Jesus is frequently misunderstood by those to whom he preaches. Again, this is a technique of the Evangelist. Many times it gives him the opportunity to show the depth of the words that Jesus uses. For instance, the image of the Lamb of God can refer to the paschal lamb, the suffering servant or the apocalyptic lamb—or all of the above. Today’s Gospel is the most profound biblical testimony to Christianity’s foundational belief in Jesus as truly divine and truly human. In this Gospel reading John the Baptist is a witness to the fulfillment of four Old Testament titles in Jesus: (1) Lamb of God (2) Pre-existent One (vs. 29-31, (3) Spirit-bearer, and (4) Chosen One (vs. 32-34).

Theologians have seen this portion of John's Gospel and the chapter that immediately follows as descriptive of the Catechumenate, a portrait of one's journey toward faith. For me, it has always been more descriptive of the Mystagogia step—a time that builds on the synoptic Gospels, a time when the mysteries of the faith are more deeply examined. It seems that John was writing for a more mature community…those who already had a basic faith.

It is easy to be content that we have finally come to recognize Christ. The liturgy of the day urges us on and challenges us still more. "It is too little...for you to be my servant," the First Reading announces. "I will make you a light to the nations that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth." The reading tells us where our journey of faith will lead--to the Kingdom. Our task is to discover what in this world will lead toward the kingdom and what blocks its coming. Like the prophets of old, the Church is called to be a light to the nations.

We gather at this Eucharist knowing that we are "called to be saints together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." We gather to say, "Here I am, Lord," and to accept our call to be witnesses to Christ in the world.

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