At the start of a new year, we sometimes make resolutions to try and develop better behaviours or habits; making subtle changes to our lives in the hope of making a difference either to our health or our relationships. It could be to drink less alcohol or eat less meat, it could be to find another job which fits better with our lifestyle or meets our aspirations better. In this same way there is a sense of new beginnings or new directions within the scriptures used today.
The prophet Isaiah is telling his listeners that they are not seeing the big picture, they are too restrained in their view. They thought that it was only Israel that would be saved, but in fact God is using Israel to take His message out to the whole world. God’s love is for everyone, and everyone can be saved. We are called to shine God’s light to others by what we do and what we say, we could ask ourselves, do others see God’s light in what I say and do?
This new beginning is continued in the second reading where we have the opening of the 1st letter of St Paul to the Corinthians. St Paul, in his familiar style, is saying that the Church based in Corinth is as valuable as the Church based anywhere else in the world; all are of equal standing as long as they have Jesus at the centre of their hearts and take their teaching from Him.
In the Gospel, we hear John the Baptist fulfil his mission as he physically points to Jesus as the Lamb of God. Every week we hear the priest speak these same words as he says “Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.” Our response also comes from scripture “Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed”.
That phrase, adapted from the words of the centurion in Matthew 8:8 bear an eternal truth, for how can we ever be truly worthy to receive Jesus under our roof? We who are just flesh and bones. And yet Jesus constantly comes to us, offering Himself to us, because He loves us and wants us to be saved.
The change of direction in the Gospel is quite literally John pointing his disciples away from him and towards Christ. The words of John the Baptist fulfil the words of Isaiah; Jesus is the light of the nations, through Jesus, salvation reaches the ends of the earth. Jesus, the Lamb of God, takes away the sins of the world, bringing that salvation to everyone. The good news for us is that we are part of this, but our part is not just that we are saved. Our part includes bringing others to Jesus to help them to be saved. We can only live out our mission by introducing others to Jesus in much the same way as John the Baptist did.
John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus and pointed people towards Him.
In our daily lives, how do we prepare the way for others who do not know Jesus?
A few years ago, when the Night Shelter was operating, I heard one of the guests ask, ‘why do the volunteers give up their nights to help those who needed the help on offer?’ The simple answer from one of the other volunteers was that ‘we are Christians, we are called to help those in need’. This volunteer was preparing the way for Jesus to enter that person’s life; that volunteer was pointing that guest towards Jesus. I know that some of the guests from the Night Shelter went on to volunteer in subsequent years, I know that some of the guests started attending church as a result of the experience they had of God’s love.
Each of us, have opportunities to change people’s lives; to help them find a new beginning. They may not be dramatic enough to record in a book, but in our everyday encounters we can make a difference to the individuals we meet or to rephrase it, the individuals God puts on our path. The moment we spend with them may mean nothing to us, but to the other person it could mean everything, it could change their life.
The psalm used today has a special significance for my wife and I. Several years ago, we were asked to take on a leadership role within Marriage Encounter; a charity within the Catholic Church which aims to enrich the Sacraments of Marriage and Holy Orders; we were discerning on the invitation and looked at the readings of the day to help us with our discernment. This psalm, with the words ‘Here I am Lord, I come to do your will’, stood out for us. We accepted the invitation and used those words as our motto and inspiration through our three years of leadership. I would recommend these words to anyone when they feel called by God, to action. It is a response that God expects, it is a response that can make a difference to you and those you are called to serve.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church
CCC 604-609: Jesus the Lamb of God who takes away sins of all
CCC 689-690: mission of Son and Holy Spirit
Please keep in your prayers this week
- The success of the Year of the Holy Spirit.
- Those who are sick, those recovering from surgery, those who are dying, the recently deceased and those who mourn.
- All those struggling to feed their families at this time.
- Those working to help others who are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.
- All of our young people preparing for the Sacraments.
- Those attending our RCIA programme.
- Milo who is being baptised at Holy Ghost this weekend.
- The families continuing the Baptism Preparation sessions at St Bede’s this Sunday.