Jesus’ mission begins with testimony and a divine sign

I have seen and can testify…

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Sunday January 15th, 2017 Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

You can find the full readings here. This Lectio is based on the Gospel reading, John 1:29-34.

Reading

John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said,
“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.
He is the one of whom I said,
‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me
because he existed before me.’
I did not know him,
but the reason why I came baptizing with water
was that he might be made known to Israel.”
John testified further, saying,
“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.”

Standout words:

Behold, made known, the dove, I have seen and can testify, did not know him, existed before me, Lamb of God, that he be made known, he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit, take away sin

Reflection

The Spirit’s descent upon Jesus demonstrates authority from God to carry out his mission. John the Baptist points out us that Jesus existed before him, even though John was conceived before Jesus; this gives us a clear indication of Jesus’ divine origin.

“I have seen and can testify…”

This passage is an example of a major theme of the Johannine writings (the Gospel and Epistles attributed to John). It calls to mind the daily Mass readings for the first week of Christmas,which from the first letter of John; its opening lines harmonizes especially well with this passage:

What was from the beginning,
what we have heard,
what we have seen with our eyes,
what we looked upon
and touched with our hands
concerns the Word of life—
for the life was made visible;
we have seen it and testify to it
and proclaim to you the eternal life
that was with the Father and was made visible to us —
what we have seen and heard
we proclaim now to you…

These are not the words of a writer retelling a myth, or even a legend he heard told from someone else, such as the Hercules myth. No, the writer repeats words that emphasize and insist that he himself has seen, heard, even touched this Word of life that became visible. He speaks as if of a real person that he has known personally.

Likewise, John the Baptist testifies that he has touched him, in order to baptize him. Jesus was a real person who really brought something new into the world, starting with baptism in the Spirit of God. These are not the words of someone who thinks this is just a story, just a metaphor, just another man, one more great teacher among many others.

The early Christians whose community developed into the Catholic and Orthodox churches emphasized their own connection with this real, historical person. Irenæus, for instance, was a disciple of Polycarp, who had sat at John’s feet. From Jesus, through John, through Polycarp, through Irenæus, and so on down to today, the Church continues to baptize in the Spirit of God.

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