Is 49:3, 5-6 | Ps 40 | 1 Cor 1:1-3 | Jn 1:29-34
At the start of Advent, we entered a new liturgical year, which simply meant we began a new cycle of readings as we journey through a year from the announcement of the birth of Jesus through his ministry as an adult, on to his death and resurrection, and finally to the feast of Christ the King. During the course of the liturgical year, we have four major seasons that capture our attention—Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter. Most of the liturgical year, however, is simply called “Ordinary Time,” and that is where we have arrived now.
To our ears it may sound like the Sundays and weekdays that are “ordinary” are nothing special, that somehow these celebrations and their Scripture readings are rather ho-hum. But that’s not the case at all. The weeks of Ordinary Time are “ordered,” occurring in numbered sequence. These weeks help us discover more deeply who Jesus is through his words and deeds and, as a result, learn what it means to be his disciple. Ordinary Time helps us to order our lives in such a way that we are more attentive to the presence of God with us. There’s nothing ho-hum about any of that.
It is a time of remembering. We put our memory into action. Isaiah remembers who God formed him in the womb and called him to a life of prophetic service; therefore, he calls the Israelites back, to be a holy nation. The psalmist remembers how God drew him out of a pit of destruction and put a new song in his mouth. Therefore, he wants to follow: “To do your will is my delight.”
What might strike us in the Gospel is a phrase that occurs twice, when John the Baptist testifies, “I did not know him, but…” (So much for remembering.) It’s strange that John would say “I did not know him” when we know that their mothers, Mary and Elizabeth, were relatives and shared together such a profound sense of God’s work in their pregnancies.
What could it mean that in John’s Gospel we are told that the Baptist did not know Jesus? The clue might be found in the final line of the reading. There, John the Baptist says, “Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.” Perhaps it’s the difference between knowing and understanding. He may well have known Jesus as part of his extended family, but now, in the time of this baptismal encounter, John understands that Jesus is truly the Son of God.
When and how have we become aware that Jesus is the Son of God to us? We can learn all about Jesus and his life and ministry, but what convinces us that he’s more than just a wisdom figure, or a mystic, or a healer? What helps us surrender to his full identity as Son of God? And does that make a real difference in our understanding of ourselves and our own callings?
Throughout this liturgical year, and especially in the readings we will hear in Ordinary Time, I want to challenge all of us to pray for the grace to move from knowing to understanding, from professing belief in Jesus Christ to trusting him with our very lives.
The life of the Christian is a constant growth in surrendering our limited understandings of God so that we can say with the psalmist, “Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.”