The Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him…

The gospel text to inaugurate Ordinary time is a challenging one. Despite being in the Matthean Cycle (Cycle A) the text is taken from the Gospel of John (John 1:29-34) and it describes again the encounter between John the Baptist and Jesus. One very clear message arising from this gospel has the challenge for me that it is something I already have preached on a number of times during the last months, including last week: John describes his baptism as one of cleansing, of repentance from sin; John himself says that the baptism of Jesus will be one of Holy Spirit–therefore, a baptism of mission. Interestingly enough, we have retained both meanings in our ritual of baptism: we use the water of cleansing, but also the Chrism oil of anointing for a mission. While this would have been my primary message, I believe that I may have to see if there is something new arising from the text.

At these initial stages of preparation, my attention has moved to the beginning of the text: “John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said ‘Behold the Lamb of God…’ John, encapsulating all the Old Testament prophecy, is able to recognize Jesus and to call him the ‘Lamb of God’. Recognizing Jesus and recognizing Jesus’ identity is one of the general themes in John’s gospel. Upon listening to this gospel we should wonder also about our capacity to recognize Jesus in our lives and whether we know who He is.

The text says that John recognizes Jesus because he sees the Spirit coming down and remaining on Him. John sees this at Jesus’ baptism which we celebrated last week. I believe that, in the same way, the Spirit still “comes down and remains” in people, and also in projects, today. As a pastor, it is one of my most difficult: of everything we do, what things are of the Spirit and which ones are not? of all the people I meet, who speaks on behalf of the Spirit to us and who does not? Each time I have an idea about something we should do as a Faith community, is it of the Spirit or is it not? It is called discernment, and it is, precisely, one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  The process will continue, but this is where I am right now.

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