Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
As a Church, we now move into Ordinary Time. “Ordinary” comes from the Latin root for “order,” which is why we line the Sundays up on the calendar and count them—with “ordinal” numbers—one by one. The orderly way we proceed through the liturgical year reminds us that our faith offers a strategic goal for our lives: eternal happiness with God, who is love. Today’s readings share stories of believers who order their daily activities toward the goal of sharing God’s love. Isaiah embraces his role as God’s servant and works to bring glory not only to Israel, but to the entire world. In a similar way, Saint Paul identifies himself as Christ’s witness in the world and reminds the Corinthians of their life goal: “to be holy.” The Gospel shows us John the Baptist, servant and witness, attentive to God’s loving orders, the divine plan for salvation.
Today’s first reading reveals the Lord’s super-sized heart. “It is too little,” according to God, to protect and guide only the tribes of Jacob. The enormity of God’s love cannot limit itself to one nation; divine love overflows, spilling liberally over all people everywhere. Isaiah, prophet of the long-suffering Israelites, might have been surprised to hear that the salvation of his people is not enough for God. But God always wants more than what we want. God’s passion outstrips all of our deepest desires. We are merely creatures. Compared to the hugeness of our Creator’s designs, we will always want too little, have too little, know too little, love too little. This littleness frustrates us throughout life. But exactly when we admit our littleness, we make room for Christ.
NEVER TOO LATE
John the Baptist models for us the grace of littleness. Twice in today’s Gospel reading, John admits, “I did not know.” Even though John has ordered his entire life toward the goal of preparing the world for the Messiah, he does not, on his own, recognize Christ when he sees him. The Gospel insists John “did not know” Jesus; in his humility, John relies entirely on God for direction. John waits and waits—baptizing, praying, preaching—until, finally, the Holy Spirit reveals the Messiah.
John had waited his whole life for this confirmation from the Spirit. God’s chosen people, the Israelites, had waited much, much longer. Surely many wondered if God would ever send the Messiah as promised. But God is never late. In our littleness, we cannot see the arc of all human history with God’s clarity and love. Each of us aches deeply for some good thing: a cure, a resolution, a rest, a fair break. When we are made to wait for what seems obviously beneficial, we sometimes wonder if God is really as all-powerful and all-loving as people say. Today’s readings invite us to trust.
Today’s Readings: Is 49:3, 5–6; Ps 40:2, 4, 7–8, 8–9, 10; 1 Cor 1:1–3; Jn 1:29–34