Hey, there he is!: a reflection on this week’s gospel (Jn 1:29-34)

At coming to the end of the Christmas Season, at least for most of us, we enter ordinary time reflecting on a gospel with an unusual feature: one in which Jesus doesn’t speak a word. And yet his silence allows him to be the center of John the Baptist’s monologue. So why is this gospel, one with which Catholics should be well familiar given it is in the mass, selected as the introduction for the year?

I think it may have more to do with the context of the story. Jesus returns from the desert and John, with his disciples, see Jesus. This begins the gospel. Upon John pointing the way to Jesus (I like to think of it as a “Hey, there he is!” moment) some of his disciples start following him, and rightly so: John is the one who, of Jesus, cries out in the wilderness, is the one unfit to untie his shoes, the one for whom he must decrease.

pointing hand

 

Within this context one begins to see the meaning of the gospel. John points the way to Jesus, a way we too must follow. For the start of the year and the season of ordinary time – which, by the way, does not mean ordinary as in plain but ordinary as in ordered or sequential – it is fitting then that the first gospel directs us to Jesus, the Chosen One of God.

Insofar as the Mass is concerned, it may seem strange that these words of John’s direction are placed where they are. If the words, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world,” are inviting us to be aware of the presence of Jesus, shouldn’t they be earlier perhaps at the start of the Mass or at least before the consecration? Valid arguments, since Jesus is present earlier than when these words are said. So why are they placed there?

I believe – and though I have studied the Mass and indeed given presentations on it, it is no more than a belief, or at best a lucky shot – I believe that while the real presence of Jesus becomes manifest at the point of consecration, just as Jesus was present prior to these words of John, it is not until after Jesus is recognized that others begin to follow. Likewise, it is soon after our public recognition of Jesus in repeating these same words of John that we too begin to follow Jesus, quite physically and publicly, in the reception of the Blessed Sacrament.

I am told there are still disciples of John the Baptist in existence today in a remote part of somewhere (sorry the details are sketchy, some years have since past when I heard that). In spirit at least, I think there are more. These followers of John have not taken heed of his word, have not followed his direction. There are some people today (and perhaps more than some) who have not followed John to Jesus. They may live a worthy life and while they may have come close to Jesus, they have not begun to follow him. They continue to follow a false Chosen One.

In living a life faithful to the gospel, do we point the way to Jesus like John did? Are we continuing to follow a “John” like replacement? Can we let go of the comfort of what we know and like the disciples of John reach out to Jesus and follow him in a radical life? Do we point the way to Jesus in the ordered life?

Let the silence of Jesus be at peace within you. Follow the promptings of his Spirit, in whichever form they take for you – for I’m fairly sure they will not be manifested in the same way as it was for John! – and let your faithfulness to these promptings draw you closer to Christ, and in turn direct others to him on whom the Spirit rests.

Advertisements

Clarinets and candle light : A reflection on this Sunday’s Gospel (Lk 20:27-38)

Image

For those that may not have guessed yet, I lean more to the traditional side of things. When it comes to liturgy I am no different. I saw a clip on twitter this week which I forwarded (you can find me @G0d_lover) that showed a disgraceful mass with a clarinet playing celebrant, belly dancers (in front of the exposed Blessed Sacrament) and Holy Communion distributed to the congregation seated at candlelit tables! I mean, where’s the parousia?! (That is the name given, basically, to the line up of the faithful into heaven of which the queue to receive the Eucharist is a sign.)

This morning’s mass, thankfully, fell short of clarinets and candle light but had a number of, what some may call, “liturgical abuses”: readings were unnecessarily changed, liturgical dancers made an appearance… Yes, it was a mass for young children, so “accommodations” had to be made.

What has all this got to do with this Sunday’s gospel? Jesus speaks to “some Sadducees – those who say there is no resurrection” – about marriage. However in the context of marriage Jesus gives a lesson on the resurrection. There is the clear lesson of eternal life (“he is God, not of the dead, but of the living”) but he alludes to more than this. In saying that those in the “other world” do not marry, he points to a deeper change in our state of life. Once we cross the great divide of death nothing is the same. Perhaps a better way of saying it is that everything of God is perfected. Marriage should never be for an individual. Marriage is for the dedicated service of two individuals to each other. Marriage becomes a way to holiness; to communion with Christ. In heaven this communion is perfected. This widow was graced enough to get possibly seven men to heaven (though whether heaven existed in its current state or not is a matter for another time!). Widows and widowers are themselves the best adjudicators whether or not they have succeeded in their role to get their spouse to heaven. I mean, apart from the spouse and God.

This perfection in heaven is living – and real. All things offered for the greater glory of God are perfected in heaven. Marriages are among them. So are masses, no matter how poor or disrespectful they seem. I remember speaking about this problem (of masses with little respect) to my spiritual director. She advised me to focus on Christ. Be aware of the form and matter. If these are present, so is Christ. I still tell myself “Jesus is here, Jesus is here” during what I would consider poor masses, but it is true. I am not the judge, Jesus will be. And he will perfect all things offered to God, whether marriages or masses, whether clarinets or candles.

Pray for the souls in purgatory. They are in the process of being perfected.