Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
A few years ago I talked to my cousin from the United States over the phone and we chatted for quite a while, and, while I know that she knows me, somehow in her voice she seemed a little bit bewildered. When I handed the phone to my mum, she immediately remarked, “Is that Elmer? He sounds very different now.” And my mother answered, “Yeah, I know since becoming a priest he’s a bit different now.”
Curiously, in the gospel for today, which is another story about Jesus’ baptism, somehow John doesn’t seem to recognise Jesus. The moment the spirit came down on him like a dove, it was a sign for John that he is going to baptise with the Holy Spirit. With this he openly declared as Jesus was coming to him that Jesus was the “one who ranks before me because he existed before me and he is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”.
Now John has made some redactions or editing in these words. From the very beginning of John’s gospel he already declared that in the beginning was the Word and it is this Word that became flesh. Therefore, John the Baptist was right to declare that Jesus not only ranks before him but also even if John the Baptist was born ahead of Jesus, Jesus as the Divine Word existed even before time, so he declared that Jesus existed before him.
Another point of John the Baptist is his declaration as the “Lamb of God”. Many religions since the beginning of time had some sort of animal sacrifices as part of their rituals. Mainly, these sacrifices were done either to give thanksgiving to the gods or to provide a “peace offering” to their gods to make atonement for their offences against their gods. In Judaism, it is no different. Various people have given their animal offerings to the priests as their thanksgiving to God or to ask for atonement to God for their sins. And usually, the animal offerings can be varied from doves for the poorer people to bulls for the richer people. But the most common animal to be sacrificed, because it is a specific commandment especially during Passover, is a lamb. Now for Jews, they believe that they have to make sacrifices over and over again as people sin against God over and over again.
For us Christians, we believe that this Lamb of God who is God himself sacrificed himself to wipe away all sins in the world, from the first sin of Adam and Eve until the last sin of the last person living on earth at the end of time, Jesus has wiped them all away. And this sacrifice is done again and again through the Sacrifice of the Mass as a bloodless memorial of the sacrifice of Jesus as he has commanded us to do so. And we receive the consecrated host as the body of Christ and the consecrated wine as the blood of Christ when the priest declares during mass “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, blessed are those called for the supper of the Lamb.” So even if what we are receiving is not literally a piece of lamb’s flesh it is certainly the Lamb of God as Jesus Christ is the eternal sacrifice who takes away the sins of you and me.
Now aside from the revelation of Jesus as the Lamb of God, there is also another revelation for all of us and that is the change that happens when we are baptised. As John the Baptist didn’t recognise Jesus because apparently, there was a change in him, a change also happens within us that sometimes we ourselves don’t recognise. But the key here is on how we live out our baptism. If we treat our baptism as something that is life changing rather than just another ceremony because my family is Catholic then our baptism will have meaning.
The Holy Spirit that we all have from the moment we are baptised is sort of a static energy; it’s just there waiting to be used. And for all of us, who are baptised, let us take this tremendous advantage. Like Christ, we are changed, we become different the moment we are baptised and this will be even more obvious if we use the Holy Spirit in our daily lives and if we do that, the Holy Spirit will unleash itself in us and will definitely make a difference in our lives.