Sunday Scriptures

Let Us Seek Holiness Anew

by Father James Rodriguez

THIS TIME OF year, it may be tempting to let the light of Christmas fade away. The tree and Nativity scenes are gone; the ornaments are carefully stored. The season is over, and we resume the part of the calendar liturgically called Ordinary Time.

Our first reading today, however, assures us that for the believer, the ordinary is quite extraordinary. In it, the Lord calls Isaiah and all the faithful to nothing less than divine service, although this vocation is unfathomably more profound than the word “servant” can capture. Indeed “‘it is too little,’ the Lord says, ‘for you to be my servant … I will make you a light to the nations.’”

Listening in Adoration

This post-Christmas time is a time of listening in adoration, of training, as it were, before the Lord who elevates us from mere servitude to sublime sonship, the very purpose of evangelization.

It is a humbling thing, for sure, when we recognize God’s voice. The mission here at Cathedral Prep and Seminary, Elmhurst, where I teach, is to help the students hear and respond. All too often, the challenges of priesthood, religious life and marriage are met with fear: the immediate weighing of the sacrifices inherent in each. What is needed instead is the enthusiastic generosity of today’s psalm: “Here I am, Lord!” The recognition of what God asks must be preceded by the recognition of what He has already given, to which the only sensible response is gratitude, manifested in self-donation.

When we begin to see that He gave us everything, we naturally want to give everything in return. It is precisely when we hold back – and every one of us holds back – that the cost of discipleship seems too high. The remedy to this epidemic selfishness is time spent at the feet of the Master in eucharistic adoration, which flows to and from our celebration of Mass. Ever our model, He lovingly says, “Here I am.”

These words were embedded in the heart of St. Paul. He, who remembered all too well the damage he had done in his pre-Christian ignorance, now knows himself to be an Apostle, one who is sent. He heard a voice that fundamentally changed him, purifying and strengthening his own voice.

Beloved Children

Even though the whole of today’s second reading is simply the introduction to a letter, Paul says a great deal in his characteristic style. He recognizes that, like himself, the members of the church in Corinth “have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be holy.”

This greeting tells them – and us – that because of our baptism, we are more than mere creatures of God, or even His servants. Rather, we have become His beloved children, marked for life under the waters of Christian initiation. This covenant relationship, prefigured in every word of the Old Testament and eminently fulfilled in the New, is so strong that it expands and extends to “all those everywhere who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.”

Simply put, our baptism makes us a family, and in this family, every member is a fundamental part without which the whole suffers. Everybody counts in the household of God, because we each have a distinct role to play as sons and daughters of so great a Father.

St. John the Baptist, much like St. Paul, had the humility to embrace his role in God’s family. He was at once a servant and a son, offering his very life, not out of obligation alone, but love. Upon seeing Jesus from afar, he could recognize the God his heart had longed for from his mother’s womb, when he leapt in the presence of the Presence. He calls Jesus the “Lamb of God,” that primal sign of the Passover, by which God’s chosen ones were saved.

Now the salvation we enjoy is universal, free for the taking. However, as is always the case with love if it is true, it demands our whole heart. Twice in the Gospel passage John speaks for every human person, admitting, “I did not know him.”

Renewing Our Resolve

How often are you and I guilty of the same? We have seen Him, for sure, but sometimes act as if we did not know the gift of God that has been entrusted to us. We have felt this warm light, even if we chose to ignore it or shrug it off as mere sentiment. On this second Sunday of Ordinary Time, as the New Year’s resolutions begin to fade with the Christmas lights, let us renew the resolve of our first love: Let us seek holiness anew.

Pray that the Lord who came to “baptize with the Holy Spirit” comes into our lives with His sweet anointing, filling the gaps and divisions caused by our selfishness. May His purifying fire make this sacred time anything but ordinary.

Readings for the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time              

Isaiah 49: 3, 5-6

Psalm 40: 2, 4, 7-8, 8-9, 10

1 Corinthians 1: 1-3

John 1: 29-34


Father Rodriguez is associate vocation director for the diocese and teaches at Cathedral Prep and Seminary, Elmhurst.