“The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)
Last Sunday, we celebrated the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus Christ which officially brought the Christmas festivities to an end and ushered us into the season of Ordinary Time; the season of green (colour of vegetation and growth); the season of Spiritual Growth. Today, being the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time, our readings basically define for us our primary mission (our basic calling) as Christians which is to be “Lights to the world.”
While the Prophet Isaiah speaks of the entire nation of Israel as the light to the nations, Paul tacitly reminds the Corinthians that they are called to be saints (which is another way of describing their role as lights in the world). Our Gospel passage today presents John the Baptist as a practical example of what it means to be a light. By his lifestyle, John the Baptist attracted thousands to repent from their sins, he was a man of truth and was never afraid of saying it as it is and at the height of his popularity, John diverted all that attention to Jesus.
The question before us today is: “How can I fulfil my calling as light to the nations like John the Baptist?” To answer this question, we shall try to highlight some lessons contained in our readings today.
1. Be Committed to Nation Building.
In our first reading today, God speaks to the entire nation of Israel: “You are my servant Israel in whom I will be glorified.” Dear friends, rather than our continuous complaints against our leaders (and politicians), the question we should be asking ourselves is “what exactly am I doing in my own little way to make my country the pride of the nations?” There are so many problems we face as a nation, why not pick up one and devote your life to solving it? If your only concern is how to make money or how to live big, you are no better than those in government whom you condemn.
2. Aspire for Sainthood.
Many Christians today have practically given up on themselves and on their childhood fascinations of sainthood. Thus, you hear statements of self-defeat such as “body no be firewood, after all, no be me kill Jesus” indicating that there is no need to strive for perfection. Paul reminds us today that we are called to be saints. What is the essence of being a Christian if at the end of this life, we fail to make heaven (become saints)? Isn’t it better that we are not Christians at all? A mediocre (average) Christian is just as good as a non-Christian and sadly there are now too many of us who settle for average; we are neither hot nor cold. (Cf. Rev. 3:15-16)
Who is a Saint? A Saint is not only someone who has been canonized by the church. A saint is not only someone who has died. A saint is whose life can be said to be an inspiration. A saint is an example, a role model, a light. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us: “You are the light of the world… let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)
Stop trying to be like others; dare to be different. You don’t have to do evil because it is popular, you may assume “everybody is doing it” but this is the greatest lie of the devil. Everybody is not doing it, no matter how bad things are, there are still some living saints among us. There are still people who are righteous and are prepared to die than commit sin. Within the same portion where Paul says we are called to be saints, he also added: “sanctified in Christ Jesus.” Without personal sanctification, we cannot be saints. To shine, we must reflect light from above, we must be connected to a source. Jesus would say: “Cut off from me, you can do nothing.” (John 15:5).
3. Introduce Jesus Christ to Everyone You Meet.
John the Baptist pointed Jesus to the crowds that followed him. “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, for he was before me.’”(John 1:29-30). How often do you speak about Jesus in your daily interactions with people? The principle of John the Baptist was to reduce so that Jesus can increase. Do you try to make Jesus popular? Are you committed to making disciples for Christ? Coincidentally, this is our mission statement as Christians to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation.” (Mark 16:15).
Christianity suffered a great blow in this country when the emphasis shifted from winning souls (the message of repentance) to prosperity. On a sad note, Christianity in this country has become the opium of the people; a medicine that makes you feel good while your sickness worsens. Don’t be deceived, “for the kingdom of God is not food and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17). If you must be a light, then let everything about you talk about Jesus.
4. Be a Lamb, not a Lion.
By referring to Jesus as the Lamb of God, John was already pointing our minds to the death of Jesus on the cross for the salvation of the world. Jesus himself would say: “The Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28) There is more joy in giving than in receiving. It is better to serve others than to lord it over them. Be willing to make sacrifices for the benefit of others. Be a person of peace. “If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; and if anyone would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” (Matthew 5:39-41)
Have you ever tried to start a conversation about Jesus with someone only to find yourself speechless? It means you do not know Jesus or you have too much junk in you because “out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:24, Luke 6:45). What is abundant in your heart? Have you read the entire Bible on your own? If Yes, then it is time to read it again. Aim for perfection. It is better not to be a Christian than to be an average Christian. Let us pray: Lord Jesus, may I become another John the Baptist by the way I live. Amen. Bible Study: Isaiah 49:3-6, Psalm 40, 1 Corinthians 1:1-3 and John 1:29-34).