1-15-2017 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mar 1, 2017
2nd Sunday in OT / A / 2017
Msgr. Patrick S. Brennan
The Gospel today presents Jesus, the "Lamb of God," at his baptism by John in the Jordan River. The baptism of Jesus is found in all four Gospels—usually a sign that this event held great importance in the early Church. Perhaps the question asked then is the same question we ask now: "Why was Jesus baptized?" The response given to us by the Church is that Jesus—from the very beginning of his public ministry—identified with sinners, to the point that he even lined up with them to be baptized in the Jordan River. And as he did on the cross, so also at the river: Jesus bore our sins and brought salvation to the world.
But my homily today is not about the baptism of Jesus. It is about our baptism, and what that means—what it means to be a called a Christian and a Catholic. And I can think of few other passages in the NT that explain it as well as our second reading today, the beginning of St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. The salutation.
The reading starts with the name Paul, a Roman name. Paul was a Roman citizen, and proud of it. The Roman empire was his territory as a missionary, and he traveled from one end of it to the other. But Paul was also a Jew, and this heritage defined him at a very fundamental level. Until he met Christ, on the road to Damascus. Paul underwent a conversion, and his life radically changed. As a Jew, his name was "Saul"—named after the first king of Israel; as a Christian, he became "Paul," a Roman name that indicated his conversion, a new life, completely focused on Jesus.
So how did St. Paul characterize himself? He says, "called to be an apostle"
I might add here that Paul is speaking for all Christians—so we can say our own name here, "called to be an apostle."
Paul "is called,"—in the passive. It is not his plan, it is God’s plan—a much bigger picture that goes beyond him, into which he fits.
And what is God’s plan? An apostle. To be sent. Like a letter. Or a package. Or a message. Called into Christ. And sent out to the people.
And where is he sent? To the "church" of Corinth in Greece. Corinth was said to be the "Las Vegas" of the ancient world, a port city with all the vices that come with it. It was a small community in a big city—one of a handful of communities throughout Asia and Europe that Paul founded. (Paul’s letter to this little community still resonates with us!)
Paul uses the word "church,"—ekklesia—a word beautifully descriptive of what it is. It is a combination of two Greek words: ek (out of) and kaleo (meaning to call). To be "called out."
Paul says his little community is "called out" of Las Vegas—out of loose living and excessiveness and debauchery and sexual immorality, and injustice, and into the Body of Christ. ". . . you who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be holy."
Here, again, we think, "what am I being called ‘out of,’ since I have been sanctified and made holy in Baptism"? Can I name what is destructive in my life—and where my life should be going?
The biblical notion of "sanctified" and "made holy" means that we are "set apart" for God’s purposes, not our own. Not that we are taken "out of the world." No. We are to be planted "in the world," as God’s holy ones—to make holy all that is not like God.
"With all those everywhere who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." The task is too great for any one of us. But united—with the powerful name of Jesus—and with all Christians, we have the power to change the world.
And that’s what it means to be baptized, to be a Christian, to be a Catholic.
May all of us live up to the call that we have received.