On this Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, we once again hear about baptism. This time, the perspective is from John the Baptizer. Last week, the Spirit of God descended upon Jesus and God’s voice declared him his “beloved Son.” This week, John declares Jesus God’s Son because “he existed before me.” In this passage from John’s Gospel (1:29-34), there is a glimpse of what theologians call “high Christology.” In other words, Jesus is the pre-existent Word of God. He existed with God prior to time beginning. Then when God decided to become one with us, Jesus was born “in time” (approximately 2000 years ago).
The first reading from Isaiah (49:3,5-6) reminds us that we are Jesus’ servants through whom God shows his glory. This is precisely what Jesus did in his ministry while on earth. He was God’s instrument to bring salvation to the world. We share in this mission by what we do and say. We are called to “make present” God among us.
To assist us in this great task, we have been made holy as St. Paul (1 Cor 1:1-3) reminds us. “Holy” does not mean “perfect.” Rather, it means that we are sanctified by the Lord and consecrated (or set apart) to do the Lord’s will. An analogy might be a professional football player. Many boys and men play football, but only certain ones are set apart to be considered the “best of the best.” They are by no means perfect, but they are striving to be as perfect as they can when playing football. They are “set apart” from others and given additional assistance to help them to become the best image of a professional athlete. For their efforts, they are put on a pedestal. Sometimes they are crucified for their pursuit of perfection. Sometimes they are maligned because they do not live up to the standards that have been set. But in the end they will always be known as having been a professional football player. And this goes for all sports.
As Christians, we have the same privilege extended to us. We have been “set apart” by our baptism and therefore we should be striving for perfection. We will always be known as Christian, even when we don’t live up to our calling. Once we have been so designated (like a professional athlete), we cannot revoke our status. We cannot become “unbaptized.” Moreover, we will be judged by our having been baptized. In short, our baptism entails responsibility. Once we have been consecrated, we are obliged to live out our calling. If we don’t (or if we don’t even make the attempt), others will notice and call us out. Moreover, God will know and we will be held responsible for our actions.
As we celebrate this “winter ordinary time,” may each of us strive to be faithful to our baptismal promises and truly live as sons and daughters of our loving God.