2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Ordinary Time; Continuing the Mission

In these days that immediately follow our celebrations of Christmas, Epiphany and the Baptism of Jesus, all of the lights and decorations, all of the wreaths and pine boughs, all of the signs of these special feasts are gone. Our sanctuaries are relatively bare. And the focus of attention is now on us, the people of God, the followers of Jesus; we, too, who have been anointed by the Spirit of God we too have been baptized in His Spirit; we too have been sent to complete His mission.

Liturgically, we experience a giant leap in time, moving from the birth of Jesus to His baptism some thirty years later all in a couple of weeks. We don't really know too much about what happened during those intervening years, except that Jesus grew in age, wisdom and grace, was an obedient, loving son, learned his father's trade, matured in His faith, prayed constantly to understand His mission, and then finally submitted to the baptism of John as a sign of initiating His public mission. The Gospel of John then tells us that Jesus' first sign to the world was a compassionate gesture at the wedding celebration of friends.

A lot of things happen to us as we journey from birth to our 30th year and beyond. Most of us are baptized as infants, and so enter into this special relationship with God from the very beginning of our lives. Then we take years trying to nourish and understand that relationship, and trying to prepare for the particular way in which each of us will use our gifts for personal fulfillment and for the advancement of God's kingdom.

We spend our lives trying to strengthen the bond of intimacy between ourselves and the Lord. We try to find comfort by His example of courage and generosity. We are reassured by our Church that He will hold us close during the days of our life-journey, give us hope, and lead us to final victory.

It is this kind of unique, soul searing faith experience that changes us from ordinary earth bound, self serving creatures to faith filled Christians, bringing Christ's Gospel and His unconditional love to our families, our relationships, our work and our world. When we finally and fully believe what happened to us at the moment of our baptism, and when, as adults, we begin to live out that commitment, we then become what Christ calls us to be His witnesses, His peacemakers, men and women rooted in faith, powered by love, bringing the Gospel spirit and insight into every aspect of our lives.

But we need some kind of affirmation for this to happen. We need at some point in our adult journey to hear the voice of God saying to us with overpowering intimacy: "You are my son, my daughter; my chosen one; my beloved with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my spirit" - just as He said this to Jesus Himself.

It's no coincidence, then, that we enter into "Ordinary Time" with an image that speaks to us of God's faithfulness and steadfastness. Both Isaiah and John use the image of marriage to describe this relationship. Through Isaiah Yahweh tells us: "You shall be a glorious crown in the hand of the Lord, a royal diadem held by your God; and as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride so shall your God rejoice in you." And John's story of the wedding feast in Cana reveals just how much of a concern each of us actually is to a compassionate Lord.

The imagery of "faithful relationship" is a constant one throughout Scripture. We are told over and over how our God has embraced us as the ultimate Lover, how he delights in us, how He remains true to His promises to us, even when we fail in ours to Him. Marriage is a give-and-take affair, flourishing only when both spouses live most fully for the other.

And yet we can find our true identity in knowing that despite our failures and failings, and despite our sometimes lukewarm and empty responses God remains as true to us as ever. The bond between God and mankind will always remain intimate and powerful.

We gather every Sunday as a community precisely because we have come to understand and accept our identity. We face again the challenging truth that we are the ones called to continue the saving presence of Jesus in our world, to continue the work of Christmas. We come face-to-face with the fact that even though we may not be always conscious of this incredible gift, we too are sent today - and every day - to "take away the sins of the world."  

And in our second reading today, Paul tells us that each of us has been blessed with special gifts and talents to accomplish this: wisdom, knowledge, faith… different kinds of gifts, different forms of service - all given freely and for a specific purpose.

The sanctuary may be bare... but we are not. The decorations may be gone... but the Spirit lives on in us we are never alone. It may be "ordinary time" but we are called to do extraordinary things.