|Our Scripture passage for this Sunday comes from the Gospel of John 1:29–34. In this passage we receive the testimony of John the Baptist concerning Jesus. It is an edifying profession of faith that provides the essential message of John’s Gospel concerning the life and ministry of our Lord. There are several points worthy of our reflection.|
With this Sunday we begin the liturgical season known as Ordinary Time. The designation of Ordinary Time refers to the majority of time each year that is not committed either for times of preparation (Advent and Lent) or special celebration (Christmas and Easter). The reality is that most growth in our lives takes place in ordinary ways every day. Certainly there can be exceptional moments of spiritual awaking when the “Heavens open” (as in last week’s reading), but such situations do not represent the majority of our experiences. Many of the saints referred to the daily grind as the place where holiness and love are most commonly witnessed rather than in heroic or exceptional moments. It is important for disciples to know that God is working with them in the most mundane moments of each day as well as the grand moments of life. Sometimes we only recognize gradual growth when we compare ourselves with where we were one, five, ten, or twenty years ago.
What would you say is the most significant spiritual, professional, or personal growth that has taken place in your life in the past year?
What is the most significant growth during the past five, ten, or twenty years, and how has God motivated that growth?
What is the growth you want to take place in your personal, family, professional, and spiritual life this year?
What can you do on a daily basis to help foster that growth?
What can you do to become more aware of God’s presence with you in the daily grind of ordinary time?
In the Gospel of John, the ministry of John the Baptist is primarily that of offering witness and testimony to Jesus. In fact, he is never referred to with the title “the Baptist” in John’s Gospel. Bearing witness or giving testimony means that someone is verbally attesting to what is true based on their personal experiences. John was able to give his testimony about Jesus because of his knowledge and observation of the Lord. So, too, we are called to be witnesses in the same way — to be people who have come to know and recognize the movement of God in our lives and announce it to others so they can know and recognize God’s movement in their lives as well. In fact, at the end of Luke’s Gospel Jesus explicitly commissions His disciples to bear such testimony when He says, “You are witnesses” (Lk 24:48). This commission is repeated in the opening verses of the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 1:8). The ministry of bearing witness is an essential part of discipleship. Each disciple has a personal experience of Jesus, and thus, each disciple is called to offer a personal witness for others in his own unique way. We experience Jesus differently because of our own unique needs, expectations, and life situations. Perhaps we experience Jesus as our Savior in times of distress. Perhaps we experience Him as our Healer in times of illness. Perhaps we experience Him as our Peace when we need forgiveness. Perhaps He is our Brother when we need solidarity and companionship. Perhaps He is our Wisdom when we need understanding and guidance. Regardless of how we experience Jesus, every experience of the Lord can be an opportunity for us to bear witness so that others can be encouraged to seek the Lord’s grace in their lives.
What is the testimony you would offer about who Jesus is in your life based on your experience?
How have you heard other people express testimony about who Jesus is in their lives?
How does the sharing of testimony and the act of witnessing help build up the Christian community?
What can a faith community do to encourage its members to freely offer testimony and witness to Jesus?
One of the very important titles John uses in his testimony about Jesus is that of “Lamb of God”. This is a great title of faith and summarizes much of what Jesus will accomplish through His ministry of the cross. To be the “Lamb of God” means to be the lamb of sacrifice. Jesus will accomplish this sacrifice on the cross of Calvary. John points to Jesus as the Lamb of God on the cross by mentioning the hyssop branch and the phrase “break none of his bones”, which are references to the Passover Lamb. The identity of Jesus as the true Lamb of God is also emphasized in John’s Gospel by indicating that the crucifixion of Jesus took place on the Day of Preparation which means that our Lord was sacrificed on Calvary at the same time the Passover lambs were sacrificed in the Temple of Jerusalem (Jn 19:31). Sacrifices in the Old Testament were a way in which people offered something of God’s creation in return to the Lord as an expression of their desire to be in communion with God. There were different purposes for sacrifices. Some sacrifices were offered in thanksgiving. Some sacrifices were offered so as to establish communion with God and others through the sharing of a sacrificial meal. Still other sacrifices were for the forgiveness of sins in which the sacrificial victim paid the price for someone else’s offenses. Finally, sacrifices were also offered to seal a covenant relationship between God and the people with mutual rights and expectations. Jesus fulfills all of these sacrificial meanings when He becomes the eternal and perfect Lamb of God. Jesus is our Thanksgiving to God (the word Eucharist means “Thanksgiving”) for all the good God has given us in His Son. Jesus is the source of our Communion with God and others as we share in the Lord’s Supper where Jesus offers His sacrificial presence in the form of Bread and Wine. Jesus takes our sinful condition on Himself and pays the price for our sins by dying on the cross in order to bring forgiveness and salvation to the world. Finally, Jesus offers us the eternal New Covenant in His blood at the Last Supper in which we enter into a new and enduring relationship of faith and love with Christ and others every time we share in the Lord’s Supper. When the priest raises the Body and Blood of Jesus in the Eucharist at Mass and proclaims, “Behold the Lamb of God,” he is proclaiming that Jesus is offering to us all these benefits of His sacrifice.
Which aspect of Jesus’ sacrifice means the most to you (Thanksgiving, Communion, Expiation, Covenant)?
How does this understanding of Jesus as the “Lamb of God” change your previous understanding of that term?
What can you do to deepen your appreciation and response for the sacrifice Jesus has made for you?
For which aspect of Jesus’ sacrifice do you need to grow in greater appreciation and understanding, and how can you pursue this growth?
John actually proclaims four titles of Jesus in this reading: Jesus as the Lamb of God (previously explained), Jesus as the Pre-Existent One (the Word of God who is eternally present), Jesus as the Vehicle of the Holy Spirit (the Holy Spirit remains with Him and He freely shares it with us both on the cross and after the resurrection), and Jesus as the Son of God (the one who can show us the face of the Father and lead us to Him). Each of these titles will be fulfilled in Jesus’ life and ministry. No one title can ever capture the full reality of who Jesus is. As soon as someone thinks they have Jesus figured out, they will see even greater things (Jn 1:50). Titles of faith can help us to describe God but can never fully define God. Throughout the Gospel of John we will hear other titles attributed to Jesus as well. These titles include the following: The Good Shepherd, the Light of the World, The Living Water, The Resurrection and the Life, and The Way, the Truth, and the Life. All of these titles help us understand not only who Jesus is but also how we encounter the Lord in practical ways through the events and circumstances of our lives. Titles, then, serve to help us recognize and respond to the presence of Jesus more readily and faithfully.
Which of the four titles that John attributes to Jesus means the most to you?
What are other titles for God that have deep meaning for you?
As we grow in faith, Jesus opens our eyes more and more with each step of discipleship provided we are willing to take the next step. When has the Lord shown you “greater things” because you were willing to accept the risk of discipleship?
John risked disturbing the status quo of the religious, political, and cultural world of his time in order to offer this testimony about Jesus. When are you called to risk disturbing the status quo in order to offer testimony to the Lord as well?
To learn more about the contemplation of God’s attributes, cf. Pseudo Dionysius, “Divine Names” in Complete Works,
New York: Paulist Press, 1987, Chap. I, 1, p. 49. “When we say anything about God, we should set down the truth not in the plausible words of human wisdom but in the demonstration of the power granted by the Spirit to the Scripture writers, a power by which, in a manner surpassing speech and knowledge, we reach a union superior to anything available to us by way of our own abilities or activities in the realm of discourse or of intellect.”