Homily for January 15

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Homily for the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
(Scriptures for today's Mass)

Audio for homily


When I was a child I was always taught that it’s “impolite to point.”
As with many things, back in the day, no explanation was offered -
just the caution that it was impolite to point.
It seems, then, at least in this regard, that John the Baptist
may not be a particularly good role model for us
since the gospel clearly indicates his pointing to Jesus and saying:
 “Behold!  Look!  Over there! That One! 
He’s the Lamb of God of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

In our own times, of course,
whether pointing your finger at someone is impolite or not,
it’s generally considered politically impolite
to point in any way towards Jesus in social settings
much less to offer the personal testimony, as John the Baptist did, that:
 “Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
(No, not a good pick up line at the bar
nor a conversation starter at a cocktail party!)
But let’s look at what John the Baptist announced:
The Lamb of God…  who takes away the sin…  of the world…

If Jesus takes away the sin of the world,
how come there’s so much sin left in the world?
If, on the Cross, Jesus, the Lamb of God, the sacrificial lamb
- if in his suffering and death he took on himself the sins of all time,
- how come there’s so much sin in the world today?

I’m afraid the answer to that question is an uncomfortable one.

Jesus did, indeed - and literally - shoulder the sin of the world.
But, in a kind of spiritual tug-of-war with Jesus:
we’re very good at holding on to the sin of the world;
we’re experts at holding on to our own sins;
we’re practiced in clinging, tenaciously,
to our many faults and failings --
rather than let Jesus take away the sin that burdens us,
that separates us
from God, from one another -- and even from our own selves.

On his shoulders, on his scarred back, on his thorn-crowned head,
Jesus takes away the very sins we hold on to.

• Yet, still - the world depends on the destructive violence of war
as a solution to its geo-political disagreements.

• Still, we preserve the sinful scandal
of the hungry millions around the world
while we waste what’s in our kitchen cupboards and on our tables.

• As individuals, we cling to petty grudges,
prizing resentment over reconciliation.

• We hug embrace the cheap, the tawdry and the lusty
as if what’s beautiful and true and pure were beyond our reach.

• We preserve the injustice so many suffer
by our blind silence and our failure to act.

• We tolerate divisions among us
in favor of our pride and ego.

• We greedily collect and hoard more and more
of what we already have in great store,
of so many things we really don’t even need
- while others around us (and around the world) want
for even the most basic of human necessities.

• We hang on to our own sins
for the fleeting pleasure they afford us,
for the momentary comfort we find in them,
for the ways they shield us from challenge, change and growth.

But look! Behold! Over there!  (and please, pardon my pointing, but)
- there he is!  he’s the One! Jesus!
The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world
- and takes away our own sins, too.
And we, his people, his brothers and sisters,
we are so often not yet ready
to let go the many burdens he offers to take from our shoulders
- and place on his own.

And perhaps that’s why we’re slow, so very slow,
to mention even the name of Jesus in polite company.
Perhaps that’s why we’re so reticent
to offer personal testimony of our faith in Jesus:
because we know we’re holding back precisely
what he wants to take away from us.
John the Baptist pointed to Jesus
because he knew how much we need him.

Each of us needs, every day, every morning,
to point to Jesus ourselves,
to recognize him as the Lamb of God
who takes away not only the sin of the world,
but our own sins as well.
Every morning, every day, you and I need to pray: 
Give me Jesus!

(I ended my homily singing “Give Me Jesus,”
inviting the assembly to join in on the refrain.
We at Holy Family are happy to share that prayer with you
in the audio widget at the top of this post.)


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