Sunday Scripture readings, Jan. 15, 2023: Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Is 49:3, 5-6 Ps 40:2, 4, 7-8, 8-9, 10
1 Cor 1:1-3 Jn 1:29-34
The church’s return to Ordinary Time is anything but ordinary
In one moving sentence of his spiritual testament, published after his passing, Pope Benedict XVI looked back on his life with intense gratitude: “Above all, I thank God Himself, the giver of all good gifts, who has given me life and guided me through all kinds of confusion, who has always picked me up when I began to slip, who has always given me anew the light of his countenance.”
From his youngest days, the pope lived out a clear, strong sense of his vocation — to serve the God who guided him to his supreme service as shepherd of the universal Church.
Scripture reveals that God is the origin, the purpose and the goal of each human life. God calls each one by name with a unique purpose and mission in life. We are not the products of random molecular combinations existing in an unknown void of meaningless events in time. God loved us into existence and gives each one the gift of a unique vocation of service.
In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah tells of his vocation when he says, “The LORD said to me: You are my servant, Israel, through whom I show my glory. Now the LORD has spoken who formed me as his servant from the womb.” And the psalmist invites us to pray, “Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.”
St. Paul, in the second reading, reminds the Corinthian community that he was “called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.” The many personal hardships that Paul willingly endured in order to proclaim the name of Jesus to the Gentiles were rooted in his deep sense of God’s call and the divine grace that was sufficient for him.
In the Gospel, John the Baptist points to Jesus saying, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” The Baptist’s entire life was lived from his unique vocation to prepare the way of the Lord.
At the start of a new year, we look to begin afresh with resolutions to improve our health, habits and relationships. We make spiritual promises to pray more consistently, to read God’s word more faithfully, and to love others more genuinely. We long for a second chance, to turn a new page, and live a more meaningful and purpose-driven life. We desire to hear God’s call and to know his divine purpose for us and our lives: our vocations.
From the graces unfolding through the Christmas season, the church’s return to Ordinary Time is anything but ordinary. The extraordinary mystery of God taking human flesh in Jesus, the divine Child born in Bethlehem, overflows into Ordinary Time to transform the ordinary moments of our day with the radiance of God’s extraordinary love and mercy. Throughout this new year, may God’s word be a light on the path of discovering our God given vocation as we pray, “Speak to me, Lord.”
QUESTION: How are you called to serve Jesus Christ in the ordinary moments and events of life?
Jem Sullivan holds a doctorate in religious education and is an associate professor of Catechetics in the School of Theology and Religious Studies at The Catholic University of America.