Isaiah 49:3, 5-6

Psalms 40:2, 4, 7-10

1 Corinthians 1:1-3

John 1:29-34

The Christmas season ended abruptly on Monday, with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Usually, Christmas season extends for an entire full week, where the Sunday-going faithful are treated to the full story of Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan by John. Today’s readings for this Second Sunday in Ordinary time provide us with the next best thing to a full celebration of the Feast, except in today’s reading from the gospel of John, Jesus never gets baptized in the Jordan by John the Baptist.

In the first chapter of John’s gospel, it is the baptist who recognizes in this man, Jesus, something extraordinarily special. Even from afar he can sense a holiness which is far beyond anything he has ever encountered. The Baptist is very much the precursor, pointing anonymously to the person who will replace him and “baptize, not with water, but with the Holy Spirit.” The closest we get to a baptism of sorts in John’s gospel is what the Baptist gives testimony to: “I saw the spirit come down like a dove from heaven and remain upon him.” The Baptist and Jesus never talk in John’s gospel, but the Baptist can say with the utmost certainty that “he has seen and testified that He is the Son of God.”

A bit odd with his diet of locusts and wild honey, the Baptist of John’s gospel is, nevertheless, a great judge of character, a great judge of genuine holiness. Most holiness we encounter, and I would like to believe it is possible to perceive holiness, is sometimes threadbare around the edges. The weight of our humanity sometimes overwhelms the holiness we encounter, but the Baptist in John’s gospel is given the unique opportunity to bask in the aura of the very Son of God. The opportunity might have been missed, were it not for the Baptist’s extraordinary powers of perception.

As baptized Christians, we too are meant to hone our skills of recognizing holiness when we see it. At our baptisms we “have been sanctified in Christ Jesus,” as Paul states in our second reading, and we “are called to be holy, with all those everywhere who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” As bad as our world sometimes appears, the light and holiness Jesus came to bring has not left our world. We must take the time to recognize it, to see it from afar like the Baptist. The holiness of God, present at our own baptisms, surrounds us, and we must make time to recognize it, otherwise our world will remain unchanged, and the redemption begun in Christ will be unfulfilled. 

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