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  • Writer's pictureFather Puddleglum

2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time - A

It’s a curious thing to include this brief passage from St. Paul in our readings today. We are given only the 3 introductory verses from St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. It is nothing more than a greeting, a hello, seemingly without any message or instruction of real substance. Nevertheless, because it is from Sacred Scripture, there is something profound hidden even these few verses. Notice that St. Paul in addressing the Corinthians calls them those “who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus.” They have been sanctified, made holy. And yet, they are also “called to be holy, with all those everywhere who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” They are called to be holy which presumes that they are not yet holy. Therefore, we are presented with a kind of paradox. The Corinthians, and by extension we who hear these words today, are already holy but not yet holy. We are sanctified but called to be sanctified. How is this possible? We’ll answer that question in a few moments but first let’s look at the Gospel passage for today.

We are all familiar with this story. Jesus goes out to the Jordan river to be baptized by John who hails Him as the Lamb of God. John relays how when he had baptized Jesus the Spirit came down upon Him and John knew that Jesus is truly the Son of God. Now, of course Jesus did not have to be baptized. He was and is without sin. He was already the Son of God and did not need to receive adoption as a son of God through Baptism. This begs the question: why was Jesus Baptized? Pope Benedict XVI offers the following explanation:

“Did Jesus need penance and conversion? Of course not. Yet the One who is without sin put himself among sinners to have himself baptized, to make this act of penance. The Holy One of God joined those who recognized they were in need of forgiveness and asked God for the gift of conversion, that is, the grace to return to him with their whole heart, to belong totally to him. Jesus chose to join the ranks of sinners, to be in solidarity with them, expressing God’s closeness” (Benedict XVI, January 13, 2013 homily).

Jesus is God become man, the Word become flesh, God among us. God has taken on a human nature to be close to us, to be in solidarity with us. And this solidarity, this closeness to us is not merely a gesture or symbolic token of His love like one might express through a hand-written note or some monument. No, God became man so that man could become God. Jesus was baptized in order to open for us a way and a means of being cleansed and forgiven of our sins. It was not that Jesus was baptized by water as much as He baptized the very waters themselves. And these waters of Baptism leave a mark on us. We are adopted as beloved sons and daughters of God. This is a permanent mark which can never be removed or taken away from us.

Let’s now return to St. Paul. We are paradoxically holy and yet called to be holy. The key to understanding this is our Baptism. The document Lumen Gentium states that we “are justified in the Lord Jesus, because in the baptism of faith [we] truly become sons of God and sharers in the divine nature. In this way [we] are really made holy. Then too, by God’s gift, [we] must hold on to and complete in [our] lives this holiness [we] have received” (LG, 40).

Our adoption as sons and daughters of God is a tremendous gift. And yet we are called to grow in this identity as a beloved son or beloved daughter of God. From this we can see that our holiness is not just a gift but also a task. Gift and task. These are the two aspects of our Baptism by which we are already made holy yet called to be holy.

Too often we forget the task we are given at our Baptism to be holy. We live our lives distracted by things of this world. We often have our eyes fixed on earthly goods and endeavors, ignoring the life that is promised us beyond this world. We are not mindful of the dangers and traps, the mud of this world that might stain our baptismal garb. We need to wake up and listen to the call to be holy. Each of us is called to be a saint.

And we don’t have to do crazy or extraordinary things. Holiness is found more in the ordinary than the extraordinary. God is calling us to be saints in the ordinary everyday circumstances that make up our lives. Our holiness lies simply in this: glorifying God and serving our neighbor (LG 40). How we do this depends on our state in life. Holiness will look different for me than it will for a mother or father. A mother cannot devote herself to the services of a Carmelite nun. A father must be active and not hide himself away in prayer like a monk. I am not proposing a single answer, a silver bullet solution, to how God is calling us to be holy. That is for you and our Lord to determine. What I am saying is that you must ask yourself every day how God is calling you to glorify Him and serve your neighbor. More often than not we will find that God is calling us to holiness in the ordinary and every-day circumstances in your life. We are called to fulfill our every-day duties with charity, using our gifts to build up the body of Christ around us in our circles of friends, our co-workers, and our families. Are we mindful of this task offered us again and again, hour after hour, and day after day? Holiness is a gift and also a task. Will we be mindful and strive to satisfy these tasks which will transform us to be more like Jesus?

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