January 15, 2023: Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gospel: John 1:29-34
John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. He is the one of whom I said, ‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’ I did not know him, but the reason why I came baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel.” John testified further, saying, “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven and remain upon him. I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”
In her November 2022 reflection on the season of Advent, Sister Ann Casper shared that one of the most compelling songs of Advent for her was a one from the musical Godspell. In the song “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord,” an enthusiastic John the Baptist gathers a crowd of joyful followers.
In the midst of all the exuberant singing and dancing, John catches two brief glimpses of Jesus standing on a river bank. John doesn’t rush to Jesus’ side. With a puzzled expression, he looks away and rejoins the crowd to urge all to “prepare ye the way of the Lord!” It’s as if he had an intuition that the man standing on the riverbank might be, could be the one who “is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.” Unsure and hesitant, John turns away from Jesus.
I like to think that today’s Gospel builds on the Godspell hint that John’s recognition of Jesus wasn’t instantaneous. John twice admits, “I did not know him.” Yet, John’s openness to the Spirit of God empowers him to boldly affirm “I have seen and testified that (Jesus) is the Son of God.”
Both the song from Godspell and today’s Gospel (get it?) encourage me to believe that our faith grows through a lifetime of mere glimmers of recognition and profound experiences of Christ’s presence.
With John, we sometimes say “I did not know him.” Sometimes we say with great confidence “Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”
One action may be to list the experiences, places and/or people who give us a glimpse of the presence of Jesus and/or the confidence to proclaim “now I know and testify that Jesus is the Son of God.” An end to the list may be to ask ourselves “so what?” How does it matter to me that I recognize Jesus’ presence in myself, in all others, in all Creation?
A second action may be to find on YouTube the song “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord” from the musical Godspell. (The singing and the dancing make the point of my reflection in a much better way than my words do).