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Sunday Readings for Jan. 16, 2011 (2A)
By Abbot Philip Lawrence, OSB
I will make you a light to the nations--so the Prophet Isaiah speaks about Israel, both as a people and as a person. So much of the Jewish Scripture rests upon symbol within symbol, just as do our Christian Scriptures. We don't need to know every individual symbol, but we do need to know that stories and histories and accounts that are given in symbols are always open to new meanings--within limits.
We live in an age that prefers scientific and objective discourse at one level but which also uses all kinds of symbols. We have to be careful when we discuss and dialogue with others or even when we read the Scriptures on our own. We need to be aware both of the vast possibilities of meaning and also of the limits of the meanings. This is not so very easy all the time.
John baptizes Jesus and says that it should be Jesus baptizing John. John tells us that he knew that the Spirit would come down on someone and remain with the person, then that is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit. These are kind of mysterious words but we must think immediately: symbols and realities.
What does it mean to see the Spirit come down on someone and remain? One example is when a person has to explain himself or herself and is frightened and feels totally incapable--yet in the explaining of oneself, sometimes we see the person take heart (receive the Spirit) and begin to speak with confidence. Once that happens, sometimes it remains and changes the life of the person forever. Sometime it happens once and not again.
There are lots of ways in which the Spirit can come down on a person and we must keep our eyes and our, hearts open. A shy individual suddenly possesses strength to speak out. A person who seems always angry suddenly seems to change and all of sudden we see joy and peace in that person. It is easy to understand that such gifts can come down and then disappear again or they can come down and remain.
With Jesus, it seems that when he takes up preaching, beginning at first to sound like John the Baptist, something had changed. Jesus had some 30 years of quiet and being more or less unknown. All of a sudden, we seem Him baptized and His life takes a whole difference course from what had seemed likely. He does become light for the nations, even when many of us choose to live in darkness. He becomes the Savior of the world, even though he was always Savior. He takes on our flesh so that we can take on His divinity.
Today on this second Sunday in Ordinary Time, may our own hearts be open to see the glory of God at work in one another and to testify to God's loving presence.