January 19, 2020: The Second Sunday in Ordinary Time - Pastor’s Corner
“Well begun is half done.” Whenever we began a project together in the garden, my grandfather was fond of reminding me of the importance of making a good beginning. As I would be in an active frenzy to start digging, cutting and building, he’d caution forethought and planning saying “well begun is half done.” Just as a tiny flaw in beginning the project becomes an obvious error in the finished product, so too, ample planning and preparation at the outset ensures success. As I learned, there are three key aspects to beginning well: (1) outlining the goal of the project, (2) gathering the right resources and guides needed to achieve the task (3) connecting with an idea or person who will inspire passion for the project. Any good beginning, any good genesis requires a goal, a guide and a goad. As we begin this New Year and embark on the Ordinary Time of the Church calendar, our readings this weekend point to these three elements of good beginnings. If we want our spiritual life in Christ to get off to fresh, fruitful start, let’s consider the Goal, the Guide and the Goad that our readings present to us.
The Goal. In the first reading, God reveals to the prophet Isaiah his ultimate plan for His chosen people. Unlike the gods and deities of pagan nations, God invites the People of Israel, not simply to follow or obey him as a servant, but to be an active participant in witnessing to His blessings. “It is too little, the LORD says, for you to be my servant, I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” God doesn’t simply want to bless us or give us good things like an indulgent parent, God wants to bless us so we can have the means to be a blessing for others. God gifts us with His grace so we can be like him in gifting others with the graciousness we have received. This is goal of the spiritual life: to receive in order to be. When we are open to receive God’s blessing, we are in a position to be a blessing for others.
The Guide. In the Gospel we hear John the Baptist announce that Jesus is the “Christ.” (Remember that “Christ” is not Jesus’ last name, but a title meaning “anointed.”) When John baptizes Jesus last week, we saw how he was anointed by the Spirit. This week, we hear how John the Baptist is able to recognize in this moment of anointing that Jesus is the guide to salvation: “’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.” This is a pivotal moment in the Gospel, for up until this point, John the Baptist had led a successful revival of the repentance and gathered many followers and disciples. In recognizing his cousin as the Christ, John announces Jesus as the guide to bring his baptismal ministry to its culmination through water and the spirit. In other words, if we seek the goal of being God’s blessing to others, we should be prepared to follow Jesus as the Christ who will guide us.
The Goad. In the second reading, St. Paul beginning his letter to the Corinthians with a greeting with inspires them to listen to his instruction. Never shy about pointing out the blessing and challenges of following Christ, St. Paul’s greeting is a powerful, if brief goad (it’s the shortest reading of the year) to nudge the church in Corinth towards the work of evangelization. He does this by reminding the Corinthians that “they are to be sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be holy, with all those everywhere who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” By reminding the people both that they are called to be holy and that they are part of something greater than themselves, he goads them into accepting the challenges of being saint. Imagine if St. Paul were to have written this letter to St. Dominic’s. I know that if such a letter landed on my office desk, it would be a goad, an inspiration to be a witness to God love. Good beginnings require a goal, a guide and goad. Following the example of Jesus as guide, let’s prepare to receive God’s blessings in order to be that we might be that blessing and live as the saints we are called to be.
- Fr. Michael