BELONGING TO GOD IN JESUS CHRIST
In a sort of profession of faith, the apostle John sums up his letter. We belong to God on account of Jesus Christ. He has brought us eternal life; this life does not tolerate sin; because we live in him, he hears our prayers.
John the Baptist bears the same witness: we belong to Christ as the bride to the bridegroom; our life must be identified with his, his life must grow in us.
In this Eucharist, may the Lord let us share more deeply in his life.
Lord, God of life, we belong fully to you through your Son Jesus Christ. In him you have called us to real life, free, expansive, reaching beyond death. Help us to develop this life with all its potentials and to treasure it as a trust not to be kept to ourselves but to be shared as a gift with all those around us. Let your Son live and grow in us now and for ever. Amen!
1 Reading: 1 John 5:14-21
Beloved: We have this confidence in him that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in regard to whatever we ask, we know that what we have asked him for is ours. If anyone sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly, he should pray to God and he will give him life. This is only for those whose sin is not deadly. There is such a thing as deadly sin, about which I do not say that you should pray. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not deadly. We know that anyone begotten by God does not sin; but the one begotten by God he protects, and the Evil One cannot touch him. We know that we belong to God, and the whole world is under the power of the Evil One. We also know that the Son of God has come and has given us discernment to know the one who is true. And we are in the one who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Children, be on your guard against idols.
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 149:1-2, 3-4, 5-6a and 9b
R. (cf. 4a) The Lord takes delight in his people. or: Alleluia.
Sing to the LORD a new song of praise in the assembly of the faithful. Let Israel be glad in their maker, let the children of Zion rejoice in their king. R.
Let them praise his name in the festive dance, let them sing praise to him with timbrel and harp. For the LORD loves his people, and he adorns the lowly with victory. R.
Let the faithful exult in glory; let them sing for joy upon their couches; Let the high praises of God be in their throats. This is the glory of all his faithful. Alleluia. R.
Alleluia: Matthew 4:16
Alleluia, alleluia. The people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen. R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel: John 3:22-30
Jesus and his disciples went into the region of Judea, where he spent some time with them baptizing. John was also baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was an abundance of water there, and people came to be baptized, for John had not yet been imprisoned. Now a dispute arose between the disciples of John and a Jew about ceremonial washings. So they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, the one who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you testified, here he is baptizing and everyone is coming to him.” John answered and said, “No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said that I am not the Christ, but that I was sent before him. The one who has the bride is the bridegroom; the best man, who stands and listens for him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made complete. He must increase; I must decrease.”
The reference to Jesus’ baptism ministry in today’s Gospel is singular in the New Testament. At this early stage, this is evidently a reference to the same type of conversion baptism that John the Baptist administered. The Spirit baptism was a post-Easter reality. This pre-Easter baptism was a commitment to a profound change of life in anticipation of the final era. This activity of Jesus lent support to the ministry of John and endowed the latter with credibility as an eschatological prophet.
At the same time, the words of John are decisive. He was not the messiah and unhesitatingly deferred to Jesus, the one whose star was in the ascendancy, in the face of whose surpassing significance John can only decrease in importance. To defer to another is not always easy in life. We all seek assurance of our own worth and merit. But it is always the Christian thing to defer with dignity rather than chagrin and unpleasantness. John was not interested in accruing honour to himself. He may have been the groomsman but he was not the groom. There is a lesson there for all of us.
In the letter of John today, he speaks of different grades of sin. Not all sin was deadly; apostasy was obviously one that was. We are to pray for one whose sin is not death-dealing. It may well mean the regaining of Spirit life. Hence, it is always commendable to pray for ourselves and other sinners, since God’s mercy is inexhaustible.
As our epiphany octave draws to a close, we are again given reason for gratitude. What Christ has promised has come to life in all of us. Baptism is our door to life. If we have faltered after that, God’s goodness has touched us time after time. We are forgiven. Let us put the past behind us and move ahead. We now live a life that springs up to eternity. We have indeed been blessed.
– That the Church may continue with compassion the task of healing of Jesus our Lord, that the sick may be comforted, the downtrodden set free, and the poor and the weak be protected, we pray:
– That in our Christian communities we may be concerned about one another as the Lord is solicitous about us, and that we may enrich one another with every good gift of heart and mind, we pray:
– That those whose faith has been shaken by the changes in the Church and in the world, may learn to trust again in the Lord and find inner peace, we pray:
Prayer over the Gifts
We bring before you, loving Father, these gifts of bread and wine, which come from your own hand. They are the signs of life and growth. Open our hearts to the depth of the life of Jesus, your Son, that our life, commonplace as it is, may be rich and full with the goodness and warmth of Jesus. May thus our life become a hymn of praise and thanks to you through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen!
Prayer after Communion
Lord God, loving Father, our sharing in this Eucharist has borne witness to our living faith in the person and life of your Son. May his presence among us not leave us indifferent but commit us to break the chains of evil and to let his justice and loyal love grow in us and in the world. We are confident that you will hear our prayer on account of him who lives in us, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen!
With John the Baptist may we say: may we decrease, that is, consider ourselves less important, but may the Lord Jesus increase and grow in us, with the blessing of almighty God, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!