The Second Sunday in Ordinary Time – 19 January 2020
Lectionary Readings: Isa 49:3, 5-6; Ps 40:2.4.7-10; 1 Cor 1:1-3; John 1:29-34
Theme: The testimony and the light of actions

The gospel of John and all the biblical texts from this Sunday invite us to know that “God wants his salvation to reach the ends of the earth” (Isa 49:6). How can this be done? Our faith in Jesus Christ will lead us to compassionate actions that will witness to others.

How do we understand salvation where there is so much suffering? The German poet Georg Buechner (1813-37) said that the suffering of the innocent is “the rock of atheism”. After Auschwitz, the problem became even more acute. There are countless books written on this topic. It is as if there is a process underway and the voice of the judge is commanding the accused to rise. The defendant in this case is God, and our faith.

What does faith have to say to all of this? First of all, it is necessary for everyone, believer or not, to put themselves in an attitude of humility, because if faith cannot “explain” pain, reason does even less. The pain of the innocent is too pure and mysterious to be explained away by platitudes. Jesus, who certainly had many more explanations to give than we do, could do nothing better in the pain of the widow of Naim and the sisters of Lazarus than to be moved and weep. The Christian’s answer to the problem of innocent pain is contained in one name: Jesus Christ! Jesus didn’t come to give us great explanations of the pain, but He came to take it silently upon himself. In doing so, however, He transformed it from inside: from the sign of a curse He made pain an instrument of salvation. Only God suffers as the ‘innocent one’ in the absolute sense.

However, Jesus didn’t only give meaning to innocent pain, but he was also entrusted with a new power, a mysterious fruitfulness. Let us contemplate what sprang from Christ’s suffering: the resurrection and hope for all mankind. We can witness it around us every day: the energy and heroism that is awakened in a couple by the acceptance of a disabled child. So much unexpected solidarity can surround them! How much capacity for love is awakened that would otherwise be unknown?

Most importantly, when we speak of innocent pain, it is not to explain it away, but to avoid amplifying it through our actions and omissions. It is not enough to decrease the innocent pain; it is necessary to try to relieve the existing pain! At the sight of a girl trembling with cold and crying with hunger, a man called out to God in his heart one day: “Oh God! Where are you? Why don’t you do something for this little innocent?” And God answered, “Of course I did something for her: I did (created) you!”

For Reflection and Discussion: [1] How do the biblical texts of this Sunday speak to my personal history? [2] How can faith in God be translated into human actions that manifest “God’s salvation to the ends of the earth”?

Bibliography: Gollarte, P. God has the Word (Rio de Janeiro: 1982)

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