Reflection for Sunday – January 15, 2023

Readings: Isaiah 49: 3, 5-6; 1 Corinthians 1: 1-3; John 1: 29-34 
Preacher: Gloria Ulterino

I love music.  Sometimes, in fact, readings will evoke the words to a hymn.  Like this hymn, in response to today’s readings.  “Glory and praise to our God, who alone gives light to our days.  Many are the blessings God bears to those who trust in God’s ways.”

Hmmm.  Maybe, just maybe, as we begin this new Church year, we can become a blessing of God for a world in need.  Consider this: we’re now back in Ordinary Time.  Oh, not ho-hum ordinary.  But ordinary because now our days and weeks are ordered and numbered, one after the other, outside the seasons of Lent/ Easter/ Eastertime and Advent/ Christmas/ Epiphany.  Each day counts.  Each day matters.  Precisely because, in God’s eyes, we count.  Each of us.  Isn’t it possible, then, that God is urging us to become a much-needed blessing for others?

Perhaps this came to mind and heart because of the funeral I recently attended.  The funeral of a priest who made a huge difference in my life: Father Kevin Murphy.  Years ago he saw the promise in me and called it forth.  He inspired me to prepare for parish ministry, which I deeply loved.  Including a passionate care for preaching God’s Word.  And his net went far and wide, inspiring so many others to follow their own calling.  What a blessing!

 As it turns out, I delved into this week’s Word through the Psalmist.  Who was he?  We don’t know, but many of us might identify with his search for meaning and direction in life, with his search for God.  Then, suddenly, in some way, he found it!  And he could sing!  A new song!  For his desire now was only to do God’s will, whatever that would entail.

But, of course, as we all know, the challenges would continue.  Take, for example, the prophet Isaiah, a servant of God.  Actually, he’s known to us as Second Isaiah, living with his people in exile in Babylon during the fifth century before Christ.  Yes, they’ve been in Babylon for some fifty years.  Until finally, at the hand of King Cyrus of Persia, they are released.  Sent home, only to discover that nothing is the same.  Now what?  How to rebuild the Temple?  How to rebuild their faith in God, when squabbles continue?  It is not easy, as we all know.

But it’s John the Baptist who really points the way for us today.  Just like us, it seems, John does not fully comprehend the true nature of Jesus.  For it is only when John follows the command to baptize Jesus that he sees the Spirit of God emblazoned on him.  It is only then that he can see and name the truth of the One we follow: that Jesus is the Son of God.  Like John, we are only left with the sparks of God’s Holy Spirit, sparks of serving God and people, yet sparks enough to inspire and change and help heal the world.

  I have seen those sparks in so many disciples of Jesus, haven’t you?  I have witnessed so many blessings that these folks bring to those of us who believe.  There’s Ann, a woman born with cerebral palsy, who has defied all odds by being raised in a faith-filled family.  Each week, as an adult, she would come to church with her aide, offering a huge smile to those who greeted her.  Furthermore, though others maintained that she could never be employed, she has now worked over 30 years in the office of Wegmans. 

 There’s Marian, now deceased, a gentle soul and eager Bible study participant.  There’s the woman I don’t know, ahead of me in the checkout line at Wegmans, who one day left $20 toward the purchase of my groceries. 

Dare I also mention the multiple, continual prayers for the health and recovery of Damar Hamlin, the Buffalo Bills player, severely injured in last week’s game?  Even for those who may not be Buffalo Bills fans, or for those who don’t consider themselves people of faith, can we not stand in awe of his vast improvement this week, with miles yet to go in recovery? 

For those of us who profess Jesus as the Son of God, for those of us who believe in the power of God to act on behalf of those in need, can we not simply and intentionally offer ourselves as sparks of God’s blessing to anyone in need? 

Gloria Ulterino
Latest posts by Gloria Ulterino (see all)