23 January, 2014

Homily for the Second Sunday of Epiphany (A) 2014

Isaiah 49:1-7
John 1:29-42

I will give you as a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.’ (Isaiah 49:6)
If any of you remembers, last Sunday I talked about how we are all called as Christians to imitate Jesus who emptied himself of all glory and superiority, becoming one with us in every respect. On that occasion I said that we are called to love with the Love of Christ. Today I would like to consider with you what this vocation might look like in practice. 
In Isaiah 49:5-6 we read,
It is too light a thing that you should be my servant
to raise up the tribes of Jacob
and to restore the survivors of Israel;
I will give you as a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.
This text can apply both to Jesus and to the God’s people, Israel – and we are God’s people, we are the New Israel, and we are both collectively and individually God’s chosen servant.

Isaiah appoints four tasks for us to do falling in two broad fields of action – one concerned with the internal life of the Church and the other concerned with the mission of the Church to the world.
First, in verse five we read that we are to bring Jacob back to God. The name “Jacob” stands for the whole of God’s people. Therefore, bringing Jacob back to God means that we are to be agents of renewal within the Church; enabling the restoration of faith and manifesting concern for proper worship. In addition, we are to encourage those who have wandered away from God and those who have lost their faith because of the difficulties they have faced in life.

Secondly, we read in verse six that we are called to raise up the tribes of Jacob – meaning that our vocation is to work for the unity of all God’s people, lovingly mediating among estranged denominations and factions within the Church. This is another important task and God calls us to perform it not only during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, but at all times.

Thirdly, we are called to restore the survivors of Israel (v.6) – meaning that we are to nurture one-another with humility and compassion, encouraging one-another in the faith. We are the survivors of Israel, we are the ones whom society often considers forgotten and in decline, we are the unlikely servants chosen by God, therefore we are to help one another with gentleness and affection in all that can make us more faithful.

Lastly, we are called to be a light to the nations (v.6) – meaning that we are called to bring God’ salvation and light to others through our everyday affairs – on the work place, at the pub, at the art club, at school; wherever, whenever. By imitating Jesus, the true light of the world, we can become beacons of hope in a troubled world – not by preaching on street corners, but by extending God’s love to our neighbours in difficulties; not by hurling Bible verses at people as if they were weapons, but by showing that we do care about those around us.

I will give you as a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.’ (Isaiah 49:6)
This is the vocation with which each of us has been untrusted; to encourage the Church to be more faithful, to mediate between various factions in the Church, to support each-other, and to bring God’s love to others. To abide in this vocation means to become imitators of Jesus; it means enabling our fragile everyday nature to be transformed by God for his use.
May God who has entrusted us with such a high calling help us to fulfil it. Amen.

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