1Jn 2:29–3:6; 98:1,3cd-6; Jn 1:29-34
What was this victory that the LORD won by stretching out his holy arm? Was it a political victory? Was it a military victory? Was it an economic victory? No the Lord Jesus was not popular, powerful, or prosperous in terms of the world. Not at the time of his birth, not through his life, and certainly not in his death. Yet Psalm 89 is repeated through out the season of Christmas. Why? What victory has he won? More importantly what victory have we won in him, or has he won in us? The LORD has reached out his hand and grasped us and drew us from the deadly pit, the miry clay of our own self-rejection, self-loathing and self-pity. We have been saved and we have realized that this salvation is the same always and everywhere. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God; with all our brothers and sisters throughout the world we can see in Christ the victory over sin and death. We have been called out of darkness into his own wonderful light! This is the victory for which we sound the horn and sing joyfully before the King the LORD!
Saint John and the apostolic community were not well known in the world. He grew to expect this as a part of being a beloved disciple. We are not well accepted, nor are we totally integrated into the world because we contemplate that God is righteous and we seek to act in that righteousness. Holiness, or righteousness was not popular at the time of Saint John, and it still lags behind in the popularity poles. Yet, Saint John’s letter gave great courage and hope to his children in Christ, and it has the same for us today. “See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are.” Such an identity gives us great hope for growth in holiness; we strive to be pure as he is pure. Indeed those who have no desire to act in righteousness commit sin. As Saint Paul reminds us we ourselves were once there, and we still struggle not to fall back into that swamp of profligation. Saint John continues to reflect on this mystery of human sin and the gift of salvation when he writes: “No one who remains in him sins; no one who sins has seen him or known him.” This may seem too harsh or even depressing. However, it is the word “remains” that gives us great hope. Sin cannot continue to be a main focus of our energy or life-style if we remain in Christ, who was revealed to take away sin and in him there is no sin. Such is the joy of salvation in Christ, the newborn King and Lord of all.
Even at the time of his ministry few knew who or what the Lord Jesus was. John the Baptist recognized him when at last he came. Saint John did not hesitate to proclaim him as the priest at mass still proclaims him, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” Why was this the first thing Saint John the Baptist had to say about the Lord Jesus? Perhaps because he had been preaching and baptizing in the Jordan so that people might confess and repent and be ready for the arrival of the Kingdom of God. John could only summon the crowd to repentance and use water to symbolize their cleansing; this was the focus and main theme of his ministry. The Lord Jesus not only summoned the crowds to repentance; he brought them the purification for which they longed. By the shedding of his blood the Lamb of God removed sin and filled the soul with the Holy Spirit. Saint John the Baptist goes on to identify the Lord Jesus as the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit, and he testified that Jesus is the Eternal Son of the Father made flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary and born into time as her son, Jesus the Christ. This testimony was the most important moment of the ministry of John until he received the crown of martyrdom. It was his gift to be the voice announcing the arrival of the Word, and it was his gift to die at the hands of a tyrant in anticipation of Christ’s own death at our hands.