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Saturday after Epiphany - Reflection & Liturgy

1 John 5:14-21 / John 3:22-30

God hears our prayers: We should pray for sinners.
A number of years ago Newsweek magazine carried a moving article about the crash of United Airlines flight 629 in Colorado. Someone had hidden a bomb on the plane, killing all aboard.
Two of the dead passengers were parents of three young sons in Pittsburgh. The pastor of St. Gabriel’s asked the oldest boy, Jerry, if it would be okay to hold a prayer service for his parents that afternoon. Jerry said yes, and then added, “Could we also say a prayer for the man who killed my mother and father?”

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When was the last time we prayed, by name, for someone who sinned against us in some way? “Forgive one another just as the Lord has forgiven you.” Colossians 3:13
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In one of the most profound revelations in the readings after the feast of Epiphany, we come to the gospel text of today that talks about John the Baptist and his role as the one who prepares the way for Jesus.

And as the gospel text puts it, that was before John was put into prison, which effectively ended his ministry and later it would also end his life.

John was baptizing, and so was Jesus, and hence John's disciples brought out this issue to him and was concerned that everyone was going to Jesus.

Yet John was graciously profound when he said he was not the Christ and that he was just the one who has been sent before the Christ.

John knew he was not the bridegroom but just the best-man  he was not the Christ but just the baptizer; and that he must grow smaller and the Christ must grow greater.

And with that comes a statement from John the Baptist that revealed his self-understanding, and at the same time something that we ourselves need to understand.

He said, "A man can lay claim only to what is given him from above." And with those words he stepped aside for Jesus and he faded off and faded away.

John knew what he was given from above and he claimed that authority and fulfilled his mission.

We too know what we have been given from above. The 1st reading says that the Son of God has come and has given us the power to know the true God.

To know the true God is to acknowledge Jesus is Lord and to gain from Him the reward of eternal life. To desire and yearn for passing things is to worship a false god, and to lose what we have been given from above. Yet in order to lay claim to what we have been given from above, we need to grow smaller and to let God grow greater.

That is what our life is all about on earth; and that is also what eternal life is all about.
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*LITURGY*

*BELONGING TO GOD IN JESUS CHRIST*

*Introduction*
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.

*Opening Prayer*
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 forever.

*Commentary*
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 honor 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.

Points to Ponder
Jesus’ baptism ministry
John decreases and Christ increases
Praying for those in difficulty.

*Intercessions*
– 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.

*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.

*Blessing*
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.