Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

The English writer, John Ruskin has provided us with a beautiful illustration of what the Lord wants us to be in the world. Before electricity, streets were lit by gas-lamps. Lamplighter went from lamp to lamp with a burning torch. Ruskin looking across the valley, he could see the torch of the lamplighter and the trial of light it left behind, but he could not see the lamplighter. ‘There’s a good illustration of a Christian’, said Ruskin. People may never have known him, they may never have met him, and they may never even have seen him. But they know he passed through their world by the trail of light he left behind him. In today’s gospel we have another clear example in John. John makes it clear that his only function was to point people to Christ. He was nothing and Christ was everything. He claims no greatness and no place for himself. It’s often been said that we see other people not as they are but as we are. There was a King who once called one of his servants who was known to be a cruel, mean man, who had no friends. ‘I want you to go and travel the length and breadth of my Kingdom and find for me a truly good person. After a long time, he came back and said to the King: ‘I have searched the whole kingdom, but I couldn’t find even one truly good person. All of them are mean, cruel and deceitful. The king then called another person who was known for his generosity and kindness and he gave him the task of finding a truly wicked person. After a long time, he came back and said. ‘I have failed in the task you gave me to do. I found people who are misguided, people who are misled, people who act in blindness or in passion. All of them are good at heart despite the bad things they have done. We see people not as they are but as we are. John could have ignored Jesus, or criticized him, but instead he pointed him out to the people, he built him up before them. He did not see him as a threat but as a fiend and an ally. There is an important lesson here for us. If we are always finding fault with other people, and always putting them down, we should look at ourselves. We may be saying more about ourselves than about other people. We are lacking in compassion and tolerance. Once our heats are open to others, we discover good in them, even when it is hidden. Jesus is the supreme example of this. How did he get sinners to change? Not by condemning them, but by befriending them. He believed in them, and he saw goodness in them. He put them in touch with their own goodness. Jesus befriends us too. He puts us in touch with our own goodness. And once we are in touch with our own goodness, we will find goodness in others.