The Lord said to me, "You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified."
And now the Lord says, who formed me in the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him, and that Israel might be gathered to him, for I am honored in the sight of the Lord, and my God has become my strength; he says,
"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."
Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sos'thenes, To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
John saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, "Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, 'After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.' I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel." John also testified, "I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, 'He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.' And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God."
Two thoughts dominate the readings: first, John's dramatic call to behold the Lamb of God; second, that we do a good personal stock-taking during this first month of the new year, look where we are going, and make the practical resolutions that might raise the quality of our lives. The Baptist urges us to ask what are we fundamentally about and then seek to reset our lives. And St Paul reminds us that we are "called to be saints together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."
An honest stock-taking of our spirituality may unveil the selfish, ego-centric motives that often direct our lives. To rise above these we need to recognise something outside of and larger than ourselves, the God who cares for us and for the whole human community. Can we listen to John's call to restore what is broken, and Jesus' call, to bring light to the world? Do we see that it is with our cooperation that the Lamb can remove the "sin of the world?"
Facing such truths is always difficult; it calls us to not just drift along with this world's evil, always taking the line of least resistance. Discipleship is urgent and costly, but it is also possible and is the way towards the deeper joy and fulfilment that our soul is longing for. If we properly hear the Baptist as he witnesses to Christ, our response will be a stock-taking that goes to the root of our being. It may even reveal to us the truth that sets us free.