An "epiphany" is an appearance. In today's readings, with their rising stars, splendorous lights and mysteries revealed, the face of the child born on Christmas day appears.
Herod, in today's Gospel, asks the chief priests and scribes where the Messiah is to be born. The answer Matthew puts on their lips says much more, combining two strands of Old Testament promise - one revealing the Messiah to be from the line of David (see 2 Samuel 2:5), the other predicting "a ruler of Israel" who will "shepherd his flock" and whose "greatness shall reach to the ends of the earth" (see Micah 5:1-3).
Those promises of Israel's king ruling the nations resound also in today's Psalm. The psalm celebrates David's son, Solomon. His kingdom, we sing, will stretch "to the ends of the earth," and the world's kings will pay Him homage. That's the scene too in today's First Reading, as nations stream from the East, bearing "gold and frankincense" for Israel's king.
The Magi's pilgrimage in today's Gospel marks the fulfillment of God's promises. The Magi, probably Persian astrologers, are following the star that Balaam predicted would rise along with the ruler's staff over the house of Jacob (see Numbers 24:17).
Laden with gold and spices, their journey evokes those made to Solomon by the Queen of Sheba and the "kings of the earth" (see 1 Kings 10:2,25; 2 Chronicles ). Interestingly, the only other places where frankincense and myrrh are mentioned together are in songs about Solomon (see Song of Songs 3:6, 4:6,14).
One greater than Solomon is here (see Luke ). He has come to reveal that all peoples are "co-heirs" of the royal family of Israel, as today's Epistle teaches.
His manifestation forces us to choose: Will we follow the signs that lead to Him as the wise Magi did? Or will we be like those priests and the scribes who let God's words of promise become dead letters on an ancient page?
Isaiah 7:10-14 Psalm 24:1-6 Romans 1:1-7 Matthew 1:18-24
The mystery kept secret for long ages, promised through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, is today revealed (see Romans 16:25-26).
This is the "Gospel of God" that Paul celebrates in today's Epistle - the good news that "God is with us" in Jesus Christ. The sign promised to the House of David in today's First Reading is given in today's Gospel. In the virgin found with child, God himself has brought to Israel a savior from David's royal line (see Acts 13:22-23).
Son of David according to the flesh, Jesus is the Son of God, born of the Spirit. He will be anointed with the Spirit (see Acts 10:38), and by the power of Spirit will be raised from the dead and established at God's right hand in the heavens (see Acts 2:33-34; Ephesians 1:20-21).
He is the "King of Glory" we sing of in today's Psalm. The earth in its fullness has been given to Him. And as God swore long ago to David, His Kingdom will have no end (see Psalm 89:4-5).
In Jesus Christ we have a new creation. Like the creation of the world, it is a work of the Spirit, a blessing from the Lord (see Genesis 1:2). In Him, we are saved from our sins, are called now "the beloved of God."
All nations now are called to belong to Jesus Christ, to enter into the House of David and Kingdom of God, the Church. Together, through the obedience of faith, we have been made a new race - a royal people that seeks for the face of the God of Jacob.
He has made our hearts clean, made us worthy to enter His holy place, to stand in His presence and serve Him.
In the Eucharist, the everlasting covenant is renewed, the Advent promise of virgin with child - God with us - continues until the end of the age (see Matthew 28:20; Ezekiel 37:24-28).
Isaiah 35:1-6,10 Psalm 146:6-10 James 5:7-10 Matthew 11:2-11
John questions Jesus from prison in today's Gospel - for his disciples' sake and for ours.
He knows that Jesus is doing "the works of the Messiah," foretold in today's First Reading and Psalm. But John wants his disciples - and us - to know that the Judge is at the gate, that in Jesus our God has come to save us.
The Liturgy of Advent takes us out into the desert to see and hear the marvelous works and words of God - the lame leaping like a stag, the dead raised, the good news preached to the poor (see Isaiah 29:18-20; 61:1-2).
The Liturgy does this to give us courage, to strengthen our feeble hands and make firm our weak knees. Our hearts can easily become frightened and weighed down by the hardships we face. We can lose patience in our sufferings as we await the coming of the Lord.
As James advises in today's Epistle, we should take as our example the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.
Jesus also points us to a prophet - holding up John as a model. John knew that life was more than food, the body more than clothing. He sought the kingdom of God first, confident that God would provide (see Matthew 6:25-34). John did not complain. He did not lose faith. Even in chains in his prison cell, he was still sending his disciples - and us - to our Savior.
We come to Him again now in the Eucharist. Already He has caused the desert to bloom, the burning sands to become springs of living water. He has opened our ears to hear the words of the sacred book, freed our tongue to fill the air with songs of thanksgiving (see Isaiah 30:18).
Once bowed down, captives to sin and death, we have been ransomed and returned to His Kingdom, crowned with everlasting joy. Raised up we now stand before His altar to meet the One who is to come: "Here is your God."
"The kingdom of heaven is at hand," John proclaims. And the Liturgy today paints us a vivid portrait of our new king and the shape of the kingdom He has come to bring.
The Lord whom John prepares the way for in today's Gospel is the righteous king prophesied in today's First Reading and Psalm. He is the king's son, the son of David - a shoot from the root of Jesse, David's father (see Ruth 4:17).
He will be the Messiah, anointed with the Holy Spirit (see 2 Samuel 23:1; 1 Kings 1:39; Psalm 2:2), endowed with the seven gifts of the Spirit - wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord.
He will rule with justice, saving the poor from the ruthless and wicked. His rule will be not only over Israel - but will extend from sea to sea, to the ends of the earth. He will be a light, a signal to all nations. And they will seek Him and pay Him homage.
In Him, all the tribes of the earth will find blessing. The covenant promise to Abraham (see Genesis 12:3), renewed in God's oath to David (see Psalm 89:4,28), will be fulfilled in His dynasty. And His name will be blessed forever.
In Christ, God confirms His oath to Israel's patriarchs, Paul tells us in today's Epistle. But no longer are God's promises reserved solely for the children of Abraham. The Gentiles, too, will glorify God for His mercy. Once strangers, in Christ they will be included in "the covenants of promise" (see Ephesians 2:12).
John delivers this same message in the Gospel. Once God's chosen people were hewn from the rock of Abraham (see Isaiah 51:1-2). Now, God will raise up living stones (see 1 Peter 2:5) - children of Abraham born not of flesh and blood but of the Spirit.
This is the meaning of the fiery baptism He brings - making us royal heirs of the kingdom of heaven, the Church.
His point here is that the exact "hour" is not important. What is crucial is that we not postpone our repentance, that we be ready for Him - spiritually and morally - when He comes. For He will surely come, He tells us - like a thief in the night, like the flood in the time of Noah.
In today's Epistle, Paul too compares the present age to a time of advancing darkness and night.
Though we sit in the darkness, overshadowed by death, we have seen arise the great light of our Lord who has come into our midst (see Matthew 4:16;John 1:9; 8:12). He is the true light, the life of the world. And His light continues to shine in His Church, the new Jerusalem promised by Isaiah in today's First Reading.
In the Church, all nations stream to the God of Jacob, to worship and seek wisdom in the House of David. From the Church goes forth His word of instruction, the light of the Lord - that all might walk in His paths toward that eternal day when night will be no more (see Revelation 22:5).
By our Baptism we have been made children of the light and day (see Ephesians 5:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:5-7). It is time we start living like it - throwing off the fruitless works of darkness, the desires of the flesh, and walking by the light of His grace.
The hour is late as we begin a new Advent. Let us begin again in this Eucharist.
As we sing in today's Psalm, let us go rejoicing to the House of the Lord. Let us give thanks to His name, keeping watch for His coming, knowing that our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.
In the figure of Zacchaeus in today's Gospel, we have a portrait of a lost soul. He is a tax collector, by profession a "sinner" excluded from Israel's religious life. Not only that, he is a "chief tax collector." Worse still, he is a rich man who has apparently gained his living by fraud.
But Zacchaeus' faith brings salvation to his house. He expresses his faith in his fervent desire to "see" Jesus, even humbling himself to climb a tree just to watch Him pass by. While those of loftier religious stature react to Jesus with grumbling, Zacchaeus receives Him with joy.
Zacchaeus is not like the other rich men Jesus meets or tells stories about (see Luke 12:16-21; 16:19-31; 18:18-25). He repents, vowing to pay restitution to those he has cheated and to give half of his money to the poor.
By his humility he is exalted, made worthy to welcome the Lord into his house. By his faith, he is justified, made a descendant of Abraham (see Romans 4:16-17).
As He did last week, Jesus is again using a tax collector to show us the faith and humility we need to obtain salvation.
We are also called to seek Jesus daily with repentant hearts. And we should make our own Paul's prayer in today's Epistle: that God might make us worthy of His calling, that by our lives we might give glory to the name of Jesus.
The Pharisee's prayer is almost a parody of the thanksgiving psalms (see for example Psalms 30,118). Instead of praising God for His mighty works, the Pharisee congratulates himself for his own deeds, which he presents to God in some detail.
The tax collector stands at a distance, too ashamed even to raise his eyes to God (see Ezra 9:6). He prays with a humble and contrite heart (see Psalm 51:19). He knows that before God no one is righteous, no one has cause to boast (see Roman 3:10; 4:2).
Today is the memorial of St. Ignatius, bishop of Antioch at the end of the first century. In this interview, Patristics scholar and St. Paul Center vice president, Mike Aquilina, discusses the life and legacy of this important early witness to the faith of the Apostles.
Exodus 17:8-13 Psalm 121:1-8 2 Timothy 3:14-4:2 Luke 18:1-8
The Lord is our guardian, beside us at our right hand, interceding for us in all our spiritual battles.
In today's Psalm we're told to lift our eyes to the mountains, that our help will come from Mount Zion and the Temple - the dwelling of the Lord who made heaven and earth.
Joshua and the Israelites, in today's First Reading, are also told to look to the hilltops. They are to find their help there - through the intercession of Moses - as they defend themselves against their mortal foes, the Amalekites.
Notice the image: Aaron and Hur standing on each side of Moses, holding his weary arms so that he can raise the staff of God above his head. Moses is being shown here as a figure of Jesus, who also climbed a hilltop, and on Mount Calvary stretched out His hands between heaven and earth to intercede for us against the final enemy - sin and death (see 1 Corinthians 15:26).
By the staff of God, Moses bested Israel's enemies (see Exodus 7:8-12;8:1-2), parted the Red Sea (see Exodus ) and brought water from the Rock (see Exodus 17:6).
The Cross of Jesus is the new staff of God, bringing about a new liberation from sin, bringing forth living waters from the body of Christ, the new Temple of God (see John 2:19-21; 7:37-39; 19:34; 1 Corinthians 10:4).
Like the Israelites and the widow in today's Gospel, we face opposition and injustice - at times from godless and pitiless adversaries.
We, too, must lift our eyes to the mountains - to Calvary and the God who will guard us from all evil.
We must pray always and not be wearied by our trials, Jesus tells us today. As Paul exhorts in today's Epistle, we need to remain faithful, to turn to the inspired Scriptures - given by God to train us in righteousness.
We must persist, so that when the Son of Man comes again in kingly power, He will indeed find faith on earth.
2 Kings 5:14-17 Psalm 98:1-4 2 Timothy 2:8-13 Luke 17:11-19
A foreign leper is cleansed and in thanksgiving returns to offer homage to the God of Israel. We hear this same story in both the First Reading and Gospel today.
There were many lepers in Israel in Elisha's time, but only Naaman the Syrian trusted in God's Word and was cleansed (see Luke 5:12-14). Today's Gospel likewise implies that most of the 10 lepers healed by Jesus were Israelites - but only a foreigner, the Samaritan, returned.
In a dramatic way, we're being shown today how faith has been made the way to salvation, the road by which all nations will join themselves to the Lord, becoming His servants, gathered with the Israelites into one chosen people of God, the Church (see Isaiah 56:3-8).
Today's Psalm also looks forward to the day when all peoples will see what Naaman sees - that there is no God in all the earth except the God of Israel.
We see this day arriving in today's Gospel. The Samaritan leper is the only person in the New Testament who personally thanks Jesus. The Greek word used to describe his "giving thanks" is the word we translate as "Eucharist."
And these lepers today reveal to us the inner dimensions of the Eucharist and sacramental life.
We, too have been healed by our faith in Jesus. As Naaman's flesh is made again like that of a little child, our souls have been cleansed of sin in the waters of Baptism. We experience this cleansing again and again in the Sacrament of Penance - as we repent our sins, beg and receive mercy from our Master, Jesus.
We return to glorify God in each Mass, to offer ourselves in sacrifice - falling on our knees before our Lord, giving thanks for our salvation.
In this Eucharist, we remember "Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David," Israel's covenant king. And we pray, as Paul does in today's Epistle, to persevere in this faith - that we too may live and reign with Him in eternal glory.
We are to live by faith in Christ who loved us and gave himself on the Cross for us (see Galatians 2:20).
The world, though, can seem to us as seventh-century Judah seemed to Habakkuk - in the control of God's enemies. The strife and discord we face in our own lives can sometimes cause us to wonder, as the prophet does, why God doesn't seem to hear or intervene when we cry for help.
We can't let our hearts be hardened by the trials we undergo. As today's Psalm reminds us: Israel forgot His mighty works, lost faith in the sound words of His promise. They tested God in the desert, demanding a sign.
But God didn't redeem Israel from Egypt only to let them die in the desert. And He didn't ransom us from futility only to abandon us in our trials. He is our God and we are the people He shepherds always - though at times His mercy and justice seem long delayed.
If we call on the Lord, as the Apostles do in today's Gospel, He will increase our faith, will stir to a flame the Holy Spirit who has dwelt within us since Baptism.
As Paul tells us in today's Epistle, the Lord will always give us the love and self-control we need to bear our share of hardship for the Gospel - with a strength that can come from God alone.
Our task is to continue doing what He has commanded - to love and to build up His kingdom - trusting that His vision still presses on to its fulfillment.
For His vision still has its time. One day, though we are but "unprofitable servants," we will be invited to eat and drink at our Master's table. It is that day we anticipate with each celebration of the Eucharist.
The rich and powerful are visited with woe and exile in today's Liturgy - not for their wealth but for their refusal to share it; not for their power but for their indifference to the suffering at their door.
The complacent leaders in today's First Reading feast on fine foods and wines, reveling while the house of Joseph, the kingdom of Israel (see Amos 5:6), collapses around them.
The rich man in today's Gospel also lives like a king - dressed in royal purple and fine linen (see 1 Maccabees 8:14).
The rich man symbolizes Israel's failure to keep the Old Covenant, to heed the commandments of Moses and the prophets. This is the sin of the rulers in today's First Reading. Born to the nation God favored first, they could claim Abraham as their father. But for their failure to give - their inheritance is taken away.
The rulers are exiled from their homeland. The rich man is punished with an exile far greater - eternity with a "great chasm" fixed between himself and God.
In this world, the rich and powerful make a name for themselves (see Genesis 11:4) and dine sumptuously, while the poor remain anonymous, refused an invitation to their feasts.
But notice that the Lord today knows Lazarus by name, and Joseph in his sufferings - while the leaders and the rich man have no name.
Today's Liturgy is a call to repentance - to heed the warning of One who was raised from the dead. To lay hold of the eternal life He promises, we must pursue righteousness, keep the commandment of love, as Paul exhorts in today's Epistle.
"The Lord loves the just," we sing in today's Psalm.
And in this Eucharist we have a foretaste of the love that will be ours in the next life - when He will raise the lowly to the heavenly banquet with Abraham and the prophets (see Luke 13:28), where we too will rest our heads on the bosom of our Lord (see John 13:23).
Very few of us can be numbered among the rich and the powerful who have the power to exploit the poor.
So how are we to apply to our own lives the readings for the 25th and 26th Sundays in Ordinary Time (Cycle C), which are so preoccupied with questions of social justice, wealth and poverty?
These readings remind us that the law of love (see John 15:12; Romans 13:8) means that each of us in some way will be judged by the mercy we show to the poor.
As the rich man learns in the parable of Lazarus - the distance between ourselves and God in the next life may be the distance we put between ourselves and the poor in this life (see Matthew 25:31-46; James 2:8,14-17).
But we also need to hear these readings in context of the Gospel message in recent months. Recall that among the stories we've heard is that of the teacher who wanted to know, "Who is my neighbor?" (see Luke 10:25-37) and of the rich fool who tried to store up earthly treasures (see Luke 12:13-21).
We may not be "rich men" or exploiters of the poor, but each of us should take to heart the persistent message of the Liturgy - that what we have and desire to have can separate us from God and our neighbor; that our possessions can come to possess us; that true riches are to be found in sharing what we have with the poor; and that this will gain us what we truly desire - the inheritance of treasure in heaven.
The steward in today's Gospel confronts the reality that he can't go on living the way he has been. He is under judgment, must give account for what he has done.
The exploiters of the poor in today's First Reading are also about to be pulled down, thrust from their stations (see Isaiah 22:19). Servants of mammon or money, they're so in love with wealth that they reduce the poor to objects, despise the new moons and sabbaths - the observances and holy days of God (see Leviticus 23:24; Exodus 20:8).
Their only hope is to follow the steward's path. He is no model of repentance. But he makes a prudent calculation - to use his last hours in charge of his master's property to show mercy to others, to relieve their debts.
He is a child of this world, driven by a purely selfish motive - to make friends and be welcomed into the homes of his master's debtors. Yet his prudence is commended as an example to us, the children of light (see 1 Thessalonians 5:5; Ephesians 5:8). We too must realize, as the steward does, that what we have is not honestly ours, but what in truth belongs to another, our Master.
All the mammon in the world could not have paid the debt we owe our Master. So He paid it for us, gave His life as a ransom for all, as we hear in today's Epistle.
God wants everyone to be saved, even kings and princes, even the lovers of money (see Luke 16:14). But we cannot serve two Masters. By his grace, we should choose to be, as we sing in today's Psalm - "servants of the Lord."
We serve Him by using what He has entrusted us with to give alms, to lift the lowly from the dust and dunghills of this world. By this we will gain what is ours, be welcomed into eternal dwellings, the many mansions of the Father's house (see John 14:2).
The episode in today's First Reading has been called "Israel's original sin." Freed from bondage, born as a people of God in the covenant at Sinai, Israel turned aside from His ways, fell to worshipping a golden calf.
Moses implores God's mercy, as Jesus will later intercede for the whole human race, as He still pleads for sinners at God's right hand and through the ministry of the Church.
Israel's sin is the sin of the world. It is your sin and mine. Ransomed from death and made His children in Baptism, we fall prey to the idols of this world. We remain a "stiff-necked people," resisting His will for us like an ox refuses the plowman's yoke (see Jeremiah 7:26).
Like Israel, in our sin we push God away, reject our divine sonship. Once He called us "my people" (see Exodus 3:10; 6:7). But our sin makes us "no people," people He should, in justice, disown (see Deuteronomy 32:21; 1 Peter 2:10).
Yet in His mercy, He is faithful to the covenant He swore by His own self in Jesus. In Jesus, God comes to Israel and to each of us - as a shepherd to seek the lost (see Ezekiel 34:11-16), to carry us back to the heavenly feast, the perpetual heritage promised long ago to Abraham's children.
"Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners," Paul cries in today's Epistle. These are the happiest words the world has ever known. Because of Jesus, as Paul himself can testify, even the blasphemer and persecutor can seek His mercy.
As the sinners do in today's Gospel, we draw near to listen to Him. In this Eucharist, we bring Him the acceptable sacrifice we sing of in today's Psalm - our hearts, humbled and contrite.
In the company of His angels and saints, we rejoice that He has wiped out our offense, celebrate with Him - that we have turned from the evil way that we might live (see Ezekiel 18:23).
Wisdom 9:13-18 Psalm 90:3-6, 12-17 Philemon 1:9-10, 12-17 Luke 14:25-33
Like a king making ready for battle or a contractor about to build a tower, we have to count the cost as we set out to follow Jesus.
Our Lord today is telling us upfront the sacrifice it will take. His words aren't addressed to His chosen few, the Twelve, but rather to the "great crowds" - to "anyone," to "whoever" wishes to be His disciple.
That only makes His call all the more stark and uncompromising. We are to "hate" our old lives, renounce all the earthly things we rely upon, to choose Him above every person and possession. Again He tells us that the things we have - even our family ties and obligations - can become an excuse, an obstacle that keeps us from giving ourselves completely to Him (see Luke 9:23-26, 57-62).
Jesus brings us the saving Wisdom we are promised in today's First Reading. He is that saving Wisdom.
Weighed down by many earthly concerns, the burdens of our body and its needs, we could never see beyond the things of this world, could never detect God's heavenly design and intention. So in His mercy He sent us His Spirit, His Wisdom from on High, to make straight our path to Him.
Jesus himself paid the price for to free us from the sentence imposed on Adam, which we recall in today's Psalm (see Genesis 2:7; 2:19). No more will the work of our hands be an affliction, no more are we destined to turn back to dust.
Like Onesimus in today's Epistle, we have been redeemed, given a new family and a new inheritance, made children of the father, brothers and sisters in the Lord.
We are free now to come after Him, to serve Him - no longer slaves to the ties of our past lives. In Christ, all our yesterdays have passed. We live in what the Psalm today beautifully describes as the daybreak of His kindness. For He has given us wisdom of heart, taught us to number our days aright.
We come to the wedding banquet of heaven by way of humility and charity. This is the fatherly instruction we hear in today's First Reading, and the message of today's Gospel.
Jesus is not talking simply about good table manners. He is revealing the way of the kingdom, in which the one who would be greatest would be the servant of all (see Luke 22:24-27).
This is the way He showed us, humbling Himself to come among us as a man (see Philippians 2:5-8), as one who serves, as the bearer of glad tidings to the poor (see Luke 4:18).
This is the way, too, that the Father has shown us down through the ages - filling the hungry, sending the rich away empty, lifting up the lowly, pulling down the proud (see Luke 1:52-53).
We again call to mind the Exodus in today's Psalm - how in His goodness the Lord led the Israelites from imprisonment to prosperity, rained down bread from heaven, made them His inheritance, becoming a "Father of orphans."
We now too have gained a share of His inheritance. We are to live humbly, knowing we are are not worthy to receive from His table (see Luke 6:7; 15:21). We are to give alms, remembering we were ransomed from sin by the price of His blood (see 1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
The Lord promises that if we are humble we will be exalted and find favor with God; that if we are kind to those who can never repay us, we will atone for sins, and find blessing in the resurrection of the righteous.
We anticipate the fulfillment of those promises in every Eucharist, today's Epistle tells us. In the Mass, we enter the festal gathering of the angels and the firstborn children of God, the liturgy of the heavenly Jerusalem in which Jesus is the high priest, the King who calls us to come up higher (see Proverbs 25:6-7).
Jesus doesn't answer the question put to Him in this Sunday’s Gospel. It profits us nothing to speculate on how many will be saved. What we need to know is what He tells us today - how to enter into salvation and how urgent it is to strive now, before the Master closes the door.
Jesus is "the narrow gate," the only way of salvation, the path by which all must travel to enter the kingdom of the Father (see John 14:6).
In Jesus, God has come - as He promises in this week’s First Reading - to gather nations of every language, to reveal to them His glory.
Eating and drinking with them, teaching in their streets, Jesus in the Gospel is slowly making His way to Jerusalem. There, Isaiah's vision will be fulfilled: On the holy mountain He will be lifted up (see John 3:14), will draw to Himself bretheren from among all the nations - to worship in the heavenly Jerusalem, to glorify Him for His kindness, as we sing in Sunday’s Psalm.
In God's plan, the kingdom was proclaimed first to the Israelites and last to the Gentiles (see Romans 1:16; Acts 3:25-26), who in the Church have come from the earth's four corners to make up the new people of God (see Isaiah 43:5-6; Psalm 107:2-3).
Many however will lose their place at the heavenly table, Jesus warns. Refusing to accept His narrow way they will weaken, render themselves unknown to the Father (see Isaiah 63:15-16).
We don't want to be numbered among those of drooping hands and weak knees (see Isaiah 35:3). So we must strive for that narrow gate, a way of hardship and suffering - the way of the beloved Son.
As this week’s Epistle reminds us, by our trials we know we are truly God's sons and daughters. We are being disciplined by our afflictions, strengthened to walk that straight and narrow path - that we may enter the gate, take our place at the banquet of the righteous.
Our God is a consuming fire, the Scriptures tell us (see Hebrews ; Deuteronomy ).
And in this week’s Gospel, Jesus uses the image of fire to describe the demands of discipleship.
The fire he has come to cast on the earth is the fire that he wants to blaze in each ofour hearts. He made us from the dust of the earth (see Genesis 2:7), and filled us with the fire of the Holy Spirit in baptism (see Luke ).
We were baptized into his death (see Romans 6:3). This is the baptism our Lord speaks of in the Gospel this week. The baptism with which He must be baptized is His passion and death, by which He accomplished our redemption and sent forth the fire of the Spirit on the earth (see Acts 2:3).
The fire has been set, but it is not yet blazing. We are called to enter deeper into the consuming love of God. We must examine our consciences and our actions, submitting ourselves to the revaling fire of God’s Word (see 1 Corinthians ).
In our struggle against sin, we have not yet resisted to the point of shedding our own blood, Paul tells us in this week’s Epistle. We have not undergone the suffering that Jeremiah suffers in the First Reading this week.
But this is what true discipleship requires. To be a disciple is to be inflamed with the love of the God. It is to have an unquenchable desire for holiness and zeal for the salvation of our brothers and sisters.
Being His disciple does not bring peace in the false way that the world proclaims peace (see Jeremiah ). It means division and hardship. It may bring us to conflict with our own flesh and blood.
But Christ is our peace (see Ephesians ). By his cross, he has lifted us up from the mire of sin and death—as he will rescue the prophet Jeremiah (see Jeremiah 38:10).
And as we sing in the Psalm this week, we trust in our deliverer.
We are born of the faith of our fathers, descending from a great cloud of witnesses whose faith is attested to on every page of Scripture (see Hebrews 12:1). We have been made His people, chosen for His own inheritance, as we sing in this Sunday’s Psalm.
The Liturgy this week sings the praises of our fathers, recalling the defining moments in our "family history." In the Epistle, we remember the calling of Abraham; in the First Reading we relive the night of the Exodus and the summons of the holy children of Israel.
Our fathers, we are told, trusted in the Word of God, put their faith in His oaths, convinced that what He promised, He would do.
None of them lived to see His promises made good. For it was not until Christ and His Church that Abraham's descendants were made as countless as the stars and sands (see Galatians 3:16-17,29). It was not until His Last Supper and the Eucharist that "the sacrifice...the divine institution" of that first Passover was truly fulfilled.
And we now too await the final fulfillment of what God has promised us in Christ. As Jesus tells us in this week’s Gospel, we should live with our loins girded - as the Israelites tightened their belts, cinched up their long robes and ate their Passover standing, vigilant and ready to do His will (see Exodus 12:11; 2 Kings 4:29).
The Lord will come at an hour we do not expect - will knock on our door (see Revelation 3:20), inviting us to the wedding feast in the better homeland, the heavenly one that our fathers saw from afar, and which we begin to taste in each Eucharist.
As they did, we can wait with "sure knowledge," His Word like a lamp lighting our path (see Psalm 119:105). Our God is faithful and if we wait in faith, hope in His kindness, and love as we have been loved, we will receive His promised blessing, be delivered from death.
Trust in God - as the Rock of our salvation, as the Lord who made us His chosen people, as our shepherd and guide. This should be the mark of our following of Jesus.
Like the Israelites we recall in this week's Psalm, we have made an exodus, passing through the waters of Baptism, freeing us from our bondage to sin. We too are on a pilgrimage to a promised homeland, the Lord in our midst, feeding us heavenly bread, giving us living waters to drink (see 1 Corinthians 10:1-4).
We must take care to guard against the folly that befell the Israelites, that led them to quarrel and test God's goodness at Meribah and Massah.
We can harden our hearts in ways more subtle but no less ruinous. We can put our trust in possessions, squabble over earthly inheritances, kid ourselves that what we have we deserve, store up treasures and think they'll afford us security, rest.
All this is "vanity of vanities," a false and deadly way of living, as this week's First Reading tells us.
This is the greed that Jesus warns against in this week's Gospel. The rich man's anxiety and toil expose his lack of faith in God's care and provision. That's why Paul calls greed "idolatry" in the Epistle this week. Mistaking having for being, possession for existence, we forget that God is the giver of all that we have, we exalt the things we can make or buy over our Maker (see Romans 1:25).
Jesus calls the rich man a "fool" - a word used in the Old Testament for someone who rebels against God or has forgotten Him (see Psalm 14:1).
We should treasure most the new life we have been given in Christ and seek what is above, the promised inheritance of heaven. We have to see all things in the light of eternity, mindful that He who gives us the breath of life could at any moment - this night even - demand it back from us.
Genesis 18:20-32 Psalm 138:1-3, 6-8 Colossians 2:12-14 Luke 11:1-13
Though we be "but dust and ashes," we can presume to draw near and speak boldly to our Lord, as Abraham dares in this week’s First Reading.
But even Abraham - the friend of God (see Isaiah 41:8), our father in the faith (see Romans 4:12) - did not know the intimacy that we know as children of Abraham, heirs of the blessings promised to his descendants (see Galatians 3:7,29).
The mystery of prayer, as Jesus reveals to His disciples in this week’s Gospel, is the living relationship of beloved sons and daughters with their heavenly Father. Our prayer is pure gift, made possible by the "good gift" of the Father - the Holy Spirit of His Son. It is the fruit of the New Covenant by which we are made children of God in Christ Jesus (see Galatians 4:6-7; Romans 8:15-16).
Through the Spirit given to us in Baptism, we can cry to Him as our Father - knowing that when we call He will answer.
Jesus teaches His disciples to persist in their prayer, as Abraham persisted in begging God's mercy for the innocent of Sodom and Gomorrah.
For the sake of the one just Man, Jesus, God spared the city of man from destruction (see Jeremiah 5:1; Isaiah 53), "obliterating the bond against us," as Paul says in this week’s Epistle.
On the Cross, Jesus bore the guilt of us all, canceled the debt we owed to God, the death we deserved to die for our transgressions.We pray as ones who have been spared, visited in our affliction, saved from our enemies.
We pray always a prayer of thanksgiving, which is the literal meaning of Eucharist. We have realized the promise of this week’s Psalm: We worship in His holy temple, in the presence of angels, hallowing His name.
In confidence we ask, knowing that we will receive, that He will bring to completion what He has done for us - raising us from the dead, bringing us to everlasting life along with Him.
Genesis 18:1-10 Psalm 15:2-5 Colossians 1:24-28 Luke 10:38-42
God wants to dwell with each of us personally, intimately - as the mysterious guests once visited Abraham's tent, as Jesus once entered the home of Mary and Martha.
By his hospitality in this week’s First Reading, Abraham shows us how we are to welcome the Lord into our lives. His selfless service of his divine guests (see Hebrews 13:1) stands in contrast to the portrait of Martha drawn in this week’s Gospel.
Where Abraham is concerned only for the well-being of his guests, Martha speaks only of herself - "Do you not care that my sister has left me by myself...Tell her to help me." Jesus' gentle rebuke reminds us that we risk missing the divine in the mundane, that we can fall into the trap of believing that God somehow needs to be served by human hands (see Acts 17:25).
Our Lord comes to us, not to be served but to serve (see Matthew 20:28). He gave His life that we might know the one thing we need, the "better part" which is life in the fellowship of God.
The Church now offers us this covenant, bringing to completion the word of God, the promise of His plan of salvation, what Paul calls "the mystery hidden for ages."
As once He came to Abraham, Mary and Martha, Christ now comes to each of us in Word and Sacrament. As we sing in this week’s Psalm: He will make His dwelling with those who keep His Word and practice justice (see also John 14:23).
If we do these things we will not be anxious or disturbed, will not have our Lord taken from us. We will wait on the Lord, who told Abraham and tells each of us: "I will surely return to you."
We are to love God and our neighbor with all the strength of our being, as the scholar of the Law answers Jesus in this week’s Gospel.
This command is nothing remote or mysterious - it's already written in our hearts, in the book of sacred Scripture. "You have only to carry it out," Moses says in this week’s First Reading.
Jesus tells His interrogator the same thing: "Do this and you will live."
The scholar, however, wants to know where he can draw the line. That's the motive behind his question: "Who is my neighbor?"
In his compassion, the Samaritan in Jesus' parable reveals the boundless mercy of God - who came down to us when we were fallen in sin, close to dead, unable to pick ourselves up.
Jesus is "the image of the invisible God," this week’s Epistle tells us. In Him, the love of God has come very near to us. By the "blood of His Cross" - by bearing His neighbors' sufferings in His own body, being himself stripped and beaten and left for dead - He saved us from bonds of sin, reconciled us to God and to one another.
Like the Samaritan, He pays the price for us, heals the wounds of sin, pours out on us the oil and wine of the sacraments, entrusts us to the care of His Church, until He comes back for us.
Because His love has known no limits, ours cannot either. We are to love as we have been loved, to do for others what He has done for us - joining all things together in His Body, the Church.
We are to love like the singer of this week’s Psalm - like those whose prayers have been answered, like those whose lives has been saved, who have known the time of His favor, have seen God in His great mercy turn toward us.
This is the love that leads to eternal life, the love Jesus commands today of the scholar, and of each of us - "Go and do likewise."
Jesus has a vision in this week’s Gospel - Satan falling like lightning from the sky, the enemy vanquished by the missionary preaching of His Church.
Sent out by Jesus to begin gathering the nations into the harvest of divine judgment (see Isaiah 27:12-13; Joel 4:13), the 70 are a sign of the continuing mission of the Church.
Carrying out the work of the 70, the Church proclaims the coming of God's kingdom, offers His blessings of peace and mercy to every household on earth - "every town and place He intended to visit."
Our Lord's tone is solemn today. For in the preaching of the Church "the kingdom of God is at hand," the time of decision has come for every person. Those who do not receive His messengers will be doomed like Sodom.
But those who believe will find peace and mercy, protection and nourishment in the bosom of the Church, the Mother Zion we celebrate in this week’s beautiful First Reading, the "Israel of God" Paul blesses in this week’s Epistle.
The Church is a new family of faith (see Galatians 6:10) in which we receive a new name that will endure forever (see Isaiah 66:22), a name written in heaven.
In this week’s Psalm we sing of God's "tremendous deeds among men" throughout salvation history. But of all the works of God, none has been greater than what He has wrought by the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Changing the sea into dry land was but an anticipation and preparation for our passing over, for what Paul calls the "new creation."
And as the exodus generation was protected in a wilderness of serpents and scorpions (see Deuteronomy 8:15), He has given His Church power now over "the full force of the Enemy." Nothing will harm us as we make our way through the wilderness of this world, awaiting the Master of the harvest, awaiting the day when all on earth will shout joyfully to the Lord, sing praise to the glory of His name.
In this week’s First Reading, Elijah's disciple is allowed to kiss his parents goodbye before setting out to follow the prophet's call.
But we are called to follow a greater than Elijah, this week’s Liturgy wants us to know.
In Baptism, we have put on the cloak of Christ, been called to the house of a new Father, been given a new family in the kingdom of God. We have been called to leave behind our past lives and never look back - to follow wherever He leads.
Elijah was taken up in a whirlwind and his disciple was given a double portion of his spirit (see 2 Kings 2:9-15).
Jesus too, the Gospel reminds us, was "taken up" (see Acts 1:2,11,22), and He gave us His Spirit to live by, to guide us in our journey in His kingdom.
As this week’s Epistle tells us, the call of Jesus shatters the yoke of every servitude, sets us free from the rituals of the old Law, shows us the Law's fulfillment in the following of Jesus, in serving one another through love.
His call sets our hands to a new plow, a new task - to be His messengers, sent ahead to prepare all peoples to meet Him and enter into His Kingdom.
Elijah called down fire to consume those who wouldn't accept God (see 2 Kings 1:1-16). But we have a different Spirit with us.
To live by His Spirit is to face opposition and rejection, as the Apostles do in this week’s Gospel. It is to feel like an exile, with no lasting city (see Hebrews 13:14), no place in this world to lay our head or call home.
But we hear the voice of the One we follow in this week’s Psalm (see Acts 2:25-32; 13:35-37). He calls us to make His faith our own - to abide in confidence that He will not abandon us, that He will show us "the path to life," leading us to the fullness of joy in His presence forever.
In this Sunday's readings we hear the voice of the Prophet Zechariah as he delivers difficult oracles from God. The people have returned from exile. Now back in Jerusalem, they face the arduous work of rebuilding the Temple. Zechariah acknowledges their hardships and foresees more obstacles.
But their grief has a purpose. It is a remedy, a penance to heal them -- "a fountain to purify from sin and uncleanness."
Thus purified, the people will be ready to receive the Messiah and usher in a new creation. God promises to "pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and petition." So that no one should mistake the identity of the Messiah when He comes, God says through Zechariah: "they shall look on him whom they have thrust through, and they shall mourn for him as one mourns for an only son … a first-born." That prophecy could be fulfilled in no other than Jesus, the Word made Flesh, the Only-Begotten Son of God, the Crucified.
The day of the Messiah indeed came, with an outpouring of the Spirit. Yet it was a saving event not only for Jerusalem, but for all people. Both Jews and Gentiles could become "children of God," in St. Paul's stunning phrase. Now, “There is neither Jew nor Greek … slave nor free … male and female …if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's descendant, heirs according to the promise.”
In light of these readings, Sunday's Gospel is poignant. Jesus asks his closest friends, " who do you say that I am?" Peter replies, "The Messiah of God." Jesus then reveals to them, as Zechariah had foretold, that the Messiah must be "thrust through" and killed and mourned before the Spirit would come forth on Pentecost.
The day has indeed come. Yet still we long for its fullness, and so we pray to God in the Psalm: "for you I long! For you my body yearns; for you my soul thirsts, Like a land parched, lifeless, and without water."
In this Sunday’s readings we are like the fallen king, David, and the woman who weeps at Jesus’ feet.
Like David, the Lord has rescued us from sin and death, anointed us with His Spirit in baptism and in confirmation. He has made us heirs of His promise to the children of Israel.
And like David, and like the woman in the Gospel, we fall into sin. Our crimes may not be as grave as David’s (see 2 Samuel 11:1–26) or as “many” as that woman’s (see Luke 7:47).
But we often squander the great gift of salvation we’ve been given. Often we fail to live up to the great calling of being sons and daughters of God.
The good news of today’s readings, the good news of Jesus Christ, is that we can return to God in the sacrament of confession. Each of us can repeat Paul’s wondrous words in this week’s Epistle: “The Son of God has loved me and given himself up for me.”
Our faith will save us, as Jesus tells the woman today. Our faith that no matter how many our sins, or how serious, if we come to him in true sorrow and repentance we will hear his words of forgiveness. Like David. Like the woman in the Gospel this Sunday.
We hear David’s heartfelt confession in the First Reading. The Psalmist, too, confesses his sins to God. And we hear our Lord’s tender words of mercy and pardon in the Gospel.
By His word of healing and his promise of peace, He makes it possible for us to join Him at the banquet table of the Eucharist.
We can’t be like the Pharisee in the Gospel. We should never disdain the sinner or doubt the Lord’s power to convert even the worst of sinners.
Instead, we should pledge today to better imitate that sinful woman. In gratitude for the debt we’ve been forgiven, let us promise to live by faith and for God alone. Like her, let us devote our lives to serving Him with great love.
Jesus in today’s Gospel meets a funeral procession coming out of the gates of the town of Nain. Unlike when he raised Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5) or Lazarus (John 11), no one requests his assistance. Moved by compassion for the widow who had lost her only son, Jesus steps forward and, laying his hand on the bier, commands him to arise.
The onlookers were reminded of the story of Elijah in the first reading who raised the dead child of the widow of Zarephath and “gave him [back] to his mother.” They proclaimed that “a great prophet has arisen in our midst.”
Jesus of course is more than a prophet; he is the ruler over life and death. In the Mosaic law, contact with a dead body renders an Israelite unclean for a week (Numbers 19:11-19). Jesus’ touch and word reverses that; instead of being defiled by contact with death, he gave life.
Like the physical healings that he performed, Jesus’ raising people from the dead is a sign of the Messiah’s arrival (Luke 7:22). But it is more than that; these healings are visible signs of the awakening and liberating of men from the spiritual death caused by sin (see Mark 2:1-12).
The Church Fathers return to this theme again and again. St. Ambrose writes, “the widow signifies Mother Church, weeping for those who are dead in sin and carried beyond the safety of her gates. The multitudes looking on will praise the Lord when sinners rise again from death and are restored to their mother.”
When we are dead in sin, it is the outstretched hand and the words of Christ spoken by his priest, that raise us from spiritual death and restore us to the arms of our mother, the Church. With the Psalmist, then, we can sing “I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me. You brought me up from the nether world; you preserved me from those going down into the pit.
At the dawn of salvation history, God revealed our future in figures. That's what's going on in today's First Reading: A king and high priest comes from Jerusalem (see Psalm 76:3), offering bread and wine to celebrate the victory of God's beloved servant, Abram, over his foes.
By his offering, Melchizedek bestows God's blessings on Abram. He is showing us, too, how one day we will receive God's blessings and in turn "bless God" - how we will give thanks to Him for delivering us from our enemies, sin and death.
As Paul recalls in today's Epistle, Jesus transformed the sign of bread and wine, making it a sign of His body and blood, through which God bestows upon us the blessings of His "new covenant."
Jesus is "the priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek," that God, in today's Psalm, swears will rule from Zion, the new Jerusalem (see Hebrews 6:20-7:3).
By the miracle of loaves and fishes, Jesus in today's Gospel, again prefigures the blessings of the Eucharist.
Notice that He takes the bread, blesses it, breaks it, and gives it to the Twelve. You find the precise order and words in the Last Supper (see Luke 22:19) and in His celebration of the Eucharist on the first Easter night (see Luke 24:30).
The Eucharist fulfills the offering of Melchizedek. It is the daily miracle of the heavenly high priesthood of Jesus
It is a priesthood He conferred upon the Apostles in ordering them to feed the crowd, in filling exactly twelve baskets with leftover bread - in commanding them on the night He was handed over: "Do this in remembrance of Me."
Through His priests He still feeds us in "the deserted place" of our earthly exile.
And by this sign He pledges to us a glory yet to come. For as often as we share in His body and blood. we proclaim His victory over death, until He comes again to make His victory our own.
In today's Liturgy we're swept through time in glorious procession - from before earth and sky were set in place to the coming of the Spirit upon the new creation, the Church.
We begin in the heart of the Trinity, as we listen to the testimony of Wisdom in today's First Reading. Eternally begotten, the first-born of God, He is poured forth from of old in the loving delight of the Father.
Through Him, the heavens were established, the foundations of the earth fixed. From before the beginning, He was with the Father as His "Craftsman," the artisan by which all things were made. And He took special delight, He tells us, in the crowning glory of God's handiwork - the human race, the "sons of men."
In today's Psalm, He comes down from heaven, is made a little lower than the angels, comes among us as "the Son of Man" (see Hebrews 2:6-10).
All things are put under His feet so that He can restore to humanity the glory for which we were made from the beginning, the glory lost by sin. He tasted death that we might be raised to life in the Trinity, that His name might be made glorious over all the earth.
Through the Son, we have gained grace and access in the Spirit to the Father, as Paul boasts in today's Epistle (see Ephesians 2:18).
The Spirit, the Love of God, has been poured out into our hearts - a Spirit of adoption, making us children of the Father once more (see Romans 8:14-16).
This is the Spirit that Jesus promises in today's Gospel.
His Spirit comes as divine gift and anointing (see 1 John 2:27), to guide us to all truth, to show us "the things that are coming," the things that were meant to be from before all ages - that we will find peace and union in God, will share the life of the Trinity, dwell in God as He dwells in us (see John 14:23; 17:21).
The giving of the Spirit to the new people of God crowns the mighty acts of the Father in salvation history.
The Jewish feast of Pentecost called all devout Jews to Jerusalem to celebrate their birth as God's chosen people, in the covenant Law given to Moses at Sinai (see Leviticus 23:15-21; Deuteronomy 16:9-11).
In today's First Reading the mysteries prefigured in that feast are fulfilled in the pouring out of the Spirit on Mary and the Apostles (see Acts ).
The Spirit seals the new law and new covenant brought by Jesus, written not on stone tablets but on the hearts of believers, as the prophets promised (see 2 Corinthians 3:2-8; Romans 8:2).
The Spirit is revealed as the life-giving breath of the Father, the Wisdom by which He made all things, as we sing in today's Psalm. In the beginning, the Spirit came as a "mighty wind" sweeping over the face of the earth (see Genesis 1:2). And in the new creation of Pentecost, the Spirit again comes as "a strong, driving wind" to renew the face of the earth.
As God fashioned the first man out of dust and filled him with His Spirit (see Genesis 2:7), in today's Gospel we see the New Adam become a life-giving Spirit, breathing new life into the Apostles (see 1 Corinthians 15:45,47).
Like a river of living water, for all ages He will pour out His Spirit on His body, the Church, as we hear in today's Epistle (see also John 7:37-39).
We receive that Spirit in the sacraments, being made a "new creation" in Baptism (see 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15). Drinking of the one Spirit in the Eucharist (see 1 Corinthians 10:4), we are the first fruits of a new humanity - fashioned from out of every nation under heaven, with no distinctions of wealth or language or race, a people born of the Spirit.
Jesus is praying for us in today's Gospel. We are those who have come to believe in Him through the Word of the Apostles, handed on in His Church.
Jesus showed the Apostles His glory, made known the Father's name, and the love He has had for us from "before the foundation of the world."
He revealed that He and the Father are one (see John 14:9).
Jesus is the "first and the last" (see Isaiah 44:6), the root of David (see Isaiah 11:10; 2 Samuel 7:12), as today's Second Reading declares.
Wrapped in clouds and darkness as God was at Sinai (see Exodus 19:16), He is "the king...the Most High over all the earth," as we sing in today's Psalm.
Exalted at God's right hand, as Stephen sees in the First Reading, the Lord calls to us through the Church, His Bride.
He calls us to "the tree of life," to communion with God. This is the goal of His love, His saving purpose from all eternity - that each of us enter into the life of Blessed Trinity, be "brought to perfection as one" with the Father and Son in the Spirit.
The story of Stephen, the first martyr, shows us how we are to answer His call.
Listen for the echoes of the crucifixion: Stephen, like Jesus, sees the Son of Man in glory and dies with words of forgiveness and self-offering on his lips (compare Acts 7:56-60; Matthew 26:64-65; Luke 23:24,46).
We, too, are to commend our spirits to the Father, to pray and offer our lives in love for our brethren, awaiting His coming in judgment. We renew our vows in every Mass, coming forward to receive the gift of His life.
We answer His call by crying out a call of our own: "Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!"
And in our communion we answer our Lord's prayer: "That they may all be one, as You, Father are in Me and I in You."
The first Church council, the Council of Jerusalem we hear about in today's First Reading, decided the shape of the Church as we know it.
Some Jewish Christians had wanted Gentile converts to be circumcised and obey all the complex ritual and purity laws of the Jews.
The council called this a heresy, again showing us that the Church in the divine plan is meant to be a worldwide family of God, no longer a covenant with just one nation.
Today's Liturgy gives us a profound meditation on the nature and meaning of the Church.
The Church is One, as we see in the First Reading: "the Apostles [bishops] and presbyters [priests], in agreement with the whole Church [laity]."
The Church is Holy, taught and guided by the Spirit that Jesus promises the Apostles in the Gospel.
The Church is Catholic, or universal, making known God's ways of salvation to all peoples, ruling all in equity, as we sing in today's Psalm.
And the Church, as John sees in the Second Reading, is Apostolic - founded on the twelve Apostles of the Lamb.
All these marks of the Church are underscored in the story of the council.
Notice that everybody, including Paul, looks to "Jerusalem [and] ...the Apostles" to decide the Church's true teaching. The Apostles, too, presume that Christian teachers need a "mandate from us."
And we see the Spirit guiding the Apostles in all truth. Notice how they describe their ruling: "It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us."
Knowing these truths about the Church, our hearts should never be troubled. The Liturgy's message today is that the Church is the Lord's, watched over and guarded by the Advocate, the Holy Spirit sent by the Father in the name of the Son.
This should fill us with confidence, free us to worship with exultation, inspire us to rededicate our lives to His Name - to love Jesus in our keeping of His Word, to rejoice that He and the Father in the Spirit have made their dwelling with us.
By God's goodness and compassion, the doors of His kingdom have been opened to all who have faith, Jew or Gentile.
That's the good news Paul and Barnabas proclaim in today's First Reading. With the coming of the Church - the new Jerusalem John sees in today's Second Reading - God is "making all things new."
In His Church, the "old order" of death is passing away and God for all time is making His dwelling with the human race, so that all peoples "will be His people and God Himself will always be with them." In this the promises made through His prophets are accomplished (see Ezekiel 37:27; Isaiah 25:8; 35:10).
The Church is "the kingdom for all ages" that we sing of in today's Psalm. That's why we see the Apostles, under the guidance of the Spirit, ordaining "presbyters" or priests (see 1 Timothy ; Titus 1:5).
Anointed priests and bishops will be the Apostles' successors, ensuring that the Church's "dominion endures through all generations" (see Philippians 1:1, note that the New American Bible translates episcopois, the Greek word for bishops, as "overseers").
Until the end of time, the Church will declare to the world God's mighty deeds, blessing His holy name and giving Him thanks, singing of the glories of His kingdom.
In His Church, we know ourselves as His "faithful ones," as those Jesus calls "My little children" in today's Gospel. We live by the new law, the "new commandment" that He gave in His final hours.
The love He commands of us is no human love but a supernatural love. We love each other as Jesus loved us in suffering and dying for us. We love in imitation of His love.
This kind of love is only made possible by the Spirit poured into our hearts at Baptism (see Romans 5:5), renewed in the sacrifice His priests offer in every Mass.
By our love we glorify the Father. And by our love all peoples will know that we are His people, that He is our God.
Acts 13:14, 43-52 Psalm 100:1-3, 5 Revelation 7:9,14-17 John 10:27-30
Israel's mission - to be God's instrument of salvation to the ends of the earth (see Isaiah 49:6) - is fulfilled in the Church.
By the "Word of God" that Paul and Barnabas preach in today's First Reading, a new covenant people is being born, a people who glorify the God of Israel as the Father of them all.
The Church for all generations remains faithful to the grace of God given to the Apostles, continues their saving work.
Through the Church, the peoples of every land hear the Shepherd's voice, and follow Him (see Luke ).
The Good Shepherd of today's Gospel is the enthroned Lamb of today's Second Reading. In laying down His life for His flock, the Lamb brought to pass a new Passover (see 1 Corinthians 5:7), by His blood freeing "every nation, race, people and tongue" from bondage to sin and death.
The Church is the "great multitude" John sees in his vision today. God swore to Abraham his descendants would be too numerous to count. And in the Church, as John sees, this promise is fulfilled (compare Revelation 7:9; Genesis 15:5).
The Lamb rules from the throne of God, sheltering His flock, feeding their hunger with His own Body and Blood, leading them to "springs of life-giving waters" that well up to eternal life (see John 4:14).
The Lamb is the eternal Shepherd-King, the son of David foretold by the prophets. His Church is the Kingdom of all Israel that the prophets said would be restored in an everlasting covenant (see Ezekiel 34:23-31; 37:23-28).
It is not a kingdom any tribe or nation can jealously claim as theirs alone. The Shepherd's Word to Israel is addressed now to all lands, calling all to worship and bless His name in the heavenly Temple.
This is the delight of the Gentiles - that we can sing the song that once only Israel could sing, today's joyful Psalm: "He made us, His we are - His people, the flock He tends."
Acts 5:27-32,40-41 Psalm 30:2,4-6,11-13 Revelation 5:11-14 John 21:1-19
There are two places in Scripture where the curious detail of a "charcoal fire" is mentioned.
One is in today's Gospel, where the Apostles return from fishing to find bread and fish warming on the fire.
The other is in the scene in the High Priest's courtyard on Holy Thursday, where Peter and some guards and slaves warm themselves while Jesus is being interrogated inside (see John 18:18).
At the first fire, Peter denied knowing Jesus three times, as Jesus had predicted (see John ; -18, 25-27).
Today's charcoal fire becomes the scene of Peter's repentance, as three times Jesus asks him to make a profession of love. Jesus' thrice repeated command "feed My sheep" shows that Peter is being appointed as the shepherd of the Lord's entire flock, the head of His Church (see also Luke 22:32).
Jesus' question: "Do you love me more than these?" is a pointed reminder of Peter's pledge to lay down his life for Jesus, even if the other Apostles might weaken (see John ; Matthew 26:33; Luke ).
Jesus then explains just what Peter's love and leadership will require, foretelling Peter's death by crucifixion ("you will stretch out your hands").
Before His own death, Jesus had warned the Apostles that they would be hated as He was hated, that they would suffer as He suffered (see Matthew 10:16-19,22; John 15:18-20; 16:2).
We see the beginnings of that persecution in today's First Reading. Flogged as Jesus was, the Apostles nonetheless leave "rejoicing that they have been found worthy to suffer."
Their joy is based on their faith that God will change their "mourning into dancing," as we sing in today's Psalm. By their sufferings, the know, they will be counted worthy to stand in heaven before "the Lamb that was slain," a scene glimpsed in today's Second Reading (see also Revelation 6:9-11).
The prophet Daniel in a vision saw "One like the Son of Man" receive everlasting kingship (see Daniel 7:9-14). John is taken to heaven in today's Second Reading where He sees Daniel's prophecy fulfilled in Jesus, who appears as "One like a Son of Man."
Jesus is clad in the robe of a High Priest (see Exodus 28:4; Wisdom ) and wearing the gold sash of a King (see 1 Maccabees 10:89). He has been exalted by the right hand of the Lord, as we sing in today's Psalm.
His risen body, which the Apostles touch in today's Gospel, has been made a life-giving Spirit (see 1 Corinthians ).
As the Father anointed Him with the Spirit and power (see Acts ), Jesus pours out that Spirit on the Apostles, sending them into the world "as the Father has sent Me."
Jesus "breathes" the Spirit of His divine life into the Apostles - as God blew the "breath of life" into Adam (see Genesis 2:7), as Elijah's prayer returned "the life breath" to the dead child (see 1 Kings 17:21-23), and as the Spirit breathed new life into the slain in the valley of bones (see Ezekiel 37:9-10).
His creative breath unites the Apostles - His Church - to His body, and empowers them to breathe His life into a dying world, to make it a new creation.
In today's Gospel and First Reading, we see the Apostles fulfilling this mission, with powers only God possesses - the power to forgive sins and to work "signs and wonders," a biblical expression only used to describe the mighty works of God (see Exodus 7:3; 11:10; Acts 7:36).
Thomas and the others saw "many other signs" after Jesus was raised from the dead. They saw and they believed.
They have been given His life, which continues in the Church's Word and sacraments, so that we who have not seen might inherit His blessings, and "have life in His name."
Jesus is nowhere visible. Yet today's Gospel tells us that Peter and John "saw and believed."
What did they see? Burial shrouds lying on the floor of an empty tomb. Maybe that convinced them that He hadn't been carted off by grave robbers, who usually stole the expensive burial linens and left the corpses behind.
But notice the repetition of the word "tomb" - seven times in nine verses. They saw the empty tomb and they believed what He had promised: that God would raise Him on the third day.
Chosen to be His "witnesses," today's First Reading tells us, the Apostles were "commissioned...to preach...and testify" to all that they had seen - from His anointing with the Holy Spirit at the Jordan to the empty tomb.
More than their own experience, they were instructed in the mysteries of the divine economy, God's saving plan - to know how "all the prophets bear witness" to Him (see Luke 24:27,44).
Now they could "understand the Scripture," could teach us what He had told them - that He was "the Stone which the builders rejected," that today's Psalm prophesies His Resurrection and exaltation (see Luke ; Matthew ; Acts ).
We are the children of the apostolic witnesses. That is why we still gather early in the morning on the first day of every week to celebrate this feast of the empty tomb, give thanks for "Christ our life," as today's Epistle calls Him.
Baptized into His death and Resurrection, we live the heavenly life of the risen Christ, our lives "hidden with Christ in God." We are now His witnesses, too. But we testify to things we cannot see but only believe; we seek in earthly things what is above.
We live in memory of the Apostles' witness, like them eating and drinking with the risen Lord at the altar. And we wait in hope for what the Apostles told us would come - the day when we too "will appear with Him in glory."
Isaiah 50:4-7 Psalm 22:8-9, 17-20, 23-24 Philippians 2:6-11 Luke 22:14-23:56
What is written about Me is coming to fulfillment," Jesus says in today's Gospel (see Luke ).
Indeed, we have reached the climax of the liturgical year, the highest peak of salvation history, when all that has been anticipated and promised is to be fulfilled.
By the close of today's long Gospel, the work of our redemption will have been accomplished, the new covenant will be written in the blood of His broken body hanging on the cross at the place called the Skull.
In His Passion, Jesus is "counted among the wicked," as Isaiah had foretold (see Isaiah 53:12). He is revealed definitively as the Suffering Servant the prophet announced, the long-awaited Messiah whose words of obedience and faith ring out in today's First Reading and Psalm.
The taunts and torments we hear in these two readings punctuate the Gospel as Jesus is beaten and mocked (see Luke 22:63-65; 23:10-11,16), as His hands and feet are pierced (see Luke 23:33), as enemies gamble for His clothes ( see Luke 23:34), and as three times they dare Him to prove His divinity by saving Himself from suffering (see Luke 23:35,37,39)
He remains faithful to God's will to the end, does not turn back in His trial. He gives Himself freely to His torturers, confident that, as He speaks in today's First Reading: "The Lord God is My help...I shall not be put to shame."
Destined to sin and death as children of Adam's disobedience, we have been set free for holiness and life by Christ's perfect obedience to the Father's will (see Romans -14,17-19; Ephesians 2:2; 5:6).
This is why God greatly exalted Him. This is why we have salvation in His Name. Following His example of humble obedience in the trials and crosses of our lives, we know we will never be forsaken, that one day we too will be with Him in Paradise (see Luke 23:42). Seeing and Believing
Isaiah 43:16-21 Psalms 126:1-6 Philippians 3:8-14 John 8:1-11
The Liturgy this Lent has shown us the God of the Exodus. He is a mighty and gracious God, Who out of faithfulness to His covenant has done "great things" for His people, as today's Psalm puts it. But the "things of long ago," Isaiah tells us in today's First Reading, are nothing compared to the "something new" that He will do in the future.
Today's First Reading and Psalm look back to the marvelous deeds of the Exodus. Both see in the Exodus a pattern and prophecy of the future, when God will restore the fortunes of His people fallen in sin. The readings today look forward to a still greater Exodus, when God will gather in the exiled tribes of Israel which had been scattered to the four winds, the ends of the earth.
The new Exodus that Israel waited and hoped for has come in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Like the adulterous woman in today's Gospel, all have been spared by the Lord's compassion. All have heard His words of forgiveness, His urging to repentance, to be sinners no more. Like Paul in today's Epistle, Christ has taken possession of every one, claimed each as a child of our heavenly Father.
In the Church, God has formed a people for Himself to announce His praise, just as Isaiah said He would. And as Isaiah promised, He has given His "chosen people" living waters to drink in the desert wastelands of the world (see John 7:37-39).
But our God is ever a God of the future, not of the past. We are to live with hopeful hearts, "forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead," as Paul tells us. His salvation, Paul says, is power in the present, "the power of His resurrection."
We are to live awaiting a still greater and final Exodus, pursuing "the goal, the prize of God's upward calling," striving in faith to attain the last new thing God promises - "the resurrection of the dead."
A 'New' Exodus
Israel's Exodus from Egypt is in the background of every reading in this month's Liturgy of the Word.
The Exodus convinced the Israelites that they were God's chosen people. What other people could boast that God had personally delivered them in their time of trial (see Exodus 15:11-16)?
Later in its history, when Israel through sin had fallen into captivity and exile, the prophets predicted a "new Exodus," led by a Messiah, a new Moses who would restore them once more as a holy kingdom (see Isaiah 10:25-27; 11:15-16; 51:9-11). This new Exodus, Jeremiah predicted, would mark the start of a "New Covenant" (see Jeremiah 23:7-8; 31:31-33).
In the readings for the Second Sunday in Lent (Cycle C), we see Jesus as the hoped-for new Moses, liberating God's people from the last enemy - sin and death - and bringing them into the promised land of heaven. And as Paul says in the Epistle for the Third Sunday, the events of Exodus - the Red Sea crossing, the manna from heaven, the water from the rock - were signs of the Church's sacraments.
Joshua 5:9-12 Psalms 34:2-7 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 Luke 15:1-3, 11-32
In today's First Reading, God forgives "the reproach" of the generations who grumbled against Him after the Exodus. On the threshold of the promised land, Israel can with a clean heart celebrate the Passover, the feast of God's first-born son (see Joshua 5:6-7; Exodus 4:22; 12:12-13).
Reconciliation is also at the heart of the story Jesus tells in today's Gospel. The story of the prodigal son is the story of Israel and of the human race. But it is also the story of every believer.
In Baptism, we're given a divine birthright, made "a new creation," as Paul puts it in today's Epistle. But when we sin, we're like the prodigal, quitting our Father's house, squandering our inheritance in trying to live without Him.
Lost in sin, we cut ourselves off from the grace of sonship lavished upon us in Baptism. It is still possible for us to come to our senses, make our way back to the Father, as the prodigal does.
But only He can remove the reproach, restore the divine sonship we have spurned. Only He can free us from the slavery to sin that causes us - like the prodigal - to see God not as our Father but as our master, One we serve as slaves.
God wants not slaves but children. Like the father in today's Gospel, He longs to call each of us "My son," to share His life with us, to tell us: "Everything I have is yours."
The Father's words of longing and compassion still come to His prodigal children in the Sacrament of Penance. This is part of what Paul today calls "the ministry of reconciliation" entrusted by Jesus to the Apostles and the Church.
Reconciled like Israel, we take our place at the table of the Eucharist, the homecoming banquet the Father calls for His lost sons, the new Passover we celebrate this side of heaven. We taste the goodness of the Lord, as we sing in today's Psalm, rejoicing that we who were dead are found alive again.
In the Church, we are made children of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob - the God who makes known His name and His ways to Moses in today's First Reading.
Mindful of His covenant with Abraham (see Exodus 2:24), God came down to rescue His people from the slave-drivers of Egypt. Faithful to that same covenant (see Luke 1:54-55, 72-73), He sent Jesus to redeem all lives from destruction, as today's Psalm tells us.
Paul says in today's Epistle that God's saving deeds in the Exodus were written down for the Church, intended as a prelude and foreshadowing of our own Baptism by water, our liberation from sin, our feeding with spiritual food and drink.
Yet the events of the Exodus were also given as a "warning" - that being children of Abraham is no guarantee that we will reach the promised land of our salvation.
At any moment, Jesus warns in today's Gospel, we could perish - not as God's punishment for being "greater sinners" - but because, like the Israelites in the wilderness, we stumble into evil desires, fall into grumbling, forget all His benefits.
Jesus calls us today to "repentance" - not a one-time change of heart, but an ongoing, daily transformation of our lives. We're called to live the life we sing about in today's Psalm - blessing His holy name, giving thanks for His kindness and mercy.
The fig tree in His parable is a familiar Old Testament symbol for Israel (see Jeremiah 8:3; 24:1-10). As the fig tree is given one last season to produce fruit before it is cut down, so too Jesus is giving Israel one final opportunity to bear good fruits as evidence of its repentance (see Luke 3:8).
Lent should be for us like the season of reprieve given to the fig tree, a grace period in which we let "the gardener," Christ, cultivate our hearts, uprooting what chokes the divine life in us, strengthening us to bear fruits that will last into eternity.
Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18 Psalm 27:1,7-9, 13-14 Philippians 3:17-4:1 Luke 9:28-36 (see also "A 'New' Exodus")
In today's Gospel, we go up to the mountain with Peter, John and James. There we see Jesus "transfigured," speaking with Moses and Elijah about His "exodus."
The Greek word "exodus" means "departure." But the word is chosen deliberately here to stir our remembrance of the Israelites' flight from Egypt.
By His death and resurrection, Jesus will lead a new Exodus - liberating not only Israel but every race and people; not from bondage to Pharaoh, but from slavery to sin and death. He will lead all mankind, not to the territory promised to Abraham in today's First Reading, but to the heavenly commonwealth that Paul describes in today's Epistle.
Moses, the giver of God's law, and the great prophet Elijah, were the only Old Testament figures to hear the voice and see the glory of God atop a mountain (see Exodus 24:15-18; 1 Kings 19:8-18).
Today's scene closely resembles God's revelation to Moses, who also brought along three companions and whose face also shone brilliantly (see Exodus 24:1; 34:29). But when the divine cloud departs in today's Gospel, Moses and Elijah are gone. Only Jesus remains. He has revealed the glory of the Trinity - the voice of the Father, the glorified Son, and the Spirit in the shining cloud.
"Listen to Him,"the Voice tells us from the cloud. If, like Abraham, we put our faith in His words, one day we too will be delivered into "the land of the living" that we sing of in today's Psalm. We will share in His resurrection, as Paul promises, our lowly bodies glorified like His.
In today’s epic Gospel scene, Jesus relives in His flesh the history of Israel.
We’ve already seen that like Israel, Jesus has passed through water, been called God’s beloved Son (see Luke ; Exodus ). Now, as Israel was tested for forty years in the wilderness, Jesus is led into the desert to be tested for forty days and nights (see Exodus ).
He faces the temptations put to Israel: Hungry, He’s tempted to grumble against God for food (see Exodus 16:1-13). As Israel quarreled at Massah, He’s tempted to doubt God’s care (see Exodus 17:1-6). When the Devil asks His homage, He’s tempted to do what Israel did in creating the golden calf (see Exodus 32).
Jesus fights the Devil with the Word of God, three times quoting from Moses’ lecture about the lessons Israel was supposed to learn from its wilderness wanderings (see Deuteronomy 8:3; 6:16; 6:12-15).
Why do we read this story on the first Sunday of Lent? Because like the biblical sign of forty (see Genesis ; Exodus 24:18; 34:28; 1 Kings 19:8; Jonah 3:4), the forty days of Lent are a time of trial and purification.
Lent is to teach us what we hear over and over in today’s readings. “Call upon me, and I will answer,” the Lord promises in today’s Psalm. Paul promises the same thing in today’s Epistle (quoting Deuteronomy 30:14; Isaiah 28:16; Joel ).
This was Israel’s experience, as Moses reminds his people in today’s First Reading: “We cried to the Lord...and He heard.” But each of us is tempted, as Israel was, to forget the great deeds He works in
our lives, to neglect our birthright as His beloved sons and daughters.
Like the litany of remembrance Moses prescribes for Israel, we should see in the Mass a memorial of our salvation, and “bow down in His presence,” offering ourselves in thanksgiving for all He has given us.
Simon Peter, the fisherman, is the first to be called personally by Jesus in Luke’s Gospel.
His calling resembles Isaiah’s commissioning in the First Reading: Confronted with the holiness of the Lord, both Peter and Isaiah are overwhelmed by a sense of their sinfulness and inadequacy. Yet each experiences the Lord’s forgiveness and is sent to preach the good news of His mercy to the world.
No one is “fit to be called an apostle,” Paul recognizes in today’s Epistle. But by “the grace of God,” even a persecutor of the Church—as Paul once was—can be lifted up for the Lord’s service.
In the Old Testament, humanity was unfit for the divine—no man could stand in God’s presence and live (see Exodus 33:20). But in Jesus, we’re made able to speak with Him face-to-face, taste His Word on our tongue.
Today’s scene from Isaiah is recalled in every Mass. Before reading the Gospel, the priest silently asks God to cleanse his lips that he might worthily proclaim His Word.
God’s Word comes to us as it came to Peter, Paul, Isaiah, and today’s Psalmist— as a personal call to leave everything and follow Him, to surrender our weaknesses in order to be filled with His strength.
Simon put out into deep waters even though, as a professional fisherman, he knew it would be foolhardy to expect to catch anything. In humbling himself before the Lord’s command, he was exalted—his nets filled to overflowing; later, as Paul tells us, he will become the first to see the risen Lord.
Jesus has made us worthy to receive Him in the company of angels in God’s holy Temple. On our knees like Peter, with the humility of David in today’s Psalm, we thank Him with all our hearts and join in the unending hymn that Isaiah heard around God’s altar: “Holy, holy, holy....” (see also Revelation 4:8).
Jeremiah 1:4-5,17-19 Psalm 71: 1-6,15-17 1 Corinthians Luke 4:21-30
God's words in today's First Reading point us beyond Jeremiah to Jesus. Like Jeremiah, Jesus was consecrated in the womb and sent as a "prophet to the nations" (see Luke 1:31-33).
Like the prophets before Him, Jesus too faces hostility. In today's Gospel, the crowd in His hometown synagogue quickly turns on Him, apparently demanding a sign, some proof of divine origins - that He's more than just "the son of Joseph."
The sign He gives them is that of the prophets Elijah and Elisha. From their colorful careers Jesus draws two stories. In each, the prophets bypass "many...in Israel" to bestow God's blessings on non-Israelites who had faith that the prophets were men of God (see 1 Kings 17:1-16; 2 Kings 5:1-14). "None...not one" in Israel was found deserving, Jesus emphasizes.
His point isn't lost on His audience. They know He's likening them to the "many...in Israel" in the days of the prophets. That's why they try to shove Him off the cliff. As He promised to protect Jeremiah, the Lord delivers Jesus from those who would crush Him.
And as were Elijah and Elisha, Jesus is sent to proclaim God's gift of salvation - not exclusively to one nation or people, but to all who realize in faith that from the womb God alone is their hope, their rescuer, their "rock of refuge," as we sing in today's Psalm.
Prophecies, Paul tells us in today's Epistle, are partial and pass away "when the perfect comes." In Jesus, the word of the prophets has been brought to perfection, fulfilled in those who have ears to hear, as He declares in today's Gospel.
Greater than the gifts of faith and hope, Jesus shows us how to love as He loved, to love God as our Father, as One Who formed us in the womb and destined us to hear His saving Word.
This is the salvation, the "mighty works of the Lord," that we, as the Psalmist, are thankful to proclaim daily in the Eucharist.
The meaning of today's Liturgy is subtle and many-layered.
We need background to understand what's happening in today's First Reading.
Babylon having been defeated, King Cyrus of Persia decreed that the exiled Jews could return home to Jerusalem. They rebuilt their ruined temple (see Ezra 6:15-17) and under Nehemiah finished rebuilding the city walls (see Nehemiah 6:15).
The stage was set for the renewal of the covenant and the re-establishment of the Law of Moses as the people's rule of life. That's what's going on in today's First Reading, as Ezra reads and interprets (see Nehemiah 8:8) the Law and the people respond with a great "Amen!"
Israel, as we sing in today's Psalm, is rededicating itself to God and His Law. The scene seems like the Isaiah prophecy that Jesus reads from in today's Gospel.
Read all of Isaiah 61. The "glad tidings" Isaiah brings include these promises: the liberation of prisoners (61:1); the rebuilding of Jerusalem, or Zion (61:3-4; see also Isaiah 60:10); the restoration of Israel as a kingdom of priests (61:6; Exodus 19:6) and the forging of an everlasting covenant (61:8; Isaiah 55:3). It sounds a lot like the First Reading.
Jesus, in turn, declares that Isaiah's prophecy is fulfilled in Him. The Gospel scene, too, recalls the First Reading. Like Ezra, Jesus stands before the people, is handed a scroll, unrolls it, then reads and interprets it (compare Luke 4:16-17,21 and Nehemiah 8:2-6,8-10).
We witness in today's Liturgy the creation of a new people of God. Ezra started reading at dawn of the first day of the Jewish new year (see Leviticus 23:24). Jesus too proclaims a "sabbath," a great year of Jubilee, a deliverance from slavery to sin, a release from the debts we owe to God (see Leviticus 25:10).
The people greeted Ezra "as one man." And, as today's Epistle teaches, in the Spirit the new people of God - the Church - is made "one body" with Him.
"Today is the feast of St. Agnes of Rome, virgin and martyr. I have a special devotion to little Agnes. Both my mom and my eldest daughter are named for her. I visit her relics whenever I’m in Rome. " ~ Mike Aquilina
Listen to Mike Aquilina talks with Bruce & Kris McGregor on Spirit Catholic Radio KVSS about one of his favorite saints.
Recently, Pope Benedict XVI made headlines when he added a new name to the official list of figures given the title "Doctor of the Church": St. Hildegard of Bingen. Who was she? Why did the Holy Father choose to declare her a doctor of the Church at this time?
In this episode of <a href="http://www.thesacredpage.com/" title="The Sacred Page Podcast">The Sacred Page Podcast</a> I am joined with Leroy Huizenga who has done a good deal of work on St. Hildegard. At the Society of Biblical Literature last year, he presented a paper entitled, "St. Hildegard of Bingen's Premodern and Postmodern Paul." In fact, for a fantastic overview of St. Hildegard, <a href="http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2012/10/st-hildegard-of-bingen-doctor-of-the-church" title="see this excellent piece written by Leroy over at First Things">see this excellent piece written by Leroy over at First Things</a>.
As you'll learn here, she fought heretics, but opposed burning them at the stake; she wrote the only surviving medical treatise of her time; she related visions of Christ. . . in short, St. Hildegard was a truly fascinating figure!
Dr. Huizenga is a <a href="http://www.salvationhistory.com/personnel/Dr.+Leroy+Huizenga" title="Senior Fellow of the St. Paul Center">Senior Fellow of the St. Paul Center</a> and a Professor of Scripture at the University of St. Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota, where he also serves as the Director of the Christian Leadership Center. To learn more about him and his work check out his <a href="http://www.leroyhuizenga.com/" title="website">website</a>. Also, I'd encourage you to follow him on Twitter: @LHuizenga
Isaiah 62:1-5 Psalm 96:1-3, 7-10 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 John 2:1-12 (see also "’On the Hour’”)
Think of these first weeks after Christmas as a season of "epiphanies." The Liturgy is showing us Who Jesus is and what He has revealed about our relationship with God.
Last week and the week before, the imagery was royal and filial - Jesus is the newborn king of the Jews who makes us co-heirs of Israel's promise, beloved children of God. Last week in the Liturgy we went to a Baptism.
This week we're at a wedding.
We're being shown another dimension of our relationship with God. If we're sons and daughters of God, it's because we've married into the family.
Throughout the Bible, marriage is the symbol of the covenant relationship God desires with His chosen people. He is the Groom, humanity His beloved and sought-after bride. We see this reflected beautifully in today's First Reading.
When Israel breaks the covenant she is compared to an unfaithful spouse (see Jeremiah 2:20-36; 3:1-13). But God promises to take her back, to "espouse" her to Him forever in an everlasting covenant (see Hosea 2:18-22).
That's why in today's Gospel, Jesus performs His first public "sign" at a wedding feast.
Jesus is the divine Bridegroom (see John 3:29), calling us to His royal wedding feast (see Matthew 22:1-14). By His New Covenant, He will become "one flesh" with all humanity in the Church (see Ephesians 5:21-33). By our Baptism, each of us has been betrothed to Christ as a bride to a Husband (see 2 Corinthians 11:2).
The new wine that Jesus pours out at today's feast is the gift of the Holy Spirit given to His bride and body, as today's Epistle says. This is the "salvation" announced to the "families of nations" in today's Psalm.
The Liturgy last week revealed the mystery of God's plan - that in Jesus all peoples, symbolized by the Magi, have been made "co-heirs" to the blessings promised Israel. This week, we're shown how we claim our inheritance.
Jesus doesn't submit to John's baptism as a sinner in need of purification. He humbles Himself to pass through Jordan's waters in order to lead a new "exodus" - opening up the promised land of heaven so that all peoples can hear the words pronounced over Jesus today, words once reserved only for Israel and its king: that each of us is a beloved son or daughter of God (see Genesis 22:2; Exodus 4:22; Psalm 2:7).
Jesus is the chosen servant Isaiah prophesies in today's First Reading, anointed with the Spirit to make things right and just on earth. God puts His Spirit upon Jesus to make Him "a covenant of the people," the liberator of the captives, the light to the nations. Jesus, today's Second Reading tells us, is the One long expected in Israel, "anointed...with the Holy Spirit and power."
That's why the crowds are so anxious at the start of today's Gospel. But it isn't John they're looking for. God confirms with His own voice what the Angel earlier told Mary - Jesus is the Son of the Most High, come to claim the throne of David forever (see Luke 1:32-33).
In the Baptism that He brings, the voice of God will hover over the waters as fiery flame, as we sing in today's Psalm. He has sanctified the waters, made them a passage-way to healing and freedom - a fountain of new birth and everlasting life.