Mon, 30 January 2017
Jesus came among us as light to scatter the darkness of a fallen world.
As his disciples, we too are called to be “the light of the world,” he tells us in the Gospel this Sunday (see John 1:4–4, 9; 8:12; 9:5).
All three images that Jesus uses to describe the Church are associated with the identity and vocation of Israel.
God forever aligned his Kingdom with the Kingdom of David and his sons by a “covenant of salt,” salt being a sign of permanence and purity (see 2 Chron. 13:5, 8; Lev. 2:13; Ezek. 43:24).
Jerusalem was to be a city set on a hill, high above all others, drawing all nations towards the glorious light streaming from her Temple (see Isa. 2:2; 60:1–3).
And Israel was given the mission of being a light to the nations, that God’s salvation would reach to the ends of the earth (see Isa. 42:6; 49:6).
The liturgy shows us this week that the Church, and every Christian, is called to fulfill Israel’s mission.
By our faith and good works we are to make the light of God’s life break forth in the darkness, as we sing in this week’s Psalm.
This week’s readings remind us that our faith can never be a private affair, something we can hide as if under a basket.
We are to pour ourselves out for the afflicted, as Isaiah tells us in the First Reading. Our light must shine as a ray of God’s mercy for all who are poor, hungry, naked, and enslaved.
There must be a transparent quality to our lives. Our friends and family, our neighbors and fellow citizens, should see reflected in us the light of Christ and through us be attracted to the saving truths of the Gospel.
So let us pray that we, like St. Paul in the Epistle, might proclaim with our whole lives, “Christ and him crucified.”
Mon, 23 January 2017
Zephaniah 2:3; 3:12-13
1 Corinthians 1:26-31
In the readings since Christmas, Jesus has been revealed as the new royal son of David and Son of God. He is sent to lead a new exodus that brings Israel out of captivity to the nations and brings all the nations to God.
As Moses led Israel from Egypt through the sea to give them God's law on Mount Sinai, Jesus too has passed through the waters in baptism. Now, in today's Gospel, He goes to the mountain to proclaim a new law—the law of His Kingdom.
The Beatitudes mark the fulfillment of God's covenant promise to Abraham—that through his descendants all the nations of the world would receive God's blessings (see Genesis 12:3; 22:18).
Jesus is the son of Abraham (see Matthew 1:1). And through the wisdom He speaks today, He bestows the Father's blessings upon "the poor in spirit."
God has chosen to bless the weak and lowly, those foolish and despised in the eyes of the world, Paul says in today's Epistle. The poor in spirit are those who know that nothing they do can merit God's mercy and grace. These are the humble remnant in today's First Reading—taught to seek refuge in the name of the Lord.
The Beatitudes reveal the divine path and purpose for our lives. All our striving should be for these virtues—to be poor in spirit; meek and clean of heart; merciful and makers of peace; seekers of the righteousness that comes from living by the law of Kingdom.
The path the Lord sets before us today is one of trials and persecution. But He promises comfort in our mourning and a great reward.
The Kingdom we have inherited is no earthly territory, but the promised land of heaven. It is Zion where the Lord reigns forever. And, as we sing in today's Psalm, its blessings are for those whose hope is in the Lord.
Mon, 9 January 2017
1 Corinthians 1:1-3
Jesus speaks through the prophet Isaiah in today's First Reading.
He tells us of the mission given to Him by the Father from the womb: "'You are My servant,' He said to Me."
Servant and Son, our Lord was sent to lead a new exodus - to raise up the exiled tribes of Israel, to gather and restore them to God. More than that, He was to be a light to the nations, that God's salvation may reach to the ends of the earth (see Acts 13:46-47).
Before the first exodus, a lamb was offered in sacrifice and its blood painted on the Israelites' door posts. The blood of the lamb identified their homes and the Lord "passed over" these in executing judgment on the Egyptians (see Exodus 12:1-23,27).
In the new exodus, Jesus is the "Lamb of God," as John beholds Him in the Gospel today (see 1 Corinthians 5:7; 1 Peter 1:18-19). Our Lord sings of this in today's Psalm. He has come, He says, to offer His body to do the will of God (see Hebrews 10:3-13).
The sacrifices, oblations, holocausts, and sin-offerings given after the first exodus had no power to take away sins (see Hebrews 10:4). They were meant not to save but to teach (see Galatians 3:24). In offering these sacrifices, the people were to learn self-sacrifice - that they were made for worship, to offer themselves freely to God and to delight in His will.
Only Jesus could make that perfect offering of himself. And through His sacrifice, He has given us ears open to obedience, made it possible for us to hear the Father's call to holiness, as Paul says in today's Epistle.
He has made us children of God, baptized in the blood of the Lamb (see Revelation 7:14). And we are to join our sacrifice to His, to offer our bodies - our lives - as living sacrifices in the spiritual worship of the Mass (see Romans 12:1).