SR-2019-01-20

SUNDAY MASS READINGS’ REFLECTIONS
2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle C) – January 20, 2019



2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time Theme: “Proclaim His Marvelous Deeds”.

Today’s celebration in the Gospel reading of the Wedding Feast at Cana is closely associated with the celebrations of the Baptism of the Lord (last Sunday) and the Visit of the Wise Men to the Lord (two Sundays ago). All three are considered epiphanies or manifestations of Jesus’ divinity.

Throughout the Bible, marriage is the symbol of the covenant relationship God desires with His chosen people. He is the Groom, humanity is His beloved and sought-after bride – the Church. By Jesus’ kind act at Cana, He has shown us that He is interested in our earthly affairs. He became Man in order that we could become sons and daughters of God, He came on earth so that we could go to heaven, but this miracle at Cana proves that He has a deep interest and involvement in our many and varied activities during the course of our journey to heaven.

The commonality of today’s Scripture readings is expressed by the Responsorial Psalm – “Proclaim His Marvelous Deeds”. We should be mindful of these deeds, appreciative of them, and use them as God wills us to do so. In Reading 1, God restores freedom to the Israelis by their release from exile, Reading 2 identifies the gifts to us from the Holy Spirit, and the Gospel reading reveals Jesus’ miracle that rejuvenates the Wedding Feast. So, the Trinity performs these miraculous deeds for us and it then becomes our job to embrace these deeds and carry them forward for the benefit of ourselves, others and our society – especially our Church. The freedom from exile allowed the Israelis to build and enjoy a better nation. The Holy Spirit’s gifts provide the foundation upon which we can build upon to become better people and build a better society. Jesus’ miracle at the Wedding Feast does not just give us more wine to drink, but teaches us that He is the source of problem resolution (read salvation) in our lives.


Reading 1 Isaiah 62:1-5     God delights in Israel and will rejoice as a Bridegroom rejoices over His Bride.

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 96:1-3,7-10     A song in praise of God’s marvelous deeds.

Reading 2 – 1 Corinthians 12:4-11     All spiritual gifts originate from the same Holy Spirit.

Gospel John 2:1-11     Jesus performs His first sign (miracle) at a wedding feast in Cana.


This Bible Study’s primary references used are from St Joseph Sunday Missal, LoyolaPress.com, CatholicCulture.org, Ascension Catholic Church Sunday Reflections, USCCB, Understanding the Scriptures by Scott Hahn, St Thomas Aquinas’ Works, RSV Oxford Annotated Bible, Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, St Charles Borromeo Bible Studies, LUMINA Bible Study, The Franciscans St. Anthony’s Guild, and Haydock’s Catholic Bible Commentary.

 NOTE: The Lectionary Bible Readings for this Sunday – Readings 1 & 2, Responsorial Psalm, and the Gospel, all appear in purple in the following. Footnotes are included in these passages and the contents of all the footnotes appear at the end of this document. 


 Reading 1     Isaiah 62:1-5               (God’s Love for His People)

Context – The keynote of the Book of Isaiah is salvation (Isaiah’s name means “Jehovah saves”). He was the prophet of the southern kingdom, Judah, and lived at the time (ie. 742 – 687 BC) when the northern kingdom, Israel, whose capital was Jerusalem, was destroyed. At this time all that was left of the old kingdom of David was Judah, which included the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and the Levites. He prophesized for 64 years. He prophesized doom for a sinful Judah and Israel and for all the nations of the world that oppose God. Then, he prophesized God’s restoration of the nation of Israel, including Judah, and this is interpreted by Christians as prefiguring the coming of Christ. After the Psalms, Isaiah is the Old Testament book most quoted in the New Testament.

Todays’ Reading – These verses were written during the turbulent years after Israel’s return from exile in Babylon. The prophet seeks to reassure the people that God has not forgotten them even though they were very disloyal to Him. During her exile, Israel felt “Forsaken” and “Desolate”. Yahweh, Israel’s husband, was coming to reclaim His disloyal bride. There would be a new beginning; a new marriage symbolized by a new name “My Delight”. A second sign of the new beginning is the promise of reconstruction of the land, which will now be called “Espoused”. Forgiven and rehabilitated, Israel will be restored to its status as the “espoused and beloved” of God. The God who called us into being, offers us a new beginning whenever we need to repent and call upon Him.


For Zion’s [i] sake I will not be silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet, until her vindication shines forth like the dawn and her victory like a burning torch.

Nations shall behold your vindication, and all the kings your glory; you shall be called by a new name (see below) pronounced by the mouth of the LORD. You shall be a glorious crown in the hand of the LORD, a royal diadem held by your God. No more shall people call you “Forsaken”, or your land “Desolate”, but you shall be called “My Delight”, and your land “Espoused.” For the LORD delights in you and makes your land His spouse. As a young man marries a virgin, Your Builder shall marry you; and as a Bridegroom rejoices in His bride so shall Your God rejoice in you. [ii]


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.           new name A new name denotes a change in status, indicating a new identity and a new mission in that person’s life, the new name shows that they have changed from what they were. The new name meant something important about what God would make in that person. It expresses a new personal relationship with God and the high value He places on it. Examples: Abram to Abraham, Sarai to Sarah, Jacob to Israel, Nathan the prophet, to Jedidiah, and Simon to Peter.


Responsorial Psalm –     Psalm 96:1-3, 7-10            (Proclaim God’s Deeds)

This psalm calls for praise and thanks on the lips of those who experienced firsthand God’s saving deeds of Israel of ancient days, and for us, it’s an exhortation to praise God for the coming of Christ and His kingdom.


R. – Proclaim His marvelous deeds to all the nations.
Sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all you lands. Sing to the LORD; bless His name.
R. – Proclaim His marvelous deeds to all the nations.
Announce His salvation, day after day. Tell His glory among the nations; among all peoples, His wondrous deeds.
R. – Proclaim His marvelous deeds to all the nations.
Give to the LORD, you families of nations, give to the LORD glory and praise; give to the LORD the glory due His name!
R. – Proclaim His marvelous deeds to all the nations.
Worship the LORD in holy attire
(see below). Tremble before Him, all the earth; Say among the nations: The LORD is King. He governs the peoples with equity.
R. – Proclaim His marvelous deeds to all the nations.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          “Worship the LORD in holy attire”If the Queen of England were to attend Mass with us one Sunday, I’m positive that everyone else who were also attending would be dressed in proper attire. So why don’t all of us dress in proper attire at every Mass because Jesus will be attending and He is infinitely more important to us and to our salvation than the Queen?


Reading 2     1 Corinthians 12:4-11             (Gifts of the Holy Spirit)      

Context – Corinth was the meeting point of many nationalities because the main current of the trade between Asia and western Europe passed through its harbors. Paul started the Church at Corinth in 51 AD and stayed there only briefly to get things started. Five years after the establishment of this Church, trouble arose including: internal divisions, immorality, denials of the Resurrection, and liturgical carelessness. Paul’s pastoral guidance was needed to restore peace and unity by fortifying their commitment to Jesus Christ. Paul’s first Letter to the Corinthians takes aim throughout at two vices that underlie the Corinthians’ struggles: pride and selfishness. His second letter to the Corinthians was written to prevent them from falling prey to false prophets.  

Today’s Reading – In these verses, Paul is addressing difficulties that have arisen in the community over the exercise of the charismatic gifts. Arrogance and competition over the gifts are threatening to divide the community. Paul reminds his readers of two important facts concerning these wonderful gifts of the Holy Spirit. First, all these gifts are graces from God. The people did nothing to earn nor deserve them. Second, the gifts were not given so that individuals might think that they were superior to others. Rather, they were given so that the community – the Church, would be blessed.


 Brothers and sisters: There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God Who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.
To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom; to another, the expression of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another, faith by the same Spirit; to another, gifts of healing by the one Spirit; to another, mighty deeds; to another, prophecy; to another, discernment of spirits; to another, varieties of tongues; to another, interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing them individually to each person as He wishes.
[iii]


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          “Gifts of the Holy Spirit” – See also Isaiah 11:2 for the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: Fear of the Lord, wisdom, knowledge, understanding, piety, console, and courage”.
Since all of these gifts have a common origin, the Holy Spirit, they should serve a common purpose. “Since no one has the capacity to receive all spiritual gifts, the grace of the Holy Spirit is given proportionately to the faith of each. When one is living in community with others, the grace privately bestowed on each individual becomes the common possession of the others. … One who receives any of these gifts does not possess it for his own sake but rather for the sake of others.” – Saint Basil the Great. This is a good reason for us to participate in a Prayer/Support Group. In other words: “It takes a community to make a Christian, a structured support system to take on habits. Growth in holiness is a journey in community, side by side with others.” – Pope Francis – “Rejoice and be Glad”.


Gospel     John 2:1-11           (Jesus performs His first sign (miracle) at a wedding feast in Cana)

Context – The fourth gospel is not simply history; the narrative has been organized and adapted to serve the evangelist’s theological purposes as well. St. John the Theologian, the beloved disciple of Christ, explains the mystery of the person of Jesus – His eternal origin, divine and human nature. Jesus is eternally present with God. So much of this Gospel is devoted to the heavenly identity and mission of Jesus that John was known as the “spiritual” Gospel in the ancient Church. The “divine family” of God revealed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is the towering mystery of this Fourth Gospel. He also wrote the Book of Revelation and his three General Epistles – 1,2, & 3 John. Saint Jerome tells us that when John was a very old man his only message was “little children, love one another.” And when John’s followers asked him why he was always saying the same thing he always replied, “My children, this is what the Lord commands; if we do this, nothing else is necessary.” Originally St. John was a disciple of St. John the Baptist. The emblem for St. John was given the symbol of an eagle because his thoughts are especially exalted and his language is very majestic like the eagle that flies high above the earth. He was known as “The Theologian”, and the Apostle of Love”. He died in Ephesus of a natural death – the only one among the Apostles.  

Today’s Reading – In John’s Gospel, miracles are signs intended to manifest (show) the glory of God through Jesus and to lead people to faith (i.e. obedient belief). Towards the end of today’s Gospel, we read these words, “thus did He reveal His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.” Jesus uses a simple wedding occasion to reveal Himself as the bridegroom (Messiah) that Israel had waited for, for hundreds of years.

In the following, “My hour has not yet come” is a reference to Jesus’ death and resurrection. The “abundance of wine” is a reference to the abundance of new life, which Jesus brings, and the wine of the Eucharist, which symbolizes the New Covenant.

Also, in his Gospel, John shows Mary as involved at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, and again at the end of it when She is present at the foot of the Cross. Notice how Mary does not draw attention to Herself. Rather, She tells the waiters to “do whatever Jesus tells you to do”. The essence of faithful discipleship is doing whatever Jesus tells us to do. When it comes to faithful discipleship, Mary is our model. In calling Mary “Woman”, Jesus is not showing His Mother disrespect. The title “woman” is akin to our word “ma’am”. Some versions of the Bible translate it as “Dear Woman“.


There was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the Mother of Jesus was there [iv]. Jesus and His disciples were also invited to the wedding. When the wine ran short, the Mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.” [v]  And Jesus said to Her, “Woman, how does Your concern affect Me? My hour has not yet come.” His Mother said to the servers, “Do whatever He tells you.” Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings, each holding twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus told them, “Fill the jars with water.” So they filled them to the brim. Then He told them, “Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.” So they took it. And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine, without knowing where it came from — although the servers who had drawn the water knew —, the headwaiter called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now.” Jesus did this as the beginning of His signs at Cana in Galilee and so revealed His glory (ie. revealed God’s presence in Him.), and His disciples began to believe in Him.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          Turning the water into wine was the first recorded miracle which Jesus had performed in public to manifest His glory. Some theologians believe that He had before wrought many miracles, known only to the Blessed Mother Mary and St. Joseph, which gave Her the confidence to ask for one now. It also serves to convince all Christians of the efficacy (effectiveness) of our Lady’s intercessions for us.  His disciples believed in Him. They had believed in Him before or they would not have followed Him. This miracle helped confirm their faith, as it should also help confirm ours.  

Catechism 1613 – On the threshold of His public life Jesus performs His first sign – at His Mother’s request – during a wedding feast. The Church attaches great importance to Jesus’ presence at the wedding at Cana. The Church sees in it the confirmation of the goodness of marriage and the proclamation that thenceforth marriage will be an efficacious (effective and powerful) sign of Christ’s presence.


A speaker at a wedding reception proposed the following advice to the newly married couple:

“Many interpretations abound about this miracle at Cana. Basically, a problem occurred at this marriage banquet, they ran out of wine. Jesus miraculously converted some water to wine and “saved the day”! Problems will occur in your marriage. Take each one as they happen with an open heart to Jesus and He will save the day for both of you, every time.”



[i]  Reading 1 Footnotes:
“Zion” = The names Zion and Jerusalem are interchangeable. The city of Jerusalem is built upon Mount Zion.
[ii]Your Builder shall marry you; and as a Bridegroom rejoices in His bride so shall Your God rejoice in you.” = Israel is restored to that joyful, innocent age of long ago when she was God’s virgin spouse. This marriage theme evokes thoughts of the marriage feast at Cana (our Gospel reading for today).
[iii]  Reading 2 Footnote:
Distribution of the spiritual gifts = Since the same Holy Spirit distributes (gives) and produces (makes them operate), no one should be puffed up with pride – all is given for the common good. One who possesses a gift and does not share it not only deprives themselves of its benefits, they deprive the entire community and the gift is lost.
[iv]  Gospel Footnotes:
“the Mother of Jesus was there” = It is supposed that Mary was then a Widow, since in all the rest of the history of Jesus, not a single word occurs referencing St. Joseph after the reporting of his dream in which an angle instructed him to take the Holy Family back to Israel from Egypt.
[v]  “They have no wine.” = The Blessed Virgin Mother was well aware of the divine power of Her Son, and that the time had come when He desired to make Himself known to the world, since He agreed to attend the banquet. She could not make Her request in more modest terms and She did it out of charity and compassion for the new married couple. It also serves to convince all Christians of the efficacy (effectiveness) of our Lady’s intercessions for us.


SR-2019-01-13

SUNDAY MASS READINGS’ REFLECTIONS
The Baptism of the Lord (Cycle C) – January 13, 2019


Christmas Time

The Liturgical Season of Christmas Time begins with the vigil Mass on Christmas Eve and then Christmas Day – The Nativity of the Lord, followed by Sunday Masses for: The Feast of the Holy Family, The Epiphany of the Lord, and concludes with The Baptism of the Lord. During this season, we celebrate the birth of Christ into our world and into our hearts, and reflect on the gift of salvation that is born with Him…including the fact that He was born to die for us. The Liturgical Color is white – a festive, joyful color. And, we can say “Merry Christmas” to our friends throughout this entire Christmas Season!

This Sunday’s Theme: The Baptism of the Lord.

The word baptize comes from the Greek word baptizein meaning to dip, immerse or wash (usually in water).  Jesus’ baptism initiated the beginning of His public ministry and of a special anointing on Him by God’s Holy Spirit. Our baptism initiates us into: the Christian community (our entry into and belonging in Church membership), forgiveness of past sins, and committing to a life founded on gospel thoughtfulness.

The baptism of Jesus is considered a manifestation of God in Jesus, another “epiphany.” On this, the last day of the Christmas season, our Gospel reveals to us Jesus’ relation to God – He is God’s own Son. In Luke’s Gospel, all three members of the Trinity are manifested here: God the Father in the voice, the Holy Spirit descending, and Jesus the Son.

This Sunday brings us to the end of the liturgical Christmas Time. It is a bridge between Christmas Time and the beginning of Ordinary Time – this Sunday is another Epiphany story — manifesting Jesus as the Servant of God who will save His people from the slavery of sin.


Reading 1 Isaiah 40:1-5,9-11      Isaiah tells the exiled people to prepare a way for the Lord.

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 104:1b-4,24-25,27-30      A prayer praising God’s greatness.

Reading 2 – Titus 2:11-14; 3:4-7      Jesus Christ saved us and renewed us with His Holy Spirit.

Gospel Luke 3:15-16,21-22     Jesus is baptized by John the Baptist.


This Bible Study’s primary references used are from St Joseph Sunday Missal, LoyolaPress.com, CatholicCulture.org, Ascension Catholic Church Sunday Reflections, USCCB, Understanding the Scriptures by Scott Hahn, St Thomas Aquinas’ Works, RSV Oxford Annotated Bible, Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, St Charles Borromeo Bible Studies, LUMINA Bible Study, The Franciscans St. Anthony’s Guild, and Haydock’s Catholic Bible Commentary.

 NOTE: The Lectionary Bible Readings for this Sunday – Readings 1 & 2, Responsorial Psalm, and the Gospel, all appear in purple in the following. Footnotes are included in these passages and the contents of all the footnotes appear at the end of this document. 


Reading 1     Isaiah 40:1-5,9-11                   (Promise of Salvation)         

Context – The keynote of the Book of Isaiah is salvation (Isaiah’s name means “Jehovah saves”). He was the prophet of the southern kingdom, Judah, and lived at the time (ie. 742 – 687 BC) when the northern kingdom, Israel, whose capital was Jerusalem, was destroyed. At this time all that was left of the old kingdom of David was Judah, which included the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and the Levites. He prophesized for 64 years. He prophesized doom for a sinful Judah and Israel and for all the nations of the world that oppose God. Then, he prophesized God’s restoration of the nation of Israel, including Judah, and this is interpreted by Christians as prefiguring the coming of Christ. After the Psalms, Isaiah is the Old Testament book most quoted in the New Testament.

Todays’ Reading – In verses 1-5, are words of comfort and tenderness for a people who spent 70 years in exile from their homeland.  The exiles are directed to act out their deliverance even before they see evidence of it. They are to image a great highway on which they will travel home and to remove any obstacles that might block God’s coming. Also, a prophecy about John the Baptist is made in verse 3.

 In verses 9-11, a second directive is given to the people living in Jerusalem.  Their city is broken and depleted, and they are told to announce to the other vanquished cities of Judah that a new time is coming when God, like a good shepherd, is going to show a new concern for His flock.


Comfort, give comfort [i] to My people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her service (exile) is at an end, her guilt is expiated; indeed, she has received from the hand of the LORD double for all her sins.

A voice cries out: [ii] In the desert prepare the way of the LORD! [iii] Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God! Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill shall be made low; the rugged land shall be made a plain, the rough country, a broad valley.

Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

Go up on to a high mountain, Zion, herald of glad tidings; cry out at the top of your voice,
Jerusalem, herald of good news! Fear not to cry out and say to the cities of Judah: Here is your God! Here comes with power the Lord GOD, who rules by a strong arm; here is His reward with Him [iv], His recompense before Him. Like a Shepherd He feeds His flock; in His arms He gathers the lambs, carrying them in His bosom, and leading the ewes with care.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


 Responsorial Psalm –     Psalm 104:1b-4,24-25,27-30                     (Creator and Redeemer)

This psalm is a hymn of praise to God the Creator whose power and wisdom are manifested in the visible universe. His creation and sustenance of the world are the theme of this Psalm.


R. –  O bless the Lord, my soul.
O LORD, my God, You are great indeed! You are clothed with majesty and glory, robed in light as with a cloak. You have spread out the heavens like a tent-cloth;
R. – O bless the Lord, my soul.
You have constructed Your palace upon the waters. You make the clouds Your chariot; You travel on the wings of the wind. You make the winds Your messengers, and flaming fire Your ministers.
R. – O bless the Lord, my soul.
How manifold are Your works, O LORD! In wisdom You have wrought them all– the earth is full of Your creatures; the sea also, great and wide, in which are schools without number of living things both small and great.
R. – O bless the Lord, my soul.
They look to You to give them food in due time. When You give it to them, they gather it;
when You open Your hand, they are filled with good things.
R. – O bless the Lord, my soul.
If You take away their breath, they perish and return to the dust. When You send forth Your Spirit, they are created, and You renew the face of the earth.
R. – O bless the Lord, my soul.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


Reading 2     Titus 2:11-14; 3:4-7                 (Christ Saves Us Through Baptism by the Holy Spirit) 

Context – Titus a Gentile, at times accompanied Paul and Barnabas. Paul’s letter to Titus has three main topics: Special training for bishops and elders; Setting forth a common approach to all the members of the church regardless of age, sex, free or slave; and Behaviors expected of new believers as a result of receiving God’s grace.   

Today’s Reading – In verses 2:11-14, Paul speaks about the grace of God that has come to us through the coming of Christ, a grace that enables us to reject pagan or ungodly ways and the grace to follow the ways of Jesus. In verses 3:4-7, Paul reminds Titus and all Christians that their current status as a new people is totally the result of God’s mercy and the gift of the Holy Spirit.


Beloved: The grace of God has appeared, saving all and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age, as we await the blessed hope, the appearance of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,
who gave Himself for us to deliver us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for Himself a people as His own, eager to do what is good.
[v]

When the kindness and generous love of God our Savior appeared, not because of any righteous deeds we had done but because of His mercy, He saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He richly poured out on us through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by His grace.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          The above closing verses describe the change wrought by Christ. The “bath of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit” is a reference to the sacrament of baptism and the effect of receiving that sacrament – we are “born again of water and Spirit” (John 3:3, 5) as a new creation, regenerated without sin, adopted members of God’s household (Romans 8:15-17).
“Strange, isn’t it, how we were so drowned in wickedness that we could not be purified? We needed a new birth! For this is implied by ‘regeneration.’ For as when a house is in a ruinous state no one places props under it nor makes any addition to the old building, but pulls it down to its foundations and rebuilds it anew. So, in our case, God has not repaired us but made us anew.” (Saint John Chrysostom)


Gospel     Luke 3:15-16, 21-22                      (Jesus is baptized by John)

Context – Luke was a physician and a follower of Paul. His Gospel was written in 59-61 AD and he also wrote the Book of Acts. He was probably the only Gentile writer in the Bible and his theme was that Christ came into the world as Savior for both Jews and Gentiles. Luke’s gospel includes Jesus words and works in Galilee, His journey to Jerusalem, and His last week in Jerusalem. For later chapters of Luke: Jesus is now in Jerusalem for His passion; He has made His triumphal entry which we celebrate on Passion (Palm) Sunday; He has upset the establishment by cleansing the temple. The Pharisees, scribes, and Sadducees are all now interested in getting rid of Him. He identifies three epochs of salvation history: the time before Christ, the time of Christ, and the time of the Church and the Holy Spirit. And the two primary themes of his Gospel are: the Christian faith is expressed in one’s actions, and the call to salvation is extended to everyone, Jews and Gentiles. The emblem for St. Luke was given the symbol of an ox (a sacrificial animal) because he speaks of Christ most of all as the Great High Priest who brought Himself as a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world (“the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”). St. Luke died a martyr’s death in Achaia (Greece).

Today’s Reading – Luke places Jesus’ baptism before the start of His public ministry to identify Jesus as the chosen Servant foretold by Isaiah (Reading 1). Luke’s account of Jesus’ baptism highlights the prayer of Jesus, the descent of the Holy Spirit, and the heavenly voice proclaiming Jesus as God’s beloved Son.


The people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John the Baptist might be the Christ. [vi] John answered them all, saying, “I am baptizing you with water, but One mightier than I is coming [vii]. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of His sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” [viii]

After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a Dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are My beloved Son; with You I am well pleased.”


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          Why did the Holy Spirit appear as a Dove? – Since the Holy Spirit is totally of one divine nature (Jesus had both a divine and human nature), He cannot be seen by us humans so He must appear in some form. In this case of Jesus’ Baptism, He chose the Dove since Holy Scripture considers a Dove as simple and innocent (see Matt. 10:16). At our baptism we are cleansed from Original Sin and thus made “innocent”. So, a Dove was chosen to signify the peace, ie. innocence, which is bestowed by baptism. This also relates to the Old Testament story of the olive branch which the Dove carried back to the ark. All the effects of the flood canceled out human evilness and the world was once again made innocent.  

Catechism 536 – The baptism of Jesus is on His part the acceptance and inauguration of His mission as God’s suffering Servant. He allows Himself to be numbered among sinners; He is already “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”.  Already He is anticipating the “baptism” of His bloody death. Already He is coming to “fulfill all righteousness”, that is, He is submitting Himself entirely to His Father’s will: out of love He consents to this baptism of death for the remission of our sins. The Father’s voice responds to the Son’s acceptance, proclaiming His entire delight in His Son. The Holy Spirit whom Jesus possessed in fullness from His conception comes to “rest on Him”. Jesus will be the source of the Holy Spirit for all mankind. At His baptism “the heavens were opened” – the heavens that Adam’s sin had closed – and the waters were sanctified by the descent of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, a prelude to the new creation.



[i]  Reading 1 Footnotes:
“Comfort, give comfort” = The double imperative “Comfort” suggests emotional intensity in that the Exile of 70 years is nearly over!
[ii]  “A voice cries out: In the desert” = This is a prophecy of John the Baptist (see Gospel).
[iii]  “prepare the way of the Lord” = Every Israeli is asked to repent from their sins that caused the Exile in the first place, do not be angry at God for His past chastisement, and commit to living in obedience to God.
[iv]  “here is His Reward with Him” = “His Reward” is a prophecy of the coming of Jesus.
[v]   Reading 2 Footnote:
“our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to deliver us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for Himself a people as His own, eager to do what is good” = This is a direct reference to Jesus’ sacrifice on the altar of the cross; the sacrifice which instituted the New Covenant in which we are made children of God with a heavenly inheritance!
[vi]  Gospel Footnotes:
The people were asking “whether John the Baptist might be the Christ” = Many reasons might have caused the people to think that John the Baptist was the Christ (the prophesized Messiah, the Appointed One by God): 1. The wonders that took place at his birth (his father muteness) and conception (his mother being very old and barren – without any prospect of offspring); 2. The excellence of his preaching, his monastic life in the desert, and the originality of his type of baptisms; and 3. The report which then generally prevailed among the Jews, that the Messiah was already come – on account of the actuality of the following: coming of the Magi, and the murder of the infants by Herod, plus Jesus submitted to John to baptize Him. (A Messiah would have no need to be baptized since he would be sinless. However, Jesus chose to do so out of the obligation of doing first ourselves what we wish others to do.)
[vii]   “I am baptizing you with water, but One mightier than I is coming” = And therefore there was one baptism of repentance (John the Baptist), another of grace (Jesus). The latter was by both water and the Holy Spirit, the former by water only. The work of man is to bring forth repentance for his sin and then turn from sin to virtues, however it is the gift of God to also pour in the grace of His divine mystery including the forgiveness of sins. Also – The expected Messiah is the great liberator in the war against Satan. The word “mighty” used here by John, is often used in Scripture for the leader of the final struggle with evil
[viii]  “fire” = This is a metaphor, to signify the Holy Spirit and His gifts, particularly the fire of divine love for the expiation of sins, and is very common in Scripture. According to the Spanish mystic, St. John of the Cross, the fire of Purgatory is God’s Love purifying our soul in preparation for the final beatific vision – the heavenly union with God.


 

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SUNDAY MASS READINGS’ REFLECTIONS
The Epiphany of the Lord (Cycle C) – January 6, 2019


Christmas Time

The Liturgical Season of Christmas Time begins with the vigil Mass on Christmas Eve and then Christmas Day – The Nativity of the Lord, followed by Sunday Masses for: The Feast of the Holy Family, The Epiphany of the Lord, and concludes with The Baptism of the Lord. During this season, we celebrate the birth of Christ into our world and into our hearts, and reflect on the gift of salvation that is born with Him…including the fact that He was born to die for us. The Liturgical Color is white – a festive, joyful color. And, we can say “Merry Christmas” to our friends throughout this entire Christmas Season!

This Sunday’s Theme: Jesus’ Royal Messiahship of Both Jews and Gentiles.

Epiphany means the manifestation (a sign, event, appearance, or action that shows something clearly) of Christ to the Gentiles who are represented by the Magi. On this Sunday, the Church invites us to celebrate the manifestation of God’s universal plan to save all people, Gentiles as well as Jews.

We know little about the Magi. They come from the East and journey to Bethlehem, following an astrological sign, so we believe them to be astrologers. We assume that there were three Magi based upon the naming of their three gifts. The Gospel does not say how many Magi paid homage to Jesus. Eventually, they were named Caspar, Balthasar and Melchior in the Western Church. In Matthew’s Gospel, they represent the Gentiles’ search for a Savior. Because the Magi represent the entire world, they also represent our search for Jesus.

During epiphany we see how God epiphanies Himself through Jesus. It is the people of God empowered with the gifts of the Holy Spirit who reveal the risen Christ to the world through acts of creation, love, healing, and liberation. We of the Church are called to be an ever-unfolding epiphany of God’s love and power to the dark world seeking desperately for such epiphanies.

Historically several moments in Christ’s early life and ministry have been celebrated as “epiphanies,” including His birth in Bethlehem, the visit of the Magi, His baptism by John the Baptist, and His first miracle at Cana.

“Theology is faith in search of understanding.”(St. Anselm) – As the Magi searched for Jesus, we also must search for Him by using the Scriptures, attending Church, emulating the Saints, and through prayer. Be like the Blessed Mother Mary in Her search for understanding – Like 2:19 “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in Her Heart.” 

“Lord Jesus, grant me the perseverance of the Magi to search out and follow Your Light even when darkness surrounds me.” (Gayle Somers – a Catholic apologist)


Reading 1 Isaiah 60:1-6     Jerusalem shall be a Light to all nations.

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 72:1-2,7-8,10-13     Every nation on earth shall worship the Lord.

Reading 2 – Ephesians 3:2-3a,5-6     Gentiles are coheirs in the promise of Christ.

Gospel Matthew 2:1-12     The Magi seek out Jesus and do Him homage (reverence; worship).


This Bible Study’s primary references used are from St Joseph Sunday Missal, LoyolaPress.com, CatholicCulture.org, Ascension Catholic Church Sunday Reflections, USCCB, Understanding the Scriptures by Scott Hahn, St Thomas Aquinas’ Works, RSV Oxford Annotated Bible, Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, St Charles Borromeo Bible Studies, LUMINA Bible Study, The Franciscans St. Anthony’s Guild, and Haydock’s Catholic Bible Commentary.

 NOTE: The Lectionary Bible Readings for this Sunday – Readings 1 & 2, Responsorial Psalm, and the Gospel, all appear in purple in the following. Footnotes are included in these passages and the contents of all the footnotes appear at the end of this document. 


Reading 1     Isaiah 60:1-6                            (God Returns to Jerusalem)

Context – The keynote of the Book of Isaiah is salvation (Isaiah’s name means “Jehovah saves”). He was the prophet of the southern kingdom, Judah, and lived at the time (ie. 742 – 687 BC) when the northern kingdom, Israel, whose capital was Jerusalem, was destroyed. At this time all that was left of the old kingdom of David was Judah, which included the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and the Levites. He prophesized for 64 years. He prophesized doom for a sinful Judah and Israel and for all the nations of the world that oppose God. Then, he prophesized God’s restoration of the nation of Israel, including Judah, and this is interpreted by Christians as prefiguring the coming of Christ. After the Psalms, Isaiah is the Old Testament book most quoted in the New Testament.

Todays’ Reading – This reading begins by announcing that Jerusalem’s days of darkness are over (a reference to Israel’s time in exile). God is about to bring a New Dawn to Israel. So great will the new Light on Jerusalem be that all the Nations (a reference to the Gentiles) will be drawn to the city bearing all kinds of gifts. This prophecy will be fulfilled when Jesus invites all people to come into His Light. The Magi are the first Gentiles to respond to Jesus’ invitation.


Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your Light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you. See, darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds cover the peoples; but upon you the LORD shines, and over you appears His glory. Nations shall walk by your Light, and kings [i]  by your shining radiance. Raise your eyes and look about; they all gather and come to you: your sons come from afar, and your daughters in the arms of their nurses.

Then you shall be radiant at what you see, your heart shall throb and overflow, for the riches of the sea shall be emptied out before you, the wealth of nations shall be brought to you. Caravans of camels shall fill you, dromedaries from Midian and Ephah; all from Sheba shall come bearing gold and frankincense, and proclaiming the praises of the LORD.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you. 


Responsorial Psalm –     Psalm 72: 1-2, 7-8, 10-13              (The Messiah-King)                         

“Lord, every nation on earth will adore You” speaks of God’s universal plan to save all people, thereby connecting this psalm to the overall theme of this Sunday’s readings.


R. – Lord, every nation on earth will adore You.
O God, with Your judgment endow the king, and with Your justice, the King’s son
[ii]; He shall govern Your people with justice and Your afflicted ones with judgment.
R. – Lord, every nation on earth will adore You.
Justice shall flower in His days, and profound peace, till the moon be no more. May He rule from sea to sea, and from the River
(Euphrates) to the ends of the earth.
R. – Lord, every nation on earth will adore You.
The kings of Tarshish and the Isles shall offer gifts; the kings of Arabia and Seba shall bring tribute. All kings shall pay Him homage, all nations shall serve Him.
R. – Lord, every nation on earth will adore You.
For He shall rescue the poor when he cries out, and the afflicted when he has no one to help him. He shall have pity for the lowly and the poor; the lives of the poor He shall save.
R. – Lord, every nation on earth will adore You.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


Reading 2     Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6                          (Good News for the Gentiles)

Context – Ephesians sets before us a vision of Christ reigning in Heaven next to the Father and renewing the earth through His Church. It shows God’s saving work through Jesus. The Church is nothing less than God’s new creation in Christ.

Today’s Reading – In these verses, Paul speaks about his special mission to bring the Good News to the Gentiles — thus connecting this reading with the general theme of the day. The “secret plan” of God now revealed by Jesus to Paul and the Apostles is the total equality of Jews and Gentiles in God’s plan of salvation.


Brothers and sisters: You have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me [iii] for your benefit, namely, that the mystery [iv] was made known to me by revelation. It was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets by the [Holy] Spirit: that the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.  


Gospel     Matthew 2:1-12                 (Magi with Gifts)

Context – Matthew’s Gospel, written prior to 70 AD, is the first book of the New Testament, not because it was written first – some of Paul’s epistles take that honor – but because it is a bridge between the Old and New Testaments. St. Matthew, a Jew, was also called Levi, and was one of the twelve apostles of Christ. Originally, he was a Publican – a tax collector and was deeply despised by his fellow Jews because of that position. His Gospel was written first and foremost for the Jews and he wanted to prove to them that Jesus is the One to whom all the Jewish Prophets point: the Messiah, the Christ, the King of the Jews, to whom all the Old Testament prophets spoke. To accomplish his mission, He uses more Old Testament quotations and references than any other Gospel. The emblem for St. Matthew was given the symbol of a man because his Gospel accents Christ’s human origins. St. Matthew died a martyr’s death in Ethiopia.

Today’s Reading – The Gospel is fulfillment of Reading 1, which speaks of all the nations streaming to Jerusalem bearing gifts for the new King. The Magi represent the non-Jewish world; who are seekers of God, in their own way. The Magi’s journey to Bethlehem in search of the new King is symbolic of the journey all seekers must take. So, Epiphany is not only a feast in which we celebrate God’s manifestation of Himself to the Gentile world, but also it celebrates our movement toward God.

When Matthew was writing his Gospel in 80 A.D., his own people had almost totally rejected Jesus and large groups of Gentiles were accepting Him. This rejection/acceptance dynamic is present in today’s Gospel. Herod’s plot to kill Jesus symbolizes Israel’s leaders’ rejection of Him and the Magi’s acceptance of Him symbolizes the Gentiles’ movement toward Jesus. This rejection/acceptance dynamic will be played out many times in Matthew’s Gospel. The Pharisees will close their hearts to Jesus and the Gentiles will open their hearts to Him.


When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, Magi from the east [v]  arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the Newborn King of the Jews? We saw His star at its rising and have come to do Him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, He inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet: And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd My people Israel.” (Micah 5:2) Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found Him, bring me word, that I too may go and do Him homage.” After their audience with the king they set out. And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the Child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house [vi] they saw the Child with Mary His mother. They prostrated themselves and did Him homage [vii]. Then they opened their treasures and offered Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh [viii]. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          The Guiding Star. Balaam, an Old Testament soothsayer (a mystical person but not a prophet) knew Yahweh, submitted to Him, and received revelations from Him. In particular Balaam stated, as recorded in Numbers 24:17 – “I see Him, though not now; I observe Him, though not near: A star shall advance from Jacob, and a scepter shall rise from Israel, …”. The “star” was a common symbol for a king in biblical and non-biblical ancient Near Eastern literature. This connection finds support in the reference to the “scepter” in the next line. This might have been a foretelling of the “star” and the “scepter” that was in the minds of the Magi who, 600 years later, came from Balaam’s country to Bethlehem to look for the promised King of the Jews.
Connections: Balaam – Daniel – Magi. The Magi of the first century B.C. were known to have studied the writings of Daniel and possibly other Jewish writings Daniel likely referenced, such as the book of Numbers (containing the above-mentioned Balaam’s prophecy). Daniel’s prophecies predicted the exact time when the Messiah would be born (Daniel 9:25).  So, the Magi of the first century B.C. knew of the time of the Event (as prophesized by Daniel 600 years previously) and all of a sudden, this great Star appears at the exact predicted time of the event! Thus, the beginning of the Magi’s journey, that took them two years to finally arrive at Jesus’ birth place in Bethlehem. (Again, as stated in the above Gospel, “entering the house, they saw Jesus”. By this time, JMJ had moved into a house from the stable.) Soon after the visit of the Magi, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream telling him to flee to Egypt with Mary and the infant Jesus since King Herod would seek the Child to kill Him. My opinion – the gift of gold given by the Magi, made it possible to sustain the Holy Family during their stay in Egypt. This was God’s providential gift to JMJ. God used the Magi to deliver this gift, just as He uses us to do His will.  

Catechism 528 – The Epiphany is the manifestation of Jesus as Messiah of Israel, Son of God and Savior of the world. The great feast of Epiphany celebrates the adoration of Jesus by the wise men (Magi) from the East, together with His baptism in the Jordan and the wedding feast at Cana in Galilee. In the Magi, representatives of the neighboring pagan religions, the Gospel sees the first-fruits of the nations, who welcome the good news of salvation through the Incarnation. The Magi’s coming to Jerusalem in order to pay homage to the King of the Jews shows that they seek in Israel, in the messianic Light of the star of David, the One who will be King of the nations. Their coming means that pagans can discover Jesus and worship Him as Son of God and Savior of the world only by turning towards the Jews and receiving from them the messianic promise as contained in the Old Testament. The Epiphany shows that “the full number of the nations” now takes its “place in the family of the patriarchs”, and acquires Israelitica dignitas (is made “worthy of the heritage of Israel”).



[i]  Reading 1 Footnotes:
“kings” = This is a prophesy about the Maji visiting the Christ Child.
[ii]  Responsorial Psalm Footnote:
“the King’s Son” = The King is God and thee Son is Jesus.
[iii]  Reading 2 Footnotes:
“stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me” = Paul’s responsibility was to carry God’s grace to all people, but particularly to the Gentiles.
[iv]  “mystery” made known to Paul = This mystery refers to the fact that both Gentiles and Jews were equal partners in the church.
[v]  Gospel Footnotes:
“Magi from the east” = From ancient Persia which is today Iran and Afghanistan. The Magi are the first Gentiles to the Kingship of Jesus.
[vi]  Maji met Jesus in the “house” = Most scriptures represent the wise men adoring Jesus in the stable, and in the manger. yet others, with St. Chrysostom, take notice that before their arrival, Jesus might have been removed into some little house in Bethlehem.
[vii]  “did Him homage” = They worshipped and adored Him as their Savior and their God.
[viii]  “gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh” = The mystical signification of these offerings are: gold signified the tribute they paid to Him, as to their King; frankincense signified that He was God; and myrrh, (with which dead bodies used to be embalmed) signified that now He was also a mortal Man.


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