2018 – Wrap Yourself in the Word

“Ignorance of Scripture is Ignorance of Christ”
– St. Jerome

There are many wonderful voices of wisdom and encouragement that can assist us with the challenge of walking the daily path of holiness. To prepare for 2018, I wanted to share a few thoughts that will hopefully encourage you to take a closer look at developing a daily practice of reflection on God’s Word. If you do nothing else from this point forward, please read the entirety of this posting – thank you.


Faith is not something you achieve. If you try to nail it down, it gets up and walks away with the nail. Faith works this way: Some days you walk on water, other days you sink like a stone. You live with a deep secret, the poet Rumi says, that sometimes you know, and then not, and then know again. Sometimes you feel the real presence, and sometimes you feel the real absence. Why?

Because, like love, faith is a journey, with constant ups and downs, with alternating periods of fervor and dryness, with consolation giving way to desolation, and with graced moments where God feels tangibly present eclipsed by dark nights where God feels absent. It’s a strange state: sometimes you feel riveted to God, steel-like, other times you feel yourself in a free-fall from everything secure, and then, just when things are at their lowest, you feel God’s presence again.

Love, like faith, too has its periods of fervor and of dark nights. All of us know that inside of any long-term commitment (marriage, family, friendship, or church) there will be certain days and whole seasons when our heads and our hearts aren’t in that commitment, even as we’re still in it. Our heads and hearts fade in and fade out, but we experience love as ultimately not dependent upon the head or even the heart. Something deeper holds us, and holds us beyond the thoughts of our heads or the feelings of our heart at a given moment.

In any sustained commitment in love, our heads and hearts will fade in and out. Sometimes there’s fervor, sometimes there’s flatness.  Faith works the same. Sometimes we sense and feel God’s presence with our heads and our hearts and sometimes both leave us flat and dry. But faith is something deeper than imagining or feeling God’s presence. But how do we come to that?  What should we do in those moments when it feels as if God is absent.

The great mystic, John of the Cross, offers this advice. If you want to find God’s presence again in those moments when God feels absent listen to a word filled with reality and unfathomable truth.

What might he mean by that? How does one listen to a word filled with reality and unfathomable truth? How does one even find such a word? To be honest, I’m not exactly sure what he means, even as his words explode with possible meanings inside my mind. The phrase might be easier to untangle if he was telling us to look for an experience that’s deep and filled with reality; for example, giving birth to a child, being awed by exceptional beauty, or having your heart broken by loss or death. These kinds of experience are real, unfathomably true, and jolt us into a deeper awareness; so, if God is to be found, shouldn’t God be found there?

But John isn’t directing us towards an in-depth experience; he’s asking us to look for a word that’s carries reality and depth.  Does that mean that when we are unsteady and in doubt we should hunt for texts (in scripture, theology, spirituality, or in literature and poetry) that speak to us in a way that re-grounds us in some primal sense that God exists and loves us and that because of this, we should live in love and hope?

I suspect that this is exactly what he means. God is one, true, good, and beautiful, and so the right word about oneness, truth, goodness, or beauty should have the power to steady our shifting minds and hearts. The right word can make the Word become flesh again.  – Fr. Ron Rolheiser


But what words have the power to do that for us? We’re all different and so not everyone will find truth and depth in the same way. Each one of us must, therefore, do our own, deeply personal, search here.

For some, it could be one of many daily devotional books (Magnificat, The Word Among Us, Living Faith, Give Us This Day); It could be a favorite author’s book (George Weigel, C.S. Lewis, John Henry Newman, G.K. Chesterton, St. John Paul II, Peter Kreeft, Thomas Merton, Richard Rohr, T.S. Eliot, J.R.R. Tolkien, Gerard Manley Hopkins, St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, St. Catherine of Siena, Ron Rolheiser) or a  even favorite social media site.

There are many, many resources you can tap into and I encourage you to find one that works best for your life right now. In closing, I would like to invite you to explore a resource that might work for you – one that is dear to my heart – Daily Virtue.  You can reach this site via the following link: http://dailyvirtue.net/

Blessings to one and all for a New Year in which you fully engage life; find your hope, joy, happiness, and peace; and do it all as Fr. Ron says, with the right daily Word.

DV Dan

Walk in the Way of the Lord

Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD,
who walks in his ways!
For you shall eat the fruit of your handiwork;
blessed shall you be, and favored.

Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine
in the recesses of your home;
your children like olive plants
around your table.

Behold, thus is the man blessed
who fears the LORD.
The LORD bless you from Zion:
may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem
all the days of your life.
(Psalm 128:1-2, 3, 4-5)

Scripture Study

128:1 Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD The word ashre (“blessed” or “fortunate”) is used to contrast the righteous and wicked throughout the book of Psalms. The fear of God is connected to conduct; the blessed person reveres God in belief and conduct.

128:3 Your wife will be like a fruitful vine The psalmist employs the motif of family as a fruitful plant to depict the success of the pious person because of his blessed life. The pious man’s family with be fruitful like a garden or orchard. (Large families were viewed as a tremendous blessing in the ancient Near East.)

128:4 thus is the man blessed The Hebrew word used here, barakh, describes the LORD’s granting prosperity to the pious man in this instance. It is the usual word for the extension of good wishes or special enablement. who fears the LORD Fearing God means placing all other potential objects of fear or reverence in perspective and revering Him above else. Fearing God can be described as giving Him respect or honor.

128:5 The LORD bless you from Zion It is from the LORD’s dwelling place in Jerusalem—the proper place of worship—that He is depicted as blessing people. This hints at the idea that blessing can only be fully established as the entire nation worships the LORD appropriately in His chosen place. the prosperity of Jerusalem The blessing of Jerusalem is symbolic here of the condition of the people of Israel in general. This prosperity includes right corporate (group) worship, economic stability, and freedom from attack.

Scripture Reflection

The LORD’s blessing is for those who fear the LORD. God’s blessing is the enhancement of life that brings it to fulfillment. That understanding is apparent in the way this psalm speaks of the two basic areas of human life. Mortals work, but it is the blessing of God that brings work to completion and makes the labor satisfying. Mortals marry, but the birth and growth of children is the blessing of God.

Whatever makes life good is the effect of blessing. There is a concurrence between the way life is lived and the way life is enhanced. Well-doing and doing well are interdependent. Walking in the ways of the LORD is a receptivity to the blessing of the LORD. The spirit of pilgrimage always incorporates walking in the ways of the LORD. Without blessing, life is incomplete and frustrated.

– James Mays

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

The Seed of Pretentiousness

I am writing to you, children,
because your sins have been forgiven for his name’s sake.

I am writing to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.

I am writing to you, young men,
because you have conquered the Evil One.

I write to you, children,
because you know the Father.

I write to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.

I write to you, young men,
because you are strong and the word of God remains in you,
and you have conquered the Evil One.

Do not love the world or the things of the world.
If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
For all that is in the world,
sensual lust, enticement for the eyes, and a pretentious life,
is not from the Father but is from the world.
Yet the world and its enticement are passing away.
But whoever does the will of God remains forever.
(1 John 2:12-17)

Scripture Study

2:12 For his name’s sake: because of Christ our sins are forgiven.

2:15 The world: all that is hostile toward God and alienated from him. Love of the world and love of God are thus mutually exclusive; cf. Jas 4:4.

2:16 Sensual lust: literally, “the lust of the flesh,” inordinate desire for physical gratification. Enticement for the eyes: literally, “the lust of the eyes,” avarice or covetousness; the eyes are regarded as the windows of the soul. Pretentious life: literally, “pride of life,” arrogance or ostentation in one’s earthly style of life that reflects a willful independence from God and others.

Scripture Reflection

St John writes: ‘You have overcome the evil one’! He states this as a reminder to us to keep going back to the origin of evil and of sin in the history of mankind and the universe, just as Christ went back to these same roots in the Paschal Mystery of his Cross and Resurrection. There is no need to be afraid to call the first agent of evil by his name—the Evil One. The strategy which he used and continues to use is that of not revealing himself, so that the evil implanted by him from the beginning may receive its development from man himself, from systems and from relationships between individuals, from classes and nations—so as also to become ever more a ‘structural’ sin, ever less identifiable as ‘personal sin’. St John Paul II continues this thought by saying that “man may feel in a certain sense of being ‘freed’ from sin but at the same time be ever more deeply immersed in it.”

St Josemaría Escrivá speaks to this immersion as often being a result of our being captured by a worldly life, a life that is opposed to fidelity, to the love of God. “Lust of the flesh is not limited to disordered sensuality. It also means softness, laziness bent on the easiest, most pleasurable, way, any apparent shortcut, even at the expense of fidelity to God. The lust of the eyes, a deep-seated covetousness that leads us to appreciate only what we can touch. Such eyes are glued to earthly things and, consequently, they are blind to supernatural realities. We can, then, use this expression of Sacred Scripture to mean that disordered desire for material things, as well as that deformation which views everything around us—other people, the circumstances of our life and of our age—in a merely human way.

Then the eyes of our soul grow dull. Reason proclaims itself capable of understanding everything, without the aid of God. This is a subtle temptation, which hides behind the power of our intellect, given by our Father God to man so that he might know and love him freely. Seduced by this temptation, the human mind appoints itself the center of the universe, being thrilled with the prospect that ‘you will be like God’ (Gen 3:5). So filled with love for itself, it turns its back on the love of God.”

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

In Love

Beloved:
The way we may be sure that we know Jesus
is to keep his commandments.
Whoever says, “I know him,”
but does not keep his commandments
is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
But whoever keeps his word,
the love of God is truly perfected in him.
This is the way we may know that we
are in union with him:
whoever claims to abide in him
ought to walk just as he walked.

Beloved, I am writing no new commandment
to you but an old commandment that you
had from the beginning.
The old commandment is the word
that you have heard.
And yet I do write a new commandment to you,
which holds true in him and among you,
for the darkness is passing away,
and the true light is already shining.
Whoever says he is in the light,
yet hates his brother, is still in the darkness.
Whoever loves his brother remains in the light,
and there is nothing in him to cause a fall.
Whoever hates his brother is in darkness;
he walks in darkness
and does not know where he is going
because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
(1 John 2:3-11)

Scripture Study

2:3 keep his commandments: The Father gives guidance to his children (3:1) for living and growing in maturity. Obedience to his commandments gives us the moral certitude that we are living as true sons and daughters. In essence, this amounts to imitating Christ (2:6), who showed us how to follow the Father’s commandments without exception or fault (Jn 15:10).

2:6 ought to walk just as he walked: Assumes readers are familiar with the life and ministry of Jesus, probably from the Gospel of John (CCC 2470)

2:7 no new commandment: John’s teaching is not a recent innovation unfamiliar to his readers. It is, rather, the commandment to love one another (2:10) that they received with the gospel and that ultimately goes back to Jesus (Jn 13:34). The point is that John’s catechesis is an authentic expression of apostolic doctrine (CCC 2822). The Torah commanded human love for ourselves and our neighbor (Lev 19:18). Jesus commands divine love for one another that is modeled on his own acts of charity and generosity (15:13; 1 Jn 3:16–18). This supernatural love comes not from us but from the Spirit (Rom 5:5; CCC 1822–29)

2:8 the true light: Refers to the gospel in general and to Jesus Christ in particular (Jn 1:9).

2:9 Whoever says … yet hates: A believer’s conduct must agree with his confession for his fellowship with God to be genuine. Faith without faithfulness is not a saving faith at all (Jas 2:14–17). Faith is exercised when we trust in God and entrust ourselves to God. Because it involves both the assent of the mind and the consent of the will, it can never be a purely intellectual decision that exists independently of one’s behavior (Jas 2:14–26). It is because faith and faithfulness are two sides of the same coin that the opposite of faith is not just unbelief, but disobedience (CCC 161).

Scripture Reflection

For St John, knowing God is not a merely intellectual exercise nor does he mean that the immensity of God can be grasped by man’s limited understanding. It refers to something much simpler and more important: knowing God means being united to him by faith and love—by grace.

Christian love is not limited to seeking the earthly happiness of others, but tries to lead all to faith and holiness: “What is perfection in love?” St Augustine asks. “Loving our enemies and loving them so that they may be converted into brothers. Our love should not be a material one. Wishing someone temporal well-being is good; but, even if he does not have that, his soul should be secured. It is uncertain whether this life is useful or useless to someone; whereas life in God is always useful. Therefore, love your enemies in such a way that they become your brothers; love them in such a way that you attract them to fellowship with yourself in the Church.”

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

 

The Innocents

When the magi had departed, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared
to Joseph in a dream and said,
“Rise, take the child and his mother,
flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you.
Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.”
Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night
and departed for Egypt.
He stayed there until the death of Herod,
that what the Lord had said
through the prophet might be fulfilled,
Out of Egypt I called my son.

When Herod realized that he
had been deceived by the magi,
he became furious.
He ordered the massacre
of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity
two years old and under,
in accordance with the time
he had ascertained from the magi.
Then was fulfilled what had been said
through Jeremiah the prophet:

A voice was heard in Ramah,
sobbing and loud lamentation;
Rachel weeping for her children,
and she would not be consoled,
since they were no more.

(Matthew 2:13-18)

Scripture Study

2:13 angel of the Lord As in Matt 1:20, Matthew clearly identifies the messenger here. flee to Egypt Recalls the Israelites’ time in Egypt. This situation also reflects Jeroboam’s flight into Egypt when Solomon wished to kill him (1 Kgs 11:40). God promised Jeroboam kingship; when Solomon died, Jeroboam returned from Egypt and became king.

2:15 might be fulfilled The ordinary expectations of the Messiah would not have included fleeing into Egypt, but Matthew presents even this as fulfilling prophecy. He sees an analogy between Israel—the children of God (Exod 4:23)—and Jesus, the Son of God. Jesus emerged from Egypt just as Israel had during the exodus (Exod 9–14). In addition, the rulers in both narratives order the slaughter of infants (Exod 1:22; Matt 2:16). Out of Egypt I called my son Quoted from Hos 11:1, where it refers to the historic events of the exodus. Matthew uses typology in applying this this text—which originally referred to God’s corporate people, Israel—to Jesus, God’s Messiah.

2:16 he had been deceived The Greek word used here, empaizō, usually means “to mock” or “to ridicule,” indicating that the magi’s noncompliance was disgraceful to Herod. two years old and under This detail implies that the wise men (Magi) first saw the star long before they came to Jerusalem. It also suggests that Jesus was probably more than a year old at this time. Bethlehem was very small; perhaps about 20 children were killed.

2:17 was fulfilled Another fulfillment (compare Matt 1:22–23; 2:5–6, 15, 17–18). In the following quote, Jeremiah is discussing the exile. Matthew takes this also as a reference to the Christ.

2:18 A voice was heard in Ramah Matthew quotes Jer 31:15; the context of children being slaughtered and Jesus’ family being uprooted parallels the context of Jeremiah’s prophecy.

Scripture Reflection

Friends, today’s Gospel describes Herod’s massacre of the boys of Bethlehem, his furious reaction to being deceived by the Magi. Matthew’s account of the visit of the Magi purposely juxtaposes King Herod and the mysterious Magi from the east. Herod was the consummate political survivor, a canny realist who had, through threats, murder, and corruption, found his way to the top of the political ladder.

While Herod was fussing around, desperately trying to maintain himself in power, figures from a distant country were blithely indifferent to politics and games of domination. They were intensely surveying the night sky, looking for signs from God. Now, as they cross the border into Herod’s country, the Magi come onto Herod’s radar-screen. Who are they? Spies? And whom are they seeking? A newborn king? That is a threat! That is treason.

Under the pretense of piety, he calls the Magi to himself and inquires after the star’s first appearance, getting the time coordinates; and then he asks them to go to Bethlehem and find the exact locale. With this GPS system, he can find the king—and stamp him out.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

 

That Our Joy May Be Complete

Beloved:
What was from the beginning,
what we have heard,
what we have seen with our eyes,
what we looked upon
and touched with our hands
concerns the Word of life —
for the life was made visible;
we have seen it and testify to it
and proclaim to you the eternal life
that was with the Father and was made visible to us—
what we have seen and heard
we proclaim now to you,
so that you too may have fellowship with us;
for our fellowship is with the Father
and with his Son, Jesus Christ.
We are writing this so that our joy may be complete.
(1 John 1:1-4)

Scripture Study

1:1 What was from the beginning As in John’s Gospel, John begins this letter with the Word—the embodiment of God’s revelation in the person of Jesus (John 1:1; compare Gen 1:1). we John is referring either to himself only, or to himself and other eyewitnesses to Jesus’ ministry. the word of life Refers to Jesus, who is eternal life to those who believe in Him (John 3:16–17; 14:6).

1:2 the life was made visible Eternal life is revealed to humanity in the ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

1:3 may have fellowship with us John is writing to address a division in the community of believers. This community might have been located in Ephesus, where the Apostle John resided near the end of his life.

1:4 our joy may be complete It will be complete by ensuring the health of this Christian community that John loves.

Scripture Reflection

This testimony about Christ is designed to lead to fellowship and complete joy. Fellowship with the apostles means, firstly, having the same faith as those who lived with Jesus: “They saw our Lord in the body,” St Augustine reminds us, “and they heard words from his lips and have proclaimed them to us; we also have heard them, but we have not seen him. They saw him, we do not see him, and yet we have fellowship with them because we have the same faith.”

To have fellowship with the Father and the Son we need to have the same faith as the apostles. St John openly teaches that those who desire to partake of union with God must first partake of union with the Church, learn the same faith and benefit from the same sacraments as the apostles received from the fullness of Truth made flesh.”

Fellowship, communion, with the apostles, with the Church, has as its purpose to bring about union with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.” This deep, intimate communion means that, without losing his personality, man shares in a wonderful and real way in the life of God himself. If Holy Scripture uses many different expressions in this connection, it is due to the fact that the human mind, because it is so limited, cannot fully grasp the marvelous truth of communion with God.

Complete joy is the outcome of this communion. This joy, which will reach its fullness in the next life, is already in this life in some sense complete, insofar as knowledge of Jesus is the only thing that can satisfy man’s aspirations.

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

Because of My Name

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Beware of men, for they will hand you over to courts
and scourge you in their synagogues,
and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake
as a witness before them and the pagans.
When they hand you over,
do not worry about how you are to speak
or what you are to say.
You will be given at that moment what you are to say.
For it will not be you who speak
but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
Brother will hand over brother to death,
and the father his child;
children will rise up against parents and have them put to death.
You will be hated by all because of my name,
but whoever endures to the end will be saved.”
(Matthew 10:17-22)

Scripture Study

10:18 governors and kings The highest officials. Jesus is looking beyond his mission and predicting what would happen to His followers in the future. (Compare Acts 4:1–22; 12:1–4; 14:5.)

10:20 speaking through you Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit will give them the appropriate words to speak. Matthew has mentioned the Holy Spirit in connection with Jesus’ ministry (Matt 1:18, 20; 3:11, 16; 4:1), and here the Spirit is extended to the ministry of the disciples.

10:21 brother will hand over brother to death Jesus predicts that His followers will face persecution and betrayal by those closest to them.

10:22 will be saved Elsewhere, it is clear that salvation is dependent on Christ alone (compare John 3:16–17). It seems that here Jesus is contrasting those with true faith (compare Matt 13:18–23)—which proves itself through endurance, in the midst of persecution—with those who are willing to sacrifice their faith (v. 10; compare 10:22). Faith requires action and perseverance (25:14–30).

Scripture Reflection

The instructions and warnings Jesus gives here apply right through the history of the Church. It is difficult for the world to understand the way of God. Sometimes there will be persecutions, sometimes indifference to the Gospel or failure to understand it. Genuine commitment to Jesus always involves effort—which is not surprising, because Jesus himself was a sign of contradiction; indeed, if that were not the experience of a Christian, he would have to ask himself whether he was not, in fact, a worldly person.

Today we celebrate the martyrdom of St. Stephen. Martyrs like Stephen are witnesses who have given their lives for the faith, participating in the bloody death of Jesus himself. They are part of the great chorus that gives praise to Christ in heaven. The Lamb has become their shepherd, leading them to springs of life-giving water. The twentieth was the Christian century with the most martyrs ever, in fact, more than all the other centuries combined.

There are certain worldly things a Christian cannot compromise about, no matter how much they are in fashion. Therefore, Christian life inevitably involves nonconformity with anything that goes against faith and morals (cf. Rom 12:2). It is not surprising that a Christian’s life often involves choosing between heroism and treachery. Difficulties of this sort should not make us afraid: we are not alone, we can count on the powerful help of our Father God to give us strength and daring. St. Stephen, pray for us!

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

Word Made Flesh

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things came to be through him,
and without him nothing came to be.
What came to be through him was life,
and this life was the light of the human race;
the light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has not overcome it.
A man named John was sent from God.
He came for testimony, to testify to the light,
so that all might believe through him.
He was not the light,
but came to testify to the light.
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
He was in the world,
and the world came to be through him,
but the world did not know him.
He came to what was his own,
but his own people did not accept him.

But to those who did accept him
he gave power to become children of God,
to those who believe in his name,
who were born not by natural generation
nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision
but of God.
And the Word became flesh
and made his dwelling among us,
and we saw his glory,
the glory as of the Father’s only Son,
full of grace and truth.
John testified to him and cried out, saying,
“This was he of whom I said,
‘The one who is coming after me ranks ahead of me
because he existed before me.'”
From his fullness we have all received,
grace in place of grace,
because while the law was given through Moses,
grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
No one has ever seen God.
The only Son, God, who is at the Father’s side,
has revealed him.
(John 1:1-18)

Scripture Study

1:1–18 The introduction to John is different from all of the other Gospels. It begins even before creation. John might even be following the opening words of Genesis 1 in which God creates the world out of formless chaos by speaking. Because of Jesus, John has a new insight about the divine Word. The Word is not simply speech or some abstract power that God can use to create. The Word actually became known to us in a person, Jesus. We speak of the Incarnation, of God becoming human. This idea of God is the special revelation of Christianity. It differs from the monotheism of Judaism and Islam, which insists that the unity of God cannot be shared. The Christian claim that Jesus can be spoken of as God is at the core of the controversies in the Fourth Gospel. John makes it clear right at the beginning that we can speak about God under two distinct aspects, God as the ultimate source of all things (that is, the Father) and the Word, through whom God creates and sustains the world and guides humans (that is, the Son). Later in the Gospel, we will also learn that the Spirit comes from God to those who believe. Christians believe that the Father, Son, and Spirit are three distinct persons that make up the one God.

You will notice that many of the verses in this section have a poetic quality made up of short parallel lines that employ the symbols of life, light, darkness, and glory. You will also notice that other verses speak of the role of John the Baptist as witness to the light (1:6–8, 15). Still, other verses speak in the first person plural of what “we” have received from the coming of the light (vv. 12, 14b, 16). “We” clearly means the Christian community that believes in Jesus. They have received the power to become children of God thanks to Jesus (v. 12). Many scholars think that the poetic verses belonged to an early hymn, which John has used for the introduction.

This section makes it clear that only those people who receive Jesus as the incarnate Word can attain salvation. The Word actually existed before anything was created, but people may still fail to receive the Word when it comes to them. The Prologue contains several hints about the fate of the light when it comes into our world. People who should have received Jesus, do not. But those who do, receive the grace of becoming children of God and coming to know God as revealed by Jesus. The contrast between the Law that came through Moses and the “grace and truth,” probably a rendering of the Hebrew expression for God’s love and fidelity to the covenant, anticipates the conflict between Jesus and the Jewish leaders. Jesus will establish a new covenant between God and those people who come to believe in him.

Scripture Reflection

Friends, our Christmas day Gospel focuses on the Word made flesh. Ancient Jewish thought found all sorts of sophisticated ways to say that God was active in the world without ceasing to be transcendent over it. Above all, they spoke of God’s holy Word, a Word by which all things were made.

Now listen to the Prologue to John’s Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word…” He’s writing a new Genesis—and he is drawing our attention to this word of God, this powerful, musical breath of God that makes and governs the universe and speaks through the prophets, this Word that is the same as God.

And this Word became flesh. The Greek term means “pitched his tent among us,” the very phrase used of God’s Wisdom inhabiting the Temple in Jerusalem. “And we saw his glory…and he was full of grace and truth.” Glory, for he is beautiful to look on; truth, for he is the new Law. All the ways that the Old Testament spoke of God’s involvement with the world come together in this description of Jesus Christ. He is the powerful Word that will not return without accomplishing his purpose.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

The Handmaid of the Lord

The angel Gabriel was sent from God
to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,
of the house of David,
and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said,
“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”
But she was greatly troubled at what was said
and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Then the angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.

“Behold, you will conceive in your womb
and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called
Son of the Most High, and the Lord God
will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
But Mary said to the angel,
“How can this be,
since I have no relations with a man?”
And the angel said to her in reply,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore the child to be born
will be called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, Elizabeth, your relative,
has also conceived a son in her old age,
and this is the sixth month
for her who was called barren;
for nothing will be impossible for God.”

Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”
Then the angel departed from her.
(Luke 1:26-38)

Scripture Study

1:26 in the sixth month Occurs six months after Elizabeth conceived (v. 24). a town of Galilee called Nazareth A small agricultural village to the southwest of the Sea of Galilee. Nazareth has been inhabited continuously since the third-century bc.

1:27 a virgin Luke calls Mary a virgin twice in this verse to demonstrate that Jesus’ conception was an act of God (see vv. 34–35; Matt 1:23). betrothed At this time, betrothal represented a permanent relationship nearly equivalent to marriage; breaking off a betrothal required a decision akin to divorce. of the house of David Luke alludes to Isa 11:1–2 to portray Jesus as the shoot and branch of Jesse. This portrays Jesus as the Messiah, from King David’s line. (David was Jesse’s son.)

1:28 The Lord is with you Recalls “Immanuel” (“God with us”) from Isa 7:14, which was already alluded to in Luke 1:27 (compare Matt 1:23).

1:30 Do not be afraid A common heavenly greeting and message of reassurance found throughout the Bible (e.g., vv. 30; 2:10; Judges 6:23; Daniel 10:12; Revelation 1:17).

1:31 Jesus From the Hebrew name Joshua, which means “Yahweh is help (or, salvation)” (see Matthew 1:21).

1:32 Son of the Most High Highlights Jesus’ divinity and royalty (compare Luke 1:35, 76). give him the throne of David Gabriel implies that Jesus will fulfill the Davidic covenant (2 Sam 7:12–13).

1:33 the house of Jacob A common OT phrase referring to Israel (e.g., Exod 19:3; Isa 48:1). his kingdom there will be no end Gabriel again alludes to the Davidic covenant (compare note on Luke 1:32), but this allusion also evokes messianic imagery from Daniel (Dan 7:13-14).

1:34 I have no relations with a man Luke calls Mary a virgin twice in this verse to demonstrate that Jesus’ conception was an act of God (see vv. 34–35; Matt 1:23).

1:35 Son of God This title reflects Jesus’ miraculous conception and, consequently, His divinity.

1:36 in her old age See vv. 7, 18. sixth month See v. 26. who was called barren See v. 7.

1:38 I am the handmaid of the Lord Mary indicates that she is willing to do whatever God requires of her. 

Scripture Reflection

Friends, our Gospel today introduces the most elevated creature: Mary, the Mother of God. The Church Fathers often made a connection between Eve, the mother of all the living, and Mary, the Mother of God and Mother of the Church. In fact, they saw her as “the new Eve,” the one who undid the damage done by Eve.

The angel’s greeting to Mary is important here: “Hail Mary, full of grace.” Mary is greeted as someone who is able to accept gifts. Eve and Adam grasped; Mary is ready to receive. And Mary’s reply is also significant: “How is this possible, for I do not know man?” There is nothing cowed about Mary.

The angel explains to Mary: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you…” At the heart of the spiritual life is the conviction that your life is not about you. The real spiritual life is about allowing oneself to be overwhelmed by the one who loves us. Mary is someone who is ready for the impossible, and this makes her the paradigm of discipleship. “Let it be done to me according to thy word.” That’s an acquiescence to adventure.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

The Baptist

When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child
she gave birth to a son.
Her neighbors and relatives heard
that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her,
and they rejoiced with her.
When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child,
they were going to call him Zechariah after his father,
but his mother said in reply,
“No. He will be called John.”
But they answered her,
“There is no one among your relatives who has this name.”
So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called.
He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,”
and all were amazed.
Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed,
and he spoke blessing God.
Then fear came upon all their neighbors,
and all these matters were discussed
throughout the hill country of Judea.
All who heard these things took them to heart, saying,
“What, then, will this child be?
For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.”
(Luke 1:57-66)

Scripture Study

1:57 she gave birth to a son Fulfills the proclamation of v. 13.

1:59 on the eighth day As prescribed by Yahweh and the law (Gen 17:12; Lev 12:3).

1:60 he will be called John Demonstrates Elizabeth’s faith in Gabriel’s message (Luke 1:13).

1:62 asking his father In ancient Israel, fathers held the final naming rights.

1:64 Immediately his mouth was opened Fulfills Gabriel’s words in v. 20.

1:66 What then will this child be Hints at messianic expectation. Family descent was very important to Matthew’s original audience, who hoped in the promises that God had made to specific ancestors. The book of Matthew shows how Jesus fulfills these promises. 

Scripture Reflection

Friends, today’s Gospel reflects on the absolutely pivotal figure of John the Baptist. It’s fair to say that you cannot really understand Jesus without understanding John, which is precisely why all four Evangelists tell the story of the Baptist as a kind of overture to the story of Jesus. John sums up Israel, and without the Israelite background, the story of Jesus becomes opaque.

The story of John’s birth brings his parents, Zechariah and Elizabeth, into focus. Both are strongly priestly personages. Elizabeth is a descendant of the family of Aaron, the first priest of Israel, and Zechariah was a practicing Temple priest.

What’s important for our purposes is that John was of very priestly stock. So why, when we first hear of him in his adult life, is he out in the desert and not in the Temple? Well, there was a long prophetic tradition that criticized the Temple for its corruption. In John’s time, the Temple was mired in very messy, vile, and violent politics. So what is he doing in the desert? He is offering what the Temple ought to be offering but wasn’t, due to its corruption, namely, the forgiveness of sins.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.