Mary’s Fiat

Mary said:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
for he has looked upon his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
and has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children for ever.”

Mary remained with Elizabeth about three months
and then returned to her home.
(Luke 1:46-56)

Scripture Study

Mary’s Magnificat canticle is a poem of singular beauty. It evokes certain passages of the Old Testament with which she would have been very familiar (especially 1 Sam 2:1–10). Three stanzas may be distinguished in the canticle:

1:46–50. Mary glorifies God for making her the Mother of the Savior, which is why future generations will call her blessed; she shows that the Incarnation is a mysterious expression of God’s power and holiness and mercy.

1:51–53. Mary teaches us that the Lord has always had a preference for the humble, resisting the proud and boastful.

1:54–55. Mary proclaims that God, in keeping with his promise, has always taken special care of his chosen people—and now does them the greatest honor of all by becoming a Jew (cf. Rom 1:3).

Scripture Reflection

Friends, today’s Gospel explains the significance of Mary’s fiat. By far, the most important Advent figure is Mary of Nazareth, the Mother of God, for Mary sums up in her person the whole of the people Israel, the nation whose whole purpose was to prepare for the coming of the Lord. In the face of the evil, injustice, stupidity, and sin that were marring his beautiful creation, God resolved to choose a people and to form them according to his heart so that they could be the vehicle of his presence to the world. From this people would come, as a sort of flowering, the Messiah.

Thus, Mary recapitulates the story of Israel, the story of redemption. We can, as it were, read the whole Old Testament in her. As the true Israel, she knows what to do, and she does it with enthusiasm. No dawdling, back-pedaling, straying, or complaining: she moves, she goes. And she goes upon the heights, which is exactly where God had always summoned Israel so that it could be a light to the nations.

– Bishop Robert Barron

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

Arise My Beloved

Hark! my lover–here he comes
springing across the mountains,
leaping across the hills.
My lover is like a gazelle
or a young stag.
Here he stands behind our wall,
gazing through the windows,
peering through the lattices.
My lover speaks; he says to me,
“Arise, my beloved, my dove, my beautiful one,
and come!
“For see, the winter is past,
the rains are over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth,
the time of pruning the vines has come,
and the song of the dove is heard in our land.
The fig tree puts forth its figs,
and the vines, in bloom, give forth fragrance.
Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one,
and come!

“O my dove in the clefts of the rock,
in the secret recesses of the cliff,
Let me see you,
let me hear your voice,
For your voice is sweet,
and you are lovely.”
(Song of Songs 2:8-14)

Scripture Study

2:8 The sound of my lover This word can refer either to a voice or a sound. The woman is excited as she hears the approach of her beloved. leaping across the hills May indicate the urgency of his approach. It may also indicate that he had to overcome certain obstacles to reach her.

2:9 our wall The pronoun “our” is probably meant to include the woman’s mother. Elsewhere, she describes leading her beloved into her mother’s house to share love (3:4; 8:2).

2:12 the song This word can refer either to “pruning” or to “a song.” However, pruning occurred toward the end of the season rather than the beginning. It may describe the singing of birds who returned after migrating for the winter.

2:13 Arise, my friend, my beautiful one Just as he began his speech (2:10), the beloved ends by inviting his love to come away with him.

2:14 My dove Possibly a description of gentleness or softness. Since doves were not a common symbol of beauty (Hos 7:11), the reason for this comparison is unclear. The twofold statement of the woman’s beauty indicates it is a compliment. It may describe gentleness or softness. Let me see your face The second half of this verse contains striking poetic parallelism: two requests (face, voice) are followed by two descriptions (voice, face). The man expresses his desire to look upon the woman’s lovely face and listen to her sweet voice.

Scripture Reflection

The soul desires that nothing should diminish the delights of love it feels within, a love which is the flower of the soul’s vineyard—not the envious and evil demons, nor the body’s wild desires, nor the vagaries of the imagination, nor the attractions of created things; it calls upon the angels, asking them to root out all these things or prevent their growth, so that they cannot hinder the flowering of interior love; for the sweet taste and delight of that love is the joyful sharing of the virtues and graces that pass between the soul and the Son of God.

– St John of the Cross

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

The Annunciation

In the sixth month,
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; Judg 6:23; Dan 10:12; Rev 1:17).

1:31 Jesus From the Hebrew name Joshua, which means “Yahweh is help (or, salvation)” (see Matt 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, in today’s Gospel of Luke, we find the Annunciation to Mary. Here is what Gabriel said to the Virgin: “Thou shalt conceive in thy womb and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus…The Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”

No first-century Israelite would have missed the meaning here: this child shall be the fulfillment of the promise made to King David.

And this means that the child is, in fact, the king of the world, the one who would bring unity and peace to the nations. The conviction grew upon Israel that this mysterious descendent of David would be king, not just for a time and not just in an earthly sense, but would rule forever and for all nations. This definitive king of the Jews would be king of the world. He would be our king, as well.

– Bishop Robert Barron

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

Zechariah

In the days of Herod, King of Judea,
there was a priest named Zechariah
of the priestly division of Abijah;
his wife was from the daughters of Aaron,
and her name was Elizabeth.
Both were righteous in the eyes of God,
observing all the commandments
and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly.
But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren
and both were advanced in years.

Once when he was serving as priest
in his division’s turn before God,
according to the practice of the priestly service,
he was chosen by lot
to enter the sanctuary of the Lord to burn incense.
Then, when the whole assembly of the people was praying outside
at the hour of the incense offering,
the angel of the Lord appeared to him,
standing at the right of the altar of incense.
Zechariah was troubled by what he saw, and fear came upon him.

But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah,
because your prayer has been heard.
Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son,
and you shall name him John.
And you will have joy and gladness,
and many will rejoice at his birth,
for he will be great in the sight of the Lord.
He will drink neither wine nor strong drink.
He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb,
and he will turn many of the children of Israel
to the Lord their God.
He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah
to turn the hearts of fathers toward children
and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous,
to prepare a people fit for the Lord.”

Then Zechariah said to the angel,
“How shall I know this?
For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.”
And the angel said to him in reply,
“I am Gabriel, who stand before God.
I was sent to speak to you and to announce to you this good news.
But now you will be speechless and unable to talk
until the day these things take place,
because you did not believe my words,
which will be fulfilled at their proper time.”
Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah
and were amazed that he stayed so long in the sanctuary.
But when he came out, he was unable to speak to them,
and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary.
He was gesturing to them but remained mute.

Then, when his days of ministry were completed, he went home.

After this time his wife Elizabeth conceived,
and she went into seclusion for five months, saying,
“So has the Lord done for me at a time when he has seen fit
to take away my disgrace before others.”
(Luke 1:5-25)

Scripture Study

1:5 In the days of Herod, King of Judea: Luke relates the story of salvation history to events in contemporary world history. Here and in Lk 3:1–2 he connects his narrative with events in Palestinian history; in Lk 2:1–2 and Lk 3:1 he casts the Jesus story in the light of events of Roman history. Herod the Great, the son of the Idumean Antipater, was declared “King of Judea” by the Roman Senate in 40 b.c., but became the undisputed ruler of Palestine only in 37 b.c. He continued as king until his death in 4 b.c. Priestly division of Abijah: a reference to the eighth of the twenty-four divisions of priests who, for a week at a time, twice a year, served in the Jerusalem temple.

1:7 They had no child: though childlessness was looked upon in contemporaneous Judaism as a curse or punishment for sin, it is intended here to present Elizabeth in a situation similar to that of some of the great mothers of important Old Testament figures: Sarah (Gn 15:3; 16:1); Rebekah (Gn 25:21); Rachel (Gn 29:31; 30:1); the mother of Samson and wife of Manoah (Jgs 13:2–3); Hannah (1 Sm 1:2).

1:13 Do not be afraid: a stereotyped Old Testament phrase spoken to reassure the recipient of a heavenly vision (Gn 15:1; Jos 1:9; Dn 10:12, 19 and elsewhere in Lk 1:30; 2:10). You shall name him John: the name means “Yahweh has shown favor,” an indication of John’s role in salvation history.

1:15 He will drink neither wine nor strong drink: like Samson (Jgs 13:4–5) and Samuel (1 Sm 1:11 LXX and 4QSama), John is to be consecrated by Nazirite vow and set apart for the Lord’s service.

1:17 He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah: John is to be the messenger sent before Yahweh, as described in Mal 3:1–2. He is cast, moreover, in the role of the Old Testament fiery reformer, the prophet Elijah, who according to Mal 3:6 (Mal 3:24) is sent before “the great and terrible day of the Lord comes.”

1:19 I am Gabriel: “the angel of the Lord” is identified as Gabriel, the angel who in Dn 9:20–25 announces the seventy weeks of years and the coming of an anointed one, a prince. By alluding to Old Testament themes in Lk 1:17, 19 such as the coming of the day of the Lord and the dawning of the messianic era, Luke is presenting his interpretation of the significance of the births of John and Jesus.

1:20 You will be speechless and unable to talk: Zechariah’s becoming mute is the sign given in response to his question in v 18. When Mary asks a similar question in Lk 1:34, unlike Zechariah who was punished for his doubt, she, in spite of her doubt, is praised and reassured (Lk 1:35–37). 

Scripture Reflection

Friends, in today’s Gospel, Luke tells us about John the Baptist’s parents. We see with utter clarity that John is a priestly figure. Zechariah, his father, is a Temple priest and Elizabeth, his mother, is a descendant of Aaron, the very first priest.

Now flash forward thirty years and see John emerging in the desert. The first question is, “Why is this son of a priest not working in the Temple?” And the second is, “Why are the people going out from Jerusalem to commune with him?” The answer to the first is that he is engaging in a prophetic critique of a Temple that has gone bad. And the answer to the second is that he is performing the acts of a purified Temple priest out in the desert. His baptism was a ritual cleansing and a spur to repent, precisely what a pious Jew would have sought in the Temple.

And the picture becomes complete when Jesus arrives to be baptized and John says, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” This is explicitly Temple talk. He is saying that the one who is to be sacrificed has arrived. He is the fulfillment of priesthood, Temple, and sacrifice. The priestly figure has done his work, and now he fades away.

– Bishop Robert Barron

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

A Righteous Man

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.
When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph,
but before they lived together,
she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man,
yet unwilling to expose her to shame,
decided to divorce her quietly.
Such was his intention when, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,
“Joseph, son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.
For it is through the Holy Spirit
that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins.”
All this took place to fulfill
what the Lord had said through the prophet:

Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,

which means “God is with us.”
When Joseph awoke,
he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him
and took his wife into his home.
He had no relations with her until she bore a son,
and he named him Jesus.
(Matthew 1:18-25)

Scripture Study

1:18 betrothed Refers to a permanent relationship nearly equivalent to marriage. lived together Refers to cohabitation or physical union. she was found with child Suggests that Mary was in her second trimester—that is, her pregnancy was beginning to show.

1:19 unwilling to expose her The law demanded that an adulteress receive the death penalty (Deut 22:21). However, the Jewish community of this time often did not carry out the death penalty; instead, they punished adulteresses through public disgrace.

1:20 in a dream Angelic visitation and dreams are a common means of supernatural revelation in the sacred literature of this time.

1:21 you are to name him A father was responsible for naming his son at the time of his circumcision (eight days after birth). The angel’s words implicitly command that Joseph accept his role as father of the child. In antiquity, names were often thought to be emblematic of the character or calling of the individual. Jesus From the Hebrew name yeshua’, which means “Yahweh saves.” he will save his people from their sins Announces more than a royal or political Messiah. Jesus saves, even from sin (compare Isa 53:12).

1:22 to fulfill Matthew often interprets events in Jesus’ life in terms of prophecies from the OT; this is the first instance of this type of interpretation.

1:23 virgin The Greek word used here, parthenos, reflects the Septuagint (ancient Greek translation of the OT) version of Isa 7:14, which Matthew drew from when quoting the Hebrew Bible (or OT). Matthew appropriates this prophecy and applies it to the virgin birth of Jesus. they shall name him Emmanuel Matthew presents Jesus as the fulfillment of Isa 7:14, which says that the child’s name will be Immanuel (meaning “God with us”; compare Matt 28:20). While in the original context of Isaiah, this is a prophecy about a child born during the reign of King Ahaz of Judah (ca. 735–715 BC; Isa 7:16; compare Isa 8:8, 10), Matthew sees this prophecy as finding its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus.

1:25 he had no relations with her Matthew does not record any command for Joseph to refrain from marital relations with Mary, although abstinence was the rule of the time during the betrothal period. Matthew is careful to indicate that no human father had any role in Jesus’ conception. she bore a son The date of Jesus’ birth is approximately 5 BC, based on aligning it with the reign of Herod the Great.

Scripture Reflection

Friends, today’s Gospel centers on the intriguing figure of Joseph. Joseph is one of the most beloved of the saints, featured in countless works of art and prominent in the devotional lives of many.

We know almost nothing about him, yet some very powerful spiritual themes emerge in the accounts of Joseph. He had become betrothed to Mary and this union had been blessed by God. And then he finds that his betrothed is pregnant.

This must have been an emotional maelstrom for him. And, at a deeper level, it is a spiritual crisis. What does God want him to do? Then the angel appears to him in a dream and tells him, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.” He realizes at that moment that these puzzling events are part of a much greater plan of God’s. What appears to be a disaster from his perspective is meaningful from God’s perspective.

Joseph was willing to cooperate with the divine plan, though he in no way knew its contours or deepest purpose. Like Mary at the Annunciation, he trusted and let himself be led.

– Bishop Robert Barron

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

Prepare the Way

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.

And this is the testimony of John.
When the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests
and Levites to him
to ask him, “Who are you?”
He admitted and did not deny it,
but admitted, “I am not the Christ.”
So they asked him,
“What are you then? Are you Elijah?”
And he said, “I am not.”
“Are you the Prophet?”
He answered, “No.”
So they said to him,
“Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us?
What do you have to say for yourself?”
He said:
“I am the voice of one crying out in the desert,
‘make straight the way of the Lord,'”

as Isaiah the prophet said.”
Some Pharisees were also sent.
They asked him,
“Why then do you baptize
if you are not the Christ or Elijah or the Prophet?”
John answered them,
“I baptize with water;
but there is one among you whom you do not recognize,
the one who is coming after me,
whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.”
This happened in Bethany across the Jordan,
where John was baptizing.
(John 1:6-8, 19-26)

Scripture Study

1:6 A man named John Introduces John the Baptist as the messenger sent by God to announce the coming of His salvation into the world through Jesus. John was the prophesied forerunner of the Messiah (see Mal 4:5–6; compare Matt 11:9).

1:7 came for testimony John’s mission is articulated in legal terms; he is a witness coming to testify. The imagery also is used in Isaiah, where God’s people testify to His sovereignty (see Isa 43:10; 44:8).

1:19 the Jews Refers to the religious leaders in Jerusalem. John often uses this label to categorize those who are opposed to Jesus and His ministry (e.g., John 5:16; 11:57). While the term can be used in a neutral or even a positive sense (e.g., 2:6; 4:22), the prevailing connotation with the expression is “unbelieving Jews. Who are you John answers their real question, “Are you the Messiah?” His answer indicates that their question was centered on their OT messianic expectations.

1:20 I am not the Messiah The Greek word used here, christos (meaning “anointed one”), is equivalent to the Hebrew term mashiach, meaning “Messiah.” John the Baptist is explicitly denying that he is the Messiah, but their questioning continues through multiple layers of Jewish messianic expectation.

1:21 Are you Elijah The prophet Elijah’s miraculous ascent into heaven on a fiery divine chariot (2 Kgs 2:11) fueled the belief that he would return as a forerunner of the Messiah. The OT explicitly attests to this expectation in Mal 4:5. I am not John’s denial of the role of Elijah as forerunner of the Messiah likely reflects either his historical perspective on his ministry or an avoidance of traditional labels. The Synoptic Gospels explicitly connect John the Baptist with the expected coming of Elijah (see Matt 11:11–14; Luke 1:17). Are you the Prophet This line of questioning reflects the varying categories of messianic expectation in the Second Temple period. Since John denied being the Messiah or his forerunner, Elijah, he is asked whether he is the prophet Moses predicted in Deut 18:15–18. John disclaims this role as well, showing complete humility in his calling. He understands that his office is to point to the Messiah and lead people to repent.

1:23 one crying out John identifies himself by quoting Isa 40:3. All four Gospels apply this Scripture to John the Baptist, but John’s Gospel is the only one that puts the quote on the lips of John the Baptist himself (compare Matt 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4).

1:24 Pharisees A Jewish lay movement of experts in the interpretation of the law.

1:25 why then do you baptize They ask John by what authority he has taken it upon himself to baptize Jews. Washing with water was a common practice in Jewish ritual purification, but baptism was associated with the conversion of Gentiles.

Scripture Reflection

Friends, today’s Gospel presents John the Baptist as the messenger preparing the way for Jesus. John speaks: “I am ‘the voice of one crying out in the desert, make straight the way of the Lord.’” He is saying that his job is to prepare for the mighty coming of the Lord. He is to build the highway that will facilitate his arrival. A change is coming, a revolution is on the way, a disaster (the destruction of the old) is about to happen. Prepare the way of the Lord.

And what is the manner of preparation? It is a baptism of repentance. Baptism—an immersion in water—reminded first-century Jews of the exodus, passing through the Red Sea, leaving the ways of slavery behind. God would humble the powers of their time as he once humbled Egypt and Babylon.

And repentance? It simply means going beyond the mind that you have. How our minds are conditioned by the fallen world! How our expectations are shaped, stunted by what has gone before. It’s time, John is saying, for a new mind, a new set of eyes, a new kind of expectation.

– Bishop Robert Barron

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

Repentance

As they were coming down from the mountain,
the disciples asked Jesus, Jesus charged them,
“Do not tell the vision* to anyone until the
Son of Man has been raised from the dead.

Then the disciples asked him,
“Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?”
He said in reply, “Elijah will indeed come and restore all things;
but I tell you that Elijah has already come,
and they did not recognize him but did to him whatever they pleased.
So also will the Son of Man suffer at their hands.”
Then the disciples understood
that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.
(Matthew 17:9, 10-13)

Scripture Study

17:9 raised from the dead Jesus mentions His forthcoming resurrection for the second time (see Matt 16:21). Son of Man Jesus uses this self-designation more than any other; it comes from the OT book of Daniel. This title occurs 30 times in the Gospel of Matthew and often stresses the exaltation of Jesus.

17:10 Elijah must come first Malachi had prophesied that Elijah would come before the Messiah (Mal 4:5). The prophet Malachi had foretold the coming of a messenger—Elijah—who would prepare the way of the Messiah (Mal 3:1; 4:5); consequently, some Jews expected the return of Elijah himself (e.g., John 1:25). However, Jesus explains here that Malachi’s prophecy was fulfilled by John the Baptist, who ministered in the spirit and power of Elijah (Luke 1:17; compare Matt 16:14).

17:11 Elijah will indeed come In vv. 11–12, Jesus could be referring to two Elijah-figures—one in the future and one in the past—or He might be restating the prophecy of Mal 4:5 and then speaking about its fulfillment in John the Baptist.

17:12 did to him whatever they pleased Refers to John the Baptist’s beheading (14:6–11).

Scripture Reflection

Friends, today’s Gospel passage identifies the appearance of John the Baptist with the expected return of the prophet Elijah. John, the herald of Christ, appears in the desert. Here he stands for all of us in the desert of sin, the lifeless place. It is as though John purposely went there to remind us of our need for grace.

What is he proclaiming? A baptism of repentance. This is the great message. Turn your life over to a higher power. People are coming to him from all sides, because in our heart of hearts we all resonate with this message.

So often in the Old Testament, the prophets are asked to act out some quality of the people, perhaps something they were unable or unwilling to see. Well, this tradition continues here: John acts out for the people their helplessness and neediness before the Lord. But then, like Isaiah, he refuses to leave it at that. He announces that one is coming, one who will baptize in the Holy Spirit.

– Bishop Robert Barron

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

Just the Way You Are

Jesus said to the crowds:
“To what shall I compare this generation?
It is like children who sit in marketplaces and call to one another,
‘We played the flute for you, but you did not dance,
we sang a dirge but you did not mourn.’
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they said,
‘He is possessed by a demon.’
The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they said,
‘Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard,
a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’
But wisdom is vindicated by her works.”
(Matthew 11:16-19)

Scripture Study

11:16–17 Jesus speaks of this generation. On the surface, the expression seems harmless enough, meaning the people who are alive now. But in the Bible, this phrase generally refers to an unfaithful generation. It calls to mind the wicked generation of Noah’s day (Gen 6:5–8) as well as the faithless generation of Israel that was denied entrance into the promised land (Deut 1:35; 32:5). Jesus will later make these recollections from biblical history more explicit (17:17; 24:37–39).

Then follows a proverb that alludes to village life in Palestine. According to customs among children, boys invited their companions to dance at weddings and girls sang laments at funerals and invited their friends to mourn. Here, sounding the flute refers to the call of Jesus, who spoke of himself as a bridegroom enjoying the celebration of a wedding feast (9:15). Likewise, the singing of a dirge represents the ascetic witness of John, in particular the fasting he encouraged among his disciples (9:14). And the disagreeable playmates who refuse to dance or mourn—these are the crowds that declined both the festive invitation of Jesus as well as the penitential summons of John.

11:18–19 John came neither eating nor drinking, which means that he engaged in no celebratory feasting. The desert prophet, who lived on foods found in the wild, had nothing to do with banquets and delicacies. Nor did he know the joys of wine that normally went with it.9 For this reason, some people thought him exceedingly strange and concluded that he must be possessed by a demon. Jesus, however, attended dinner parties in order to bring his message to the common people. Yet some glared with a critical eye and called him a glutton and a drunkard (see Deut 21:20). In the end, it seems that nothing could please the faithless generation of John and Jesus. They turned their backs on feasting as well as fasting, for they wanted nothing to do with the wisdom of the Messiah and his forerunner.

Scripture Reflection

Friends, in today’s Gospel the Pharisees compare the eating habits of John the Baptist, who fasted, and Jesus, who dined with sinners. In the carefully stratified society of Jesus’ time, a righteous person would never associate with the unrighteous, for fear of becoming unclean.

But here is Jesus, scandalizing everyone because he does indeed break down these barriers. How would you feel if you saw me socializing with prostitutes and drug-dealers, eating and drinking with terrorists? Would it shock you, dismay you, disappoint you? But this is what Jesus did, precisely because he was the Incarnation of the God who aggressively seeks out the lost.

God looks for us, comes running after us, never lets go, never relents, never gives up. The more we run, the more he runs after; the more we hide, the more he looks; the more we resist, the more he persists. God likes sinners and associates with them.

– Bishop Robert Barron

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

Hear It

Jesus said to the crowds:
“Amen, I say to you,
among those born of women
there has been none greater than John the Baptist;
yet the least in the Kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
From the days of John the Baptist until now,
the Kingdom of heaven suffers violence,
and the violent are taking it by force.
All the prophets and the law prophesied up to the time of John.
And if you are willing to accept it,
he is Elijah, the one who is to come.
Whoever has ears ought to hear.”
(Matthew 11:11-15)

Scripture Study

11:11 among those born of women Jesus indicates that John was the most important person who had lived until that point. The last part of the verse provides Jesus’ reason for this statement: The lowliest member of the kingdom of heaven—the most humble and God-serving—is greater than the greatest man who ever lived. Jesus is not making a moral distinction between His disciples and John; He is contrasting heavenly and earthly conceptions of greatness.

11:12 the violent are taking it The kingdom of heaven and its workers have suffered at the hands of violent people who try to prevent or usurp God’s rule.

11:14 he is Elijah The prophet Malachi had foretold the coming of a messenger—Elijah—who would prepare the way of the Messiah (Mal 3:1; 4:5); consequently, some Jews expected the return of Elijah himself (e.g., John 1:25). However, Jesus explains here that Malachi’s prophecy was fulfilled by John the Baptist, who ministered in the spirit and power of Elijah (Luke 1:17; compare Matt 16:14).

Scripture Reflection

Friends, today’s Gospel affirms the greatness of John the Baptist. I think 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 did not draw attention to himself. Rather, he presented himself as a preparation, a forerunner, a prophet preparing the way of the Lord. He was summing up much of Israelite history, but stressing that this history was open-ended, unfinished.

And therefore, how powerful it was when, upon spying Jesus coming to be baptized, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God.” No first-century Israelite would have missed the meaning of that: behold the one who has come to be sacrificed. Behold the sacrifice, which will sum up, complete, and perfect the Temple. Moreover, behold the Passover lamb, who sums up the whole meaning of that event and brings it to fulfillment.

And this is why John says, “He must increase and I must decrease.” In other words, the overture is complete; and now the great opera begins. The preparatory work of Israel is over, and now the Messiah will reign.

– Bishop Robert Barron

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

Bless the Lord

Bless the LORD, O my soul;
and all my being, bless his holy name.
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits.

He pardons all your iniquities,
he heals all your ills.
He redeems your life from destruction,
he crowns you with kindness and compassion.

Merciful and gracious is the LORD,
slow to anger and abounding in kindness.
Not according to our sins does he deal with us,
nor does he requite us according to our crimes.
(Psalm 103:1-2, 3-4, 8, 10)

Scripture Study

103:1 Bless the Lord The psalmist repeats this command six times (vv. 1, 2, 20, 21, 22). The Hebrew word used here, barakh (which may be literally rendered as “to bless”), describes bestowing someone with special power or declaring the Lord to be the source of special power. In that regard, it means praising the Lord for who He is. bless his holy name This refers primarily to the essential character and nature of Lord.

103:3 He pardons The psalmist praises God because He forgives sins. your iniquities Refers to a sickness or some condition of illness.

103:4 He redeems The Hebrew word used here, go’el, refers to a person who rescues another from a form of bondage through outside help. The term is applied to situations ranging from physical harm, to slavery, to debt. he crowns you The psalmist emphasizes God’s love, rather than His justice or retribution. God’s chesed is central to His character. compassion The Hebrew word used here, rachamim, describes a deeply felt care or mercy.

103:6–10 The psalmist now focuses on the Lord’s character. Because of His loving nature, the Lord acts on behalf of Israel. He is merciful, and therefore He cares for Israel.

Scripture Reflection

The words of the psalmist give voice to the thankfulness of sinners that the LORD is a God of mercy and grace. It recites in a concentrated way what Israel learned about the ways of God; the LORD had not dealt with them according to their sins.

“Why should the wonders he hath wrought / Be lost in silence and forgot?” (Isaac Watts). The exhortation of the soul with which this hymn begins warns against the danger of forgetting. The psalm is a marvelous way to remember, and there is nothing more important for sinners to remember in life and in death than the sovereignty of divine grace.

– James Mays

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