One Having Authority

Jesus came to Capernaum with his followers,
and on the sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught.
The people were astonished at his teaching,
for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.
In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit;
he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?
Have you come to destroy us?
I know who you are–the Holy One of God!”
Jesus rebuked him and said, “Quiet! Come out of him!”
The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him.
All were amazed and asked one another,
“What is this?
A new teaching with authority.
He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.”
His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.
(Mark 1:21-28)

Scripture Study

1:21 Capernaum A village on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. Sabbath The traditional day of rest for the Jewish people as prescribed by the law (Exod 20:8–11; Deut 5:12–15). synagogue Usually refers to a building where a local community assembled. The synagogue was not a distinctively religious institution, as nonreligious activities also took place there.

1:22 scribes Refers to experts in the law of Moses. They served a religious function alongside the priests and Pharisees.

1:23 an unclean spirit The term used here links the idea of malevolent supernatural forces to the Jewish concern for purity and holiness. cried out Refers to the man with the unclean spirit. His next words, however, indicate that the unclean spirit is actually speaking through him, since a plural (“us”) is used.

1:24 I know who you are So far in Mark’s Gospel, only Jesus seems to know His true identity (Mark 1:11). Mark emphasizes the demons’ recognition of Jesus as the one God has set apart for a purpose. This highlights both human ignorance of who Jesus is and how fearful evil powers were of Him.

1:25 Quiet With this command, Jesus simultaneously neutralizes the spirit’s attempt to oppose Him and prevents His identity as the Messiah from becoming public knowledge.

1:27 they obey him Exorcists were common in the ancient Near East. For example, among the Dead Sea Scrolls (circa 250 bc–ad 50), a text containing an incantation formula designed to exorcise demons was discovered. Jesus distinguishes Himself from other exorcists in that He did not rely on complex incantations. He could simply command the demons and they would leave their hosts.

Scripture Reflection

The story of Jesus’ first exorcism portrays the forces of evil in a way that may appear to readers today as strikingly personal. For Mark, as for the whole New Testament, evil is not an impersonal force but is concentrated in invisible, malevolent beings who are bent on destroying human beings and hindering God’s plan of salvation. These evil spirits are responsible for various mental and even physical maladies. The Church has always taught that demons, are real spiritual beings, fallen angels who were created by God but became evil by their own free choice.

Anyone tempted to dismiss accounts of demons as fables does not have to look far to see evidence of their influence today. Such phenomena as “racial cleansing,” group suicides, and the sexual abuse of children show a more than merely human malice at work, seeking to destroy the image of God in man.

But as frightening and real as is the power of demons, the authority of Christ is infinitely superior. Through his cross and resurrection, Christ definitively conquered the powers of hell. For the present time, however, their malicious actions are permitted by God, who is able to work good out of every evil. The grace of baptism affords us protection from demons and the strength to resist their seductive influence.

– Mary Healy

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

The Baptism of the Lord

This is what John the Baptist proclaimed:
“One mightier than I is coming after me.
I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.
I have baptized you with water;
he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

It happened in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee
and was baptized in the Jordan by John.
On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open
and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him.
And a voice came from the heavens,
“You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
(Mark 1:7-11)

Scripture Study

1:7 One mightier than I John understands himself to be the forerunner of the Messiah (compare Mark 1:2–3). I am not worthy Removing and carrying sandals was the work of slaves. John is stating that he is not worthy even to be a slave of the Messiah (the anointed one of God).

1:8 baptized you with water John’s baptism was in preparation for the Messiah, through whom God would pour out His Spirit on the people of Israel (Joel 2:28; Isa 32:15; 44:3; Ezek 36:26; compare Isa 42:1). John anticipates that Jesus’ appearance would directly precede the arrival of God’s Spirit (compare Acts 2:1–13).

1:9 from Nazareth A small town in Galilee. Jesus seems to have spent the majority of His childhood and youth years, and perhaps His early adulthood, in Nazareth (Matt 2:23; Luke 4:16). He does not begin His adult ministry until around age 30 (Luke 3:23). Galilee The northernmost region of Palestine. After the death of Herod the Great in 4 bc, his son, Antipas, administered Galilee (along with Perea, where John was baptizing).

1:10 the heavens being torn open Evokes the language of Isa 64:1–2. Isaiah 64 is about the awesome arrival of God’s presence and the need for sinful people to be saved; the passage has in view both the Jewish people and the nations (the entire world). In the culmination of Isa 64, Jesus’ baptism marks the arrival of God’s presence (compare Mark 1:15). Spirit This connects Jesus to Isa 42:1, where God states that He will put His Spirit on His Servant. It portrays Jesus as the anointed Servant in Isaiah who is commissioned by God to establish justice on the earth (Isa 42:1, 4).

1:11 You are my beloved Son Drawn from Psa 2:7. Psalm 2 speaks about the role of the anointed one of Yahweh (the Messiah) and how the kings of the earth should fear Yahweh and His Son, for all nations will ultimately be His heritage (Psa 2:7, 11–12; compare Isa 52:15; 53:12).

Scripture Reflection

John’s prophecy that Jesus would “baptize you with the Holy Spirit” is fulfilled in the life of every new Christian through the sacraments of baptism and confirmation. Just as the gestation of our first birth took place in water, so the water of Baptism truly signifies that our birth into the divine life is given to us in the Holy Spirit. Most Christians receive this unspeakable gift at a very young age; thus to experience its full effects we need to appropriate the gift of the Spirit personally through faith, ongoing conversion, and growth in the knowledge of God.

The phrase “baptism in the Spirit” has also become familiar to millions of English-speaking Christians through the charismatic renewal, which adapted the biblical term to express the life-changing encounter with Christ and outpouring of the power of the Holy Spirit that many experience. “Baptism in the Spirit” in this sense is not a sacrament but a coming alive of the graces received in sacramental baptism. Although the grace of Pentecost is manifested in different ways in every age, it is fundamentally the same grace of which John spoke and which Jesus poured out on the Church after his passion and resurrection.

– Mary Healy

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

The Epiphany of the Lord

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea,
in the days of King Herod,
behold, magi from the east 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.”

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
they saw the child with Mary his mother.
They prostrated themselves and did him homage.
Then they opened their treasures
and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod,
they departed for their country by another way.
(Matthew 2:1-12)

Scripture Study

2:1 Bethlehem of Judea Located about six miles south of Jerusalem. Herod Refers to Herod the Great, who was from the region of Idumea, making him an illegitimate king in the opinions of many Jewish people. Following the death of his father, Antipater, Herod was made king of Judaea by Rome and ruled from 37–4 bc. magi The exact number of wise men (or Magi), their names, and their place of origin are uncertain. Throughout the ancient Near East, the births of extraordinary, savior-type figures were believed to coincide with astral phenomena. When a star (or planet) appeared over Jerusalem, the Magi believed that it heralded the King of the Jews.

2:2 king of the Jews The Jews were already being ruled by a king—Herod. The political climate and traditional association of the Messiah with the house of David made it natural for Jews to assume that the Messiah would be a king. star In the ancient Near East, people considered the movements of particular planets, stars, comets, meteors, and other astrological phenomena to be signs or portents. The reference to a star connects Jesus’ birth with the prophetic oracle in Num 24:17. to do him homage Implies the level of respect that citizens would pay to a king in antiquity.

2:3 he was greatly troubled To Herod, the magi’s question indicates a potential rival to his throne. all Jerusalem with him The city’s residents knew of Herod’s violence and were frightened at the prospect of further trouble. His slaughter of children (Matt 2:16) shows that their fear is justified.

2:4 Assembling all the chief priests Herod is not demonstrating piety or respect for the priests in this instance; they functioned as his own cabinet and body of advisers. He requires their expertise to determine the Messiah’s birthplace. scribes of the people Refers to trained interpreters of the law of Moses. They likely debated among themselves before giving Herod their answer; many competing messianic expectations existed at this time. where the Messiah was to be born Herod’s actions do not demonstrate a hopeful anticipation concerning the coming of the Messiah; rather, he knows that anyone claiming to be the Messiah will be a threat to his rule. Most likely, he fears that someone will use the child as a figurehead in a military uprising.

2:6 are by no means least Matthew’s reading of Mic 5:2 reflects neither the original Hebrew nor the Septuagint (Greek) translation. However, it is likely that multiple Greek translations were available at this time. Additionally, Matthew may have made his own translation, quoting from memory or paraphrasing. Despite the variations in the text, the sense is the same: Bethlehem’s importance comes from its connection to David and the Davidic Messiah. who is to shepherd Ancient Near Eastern rulers often are portrayed as shepherds. The same imagery is used throughout the OT (see Ezek 34:23; Jer 23:1–4; John 10:1–42).

2:7 called the magi secretly All of Jerusalem had already heard of the magi’s arrival. Herod keeps their specific mission to Bethlehem secret and probably also orders the priests and scribes to do the same. the time of the star’s appearance Indicates that time had already passed since Jesus’ birth.

2:8 when you have found him, bring me word The magi likely came to Herod expecting to find the child in his palace.

2:9 preceded them This unusual activity demonstrates that the star is a supernatural phenomenon.

2:10 They were overjoyed at seeing the star Their reaction implies that the star had disappeared previously and had only now reappeared (perhaps due to the inability to view stars during the daytime). They also were joyful because the star’s stopping place indicated the Messiah’s location.

2:11 They prostrated themselves and did him homage. This was a common custom in the ancient Near East for honoring kings, who were viewed as divine figures. gold, frankincense and myrrh These were costly luxury items suitable as gifts for the birth of an important or royal figure.

2:12 having been warned Matthew does not identify the warning’s origin. Throughout his narrative, he commonly ascribes dreams to God and His emissaries.

Scripture Reflection

A number of Church Fathers marveled over the faith of the magi, who through human eyes see only an ordinary child in Bethlehem but by faith see so much more. They fall down and worship God in human flesh and offer him gifts of gold for his kingship, frankincense for his divinity, and myrrh for his humanity.

This is the type of response we should have even today when we meet Jesus in the Eucharist. Though with the eyes of our bodies we see what appears to be only bread, with the eyes of faith we know it to be the very body of our Lord. The Council of Trent mentions the magi’s worship of the Christ child as a model for our adoring him in the Eucharist: “For in this sacrament we believe that the same God is present whom the eternal Father brought into the world. It is the same God whom the Magi fell down and worshipped.”

We, like the magi, can show Jesus great reverence when we kneel before his Real Presence in the Eucharist. We too can bring him gifts, perhaps not gold, frankincense, and myrrh, but the gifts of our hearts in praise and thanksgiving, which would be, according to St. Gregory Nazianzen, great “spiritual gifts, more sublime than those which can be seen with eyes.”

– Curtis Mitch and Edward Sri

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

 

New Life In Christ

Beloved:
Who indeed is the victor over the world
but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

This is the one who came through water and Blood, Jesus Christ,
not by water alone, but by water and Blood.
The Spirit is the one who testifies,
and the Spirit is truth.
So there are three that testify,
the Spirit, the water, and the Blood,
and the three are of one accord.
If we accept human testimony,
the testimony of God is surely greater.
Now the testimony of God is this,
that he has testified on behalf of his Son.
Whoever believes in the Son of God
has this testimony within himself.
Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar
by not believing the testimony God has given about his Son.
And this is the testimony:
God gave us eternal life,
and this life is in his Son.
Whoever possesses the Son has life;
whoever does not possess the Son of God does not have life.

I write these things to you so that you may know
that you have eternal life,
you who believe in the name of the Son of God.
(1 John 5:5-13)

Scripture Study

5:6 Water and blood (1 Jn 5:6) refers to Christ’s baptism (Mt 3:16–17) and to the shedding of his blood on the cross (Jn 19:34). The Spirit was present at the baptism (Mt 3:16; Mk 1:10; Lk 3:22; Jn 1:32, 34).

5:9 the testimony to Christ as the Son of God is confirmed by divine witness (1 Jn 5:7–9), greater by far than the two legally required human witnesses (Dt 17:6). To deny this is to deny God’s truth; cf. Jn 8:17–18.

5:11 The gist of the divine witness or testimony is that eternal life (1 Jn 5:11–12) is given in Christ and nowhere else.

5:12 To possess the Son is not acceptance of a doctrine but of a person who lives now and provides life.

Scripture Reflection

In his characteristic style, St. John strings together a series of short phrases which are full of meaning. In a very few words, he enunciates three important truths, which he expects Christians to be very familiar with: (1) God the Father has borne witness to his Son; (2) this witness brings an obligation with it; if one does not believe one is making God out to be a liar; (3) God has given us life in Christ.

Although John does not expressly say so, it is clear that God bore witness to Jesus throughout his earthly life: Jesus’ words, miracles, passion and death, and his resurrection are evidence God has supplied of Christ’s divinity. He who believes in Jesus Christ manifests his faith in others, passing on to them the conviction that Jesus is true God.

Faith produces the fruit of supernatural life, which is the seed and first-fruit of eternal life; that life can be given us only by Jesus Christ, our Savior. “To those of us who are still making our pilgrim way in this life, have been given the hope of eternal life, which we shall only receive in its full form in heaven when we reach Him” – St Bede.

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

 

How Do You Know Me?

Jesus decided to go to Galilee, and he found Philip.
And Jesus said to him, “Follow me.”
Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the town of Andrew and Peter.
Philip found Nathanael and told him,
“We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law,
and also the prophets, Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth.”
But Nathanael said to him,
“Can anything good come from Nazareth?”
Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him,
“Here is a true child of Israel.
There is no duplicity in him.”
Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?”
Jesus answered and said to him,
“Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.”
Nathanael answered him,
“Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”
Jesus answered and said to him,
“Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree?
You will see greater things than this.”
And he said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you,
you will see the sky opened and the angels of God
ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
(John 1:43-51)

Scripture Study

1:43 He: grammatically, could be Peter, but logically is probably Jesus.

1:47 A true Israelite. There is no duplicity in him: Jacob was the first to bear the name “Israel” (Gn 32:29), but Jacob was a man of duplicity (Gn 27:35–36).

1:48 Under the fig tree: a symbol of messianic peace (cf. Mi 4:4; Zec 3:10).

1:49 Son of God: this title is used in the Old Testament, among other ways, as a title of adoption for the Davidic king (2 Sm 7:14; Ps 2:7; 89:27), and thus here, with King of Israel, in a messianic sense. For the evangelist, Son of God also points to Jesus’ divinity (cf. Jn 20:28).

1:50 Possibly a statement: “You [singular] believe because I saw you under the fig tree.”

1:51 The double “Amen” is characteristic of John. You is plural in Greek. The allusion is to Jacob’s ladder (Gn 28:12). 

Scripture Reflection

Friends, in today’s Gospel, Nathaniel recognizes Jesus as the Son of God and King of Israel. Like Nathaniel, once we make the decision for Jesus, once we determine that he is the supreme good, then every other claimant to supremacy must fall away. As I’ve argued many times before, every one of us has something or some set of values that we consider greatest. There is some center of gravity around which everything else turns.

Perhaps it is money and material things. Perhaps it is power and position. Perhaps it is the esteem of others. Perhaps it is your country or your political party or your ethnic identity. Perhaps it is your family, your kids, your wife, your husband.

None of this is false, and none of these things are bad. However, when you place any of them in the absolute center of gravity, things go awry. When you make any of them your ultimate or final good, your spiritual life goes haywire. When you attach yourself to any of them with an absolute tenacity, you will fall apart.

– Bishop Robert Barron

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

 

The Saving Power of God

Sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done wondrous deeds;
His right hand has won victory for him,
his holy arm.

Let the sea and what fills it resound,
the world and those who dwell in it;
Let the rivers clap their hands,
the mountains shout with them for joy before the LORD.

The LORD comes;
he comes to rule the earth;
He will rule the world with justice
and the peoples with equity.
(Psalm 98:1, 7-8, 9)

Scripture Study

98:1 Sing to Yahweh a new song The psalmist repeats the Hebrew phrase shiru layhwh (“sing to Yahweh”). The earth is the only identified audience of the series of commands. The psalmist then commands Yahweh’s people, the Israelites, to declare His miraculous actions to the foreign peoples (or nations) around them. holy arm God’s arm is a symbol of his strength in both judgment and salvation.

98:7 Let the sea and what fills it resound The sea rejoices at Yahweh’s approach (compare Ps 93:3–4). the world The Hebrew word used here, tevel, often refers specifically to the inhabited world. The psalmist may be demonstrating that God is superior to other deities by emphasizing that He is older than the places where other deities supposedly live.

98:8 Let the rivers clap their hands Compare to Ps 96:11–12.

98:9 he comes to rule the earth Refers to executing judgment in a legal context. the peoples Refer to geographic territories outside of Israel. equity God’s judgment will be fair.

Scripture Reflection

In this continued period of Christmas celebration, this psalm plays a memorable role in one of the most beloved songs of the season, “Joy to the World!” The text of the hymn, which celebrates the birth of Jesus as the coming of the LORD to rule the world with truth and grace, comes from the psalm 98.

The psalm announces the coming of the Savior God as king of the world. When Isaac Watts transformed the psalm into a hymn for Christmas, he was tutored by Scripture and tradition—and he got it right. “Joy to the World!” as hymn reflects and renews what the psalm has always meant as Christmas liturgy.

It catches and repeats the exuberance of humankind and nature in recognition of what is happening. It interprets Christmas as a decisive event in the reign of God, something that changes history for the nations. It maintains the connection between salvation and rule: “The Savior reigns.”

– James Mays

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

 

Agnus Dei

John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said,
“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.
He is the one of whom I said,
‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me
because he existed before me.’
I did not know him,
but the reason why I came baptizing with water
was that he might be made known to Israel.”
John testified further, saying,
“I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from the sky
and remain upon him.
I did not know him,
but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me,
‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain,
he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’
Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”
(John 1:29-34)

Scripture Study

1:29 The Lamb of God: the background for this title may be the victorious apocalyptic lamb who would destroy evil in the world (Rev 5–7; 17:14); the paschal lamb, whose blood saved Israel (Ex 12); and/or the suffering servant led like a lamb to the slaughter as a sin-offering (Is 53:7, 10).

1:30 He existed before me: possibly as Elijah (to come, Jn 1:27); for the evangelist and his audience, Jesus’ preexistence would be implied.

1:31 I did not know him: this gospel shows no knowledge of the tradition (Lk 1) about the kinship of Jesus and John the Baptist. The reason why I came baptizing with water: in this gospel, John’s baptism is not connected with forgiveness of sins; its purpose is revelatory, that Jesus may be made known to Israel.

1:32 Like a dove: a symbol of the new creation (Gn 8:8) or the community of Israel (Hos 11:11). Remain: the first use of a favorite verb in John, emphasizing the permanency of the relationship between Father and Son (as here) and between the Son and the Christian. Jesus is the permanent bearer of the Spirit.

1:34 The Son of God: this reading is supported by good Greek manuscripts, including the Chester Beatty and Bodmer Papyri and the Vatican Codex, but is suspect because it harmonizes this passage with the synoptic version: “This is my beloved Son” (Mt 3:17; Mk 1:11; Lk 3:22). The poorly attested alternate reading, “God’s chosen One,” is probably a reference to the Servant of Yahweh (Is 42:1).

Scripture Reflection

For the first time in the Gospel, Christ is called the “Lamb of God”. Isaiah had compared the sufferings of the Servant of Yahweh, the Messiah, with the sacrifice of a lamb (cf. Is 53:7); and the blood of the paschal lamb smeared on the doors of houses had served to protect the firstborn of the Israelites in Egypt (cf. Ex 12:6–7): all this was a promise and prefiguring of the true Lamb, Christ, the victim in the sacrifice of Calvary on behalf of all mankind. This is why St Paul will say that “Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Cor 5:7). The expression “Lamb of God” also suggests the spotless innocence of the Redeemer (cf. 1 Pet 1:18–20; 1 Jn 3:5).

Christ came to free us from original sin, which in Adam affected all men, and from all personal sins. The book of Revelation reveals to us that Jesus is victorious and glorious in heaven as the slain lamb (cf. Rev 5:6–14), surrounded by saints, martyrs and virgins (Rev 7:9, 14; 14:1–5), who render him the praise and glory due him as God (Rev 7:10). Since Holy Communion is a sharing in the sacrifice of Christ, priests say these words of the Baptist before administering it, to encourage the faithful to be grateful to our Lord for giving himself up to death to save us and for giving himself to us as nourishment for our souls.

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

A Desert Blooming

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 1:19-28)

Scripture Study

1:19 The Jews: throughout most of the gospel, the “Jews” does not refer to the Jewish people as such but to the hostile authorities, both Pharisees and Sadducees, particularly in Jerusalem, who refuse to believe in Jesus. The usage reflects the atmosphere, at the end of the first century, of polemics between church and synagogue, or possibly it refers to Jews as representative of a hostile world (Jn 1:10–11).

1:20 Messiah: the anointed agent of Yahweh, usually considered to be of Davidic descent.

1:21 Elijah: the Baptist did not claim to be Elijah returned to earth (cf. Mal 3:19; Mt 11:14). the Prophet: probably the prophet like Moses (Dt 18:15; cf. Acts 3:22).

1:23 This is a repunctuation and reinterpretation (as in the synoptic gospels and Septuagint) of the Hebrew text of Is 40:3 which reads, “A voice cries out: In the desert prepare the way of the Lord.”

1:24 Some Pharisees: other translations, such as “Now they had been sent from the Pharisees,” misunderstand the grammatical construction. This is a different group from that in Jn 1:19; the priests and Levites would have been Sadducees, not Pharisees.

1:26 I baptize with water: the synoptics add “but he will baptize you with the holy Spirit” (Mk 1:8) or “… holy Spirit and fire” (Mt 3:11; Lk 3:16). John’s emphasis is on purification and preparation for a better baptism.

1:28 Bethany across the Jordan: site unknown. Another reading is “Bethabara.”

Scripture Reflection

Friends, in today’s Gospel John the Baptist identifies himself as “the voice of one crying out in the desert.” How often the great heroes of the Biblical revelation have to spend time in the desert: Abraham, Moses, John the Baptist, Paul. Even Jesus himself spends forty days and nights in the desert before commencing his ministry.

They have to wait through a painful time, living a stripped-down life, before they are ready. What does the desert symbolize? Confrontation with one’s own sin; seeing one’s dark side; a deep realization of one’s dependency upon God; an ordering of the priorities of one’s life; a simplification, a getting back to basics. It means any and all of these things.

But the bottom line is that they are compelled to wait, during a time and in a place where very little life seems to be on offer. But it is precisely in such deserts that the flowers bloom. Moses becomes a great leader; Abraham is the father of many nations; Joseph becomes the savior of his people; John the Baptist is the forerunner of the Messiah; Paul is the Apostle to the Gentiles—all of this flowering was made possible by the desert.

– Bishop Robert Barron

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

The Heart of Our Lady

The shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph,
and the infant lying in the manger.
When they saw this,
they made known the message
that had been told them about this child.
All who heard it were amazed
by what had been told them by the shepherds.
And Mary kept all these things,
reflecting on them in her heart.
Then the shepherds returned,
glorifying and praising God
for all they had heard and seen,
just as it had been told to them.

When eight days were completed for his circumcision,
he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel
before he was conceived in the womb.
(Luke 2:16-21)

Scripture Study

2:16 lying in the manger Fulfills Luke 2:12.

2:19 Mary … in her heart: Mary contemplates Jesus’ birth and childhood, not from a distance, but as a participant in the mystery (1:35, 43; 2:51). Luke’s insight suggests that Mary is either the direct or the indirect source of his information, since she alone could relate these hidden details of the story.

2:21 circumcision: Like John, Jesus is named at his circumcision (1:59–60). The event initiates his full solidarity with God’s covenant people, Israel (Gen 17:9–14; CCC 527).

Scripture Reflection

In very few words this verse tells us a great deal about our Lady. We see the serenity with which she contemplates the wonderful things that are coming true with the birth of her divine Son. She studies them, ponders them and stores them in the silence of her heart. She is a true teacher of prayer. If we imitate her, if we guard and ponder in our hearts what Jesus says to us and what he does in us, we are well on the way to Christian holiness and we shall never lack his doctrine and his grace.

Also, by meditating in this way on the teaching Jesus has given us, we shall obtain a deeper understanding of the mystery of Christ, which is how “the Tradition that comes from the apostles makes progress in the Church, with the help of the Holy Spirit. There is a growth in insight into the realities and words that are being passed on. This comes about in various ways. It comes through the contemplation and study of believers who ponder these things in their hearts. It comes from the intimate sense of spiritual realities which they experience. And it comes from the preaching of those who have received, along with their right of succession in the episcopate, the sure charism of truth” (Dei Verbum, 8).

 

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