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.

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Mary set out
and traveled to the hill country in haste
to a town of Judah,
where she entered the house of Zechariah
and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting,
the infant leaped in her womb,
and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit,
cried out in a loud voice and said,
“Most blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
And how does this happen to me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,
the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled.”

And Mary said:
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.”
(Luke 1:39-47)

Scripture Study

Mary visits Elizabeth to assist her in the final months of her pregnancy. Given the immense social pressures and stigma that Mary was about to endure as an unwed mother, she likely sought solace in Elizabeth, who would believe the divine nature of her conception.

1:41 the baby in her womb leaped John leaps in Elizabeth’s womb at the sound of Mary’s voice because Mary is pregnant with Jesus. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit Compare v. 15.

1:42 Blessed are you among women Mary is blessed because she has the privilege of giving birth to the Messiah, the savior of the world.

1:43 my Lord Elizabeth calls the unborn Jesus her Lord, recognizing Him as Messiah and perhaps also as Yahweh.

1:45 blessed is she who believed In contrast to Zechariah, Mary believed Gabriel’s words (compare v. 20).

1:46 My soul exalts the Lord Mary’s introduction reflects Hannah’s in 1 Sam 2:1.

Scripture Reflection

Friends, today we celebrate the great feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. What followed the apparition of Mary at Tepeyac is one of the most astounding chapters in the history of Christian evangelism.

Though Franciscan missionaries had been laboring in Mexico for twenty years, they had made little progress. But within ten years of the appearance of Our Lady of Guadalupe, practically the entire Mexican people, nine million strong, had converted to Christianity. La Morena had proved a more effective evangelist than St. Peter, St. Paul, St. Patrick, and St. Francis Xavier combined! And with that great national conversion, the Aztec practice of human sacrifice came to an end. She had done battle with fallen spirits and had won a culture-changing victory for the God of love.

The challenge for us who honor her today is to join the same fight. We must announce to our culture today the truth of the God of Israel, the God of Jesus Christ, the God of nonviolence and forgiving love. And we ought, like La Morena, to be bearers of Jesus to a world that needs him more than ever.

– Bishop Robert Barron

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

Incredible Things

One day as Jesus was teaching,
Pharisees and teachers of the law,
who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem,
were sitting there,
and the power of the Lord was with him for healing.
And some men brought on a stretcher a man who was paralyzed;
they were trying to bring him in and set him in his presence.
But not finding a way to bring him in because of the crowd,
they went up on the roof
and lowered him on the stretcher through the tiles
into the middle in front of Jesus.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said,
“As for you, your sins are forgiven.”

Then the scribes and Pharisees began to ask themselves,
“Who is this who speaks blasphemies?
Who but God alone can forgive sins?”
Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them in reply,
“What are you thinking in your hearts?
Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’
or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?
But that you may know
that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”–
he said to the one who was paralyzed,
“I say to you, rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.”

He stood up immediately before them,
picked up what he had been lying on,
and went home, glorifying God.
Then astonishment seized them all and they glorified God,
and, struck with awe, they said,
“We have seen incredible things today.”
(Luke 5:17-26)

Scripture Study

5:17 Pharisees and teachers of the law The Pharisees were Jewish religious authorities (not priests) who promoted strict adherence to the law of Moses (see John 7:32). Luke’s reference to teachers of the law probably is synonymous with the group mentioned in Luke 5:21. the power of the Lord The details of this verse are not found in Matthew’s or Mark’s account of the paralytic’s healing. The presence of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law—along with the description of Yahweh’s healing power being present in Jesus—sets the stage for Jesus’ miracle and His subsequent dispute with the religious authorities.

5:19 lowered him on the stretcher through the tiles Luke’s telling of this miracle reflects Mark’s tradition and includes many details that Matthew omits. This part of the story shows the great faith of the paralytic and his attendants; they are willing to do whatever is necessary in order to reach Jesus.

5:20 When he saw their faith Jesus often associates faith and healing (e.g., 7:9, 50; 8:48; 17:19; 18:42).

5:21 scribes Refers to trained interpreters of the law of Moses. In Luke, they are sometimes linked with the Pharisees (e.g., 6:7; 11:53) and sometimes with the chief priests (e.g., 19:47; 20:19; 22:2). blasphemies Sacrilegious or irreverent speech about God. Such an act—depending on the context of the offense—was punishable by death under the law (Lev 24:16).

5:23 which is easier to say The effects of forgiving sins could not be verified, but a miracle could be. In the verse that follows, Jesus takes the harder option and tells the man to stand up and walk. This exchange with the Pharisees sets up the healing to demonstrate Jesus’ authority to forgive sins.

5:24 the Son of Man has authority The theme of this section. The title Son of Man can convey several meanings; Jesus uses it here with Messianic connotations. Jesus uses this self-designation more than any other; it comes from the OT book of Daniel (see Dan 7:13). This title occurs 30 times in the Gospel of Matthew and often stresses the exaltation of Jesus. Here, however, it highlights His position as a homeless itinerant (Mt 8:20).

Scripture Reflection

Friends, our Gospel for today tells that wonderful story of the healing of the paralytic. People gather by the dozens to hear Jesus, crowding around the doorway of the house. They bring him a paralyzed man, and because there is no way to get him through the door, they climb up on the roof and open a space to lower him down.

Can I suggest a connection between this wonderful narrative and our present evangelical situation? There are an awful lot of Catholics who are paralyzed, unable to move, frozen in regard to Christ and the Church. This might be from doubt, from fear, from anger, from old resentment, from ignorance, or from self-reproach. Some of these reasons might be good; some might be bad.

Your job, as a believer, is to bring them to Christ. How? A word of encouragement, a challenge, an explanation, a word of forgiveness, a note, a phone call. We notice the wonderful urgency of these people as they bring the sick man to Jesus. Do we feel the same urgency within his mystical body today?

– Bishop Robert Barron

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

 

Good, Good News

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God.

As it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you;
he will prepare your way.
A voice of one crying out in the desert:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.”

John the Baptist appeared in the desert
proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
People of the whole Judean countryside
and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem
were going out to him
and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River
as they acknowledged their sins.
John was clothed in camel’s hair,
with a leather belt around his waist.
He fed on locusts and wild honey.
And this is what he 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.”
(Mark 1:1-8)

Scripture Study

1:1 gospel The Greek word used here, euangelion (“gospel” or “good news”), eventually came to describe the genre of the first four books of the NT; but Mark probably uses it to describe the content of the Christian message (compare 1 Cor 15:1). Mark 1:1 introduces the good news concerning the person, teaching, and life of Jesus, God’s Son (see vv. 14–15). Jesus The name iēsous (Jesus) is the Greek version of the Hebrew name Joshua (yehoshua’ or yeshua’), a common Jewish name in the first century AD. Christ The Greek word used here, christos, translates the Hebrew title mashiach, meaning “anointed one.” The term often functions as part of Jesus’ name, though elsewhere it is used as a title (e.g., 8:29; 12:35; 14:61).

1:2 it is written A conventional formula used for introducing a biblical quotation. prophet The term prophētēs refers to someone God calls, designates, appoints, or commissions for a specified task (usually involving delivery of a message). Isaiah Though only Isaiah is mentioned by name, Mark conflates Mal 3:1 and Isa 40:3 into one quotation—mixing traditions from various Scripture texts was common at the time (e.g., 2 Cor 6:14–7:1). he will prepare In addition to resembling Mal 3:1, Mark’s quotation echoes Exod 23:20, where an angel is described as protecting God’s people during their wilderness journey and fighting on their behalf (Exod 23:21–23). The people are commanded to listen to this angel and not rebel against him. Likewise, John the Baptist presents the very truths of God and acts as the advocate for God’s ministry in Jesus.

1:3 the desert The Greek word used here, erēmos, describes an uncultivated or unpopulated region. In the Bible, the term often refers to the arid expanses south and east of Judah. the way The Greek word used here, hodos, often refers to a road or path. Mark uses it predominantly to describe a journey. Mark often describes Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem as the “way” that He undertakes in obedience to God, fully aware it will lead to suffering and death (Mark 8:27; 9:33–34; 10:17, 32, 46, 52). make straight his paths The cry of a herald who runs in advance of a king announcing his imminent arrival—the king in Isa 40:3, being quoted here, is God Himself. In Mark’s Gospel, the herald is John the Baptist, who announces Jesus’ arrival and the kingdom of God (Mark 1:4–8).

1:4 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). baptism of repentance In ancient Israel, water was often used as an instrument for purification (e.g., Lev 17:15; 22:4–6; Num 19:11–12). As a result, baptism in Judaism often was about ritual cleansing and may have involved multiple and regular baptisms. By contrast, John’s baptism stressed transformation—a turning from sin—and thus marked a turning point in a person’s life. for the forgiveness of sins John points to Jesus’ greater ministry, even calling Him the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29–31). John’s baptism was about forgiveness of sins in the sense that it pointed to Jesus, who was the means of providing that forgiveness.

1:5 Jordan River After 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, the Israelites crossed the Jordan to take possession of the promised land (Josh 3). The river carried symbolic connotations of national renewal and the fulfillment of God’s work among them. It is at this location that John the Baptist inaugurates the way for spiritual renewal.

1:6 clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt John’s ministry is associated with Elijah, one of Israel’s greatest prophets (Mark 6:14–16; 9:11–14; Matt 11:14). Elijah is characteristically described as wearing garments of hair and a leather belt (2 Kgs 1:8). fed on locusts and wild honey were common food in the Middle East. Leviticus 11:20–23 identifies four varieties that are clean and good to eat.

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).

Scripture Reflection

Mark’s opening line resonates with his excitement at the glad tidings he is conveying. He sees the coming of Jesus, preceded by that of John the Baptist, as the turning point in history, when God decisively acted to accomplish all that he had promised for so many centuries. At the time Mark wrote, the good news was beginning to explode upon the Mediterranean world, as the apostles and other Christians traveled throughout the empire, evangelizing in synagogues and town squares.

Lives were being changed as people who had been lost in spiritual darkness and moral confusion came to know the living Christ and experience his love. Mark’s evident joy at the tidings he has to share prompts the questions: Do we realize how good the good news is? Do we recognize that this news fulfills and far surpasses all the deepest longings of the human heart? Or have we settled for a diluted version of the gospel that has little power to impact our daily lives? God’s entrance into human history in the person of Jesus Christ is news that is inexhaustibly new, as fresh and potent as on the day it was first proclaimed.

– Mary Healy

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

 

Pray for Doers

Jesus went around to all the towns and villages,
teaching in their synagogues,
proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom,
and curing every disease and illness.
At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them
because they were troubled and abandoned,
like sheep without a shepherd.
Then he said to his disciples,
“The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few;
so ask the master of the harvest
to send out laborers for his harvest.”

Then he summoned his Twelve disciples
and gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out
and to cure every disease and every illness.

Jesus sent out these Twelve after instructing them thus,
“Go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’
Cure the sick, raise the dead,
cleanse lepers, drive out demons.
Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.”
(Matthew 9:35 to 10:1, 5-8)

Scripture Study

9:36 like sheep without a shepherd Jesus’ compassion for the people was intensified by the lack of leadership to help them (compare John 10:1–18; Ezek 34). Without a shepherd, sheep are prone to wander and vulnerable to danger.

9:38 send out laborers for his harvest Sets the stage for the events of Matt 10, as Jesus commissions His disciples to proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God.

10:1 he summoned his Twelve disciples So far, Matthew has described the calling of only five disciples (Matt 4:18–22; 9:9). Jesus had many followers, but these were His leaders—those whom He commissioned to build His Church. unclean spirits Refers to evil spirits or demons. According to Jewish purity laws, people inhabited by such spirits were unclean.

10:5 pagan Jesus first extends His announcement of the kingdom of heaven to the Jews, who were eagerly awaiting its arrival. Their eventual rejection of Jesus leads to the Gentile mission, which receives its clearest expression in the ministry of the Apostle Paul (e.g., Acts 9:15). Samaritan Refers to people of mixed Israelite and foreign descent who lived in the region of Samaria (formerly the northern kingdom of Israel).

10:6 the lost sheep of the house of Israel Refers to Jews. “Lost sheep” commonly served as a metaphor for a hopeless and leaderless people (see Matt 9:36).

10:7 The kingdom of heaven is at hand The disciples were to preach the same message that Jesus preached and that John the Baptist preached before Him (compare 3:2; 4:17).

10:8 The actions listed here authenticate the disciples’ message. These actions also show the arrival of the kingdom of heaven (Luke 4:17–19). Without cost you have received Jesus calls on the disciples to share the blessings of the kingdom of heaven with no expectation of being compensated. 

Scripture Reflection

Friends, today’s Gospel, taken from the magnificent tenth chapter of Luke’s Gospel, is a portrait of the Church. It shows us what Jesus wants his followers to do and how to do it. We are a missionary Church. We are sent by the Lord to spread his word and do his work. The Christian Gospel is just not something that we are meant to cling to for our own benefit. Rather, it is like seed that we are meant to give away.

We do this work together, with others, in community. Ministers need people to support them, pray for them, talk to them, challenge them. Francis of Assisi had an experience of God and then, within months, gathered people around him; Dominic, from the beginning, had brothers in his work; and Mother Teresa attracted a number of her former students to join her in her mission. We don’t go it alone.

And prayer is not incidental to ministry. It is not decorative. It is the lifeblood of the Church’s efforts. Without it, nothing will succeed; without it, no ministers will come forward. At all points, pray, pray, pray.

– Bishop Robert Barron

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

Be It Done Unto Me!

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. 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. betrothed to a man 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 (compare Luke 1:32). 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 his father 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, 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.

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

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

Scripture Reflection

Friends, today we celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Conception. The Church Fathers consistently referred to Mary as the New Eve, which is to say, the one who reversed the momentum started by the mother of the human race. The Ave of the angel was seen as the reversal of Eva. While Eve grasped at divinity, Mary said “Let it be done unto me.”

Here’s the liberating paradox: passivity before objective values is precisely what makes life wonderful. Allowing oneself to be invaded and rearranged by objective value is what makes life worth living. And this applies unsurpassably to our relationship with God. The message that your life is not about you does indeed crush the false self that would bend the whole world to its purposes, but it sets free the true self.

The Immaculate Conception itself is concealed in the privacy of salvation history, but the effects of it are on clear display in this Gospel. In the presence of the supreme value, we ought to say, along with Mary, “Be it done unto me!”

– Bishop Robert Barron

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