Isaiah 8:23 – 9:3; Psalm 27:1, 4, 13-14; 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17; cf. Matthew 4:23; Matthew 4:12-23 or 4:12-17
It can be disheartening to realize that from the beginning there have been divisions in the Church. Within the community at Corinth in St. Paul’s time, there was bickering among different groups over who had their allegiance, i.e., “I belong to Paul […] to Peter […] to Apollos […] to Christ.” Paul confronts the issue head-on, asking the various factions, “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?”
Division is different than diversity. Diversity allows for different gifts to be recognized, but division often brings darkness into the world, whether it happens among countries, churches, ethnic groups, or families. The light that Christ brought into the world allows us to look into the face of another and see a brother or sister; even to recognize the face of God, because this person is a child of God.
Soon after Jesus began preaching that the Kingdom of God was at hand, He called others to join Him in His work. He continues to call others to help him. Now, it is our turn. Have you heard the call? Have you answered it?
Isaiah 49:3, 5-6; Psalm 40:2, 4, 7-8, 8-9, 10; 1 Corinthians 1:1-3; John 1:14a, 12a; John 1:29-34
God’s word invites us to know Jesus in three ways: first, as the servant the prophet Isaiah describes; second, as the Lamb of God, as
John the Baptist calls him, who takes away the sins of the world; and finally and most importantly, as the Son of God. Isaiah’s servant has been formed from the womb not only to bring God’s people back to God, but also to be a light to the nations. Jesus fulfills this prophecy by his suffering and dying for us and for all peoples. He is truly the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world and restores us to God as beloved sons and daughters. A disciple of Jesus is one who learns from Jesus by being with Jesus. In learning who Jesus is, we learn who we are called to be.
Like John the Baptist in today’s Gospel, we are to bring others to the Lord by how we live our lives and by a willingness to speak about our faith in him and the difference he has made in our lives. Do you see yourself as a true disciple of Jesus? How do you spend time with him?
Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7; Psalm 29:1-2, 3-4, 3, 9-10 (R/. 11b); Acts 10:34-38; cf Mark 9:7; Matthew 3:13-17
Today, the Christmas season comes to a close with another epiphany of Jesus as God’s beloved Son. The importance of Jesus’ baptism is underlined in that the first three Gospels directly describe it, and John’s Gospel mentions it as having already happened. Why did Jesus need to be baptized? John the Baptist asks this himself in Matthew’s account. Jesus responds by saying, “To fulfill all righteousness.” Scholars interpret this remark as showing Jesus’ solidarity with sinners, those for whom he had been sent, even though he himself did not sin.
The central moment occurs when Jesus is coming out of the water. The Holy Spirit descends upon him, and, in Matthew only, the Father announces, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” More than a public service announcement for those present then, it proclaims to us now, Jesus is the Son of the Father.
He will go from this event to be tempted in the desert, and then into his ministry of preaching, teaching, healing, and casting our demons. As we return to Ordinary Time, consider what tasks God has given to us.
Do you see your Baptism as rooting you in a life of service?
Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 72:1-2, 7-8, 10-11, 12-13 (R/. cf. 11); Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6; Matthew 2:2; Matthew 2:1-12
The story of the Magi is one of the most popular stories in Sacred Scripture. Artists have celebrated it in poetry (T.S. Eliot’s The Journey of the Magi,) in art (Da Vinci, Bosch, Lippi,) in fiction (Van Dyck’s The Other Wise Man,) and in opera (Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors.) It is the story of being drawn out from what is familiar and led to something that exceeds one’s hopes and desires. It is a story of every restless heart that will not find rest until it rests in God. The Magi paid close attention to what was before them in the present, a star, and were open to what was valuable from the past, the prophecies given to Israel, thereby allowing both nature and divine revelation to guide them to the One who alone could fill their hearts.
The Epiphany was not a “once and for all” event. Our liturgical tradition recognizes three “showings” or “manifestations”: the journey of the Magi, the wedding feast at Cana, and the baptism of Jesus – all revelations of Jesus as the One who came to draw us toward God and one another.
What epiphanies have you had lately? What manifestations have you experienced which have brought you closer to God?
Numbers 6:22-27; Psalm 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8; Galatians 4:4-7; Hebrews 1:1-2; Luke 2:16-21
We return again to Bethlehem and the visit of the shepherds to meet their Savior. While much of the reading focuses on the shepherds, what they saw and said, today’s feast directs us to Mary, providing Pau’s only reference to her and a helpful image of her from Luke’s Gospel. In his most fiery letter, Paul notes that “God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law…” On this feast celebrating Mary as the mother of God, Paul’s words provide the earliest designation of her as mother of God’s Son. God not only lowered himself to our human estate; he made himself, for a short time, subservient to Mary, his human mother. If Christ made himself subservient to Mary, how much more so should we be obedient to her as well?
Luke gives us a prayerful perspective on Mary, presenting her as the woman who ponders, “Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” She is a fitting example to imitate as a new year begins. She invites us to ponder and reflect on who Christ is for us and for our world. We live in such a non-stop, 24/7, busy-busy-busy world. Mother Mary calls us to sit down beside her and ponder the mystery of the Father sending his Son into the world to give us life.
What does Mary invite you to ponder? When we serve her and follow her example, then we will begin to imitate Jesus Christ. It is then that we will grow stronger in our faith.