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?
Proverbs 8:22-31; Psalm 8:4-5, 6-7, 8-9 (R/. 2a), Romans 5:1-5; cf. Revelation 1:8; John 16:12-15
Picture the Trinity. What do you see? Perhaps it is the traditional image found in paintings and stained glass of the Father as a dignified elderly man, the risen Christ standing or sitting by his side, and the Holy Spirit as a dove, hovering over the two. The effect is rather static, frozen in eternity. Better yet to take the lead of today’s readings about an energetic, dynamic, active, God – a God who delights in creating, pouring divine love into our hearts, endlessly calling us, wooing us, surprising us, guiding us to all truth, sharing with all of us.
The mystery of the Trinity, God as Father and Son and Holy Spirit, baffles the mind. Three in One, One in Three! Who can make sense of it? Again and again all mind, heart, and spirit can do is bow down in wonder and awe. We can come to this posture in different ways: experiencing our own delight in creation, opening our hearts to the person of Jesus found in the Gospels, and being attentive to the way the Spirit continues to work in our world and our lives.
How do you imagine the Most Holy Trinity?
Acts 14:21-27; Psalm 145:8-9, 10-11, 12-13 (R/. cf. 1); Revelation 21:1-5a; John 13:31-33a, 34-35
Today’s Gospel begins, “When Judas had left them…” We are at the Last Supper with Jesus, a few hours before he will be arrested, tried, condemned, and killed. Following today’s Gospel is Jesus’ prediction of Peter’s denial. Living between betrayal and denial, in his darkest hour, Jesus speaks of his glorification. By his suffering, death, and resurrection, God will be glorified and God will glorify Jesus. Jesus came for this “hour”. At the dawn of this “hour,” Jesus gives a new commandment: to love as he has loved, to give ourselves completely for each other, mirroring the love that Jesus has for all his disciples, past, present, and future. The meaning of life, then, is to be found giving and receiving love.
How are you called this week to bring the love of Christ to others?
Acts 13:14, 43-52; Psalm 100:1-2, 3, 5; Revelation 7:9, 14b-17; John 10:14; John 10:27-30
The oldest image of Jesus found in the early church is the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd carrying home on his shoulders a lost sheep. The image of the Good Shepherd is the most common of the symbolic representations of Christ found in Early Christian art in the Catacombs of Rome, before Christian imagery could be made explicit. The images portrayed Jesus with a big smile on his face as he carried around his neck a very large sheep. The joy on the shepherd’s face was palpable. Today Jesus speaks of how the sheep know his voice, so they follow him. He takes them to eternal life. This eternal life is the destiny of those who follow the Good Shepherd, hear his call to live in communion with him, and carry out what he has taught them. The most comforting promise is found in his words, “No one can take them out of my hands.” Just like that shepherd who firmly carried his sheep around his neck, Jesus holds on to us and does not let us go. Jesus is not boasting here, but he himself knows that the Father has entrusted us to him, and he participates in the strength of the Father because they are one.
Do you need the Good Shepherd to rescue you from any particular danger or threat?
Acts 5:27-32, 40b-41; Psalm 30:2, 4, 5-6, 11-12, 13; Revelation 5:11-14; John 21: 1-19 or 21: 1-14
Easter offers believers a profile to live into, inviting us to live our faith in particular ways. Acts calls us to be as courageous in our own day as Peter and the apostles were in theirs, fearlessly witnessing to Jesus Christ, and not being ashamed to speak of our relationship with him. This does not mean battering people with our beliefs in a way that disrespects or condemns. Nevertheless, we are called to speak out when we have a chance to witness to Jesus as our Savior. Years ago (1975), in a letter calling all in the Church to evangelize, that is, to bring the Gospel to others (Evangelii Nuntiandi), Pope Paul VI wrote that the modern person listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he or she does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses. The best witness we can give is when we respond to Jesus’ words to Peter in today’s Gospel. After Simon assures Jesus he loves him, Jesus says, “Feed my lambs, feed my sheep.” Love for Christ flows over into a life lived in love.
How can you witness to Jesus this week by “feeding his sheep?”
Acts 5:12-16; Psalm 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24 (R/. 1); Revelation 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19; John 20:29; John 20:19-31
Easter has escaped the busyness that surrounds Christmas: shopping, parties, get-togethers. In addition, when one thinks of Easter music, hymns and oratories come to mind, since there are only a few Easter songs. There seems to be something so sacred about this feast that even the merchandisers have refrained from commercializing it for the most part. Nevertheless, we do not want to forget that Easter reminds us of the gifts the risen Lord Jesus brings. We hear about them in the Gospel today. To the frightened apostles, locked into the upper room, Jesus suddenly appears with gifts that release them from their fears. First, he gives the God’s peace (shalom), that is, all God’s blessings that can enrich human life. Then he breathes the Holy Spirit on them, empowering them to offer God’s forgiveness to all who seek it. Finally, he gives to Thomas, and to all followers, the gift of faith in him as Lord and God. To live at peace with God and others, to have the capacity to forgive and receive forgiveness, and to recognize Jesus as the Son of God, these are Easter’s gifts to us.
How will you make use of these gifts this Easter season?
Acts 10:34a, 37-43; Psalm 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23 (R/. 24); Colossians 3:1-4; cf. 1 Corinthians 5:7b-8a; John 20:1-9
John’s Gospel today offers no earthquake, no young men or angels dressed in white, no “He is risen,” and no appearance by Jesus. One might find it rather disappointing when one first hears it. All it offers is Mary Magdelane reporting that the Lord’s body has been taken, and a race between Peter and the beloved disciple to get to the tomb to find it empty. But there is that one line, “He [the beloved disciple] saw and believed,” (John 20:8). Saw what? Believed what?
Some, including St. Augustine, say that he saw the empty tomb and wrappings and believed what Mary Magdelane reported. But others hold for his believing that Jesus had been raised. John’s Gospel is a gospel of signs: water turned to wine, a blind man given sight, a multitude fed with a few loaves and fish, Lazarus raised, and, especially, the sign of Christ lifted on the cross, his “hour.” All are signs of Christ as God’s Word of revelation, God’s love. So if you put an empty tomb and folded burial clothes together, the signs are there to be read. The beloved disciple had Easter eyes. He could read the signs of Resurrection life.
Can you read the signs today?
Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12; Psalm 31:2, 6, 12-13, 15-16, 17, 25 (R/. Luke 23:46); Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9; Philippians 2:8-9; John 18:1 – 19:42
Good Friday calls us to see ourselves as people of the Cross, venerating the cross that brought us salvation. The readings shed light. The prophet Isaiah speaks of one who suffers for the sake of the people, “pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins” (Isaiah 53:5). The Church heard this “servant song” and thought of Jesus’ death on the cross as an offering for sin that won pardon for our offenses. Hebrews presents Christ’s death on the cross as the sacrifice offered by our great high priest, ever obedient to the Father’s will. Through his sufferings, he was “made perfect” and “became the source of salvation for all who obey him” (5:9). John’s Passion presents the cross as “the hour” for which Jesus came, when God will be glorified, when the love of God will be revealed. The cross presents Jesus being lifted up and drawing all things to himself, promising that all who look on him and believe in him will be saved. As we reverence the cross, we take up Christ’s work bringing others to life in him.
Do you trust God to bring life out of your bearing the cross?
Isaiah 43:16-21; Psalm 126: 1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6; Philippians 3:8-14; Joel 2:12-13; John 8:1-11
A stone may not feel heavy when one picks it up, but a stone is not a pebble. Many stones can do damage, especially when hurled in self-righteous anger. Perhaps the accusers justified it as an act of the faithful community, standing up together for the Law of Moses, bringing down God’s wrath upon an adulteress. Then they took her to Jesus. They had been looking for a way to trap him. He just looked at them saying nothing. Then he dropped down. One cannot tell whether he was writing, drawing, or stalling for time to think of something to say. Later, some said Jesus had tricked them. Others were silent. A few thought Jesus was praying. Where else could his words have come from? His words redirected their gaze from the woman to themselves, causing hands to drop stones and feet to move off. His words continue to address us when we are about to cast stones of condemnation at another. Jesus’ final words to the woman, also meant for us: Go and sin no more.
Where do you find yourself in the story?