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Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Baptism of the Lord

January 10, 2010

It is odd that a traditional Advent reading is proclaimed on this last day of the Christmas season. Isaiah exclaims, “Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God.” Israel’s guilt is expiated and the people can return home to their land of promise. God will prepare the way home by filling in valleys and making the mountains become like the plains. The route will be easy because God wants everyone to hasten back to their cherished land. What makes this reading different from its placement in the Advent season is its fulfillment in the Gospel with Jesus approaching John for baptism. The great herald, the voice crying in the wilderness, moves aside because his days of prophesying are no longer needed. Isaiah’s prophecy is being lived out in historical events.

I admire John the Baptist for stepping aside from his central role. I can imagine the shock, disbelief, and the reluctance of his great number of followers who placed much hope in his message only to hear that he has to move to the sidelines because a more obscure man is the one who will save them from their sins. Even after John’s death, many continued to believe that John was a stronger prophet than Jesus. John’s deference shows great magnanimity and he stood true to his prophetic role by pointing his disciples to Jesus as the Messiah.

Through Jesus’ baptism, “heaven was opened,” and therefore united with earth. The great chasm that once existed is now connected with a particular pathway. Notice that Jesus was baptized after all the people received their baptism. They too can access the grace of heaven just as Jesus did. We have to model our lives on the attitude of Jesus and of God, the Father, who have a disposition of being “open.” Our openness to our faith will bring us a great reward and we then permit ourselves to hear the word that God so much wants to speak to us, “You are my beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

Quote for the Week

The revelation of God’s glory in his son was predicted in Isaiah 40:

"The voice of one crying in the desert: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the wilderness the paths of our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough ways plain. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh together shall see, that the mouth of the Lord hath spoken."

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: We listen to Hannah’s plight as Elkanah’s barren wife who goes through torments from his other wife, Peninnah. She was tormented by Peninnah’s harassment even though Elkanah loved her more. Hannah presents herself to Eli, the priest, and makes a vow to the Lord to offer her son to the temple if the Lord would only give her a child. When Samuel, Hannah’s longed-for son, is sleeping under Eli’s care, the Lord calls to him three times. Eli becomes aware that Samuel is receiving special care from the Lord. Eli lost his two sons in a fierce battle with the Philistines, who also captured the ark of God and wiped out thirty-thousand soldiers from Israel. After defeats and a longing to belong to the community of nations, the people turn to Samuel to ask him to appoint a king over them, thus rejecting Samuel’s own rule. Samuel seeks out the seer, Saul, and anoints him as king over all of Israel.

Gospel: As a continuation of the baptismal narrative, Jesus begins his ministry proclaiming the Kingdom of God is at hand and he calls his first disciples. Jesus enters a synagogue and begins to teach in a remarkable way; he encounters a man with an unclean spirit and in his healing he demonstrates that he has power over the supernatural world. Many sick are brought to him, including Simon Peter’s mother. He cures them, but reminds the people of his mission to preach the kingdom of God to all the tribes of Israel. Out of mercy he cures a leper resulting in his inability to preach in the main cities and villages because he has become ritually unclean. Healings are one thing, but forgiving sins is too much for the priests and religious leaders to bear. They demand to know the source of his authority as only God can forgive sins. He continues to call his inner circle together and chooses a tax collector, who is the object of contempt for every Jew. Jesus’ work is provocative.

Saints of the Week

Wednesday: Hilary, bishop and doctor, was a staunch defender of the faith against the Arians in the fourth century. The Arians pressured the emperor to exile him to the East, but his positions created hostility and he was sent back to Poitiers in Gaul.

This Week in Jesuit History

• Jan. 10, 1581: Queen Elizabeth signed the fifth Penal Statute in England inflicting heavy fines and imprisonment on all who harbored Jesuits and Seminary priests.
• Jan 10, 1567. Two Jesuits arrived in Havana, Cuba, as a base for evangelization.
• Jan 11, 1573. At Milan, St Charles Borromeo founded a college (the Brera) and placed it under the care of the Society.
• Jan 12, 1544. Xavier wrote a long letter on his apostolic labors, saying he wished to visit all the universities of Europe in search of laborers for our Lord's vineyard. The letter was widely circulated and very influential.
• Jan 13, 1547. At the Council of Trent, Fr James Lainez, as a papal theologian, defended the Catholic doctrine on the sacraments in a learned three-hour discourse.
• Jan 14, 1989. John Ford SJ, moral theologian and teacher at Weston College and Boston College, died. He served on the papal commission on birth control.
• Jan 15, 1955. The death of Daniel Lord SJ, popular writer, national director of the Sodality, founder of the Summer School of Catholic Action, and editor of The Queen's Work.
• Jan 16, 1656. At Meliapore, Fr Robert de Nobili, nephew of Cardinal Bellarmine, died. He was sent to the Madura mission, learned to speak three languages, and for 45 years labored among the high caste Brahmins.

Meditation on the Baptism of the Lord

The significance of the Baptism is stated in the second reading for Mass from the 2nd chapter of Titus:

“For the grace of God has appeared, saving all and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age, as we await the blessed hope, the appearance of the glory of the great God and of our savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to deliver us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for himself a people as his own, eager to do what is good.”


Please note that I will be traveling to my tertianship program for Jesuits. I will keep the blog updated, but there might be times when I cannot send out the weekly distribution of email. Check online predmore.blogspot.com for the weekly and daily updates. I will also include news of my tertian program in Australia at predmoresj.blogspot.com.

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