Sunday, December 11, 2016

Liturgical Year A, Cycle I

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First Reading: Isaiah 35:1-6, 10
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 146:6-10
Second Reading: James 5:7-10
Gospel: Matthew 11:2-11

The Glorious Mysteries

First Reading: Isaiah 35:1-6, 10

The Ransomed Shall Return

Isa 35:1 The land that was desolate and impassable shall be glad, and the wilderness shall rejoice, and shall flourish like the lily.

Isa 35:2 It shall bud forth and blossom, and shall rejoice with joy and praise: the glory of Libanus is given to it: the beauty of Carmel, and Saron, they shall see the glory of the Lord, and the beauty of our God.

Isa 35:3 Strengthen ye the feeble hands, and confirm the weak knees.

Isa 35:4 Say to the fainthearted: Take courage, and fear not: behold your God will bring the revenge of recompense: God himself will come and will save you.

Isa 35:5 Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.

Isa 35:6 Then shall the lame man leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall be free: for waters are broken out in the desert, and streams in the wilderness.

Isa 35:10 And the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and shall come into Sion with praise, and everlasting joy shall be upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and mourning shall flee away.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 146:6-10

Put Not Your Trust in Princes

Psa 146:6 Who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all things that are in them.

Psa 146:7 Who keepeth truth for ever: who executeth judgment for them that suffer wrong: who giveth food to the hungry. The Lord looseth them that are fettered:

Psa 146:8 The Lord enlighteneth the blind. The Lord lifteth up them that are cast down: the Lord loveth the just.

Psa 146:9 The Lord keepeth the strangers, he will support the fatherless and the widow: and the ways of sinners he will destroy.

Psa 146:10 The Lord shall reign for ever: thy God, O Sion, unto generation and generation.

Second Reading: James 5:7-10

Patience in Suffering

Jas 5:7 Be patient therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth: patiently bearing till he receive the early and latter rain.

Jas 5:8 Be you therefore also patient and strengthen your hearts: for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

Jas 5:9 Grudge not, brethren, one against another, that you may not be judged. Behold the judge standeth before the door.

Jas 5:10 Take, my brethren, for example of suffering evil, of labour and patience, the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.

Gospel: Matthew 11:2-11

Messengers from John the Baptist

Mat 11:2 Now when John had heard in prison the works of Christ: sending two of his disciples he said to him:

Mat 11:3 Art thou he that art to come, or look we for another?

Mat 11:4 And Jesus making answer said to them: Go and relate to John what you have heard and seen.

Mat 11:5 The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead rise again, the poor have the gospel preached to them.

Mat 11:6 And blessed is he that shall not be scandalized in me.

Mat 11:7 And when they went their way, Jesus began to say to the multitudes concerning John: What went you out into the desert to see? a reed shaken with the wind?

Mat 11:8 But what went you out to see? a man clothed in soft garments? Behold they that are clothed in soft garments, are in the houses of kings.

Mat 11:9 But what went you out to see? A prophet? Yea I tell you, and more than a prophet.

Mat 11:10 For this is he of whom it is written: Behold I send my angel before my face, who shall prepare thy way before thee.

Mat 11:11 Amen I say to you, there hath not risen among them that are born of women a greater than John the Baptist: yet he that is the lesser in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

"They shall obtain joy and gladness"

Why did Jesus praise John the Baptist as the greatest person born of a woman and then in the same breath say that those who enter God's kingdom will be greater than John (Matthew 11:11)?  John is the last and greatest of the prophets of the old covenant. He fulfilled the essential task of all the prophets - to be fingers pointing to Jesus Christ, God's Anointed Son and Messiah. John prepared the way for the Messiah and he pointed others to Jesus the Messiah at the River Jordan when he exclaimed, Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29) 

John saw from a distant what Jesus would accomplish through his death on the cross - our redemption from bondage to sin and death and our adoption as sons and daughters of God and citizens of the kingdom of heaven. When King Herod tried to silence John by throwing him into prison, John sent his disciples to Jesus after John had heard the reports about Jesus performing signs and wonders and speaking to people about the coming of God's kingdom. John wanted his disciples to hear and see firsthand what Jesus was doing to bring the kingdom of God to those who were receptive and ready to receive his message. 

Jesus the Messiah performs the signs of God's kingdom power
Jesus confirmed for John that the miracles and healings which he performed were in direct fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies announced by Isaiah some 700 years previously. Isaiah had prophesied that when the Messiah would come to save his people he would "open the eyes of the blind and the ears of the deaf, the lame would leap, and the tongue of the dumb sing for joy" (Isaiah 35:5). Jesus' miracles are a demonstration of the power of God's kingdom at work in the midst of his people. When God acts to save his people he turns their sorrow and weeping into joy and singing, and their fear and weakness into strength and hope.

The greatness of John's life and witness of the Messiah
When Jesus had answered the disciples of John, he in turn asked them a question."Why did you go out in the wilderness to see John the Baptist?" "Did you go because you were hungry for the word of the Lord?" Jesus said that John was more than a spokesman for God. John was the faithful witness and friend of the bridegroom who pointed others to the coming of the Messiah in their midst. Jesus contrasted John with the image of a reed shaken by the wind. Unlike a reed which is weak and spineless and can be easily crushed or bruised, John stood as a pillar of strength and truth in the face of opposition and persecution. No demonic force could weaken or crush John in his unswerving trust in God and his word. 

Jesus offers us abundant life and joy to be his witnesses
Jesus knew that what the Father in heaven had sent him to accomplish for our sake would supersede all that the prophets had done and foreseen in the past. Jesus' atoning death on the cross cancels the debt of our sins and sets us free to live as citizens of his kingdom. He gives us pardon, healing, and abundant life through his Holy Spirit, and the promise of unending joy with him in his everlasting kingdom.

John the Baptist paid the ultimate sacrifice of his life for speaking God's word and preparing the way for Jesus the Lord and Savior of the world. The Lord Jesus offers us the same assurance of faith and the strength to stand against every force that would try to rob us of our conviction and courage to live and proclaim the good news (the Gospel) of God's kingdom. Do you know the joy, strength, and power which Jesus gives to every one who puts their trust in him and the power of the Holy Spirit? Ask the Lord Jesus to increase your faith and hope in his promises for you. 

"Lord Jesus, strengthen my trust in your word and my hope in the saving power of your kingdom. Free me from everything that would hold me back from pursuing your kingdom and your will for my life."

“Then will the eyes of the blind be opened,
the ears of the deaf be cleared;
then will the lame leap like a stag,
then the tongue of the mute will sing.”

Blind, deaf, lame, and mute. This is how Isaiah, the psalmist, and Matthew the evangelist help us describe life without God. Nearly lifeless, it would seem! All these words imply being cut off in some way, longing for connection. (I am speaking symbolically here. When one avenue of communication is unavailable, we find different ways to connect when it matters.)

If I couldn’t see, I may not know where I am in relation to the world, or to others. I may not be able to read facial expressions or body language as part of communicating with someone. I may not be able to share a sight, a vision, with someone else. (“Do you see what I see?” “Well… no.”) Light would not touch me through my senses. Figuratively speaking, I may be closed in on myself and my own perceptions, unable to acknowledge the presence of another.

If I couldn’t hear, my world may be silent save my own thoughts. I may not be able to understand the tone or inflection of another’s words. I may not be able to acknowledge someone trying to reach me, even if they are shouting as loud as they can. Vibrations through the air would not carry the same meaning to me as they would for those who hear. Figuratively, I may not be able to receive the message someone wants to give me.

If I couldn’t move, I may be unable to walk with someone. I may observe their experiences, but not share the same experience with them. I may be dependent on others for basic care. I may not be able to express myself through movement. I may not feel free, but rather captive and confined.

If I couldn’t speak, I may be unable to share my thoughts and feelings with others. I may not participate in communal cheers or songs. I may feel as though no one acknowledges or values me, since I cannot speak up for myself. I may not be able to respond when asked a question, or when called.

Dark, silent, and still: a world defined by absence, albeit a world in which many of us could finally listen and rest, given our often hectic lives. Isaiah, the psalmist, and Jesus say that with God, our world is defined by presence. Where there was dryness, abundant life! Where there was blindness, light and vision! Where there was deafness, understanding and relationship! Where there was paralysis and captivity, dancing and leaping in freedom! Where there was not even speech, singing in joyful response! Rejoice! Gaudete!

I am glad for James reminding me in the second reading that such joy is worth waiting for. We are still in the midst of Advent, the season of waiting, of preparing in joyful anticipation. The rose vestments today are a reminder of the first rays of dawn. In the meantime, before the sun is up, we are called to “make our hearts firm” in order to walk with God through the desert, and to work with God on the fields that will bear fruit.

Song: Patience, People by John Foley, SJ

by Molly Mattingly
Creighton University's Campus Ministry
click here for photo and information about the writer

Day By Day Medition

HOW DOUBTS MAY BE SOLVED

The Baptist was languishing in a gloomy dungeon in the castle of Machaerus, on the farther shores of the Dead Sea-like a wild creature of the desert, suddenly entrapped. The darkness of his cell depressed his spirit; it seemed strange, too, if Jesus were the Messiah, that He did not overthrow the tyrant rule of Herod and release His captive friend.

When you are in doubt, go straight to Jesus and ask Him to deal with it! Our Lord did not argue with the messengers sent by John, but pointed to the beneficent works that the Father had given Him to do. See Joh_5:36; also Isa_29:18; Isa_35:5-6. The influence of Christ on individuals and the world is the best testimony to the validity of His claims. The demonstration of Christianity is to be found in its acceptance and practice.

The disciples had gone before our Lord uttered this great eulogium on His faithful friend, lest he should be exalted beyond measure, and lest his faith should not have room to grow. Ah, downcast soul, who art writing hard things of thyself, it may be that thy merciful Lord is viewing thy life more accurately and estimating it more lovingly than thou knowest!

Saturday of the Second week of Advent - "Elijah must first come" Monday of the Third week of Advent - "All hold that John was a prophet"

 

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