Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Matthew 2:1-12 Epiphany of our Lord: The Visitation of the Magi

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea,
in the days of King Herod, 
behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, 
“Where is the newborn king of the Jews?
We saw his star at its rising
and have come to do him homage.”
When King Herod heard this,
he was greatly troubled, 
and all Jerusalem with him.
Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, 
He inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, 
for thus it has been written through the prophet:
And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
since from you shall come a ruler,
who is to shepherd my people Israel.”

Then Herod called the magi secretly 
and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance.
He sent them to Bethlehem and said, 
“Go and search diligently for the child.
When you have found him, bring me word, 
that I too may go and do him homage.”
After their audience with the king they set out.
And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, 
until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.
They were overjoyed at seeing the star, 
and on entering the house
they saw the child with Mary his mother.
They prostrated themselves and did him homage.
Then they opened their treasures 
and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, 
they departed for their country by another way.

In this passage we are reminded of Jesus' divine kingship. Here Matthew has crafted the birth narrative to high light Jesus' Davidic heritage  Instead of poor shepherd, he is venerated by wise men from the East and given gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Little is known about these wise men. Tradition names them Balthazar, Melchoir, and Caspar. Above the Church of the Nativity, is a mosaic depicting the three wise men. According to tradition, the reason the Church of the Nativity was spared from destruction by the Persians is because they recognized the wise men as being their ancestors.  

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Matthew 1:18-25 For unto us a child is born!

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.
When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph,
but before they lived together,
she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man,
yet unwilling to expose her to shame,
decided to divorce her quietly.
Such was his intention when, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,
"Joseph, son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.
For it is through the Holy Spirit
that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins."
All this took place to fulfill
what the Lord had said through the prophet:
Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,
which means "God is with us."
When Joseph awoke,
he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him
and took his wife into his home.
He had no relations with her until she bore a son,
and he named him Jesus.

Rejoice the Lord is King! In this passage, Matthew depicts the birth of Jesus in a radically different way than Luke. Here, Joseph and Mary live in Bethlehem and Jesus is born in a house. This is significant because in the Gospel of Luke, Joseph and Mary go to Bethlehem and Jesus is born in a manger. It is clear that the theological significance of Jesus' origins in Bethlehem is his relationship with the house of David. Bethlehem was the town of David and his family. The birth in Bethlehem links Jesus with the house of David and fulfills Micah 5:2

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
    though you are small among the clans[b] of Judah,
out of you will come for me
    one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
    from ancient times.” 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Luke 1:39-45 The Visitation: Mary visits Elizabeth

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,
"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."

In this passage we see the encounter between Mary, the mother of Christ, with Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist. Both miracles reveal the glory of God in that Mary is the Theotokos, and Elizabeth, who was old and barren, was able to give birth. This passage shows the divine relationship between Christ and St. John the Baptist.


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Luke 3:10-18: I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming.

The crowds asked John the Baptist,
"What should we do?"
He said to them in reply,
"Whoever has two cloaks
should share with the person who has none.
And whoever has food should do likewise."
Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him,
"Teacher, what should we do?"
He answered them,
"Stop collecting more than what is prescribed."
Soldiers also asked him,
"And what is it that we should do?"
He told them,
"Do not practice extortion,
do not falsely accuse anyone,
and be satisfied with your wages."

 Now the people were filled with expectation,
and all were asking in their hearts
whether John might be the Christ.
John answered them all, saying,
"I am baptizing you with water,
but one mightier than I is coming.
I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor
and to gather the wheat into his barn,
but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire."
Exhorting them in many other ways,
he preached good news to the people.

Today's passage reminds us of the importance of getting ready for the coming of the Messiah. Here, John the Baptist is preparing the way for Christ by baptizing. He baptizes us with water but it is Christ who will baptize with the Holy Spirit. So how are you preparing for the coming of Christ? John the Baptist reminds us that we must share what we have and care for the poor. Faith alone is not enough because a faith divorced from Justice is dead.

Luke 3:1-6: Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar,
when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea,
and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee,
and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region
of Ituraea and Trachonitis,
and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene,
during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas,
the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert.
John went throughout the whole region of the Jordan,
proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins,
as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah:
A voice of one crying out in the desert:
"Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.
Every valley shall be filled
and every mountain and hill shall be made low.
The winding roads shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth,
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God."

This passage connects Jesus' messiahship with the tradition of John the Baptist. Elizabeth was Mary's cousin who gave birth to John the Baptist. His birth was a miracle because Elizabeth was unable to have children.  It is because his role is to prepare the way for Jesus, he is called the forerunner of Christ.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Luke 21:25-28, 34-36: Stay Awake! The Kingdom of God is at hand

 Jesus said to his disciples:
"There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars,
and on earth nations will be in dismay,
perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves.
People will die of fright
in anticipation of what is coming upon the world,
for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
And then they will see the Son of Man
coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
But when these signs begin to happen,
stand erect and raise your heads
because your redemption is at hand.

"Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy
from carousing and drunkenness
and the anxieties of daily life,
and that day catch you by surprise like a trap.
For that day will assault everyone
who lives on the face of the earth.
Be vigilant at all times
and pray that you have the strength
to escape the tribulations that are imminent
and to stand before the Son of Man."

This passage is often read in the first week of Advent. Its placement in the Advent readings is appropriate because Advent and Lent mirror each other. The former celebrates the incarnation of the Messiah and the latter celebrates the resurrection, and full realization, of the Messiah.  In this passage, the reader is reminded to stay awake and not fall into the trap of complacency. So often in our spiritual lives we forget and get lazy. This passage is a stark reminder to always be ready for the coming of the Kingdom of God. This is a reminder that the Kingdom of God is here but we also wait for its full fruition.