Engaging the Gospel – Luke 1:1-4, 4:14-21

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C): Gospel – Luke 1:1-4, 4:14-21

Jesus reveals that He is the fulfillment of prophecy

“In the Old Testament, the prophets announced that the Spirit of the Lord would rest on the hoped-for Messiah for his saving mission” (Catechism paragraph 1286).

The book of the prophet Isaiah, in particular, reveals the characteristics of the Messiah. “This is why Christ inaugurates the proclamation of the Good News” by reading Isaiah 61:1-2 to those in attendance at the Nazareth synagogue (714).

The very title of Messiah – which means “anointed” in Hebrew, and is translated into Greek as Christos – signifies a “divine mission” (436).

St. Irenaeus, writing in the second century, considered the anointing from the perspective of the Holy Trinity: “The One Who anointed is the Father, the One Who was anointed is the Son, and He was anointed with the Spirit Who is the anointing” (quoted in 438).

Question for reflection: When did I first truly embrace Jesus as my Savior?

Engaging the Gospel – Mark 7:31-37

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B): Gospel – Mark 7:31-37

By healing the deaf man, Jesus signifies that He is fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy in the first reading: He has come for our salvation, not only at a specific moment in history, but for us and our age as well.

This “life-giving presence of Christ, the physician of souls and bodies,” remains in the Church, particularly “through the sacraments and in an altogether special way through the Eucharist” (Catechism 1509).

As Benedict XVI observes,

There is not only a physical deafness which largely cuts people off from social life; there is also a ‘hardness of hearing’ where God is concerned, and this is something from which we particularly suffer in our own time. Put simply, we are no longer able to hear God — there are too many different frequencies filling our ears. What is said about God strikes us as pre-scientific, no longer suited to our age.

Along with this hardness of hearing or outright deafness where God is concerned, we naturally lose our ability to speak with Him and to Him. And so we end up losing a decisive capacity for perception. We risk losing our inner senses…

…‘Ephphatha’ — ‘Be opened.’ The Evangelist has preserved for us the original Aramaic word which Jesus spoke, and thus he brings us back to that very moment. What happened then was unique, but it does not belong to a distant past: Jesus continues to do the same thing anew, even today. At our Baptism He touched each of us and said ‘Ephphatha’ – ‘Be opened’ — thus enabling us to hear God’s voice and to be able to talk to Him…

But we do appeal to the freedom of men and women to open their hearts to God, to seek Him, to hear His voice. As we gather here, let us here ask the Lord with all our hearts to speak anew his ‘Ephphatha,’ to heal our hardness of hearing for God’s presence, activity and word, and to give us sight and hearing.

Homily of September 10, 2006.

Question for reflection: How have I experienced an opening up to God?

Engaging the Gospel – John 1:29-34

2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time — Gospel: John 1:29-34

John the Baptist hails Jesus as the Lamb of God

Today’s Gospel gives us further insight into the Baptism of Jesus, and enriches our understanding of its role in salvation history.

By proclaiming Jesus as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,” St. John the Baptist identifies him as the fulfillment of Scripture.

He “reveals that Jesus is at the same time the suffering Servant [prophesied by Isaiah] who silently allows himself to be led to the slaughter and who bears the sin of the multitudes, and also the Paschal Lamb, the symbol of Israel’s redemption at the first Passover” (Catechism paragraph 608).

Moreover, the Spirit’s coming upon Jesus is an explicit mark of the Messiah.

“In the Old Testament, the prophets announced that the Spirit of the Lord would rest on the hoped-for Messiah for his saving mission. The descent of the Holy Spirit on Jesus at his baptism by John was the sign that this was he who was to come, the Messiah, the Son of God” (1286).

For these reasons, Jesus’ Baptism is another “epiphany,” or manifestation of Him as the Messiah and Son of God.

Jesus continues to manifest Himself to us at every Mass, preeminently through the Eucharist, and we echo John’s words as we hail Him as the Lamb of God.

As St. Gregory of Nyssa (d. ca. 394/5) observed, the Eucharist completes the sacrifice of the Lamb, when Jesus gives “His own Body to His disciples for eating” (Sermon One on the Resurrection of Christ).

Question for reflection: How do I discern the presence of Christ?

Engaging the Gospel: Third Sunday of Advent

Gospel – Matthew 11:2-11: Jesus answers John the Baptist’s question by recounting His fulfillment of prophecy

The fulfillment of prophecy is a recurring theme in St. Matthew’s Gospel, as exemplified in today’s passage. When St. John the Baptist’s disciples ask Jesus if He indeed is the one to come, the Lord responds by citing His miracles — the signs of the Messianic age as foretold by the prophet Isaiah.

Jesus’ wondrous deeds “manifest that the kingdom is present in him and attest that he was the promised Messiah…They invite belief in him…So miracles strengthen faith in the One who does his Father’s works; they bear witness that he is the Son of God” (Catechism paragraphs 547-48).

Therefore Jesus’ response to the disciples, who would bring this confirmation back to John in prison, reminds us that faith involves our intellect too. Jesus provides evidence to appeal to our rational minds.

Such proofs of the truth of divine revelation are called “motives of credibility, which show that the assent of faith is by no means a blind impulse of the mind” (156).

As the Council Fathers of Vatican II noted, God’s deeds and words have an “inner unity; the deeds wrought by God in the history of salvation manifest and confirm the teaching and realities signified by the words, while the words proclaim the deeds and clarify the mystery contained in them” (Dei Verbum 2).

Question for reflection: How have I sought answers to questions of faith?