Tag Archives: john the baptist

Gospel Reflection for July 22, 2018, 16th Sunday Ordinary Time

18 Jul

Sunday Readings: Jeremiah 23.1-6; Ephesians 2.13-18; Mark 6.30-34

“As he went ashore, Jesus saw a great crowd. His heart is moved with pity for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. He began to teach them many things.” – Mark 6.34

In Sunday’s gospel the twelve return from the mission to preach and heal which Jesus sent them out to do in last Sunday’s gospel. They come back woofed. Jesus’ growing popularity surrounds them with crowds and keeps them from eating let alone resting. Mark often creates literary sandwiches, a story within a story. Last Sunday’s gospel served us the first slice of story–Jesus sending the twelve out in pairs; this Sunday we hear the second slice of story–the return of the twelve. We don’t hear the 17 verses that form the meat in the middle of the sandwich. These verses tell the story of John the Baptist’s senseless and gruesome beheading. They do more than supply time for the twelve to be out on mission. The story of John the Baptist’s tells us the twelve have embarked on the same mission that cost the Baptist and Jesus their lives. It foreshadows the cost of prophetic ministry.

Jesus cannot shut off his compassion to the people to come to him in droves. The gospel call us to preach the good news with our lives, to turn on our compassion, not turn it off.

When has pity or compassion moved you to action?


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Gospel Reflection for December 4, 2016, 2nd Sunday of Advent

30 Nov
Photo via Flickr User Karen Thurmond

Photo via Flickr User Karen Thurmond

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 11.1-10; Romans 15.4-9; Matthew 3.1-12

Two family trees figure in Sunday’s readings: the children of Abraham and Sarah hear God’s call, go to a new land, and await a child who will be the first of descendants as countless as the stars. Faith in God’s promise is their DNA.

The descendants of Jesse becomes the Kings of Israel. God promises Jesse’s son David that his throne will stand forever. Faith and repentance are in David’s DNA.

John the Baptist calls his contemporaries, who are children of Abraham and Sarah by blood, to become children by active faith. Fierce and holy like the prophet Elijah, John the Baptist is a lone voice in the wilderness, calling people to repent and prepare for one who will baptize them in Spirit and fire. Repentance is the true inheritance of Israel, John insists. The fruitful tree symbolizes the repentant person.

What spiritual values are in your DNA?

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Gospel Reflection for January 10, 2016, Baptism of the Lord

5 Jan

Sunday Scripture Readings: Isaiah 40.1-5, 9-11; Titus 2.11-14, 3.4-7; Luke 3.15-16, 21-22

“He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

(Luke 3.16)

After the exile in Babylon many people return to the land of Israel, rebuild their city and temple, and revive their worship. Then Greek and Roman conquerors arrive, threatening the temple and the people’s religious identity. By the time of John the Baptist, people wonder where to look for salvation. If God’s salvation isn’t able to come through the land, or the king, or temple worship, or the law, then how and where will it come?

Into this very unsettled state of affairs arrives John the Baptist. No one works with greater zeal and tirelessness than John to make the people ready to welcome the messiah. He insists that God’s savior is near at hand and prods the people to keep looking. At his baptism Jesus comes out of the waters to be blessed by the Spirit and voice of God in his mission as servant and Son.

What do our baptisms empower? What does this action call us to live out? To what does it set fire in us?

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Gospel Reflection for December 13, 2015, 3rd Sunday of Advent

8 Dec
Photo via Flickr user Justin Kern

Photo via Flickr user Justin Kern

Sunday Readings: Zephaniah 3.14-18; Philippians 4.4-7; Luke 3.10-18

“Crowds of people came to hear John the Baptist and seek the baptism of repentance he proclaimed. They asked ‘What shall we do?’ In reply John said, ‘Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.'”

(Luke 3.10-11)

Just as John the Baptist helped people of his time examine their consciences, Pope Francis is calling us to ecological conversion. He wants us to redefine progress, so it can include all people and sustain us all. What are we to do? The pope urges us to pause and recover depth, to see beauty, share joy, and keep up our human capacity to encounter and care for one another (Laudato Si’ #113)

Talk as a family or group of friends about what in creation inspires awe and gives you joy. Plan to see and experience it.

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Gospel Reflection for December 6, 2015, 2nd Sunday of Advent

1 Dec

Sunday Readings: Baruch 5.1-9; Philippians 1.4-6, 8-11; Luke 3.1-6

When people heard John, they remembered what was written in the book of the prophet Isaiah. A herald’s voice in the desert cries out, “Make ready a road for God. Clear a straight path for God. Every valley shall be filled; every mountain and hill shall be leveled.”

(Luke 3.4-5)

When the Babylonians defeat Israel in 587 B.C., they breach the city walls, burn and level its homes, tear down the temple, and carry the able-bodied into exile in Babylon (modern Iraq). Our Jewish ancestors in faith might have vanished as a people except for the scrapbookers of the exile — the priests who collected and wrote down their history. After nearly 50 years in exile the people might have lost their religious identity without the prophet Second Isaiah, who preached a new exodus, a way home through the wilderness.

John the Baptist heralds the turning point in history by which much of our world marks its calendar. The God who dwelt in Israel’s tent and temple and whom Second Isaiah sees at work in Babylon finds a new dwelling place. A woman makes home in her womb for God to become human. A human family makes a home in which her son, the Son of God, can grow up. God is at home in us and with us.

What stories belong in your Advent scrapbook as valuable preparation for Christmas?

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Gospel Reflection for January 18, 2015, 2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

13 Jan

Sunday Readings: 1 Samuel 3.3-10,19; 1 Corinthians 6.13-15,17-20; John 1.35-42

John the Baptist points out Jesus to two of his disciples, Andrew and another. They  follow Jesus, who turns, sees them, and ask what they are looking for.
 
 Andrew said to him, “Teacher, where are you staying?” Jesus said to them, “Come and see.” They went and saw where Jesus stayed and remained with him that day.

John 1.38-39

The few hours Andrew and his friend stay with Jesus changes their lives. Afterward Andrew immediately tells his brother Peter that he has found the messiah. Encountering Jesus impels Andrew to mission, to invite others to find out who Jesus is. Jesus’ disciples stay with him as he heals, teaches, and models how to live. They follow him through misunderstanding, bewilderment, footwashing, his death. Staying with Jesus on the journey of discipleship leads to abiding in lasting love.

What spiritual practice have you stayed with in your life?  How have your grown through this practice?   

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Gospel Reflection for December 14, 2014, 3rd Sunday of Advent

8 Dec

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 61.1-2,10-11; 1 Thessalonians 5.16-24; John 1.6-8, 19-28

“Among you stands one whom you do not know.”

John 1.26

John the Baptist refuses to apply people’s expectations of the messiah to himself.  He anticipates one greater than he is coming.  He testifies to the light.  He insists that “Among you stands one whom you do not know.”  The words come down the centuries to haunt and taunt us into recognizing where we see Jesus among us.

Ours is the task of recognizing God at work in the hardest of all places to see–in ourselves, in our passion for justice, in the events of our history, in our own unrelenting efforts to hold our families and communities together.  We live in an unfinished drama and unfolding mystery that is the Spirit of God’s life-giving presence with us.

To what light do you testify in your unrelenting struggles?

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Gospel Reflection for December 7, 2014, 2nd Sunday of Advent

1 Dec

Sunday Scripture Readings: Isaiah 40.1-5, 9-11; 2 Peter 3.8-14; Mark 1.1-8

“One more powerful than I will come after me.”

Mark 1.7

Like the prophet Elijah, John the Baptist haunt the wilderness. Like Elijah, who discovered God speaking not in storms and lightning but in silence, the Baptist in the silence of his wilderness life senses God is coming among the people in a new way. His preaching and baptizing bring people into the wilderness and ready them for this breakthrough. His baptism washes away a past of simply keeping and breaking the law and symbolizes openness to the reviving Spirit of God.

John promises one more powerful than he is coming. He envisions that this coming figure will also baptize but with the Holy Spirit. Baptism in the Holy Spirit will create people anew more wholly than water cleanses and invigorates.

What do you need to wash away to open yourself to God’s reviving Spirit this Advent season?

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Gospel Reflection for January 19, 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

14 Jan

The fourth gospel begins in God time and enters history only in verse 6, when “a man named John was sent from God…to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him” (1.6-7). Jesus has no birth story and no parents at the beginning of this gospel. Instead he has a dedicated public relations man who testifies someone greater is coming.

John the Baptist apparently preaches in such a compelling way that many mistake him for the promised messiah, but he insists no. Someone else is coming who will baptize with the Spirit. Artfully the fourth gospel uses the Baptist to build up anticipation. The Baptist is the point man. Artists often draw him pointing.

The Baptist witnesses that indeed Wisdom, God’s partner in creation, has found a dwelling in Israel. The Word has taken flesh to reveal God among us. Not until verse 29, where Sunday’s gospel begins, does the Baptist point out Jesus and identify him as the someone.

In court, witnessing and testifying require swearing to tell the whole truth about events one has observed or participated in. Testimony is also a Christian practice in which one talks about the power of God in one’s life.

Many people who grew up Catholic no longer claim their faith. The continuing flow of sexual abuse cases causes deep distrust of leaders who don’t meet their promise of zero tolerance. The whole Church suffers.

We Christians are Jesus’ witnesses today. As our courts work to find the whole truth, we in the pews must give witness to all God is doing in our lives. We must be church to one another and Christians others can believe in.

What witness do you give?

Beloved Children of God

10 Jan

In this Sunday’s gospel from Matthew, we hear the story of Jesus’ baptism. Jesus goes to the Jordan River to be baptized by John the Baptist, who had been performing baptisms for Jews who wished to repent of their sins. At first, John is uncomfortable with the idea of baptizing Jesus, since John had been preaching about the coming of someone greater than he, a person he now recognizes is Jesus. Jesus explains that this is how it must be done, and John concedes, baptizing Jesus in the river. After Jesus is baptized, we are told that “The heavens were opened for him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming upon him. And a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son; with whom I am well pleased.’ ”

Like many Catholics, I was baptized as an infant and thus do not have any of my own recollections about the occasion. I have the stories, the yellowing photographs, and the white knit dress that I wore to mark my official, sacramental entry into the family of God. But it was in my adolescence that I experienced a culmination of my baptismal experience.

When I was a sophomore in high school, I joined the spiritual team, a group of students who worked with the campus ministers at my Catholic high school to plan school masses, prayer services, and other events that had to do with the spiritual life of the students and the school. In retrospect, I am not quite sure why I joined. Besides going to mass with my family each week, I was not a particularly religious or spiritual person at the time. But I was struggling to fit in, and I guess I thought I should try out any group that would take me in an effort to find a place that helped me feel like myself.

Our sophomore team was in charge of the All Saints’ Day mass for the entire school. One of our responsibilities was walking in the opening procession, helping to lead the school in song. As I walked past row upon row of my sophomore classmates whom I considered the cool ones, my first reaction was mortification. I certainly would never fit in now that I had been seen singing religious songs in front of everyone.

Yet in the next moment, it was as if the heavens opened up. I did not see a dove descend, nor did I hear an actual voice. But I did feel God’s revelation to me, reverberating in my whole being: I was okay as I was (a modern day version of God’s affirmation that Jesus was God’s beloved child, with whom God was well pleased). I realized that I would never fit in, if fitting in meant being one of the “cool” students, and that was okay. It was okay because I already belonged; I belonged as part of the family of God. It was okay because God loved me for exactly who I was.

In baptism, we all become brothers and sisters with Christ. As Christ’s sisters and brothers, we also take on the status as God’s children. So what God says to Jesus at his baptism, God also says to us, all day, every day (even when we wear big pink glasses, clunky braces, and unfashionable uniforms, as I did in high school). God says to us, “You are my beloved child; with you I am pleased.” God is pleased with us not because of how we look, how much money we make, or even how much we care for others through our charity and justice work. God is pleased with us simply because we are who we are: God’s beloved children.

Do you know the story of your baptism? Take some time this week to review the story: find old pictures, ask living relatives about the event, etc.

When in your life have you felt most strongly and profoundly that you are a beloved child of God, with whom God is well pleased? Has there ever been a moment when it felt as if the heavens opened and God was communicating directly with you?

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