Thứ Bảy, 14 tháng 1, 2017


Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 64

Reading 1IS 49:3, 5-6
The LORD said to me: You are my servant,
Israel, through whom I show my glory.
Now the LORD has spoken
who formed me as his servant from the womb,
that Jacob may be brought back to him
and Israel gathered to him;
and I am made glorious in the sight of the LORD,
and my God is now my strength!
It is too little, the LORD says, for you to be my servant,
to raise up the tribes of Jacob,
and restore the survivors of Israel;
I will make you a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.

Responsorial PsalmPS 40:2, 4, 7-8, 8-9, 10
R. (8a and 9a) Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.
I have waited, waited for the LORD,
and he stooped toward me and heard my cry.
And he put a new song into my mouth,
a hymn to our God. 
R. Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.
Sacrifice or offering you wished not,
but ears open to obedience you gave me.
Holocausts or sin-offerings you sought not;
then said I, "Behold I come."
R. Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.
"In the written scroll it is prescribed for me,
to do your will, O my God, is my delight,
and your law is within my heart!"
R. Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.
I announced your justice in the vast assembly;
I did not restrain my lips, as you, O LORD, know.
R. Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.

Reading 21 COR 1:1-3
Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
and Sosthenes our brother,
to the church of God that is in Corinth,
to you who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be holy,
with all those everywhere who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ.

AlleluiaJN 1:14A, 12A
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us.
To those who accepted him,
he gave power to become children of God.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

GospelJN 1:29-34
John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said,
"Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.
He is the one of whom I said,
'A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me
because he existed before me.'
I did not know him,
but the reason why I came baptizing with water
was that he might be made known to Israel."
John testified further, saying,
"I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven
and remain upon him.
I did not know him,
but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me,
'On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain,
he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.'
Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God."

Meditation: "Behold the Lamb of God!"
John calls Jesus the Lamb of God and thus signifies Jesus' mission as the One who redeems us from our sins. The blood of the Passover Lamb (Exodus 12) delivered the Israelites in Egypt from slavery and death. The Lord Jesus freely offered up his life for us on the cross as the atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 Corinthians 5:7). The blood which he poured out for us on the cross cleanses, heals, and frees us from our slavery to sin, and from the "wages of sin which is death" (Romans 6:23) and the "destruction of both body and soul in hell" (Matthew 10:28).
John points to Jesus' saving mission - to offer up his life as the atoning sacrifice for our sins
It is significant that John was the son of Zachariah, a priest of Israel who participated in the daily sacrifice of a lamb in the temple for the sins of the people (Exodus 29). John recognized that Jesus was the perfect unblemished lamb offered by the Father in heaven as the one and only sacrifice that could cancel the debt of sin, and free us from death and the destruction of body and soul in hell.
The Holy Spirit reveals who Jesus truly is - the Son of God and Savior of the world
When John says he did not know Jesus (John 1:31,33) he was referring to the hidden reality of Jesus' divinity. But the Holy Spirit in that hour revealed to John Jesus' true nature, such that John bore witness that this is the Son of God. How can we be certain that Jesus is truly the Christ, the Son of the living God? The Holy Spirit makes the Lord Jesus Christ known to us through the gift of faith. God gives us his Spirit as our helper and guide who opens our hearts and minds to receive and comprehend the great mystery and plan of God - to unite all things in his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:10).
Do you want to grow in the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ? Ask the Lord to pour his Holy Spirit upon you to deepen your faith, hope, and love for God and for the plan he has for your life.
"Lord Jesus Christ, fill me with the power of your Holy Spirit and let me grow in the knowledge of your great love and truth. Let your Spirit be aflame in my heart that I may know and love you more fervently and strive to do your will in all things."

Daily Quote from the early church fathers
John points to Jesus' saving mission, by Cyril of Alexandria (376-444 AD)
"No longer does John need to 'prepare the way,' since the one for whom the preparation was being made is right there before his eyes... But now he who of old was dimly pictured, the very Lamb, the spotless Sacrifice, is led to the slaughter for all, that he might drive away the sin of the world, that he might overturn the destroyer of the earth, that dying for all he might annihilate death, that he might undo the curse that is upon us... For one Lamb died for all (2 Corinthians 5:14), saving the whole flock on earth to God the Father, one for all, that he might subject all to God." (excerpt from the COMMENTARY ON THE GOSPEL OF JOHN 2.1) 


(Isaiah 49:3, 5-6; Psalm 40; 1 Corinthians 1:1-3)

KEY VERSE: "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (v.29).
TO KNOW: John the Baptist was a prophet sent by God to announce the coming of the Messiah. When Jesus came to him for baptism, John recognized him as the anointed one (Hebrew, mashiach). When John saw God's spirit "descending from heaven like a dove" (v.32), he testified that Jesus was God's Son who would baptize with the purifying grace of the Holy Spirit. The next day, John paid tribute to Jesus by identifying him with the significant title, the "Lamb of God" (v.29). Perhaps John was thinking of the coming Passover Feast (Jn 2:13). Just as the blood of the slain lamb protected the Israelites on the night when they left Egypt (Ex 12:11-13), Jesus, the new Paschal lamb, shed his blood for the salvation of the world. John's gospel stated that Jesus was put to death on "the day of Preparation for the Passover" (Jn 19:14a) when the lambs were sacrificed in the temple. Paul also thought of Jesus as the Passover Lamb. "Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch, as you really are unleavened. For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed” (1Cor 5:7). The prophet Isaiah said that God's suffering servant was led "like a lamb that is led to the slaughter" (Is 53:7b). In the book of Revelation, Jesus is portrayed as the victorious lamb who conquered evil through his death and resurrection (Rv.5:6-14).
TO LOVE: Is my life a witness to Jesus for others?
TO SERVE: Lord Jesus, Lamb of God, thank you for giving me life by dying for my sins.
NOTE: This year, the First Sunday of Ordinary Time is impeded by the Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord.

Ritual washings were practiced by various groups in Palestine between 150 BC and AD 250. Throughout Jewish history it was traditional for Jews to demonstrate repentance through washing ceremonies. John's baptism may have been related to the purifying washings of the Essenes at Qumran near the Dead Sea. The baptism of John was a Jewish washing. John was preaching repentance for the coming of God's reign. The people who accepted that message and desired to repent came to John. The internal conversion of their heart was demonstrated externally in their baptism in anticipation for the arrival of Messiah. It was a baptism of repentance, and so it was Jewish baptism. 

Sunday 15 January 2017

Sun 15th. 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time. Isaiah 49:3, 5-6. Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will—Ps 39(40):2, 4, 7-10. 1 Corinthians 1:1-3. John 1:29-34.


‘Here I am, Lord.’
Sometimes it seems to all we do in prayer is simply present ourselves to God and wait, in trust, for him to tell us his will and give us the means to do it. As his own word puts it: ‘Be still and know that I am God.’ We come silently and lovingly to you with all our baggage and know that he will love and guide us. It needs an open generous heart to be able to say, ‘here I am, Lord, weak but ready to do whatever you ask of me’. It is also frightening because we always think that God’s work is hard and demanding, feeling that it will be more crucifixion than resurrection.
With love and trust and the help of the Spirit we realise that, although God’s will is not always ours, doing it will bring us peace.


On Jan. 15, the Catholic Church remembers Saint Paul of Thebes, whose life of solitude and penance gave inspiration to the monastic movement during its early years.

Surviving in the Egyptian desert on a small amount of daily food, St. Paul the Hermit lived in close communion with God. Before the end of his life at age 113, he met with St. Anthony the Great, who led an early community of monks elsewhere in the Egyptian desert.

Born in approximately 230, the future hermit Paul received a solid religious and secular education, but lost his parents at age 15. During the year 250, the Roman Emperor Decius carried out a notorious persecution of the Church, executing clergy and forcing laypersons to prove their loyalty by worshiping idols. The state used torture, as well as the threat of death, to coerce believers into making pagan sacrifices.

Paul went into hiding during the Decian persecution, but became aware of a family member's plan to betray him to the authorities. The young man retreated to a remote desert location, where he discovered a large abandoned cave that had once been used as a facility for making counterfeit coins. He found that he could survive on water from a spring, and the fruit of a tree that grew nearby.
Forced into the wilderness by circumstance, Paul found he loved the life of prayer and simplicity that it made possible. Thus, he never returned to the outside world, even though he lived well into the era of the Church's legalization and acceptance by the Roman Empire. Later on, his way of life inspired Catholics who sought a deeper relationship with God through spiritual discipline and isolation from the outside world.

One of these faithful was Anthony of Egypt, born in the vicinity of Cairo around 251, who also lived to an old age after deciding during his youth to live in the desert out of devotion to God. Paul of Thebes is known to posterity because Anthony, around the year 342, was told in a dream about the older hermit's existence, and went to find him.
A similar knowledge about Anthony had been mysteriously given to the earlier hermit. Thus, when he appeared at Paul's cave, they greeted each other by name, though they had never met. Out of contact with the Roman Empire for almost a century, Paul asked about its condition, and whether paganism was still practiced. He told Anthony how, for the last 60 years, a bird had brought him a ration of bread each day – a mode of subsistence also granted to the Old Testament prophet Elijah.

After 113 years, most of them spent in solitary devotion, Paul understood that he was nearing the end of his earthly life. He asked Anthony to return to his own hermitage, and bring back a cloak that had been given to the younger monk by the bishop St. Athanasius. That heroically orthodox bishop had not yet been born when Paul first fled to the desert, and Anthony had never mentioned him or the cloak in question. Amazed, Anthony paid reverence to Paul and set out to fulfill his request.

During the return trip, Anthony was shown a vision of St. Paul of Thebes' soul, glorified and ascending toward Heaven. On returning to the first hermit's cave, he venerated the body of its inhabitant, wrapped him in Athanasius' cloak, and carried him outdoors. Saint Jerome, in his “Life of St. Paul the First Hermit,” attests that two lions arrived, demonstrated their reverence, and dug a grave for the saint.

Having given him Athanasius' cloak, St. Anthony took back to his hermitage the garment which St. Paul of Thebes had woven for himself from palm leaves. Anthony passed on the account of his journey and the saint's life to his own growing group of monastic disciples, and it was written down by St. Jerome around the year 375 – approximately 33 years after the death of the first hermit.
Venerated on the same day by Roman Catholics, Eastern Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians, St. Paul of Thebes is also the namesake of a Catholic monastic order – the Order of Saint Paul the First Hermit – founded in Hungary during the 13th century and still in operation.

Lectio Divina: 
 Sunday, January 15, 2017
John the Baptist announces Jesus
as the Lamb of God
John 1:29-34

1. Opening prayer
 In this prayerful reading of the Gospel of John, we recall the words of John Henry Newman to accompany and stimulate us, words that he liked to use in prayer to the Lord: Stay with me, and I shall begin to shine as you shine; to shine so as to be light for others. Jesus, the light will all come from you: nothing will be because of me. It will be you who shines on others through me. Grant that I may praise you thus, in the way that you like most, shining on all those who are around me. Give them and me your light; enlighten them together with me, through me. Teach me to spread your praise, your truth, your will. Grant that I may make you known not through words but by example, that influence of solidarity that comes from what I do, visibly resembling your saints, and clearly full of the love that grows in my heart for you» (Meditations and Devotions).

2. The text
29 The next day, he saw Jesus coming towards him and said, 'Look, there is the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. 30 It was of him that I said, "Behind me comes one who has passed ahead of me because he existed before me." 31 I did not know him myself, and yet my purpose in coming to baptise with water was so that he might be revealed to Israel.' 32 And John declared, 'I saw the Spirit come down on him like a dove from heaven and rest on him. 33 I did not know him myself, but he who sent me to baptise with water had said to me, "The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and rest is the one who is to baptise with the Holy Spirit." 34 I have seen and I testify that he is the Chosen One of God.'

3. A prayerful silent pause
The Word of God demands that we want and welcome it through a meditation of silence. Quieten yourself, allow yourself to welcome the presence of God in his Word; a silence that makes room in your heart so that God may come and talk to you.

4. A symbolical reading
This Gospel passage speaks of two animals of great spiritual value in the Bible: the lamb and the dove. The first alludes to significant texts in the Bible: the paschal meal of the exodus (cc.12-13); the glory of the Christ-Lamb in the Apocalypse.
a) The symbol of the lamb:
Let us turn our attention to the symbol of the «Lamb (amnos) of God», and to its meaning.
- A first biblical allusion for an understanding of this expression used by John the Baptist to point out the person of Jesus, is the figure of the victorious Lamb in the book of the Apocalypse: in 7:17 the Lamb is the shepherd of the nations; in 17:14 the Lamb squashes the evil powers on earth. In Jesus’ time, people imagined that at the end of time a victorious lamb or one that would destroy the powers of sin, injustice and evil would appear. This idea conforms to the eschatological preaching of John the Baptist who warned that God’s anger was imminent (Lk 3:7), that the axe was already laid at the roots of the trees, and that God was ready to cut down and throw on the fire every tree that did not bear good fruit (Lk 3:9). Mt 3:12 and Lk 3:17.
Another very powerful expression with which the Baptist introduces Jesus is in Matthew 3:12: «His winnowing-fan is in his hand; he will clear his threshing-floor and gather his wheat into the barn; but the chaff he will burn in a fire that will never go out». It is not wrong to think that John the Baptist could describe Jesus as the lamb of God who destroys the sin of the world. In fact, in 1 John 3:5 it is written: «Now you know that he appeared in order to abolish sin»; and in 3:8: «It was to undo all that the devil has done that the Son of God appeared». It is possible that John the Baptist greeted Jesus as the victorious lamb who, by God’s command, was to destroy evil in the world.
- A second biblical allusion is to the Lamb as the suffering servant. This figure of the suffering servant or of Jhwh is the subject of four canticles in Deutero-Isaiah: 42:1-4.7.9; 49:1-6.9.13; 50:4-9. 11); 52:13-53,12. We need to ask ourselves whether the use of «Lamb of God» in John 1:29 is not coloured by the use of “lamb” to allude to the suffering Servant of Yahweh in Isaiah 53. Did John really consider Jesus the lamb as the suffering Servant?
There certainly are no clear proofs that the Baptist made such a connection, nor are there proofs that exclude such a possibility. Indeed in Isaiah 53:7 it is written that the Servant: «never opened his mouth, like a sheep that is dumb before its shearers, never opening its mouth». This description is applied to Jesus in Acts 8:32, and so this likeness between the Suffering Servant and Jesus was made by the early Christians (see Mt 8:17 = Is 53:4; Heb 9:28 = Is 53:12).
Besides, in John the Baptist’s description of Jesus in 1:32-34, there are two aspects that recall the figure of the Servant: in v. 32 John the Baptist says that he saw the Spirit coming down on Jesus and resting on him; in 34 he identifies Jesus as the chosen of God. Thus also in Isaiah 42:1 (a passage the synoptics also connect with the baptism of Jesus) we read: «Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom my soul delights (see Mk 1:11). I have endowed him with my spirit». Again in Isaiah 61:1: «The Spirit of the Lord Yahweh has been given to me». These biblical allusions strengthen the possibility that the Evangelist made a connection between the Servant of Isaiah 42; 53 and the Lamb of God.
In other parts of John’s Gospel we also find Jesus described with the traits of the suffering Servant (12:38 = Is 53:1).
One interesting aspect to be noticed is that the Lamb of God is said to take away the sin of the world. In Isaiah 53:4.12, it is said that the Servant bears or takes on himself the sins of many. By his death, Jesus takes away sin or takes it on himself.
Thus according to the second interpretation, the Lamb as suffering Servant, is Christ who offers himself freely to eliminate sin from the world and restore his brothers and sisters in the flesh back to God.
We find a modern confirmation of this interpretation of Jesus as “Lamb of God” in a document of the Italian bishops: «The Apocalypse of John, going even to the ultimate depths of the mystery of the One sent by the Father, recognises in him the Lamb who is sacrificed “since the foundation of the world” (Apc 13:8), the One whose wounds healed us (1 Pt 2:25; Is 53:5)» (Communicating the Gospel in a changing world, 15).
- A third biblical allusion is the Lamb as the paschal lamb. John’s Gospel is full of Paschal symbolism especially in relation to the death of Jesus. For the Christian community for whom John is writing his Gospel, the Lamb takes away the sin of the world by his death. In fact, in John 19:14 it is written that Jesus was sentenced to death at midday on the eve of the Pasch, that is at the time when priests began to sacrifice paschal lambs in the Temple for Easter. Another connection of the paschal symbolism with the death of Jesus is that while Jesus was on the cross, a sponge soaked in vinegar was raised up to him on a stick (19:29), and it was the stick or hyssop that was dipped into the blood of the paschal lamb to sprinkle the doorposts of the Israelites (Es 12:22). Then in John 19:36 the fulfilment of Scripture that not one bone of Jesus would be broken, is clearly a reference to the text in Exodus 12:46 where it is written that not one bone of the paschal lamb must be broken. The description of Jesus as the Lamb is found in another of John’s works, namely the Apocalypse: in 5:6 mention is made of the sacrificed lamb; in 7:17 and 22:1 the Lamb is the one from whom flows the spring of living water and this aspect is also an allusion to Moses who made water to flow from the rock; finally, in 5:9 reference is made to the redeeming blood of the Lamb, another paschal motif that recalls the salvation of the houses of the Israelites from the danger of death.
There is a parallel between the blood of the lamb sprinkled on the doorposts as a sign of liberation and the blood of the lamb offered in a sacrifice of liberation. Soon Christians began to compare Jesus to the paschal lamb and, in doing so, they did not hesitate to use sacrificial language: «Christ, our Passover, has been sacrificed» (1 Cor 5:7), including Jesus’ task of taking away the sin of the world.
b) The symbol of the dove:
This second symbol also has several aspects to it. First of all, the expression “like a dove” was common to express the affective connection with the nest. In our context it says that the Spirit has found its nest, its natural habitat of love in Jesus. Moreover, the dove symbolises the love of the Father that rests on Jesus as in a permanent dwelling place (see Mt 3:16; Mk 1:10; Lk 3:22).
Then the expression «like a dove» is used in connection with the verb to descend to express that it is not a question of the physical aspect of a dove but the way the Spirit descends (like the flight of a dove), in the sense that it does not strike terror but rather inspires trust. Such biblical symbolism of the dove does not have parallel symbolisms in the Bible; however an old rabbinical exegesis compares the hovering of the Spirit of God over the primordial waters to the fluttering of the dove over its nest. It is not impossible that in using this symbol, John wanted to say that the descent of the Spirit in the shape of a dove was a clear reference to the beginning of creation: the incarnation of God’s plan in Jesus is the summit and aim of God’s creative activity.
The love of God for Jesus (corresponding to the movement of the dove returning to its nest) urges him to pass on the fullness of his divine essence (the Spirit is love and loyalty).

5. The message
a) Christ is our salvation: The Baptist had the task of pointing out in Jesus «the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world». The proclamation of the Gospel, the word of Jesus Christ, is as essential and indispensable today as it was yesterday. We never cease to need liberation and salvation. Proclaiming the Gospel does not mean communicating theoretical truths nor is it a collection of moral teachings. Rather, it means allowing people to experience Jesus Christ, who came into the world – according to John’s witness – to save humankind from sin, evil and death. So we cannot transmit the Gospel and at the same time not pay attention to the daily needs and expectations of people. To speak of faith in Jesus, lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, means to speak to people of our time, first asking ourselves what do they seek in the depths of their heart.
“If we wish to hold on to an appropriate criterion…, we shall need to nurture two complementary focal points… Jesus Christ is witness to both. The first consists of our effort to listen to the culture of our world so as to discern the seeds of the Word already present there, even beyond the visible borders of the Church. To listen to the most intimate expectations of our contemporaries, consider seriously their wishes and desires, seek to understand that which burns in their hearts and what makes them afraid and diffident”. Besides, paying attention to the needs and expectations of people «does not mean renouncing what is different in Christianity, or the transcendence of the Gospel… the Christian message points to a fully human way of life but does not limit itself to presenting mere humanism. Jesus Christ came so that we may partake of the divine life, of that life which has been called “the humanity of God”. (Communicating the Gospel in a changing world n. 34)
b) The Spirit does not come only to rest on Jesus, but to possess him permanently so that he may share himself with others in baptism. Finally, the lamb who pardons sins and “the dove of the Church, meet in Christ”. Here is a quotation from St. Bernard where he brings together the two symbols: “The lamb is among animals that which the dove is among birds: innocence, sweetness and simplicity”.
c) Some practical suggestions:
- Renew our availability to collaborate with the mission of Christ in communion with the Church by helping people to be free of evil and of sin.
- To stand by men and women on their journey that they may live in hope in Jesus who liberates and saves. 
- To give witness to one’s joy in experiencing the efficacy of the word of Jesus in one’s life.
- To live by communicating faith giving witness to Jesus, saviour of every person.     

6. Psalm 40
This psalm speaks of the situation of a person who, freed from some oppression, finds no more authentic attitude in reply to God than an existential and total availability to his word.
I waited, I waited for Yahweh, 
then he stooped to me and heard my cry for help.
He put a fresh song in my mouth, praise of our God.
You wanted no sacrifice or cereal offering, 
but you gave me an open ear, 
you did not ask for burnt offering or sacrifice for sin;
then I said, 'Here I am, I am coming.'
In the scroll of the book it is written of me,
my delight is to do your will; 
your law, my God, is deep in my heart.
I proclaimed the saving justice of Yahweh in the great assembly. 
See, I will not hold my tongue, as you well know.

7. Closing prayer
Father, who on the day of the Lord
gather your people to celebrate
the One who is First and Last,
the Living One who has conquered death,
grant us the strength of your Spirit so that, having broken the chains of evil,
we may render you the free service
of our obedience and love,
so that we may reign with Christ in glory.
For He is God, who lives and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever.
(From the Liturgy)