A reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah
(Chapter 40:1-5, 9-11)
Historical records show that the Babylonian Exile, which was a defining event in the relationship between God and Israel, ended around 538 B.C. This reading comes from just before that time and is truly prophetic. It looks to a time when God will make things right for Israel. The prophet sees the exile as a punishment for Israel’s sins, and now “her service is at an end, her guilt is expiated.” God is giving comfort to his people.
God offers comfort to us today even—no, especially—amid the COVID pandemic. Now is the time when we need to pray and remember the presence of the Holy Spirit within us. When we are dealing with addictions, family squabbles, betrayals and conflicts at work, or loss of work, God is there, helping us to deal with our responsibilities in these difficult times and forgiving others for their short tempers and fears.
(Psalm 85:9-10, 11-12, 13-14)
“Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.”
How do you experience the kindness of God, especially in such troubled times? Perhaps it is reaching out to your neighbors, friends, and relatives that you miss but can’t be with physically, especially those who are struggling to make ends meet or are trapped in depression or constant anxiety.
A reading from the Letter of Saint Peter
The author and date of this letter are matters of debate among scholars. The earliest Christians, including Peter and Paul, believed that the Second Coming of Christ and the end of the world would occur in their lifetimes. This letter, perhaps written around 85 AD, reminds the faithful that “with the Lord one day is like a thousand years” and warns them that “all should come to repentance.” In other words, don’t worry about when the Lord will come again, be prepared all the time.A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark
John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus, “proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” John’s baptism is different from the sacrament we know. “I have baptized you with water, he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” John knows his role. He never tries to be what he is not, and he cherishes his mission, giving his life for the cause. In a sense he was the first Christian martyr, because he died for Jesus.
You and I were baptized in the Holy Spirit. When many of us were growing up, we did not hear much about the Holy Spirit who seemed to be the forgotten member of the Holy Trinity. Today, we live in a time of renewed awareness of the importance for the Holy Spirit in our lives. Growing up, I never realized that the Holy Spirit lived in me and in each person. Did you? It has made a difference to me to know that the Spirit is in me and in everyone that I meet—even though they may not be aware of it. I experience the Holy Spirit as a kind of partner, someone who is there in the good times of blessing and the challenging times that could also be blessings if I could only see them that way.
How about you? Have you become friends with your inner partner, the Holy Spirit? Try it. It is a gradual process of listening and becoming aware of the presence within you. That is not to say that you will always be tuned in to the Spirit or that your troubles will melt away. What it does mean is that you are not alone. Let us remember the prevailing message of the scriptures, “I am with you.”
Image by Gerhard G on Pixabay.
Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. Bill was a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.