A reading from the prophecy of Isaiah
(Chapter 40:1-5, 9-11)
There are many beautiful passages in the Hebrew Scriptures in which God speaks soulfully to the people of Israel. This is one of the most powerful: “Comfort, give comfort to my people.” “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem.” “Fear not to cry out.” “Here comes with power the Lord God.”
Did they listen? Did they hear the words in their hearts? Perhaps many did, but others did not. God speaks to us tenderly and with power so many times in our lives in so many ways, through many different people and situations. How often do we really listen, in times of joy and times of sadness, in stress and in peace, and so many times in between?
“O bless the Lord, my soul.” Let us bless the Lord because of all the blessings he gives to us.
A reading from St. Paul's letter to Titus
(Chapter 2:11-14; 3:4-7)
Saint Paul writes, “The grace of God has appeared, saving all.” Do you remember being taught that what was important in life was “saving your soul”? That was backward. The grace of God saves us. We can’t earn salvation. We can accept this great gift of grace and share it with one another. But what is grace? It is not a ticket to heaven as my pastor told us in grade school. No, it is the very life of God living in us from the time of our baptism. “He saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit is not floating in the air out there. The Spirit lives within us.
I know I have written that many times over the past few years of commentaries, but I do not think we can hear it enough. It is truly amazing. God’s Spirit lives in you and in all of us. Of course, we can reject the Spirit’s presence, but I do not believe many of us do. Rather, I think we forget about this powerful presence that is in our souls. We go about our days without focusing on our holy partner, the Spirit of God. Please take some time this week to reflect on this most wondrous of all gifts, God’s Holy Spirit, alive within us, our guide and protector throughout our lives.
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Luke
(Chapter 3:15-16, 21-22)
John the Baptist was the last and the greatest of the Jewish prophets, a wild man with a large following. But he knew his role—to prepare the way of Jesus, not to compete with him. Many people may have thought that John was the messiah, but John said, “One mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.” John baptized in water, but Jesus baptized in the Holy Spirit. That is the same baptism that you and I experienced, when most of us were infants. Now, as adults, let us reflect on and rejoice in our baptism, which unites us with more than a billion other people all over the world and bestows on us the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.
Do you believe that power is in you? Do you call upon the Holy Spirit in your life during times of distress and in thankfulness in joyous times? Is the Holy Spirit an important part of your prayer life?
May you have a Joyful and peaceful New Year.
Sculpture, Baptism of Christ, by Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi (Donatello), Arezzo Cathedral, 1425.
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
Bill Ayers 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.