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A reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah
(Chapter 42:1-4; 6-7)
 
“Thus says the Lord: Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have placed my spirit.” Who is this servant that the Lord says is his chosen one? Is it Isaiah, a prophet after him, or the Messiah? There are many schools of thought, but what is certain is that the early Church saw this mysterious figure as Jesus Christ. He is “a light for the nations.” He will “open the eyes of the blind and bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeons those who live in darkness.” The love of Jesus has done all that and more throughout the ages.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 29:1-2, 3-4, 9-11)
 
“The Lord will bless his people with peace.” Do you normally feel you are at peace in your life? If so, how do you experience that peace? If not, what is keeping you from that feeling, and how can you find peace?
 
A reading from the Acts of the Apostles
(Chapter 10:34-38)
 
“Peter proceeded to speak to those gathered in the house of Cornelius, saying: ‘In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts rightly is acceptable to him.” Who is Cornelius? We know for certain that he is a Gentile and that Peter is in this Gentile’s house when he makes it clear that Jesus came for all, not only the Jewish people. That is something we have mentioned in previous commentaries, because it is essential for understanding the history and meaning of the Catholic faith. This faith is inclusive, a joyful, hopeful community with a powerful message of unconditional love and a challenge to live in service to others, especially those in need.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew
(Chapter 3:13-17)
 
“Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. John tried to prevent him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?’ Jesus said to him in reply, ‘Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’” John the Baptist was a big deal, a powerful preacher who had a large following and who baptized hundreds. Yet, he knew his role. At first, he did not want to baptize Jesus, because he recognized that Jesus was more important than him. It is not easy for an influential leader to know the importance of his own calling while deferring to someone who is more powerful. John was able to do it, because he did not let his pride get in the way of following Jesus. The leader became the faithful follower.
 
Jesus sought John’s baptism and took on the role of Suffering Servant that Isaiah foretold. Both John and Jesus had callings, missions in life. John could not be Jesus, but he had a most important role in preparing the way for Jesus.
 
Each of us has a calling in life from God. Sometimes it is not easily discernable but rather remote or confusing. We need to know that we, too, have callings and work to discover them several times in our lives. One’s calling may have several elements. A person often has a calling to be a spouse, a parent, a good trusted friend, a dedicated worker, and a member of one or more creative communities. Then, after many years of being faithful to those calls, they may change or evolve. There are new challenges and opportunities, but the experience of change can be hard to accept unless we see it as the next step in our following God’s call.
 
Where has your call led you so far? How have you responded to it? Is it evolving now? How are you dealing with the new direction your call is taking you? The key is to remember you are not alone. The Holy Spirit who lives in you will guide you. Try to stay connected to the Spirit of God each day, sometime, somewhere, in whatever way works for you.
 
I am very aware that I am at a point in my life that has brought major changes. I will try to follow my own suggestions and listen to the Spirit. Peace!
 
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 Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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You Magi, pray that we might see God
revealed in the cosmos as you did.
You Searchers, pray that we might act on what we see
and move into the unknown full of wonder as you did.
You Questioners, pray that we might pore over
our tradition
seeking to interpret anew what has been
handed down to us,
so that the surprising novelty of God might be revealed.
You Faithful Ones, pray that we might
pursue the star in our lives
as you did until it leads us to
the Christ who is God-with-us.
You Listeners to Angels, pray that we might
resist evil as you did
and not cooperate in the violence and cruelty
that attempt to destroy the life and love of God
present among us.
You Magi, pray for us who seek Christ
in wonder, majesty, and awe as you did.
Amen.

 
Adapted from PrayerTime: Faith-Sharing Reflections on the Sunday Gospels, available at the RENEW International store
 
Image courtesy of FreeBibleImages.org.

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Most Christians believe that Mary is Jesus’ mother. Even many non-Christians believe that. Many Christians also struggle with Mary being the “Mother of God.” But If Jesus and God are one (John 10:30), then Mary is truly the Mother of God.
 
But how does that make her our mother? In the Gospel According to John (19:26-27), we read that, while Jesus was on the cross, he said to Mary regarding the apostle John, “Woman, behold, your son.” Then Jesus said to John, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour, John took Mary into his home. Most theologians and scholars believe that John was symbolic of everyone in the world whom Jesus came to save. So, since John was Mary’s son, all those whom Jesus came to save were her children as well.
 
St. Louis de Montfort teaches that since Mary is the mother of Christ, the Head of the Mystical Body, then she’s also the mother of all that Body’s members. That also makes her the mother of the Church, and we are the Church.
 
Abbot St. William, one of the early church fathers, writes that “Mary, in bringing forth Jesus, our Savior and our Life, brought forth many to salvation. By giving birth to life itself, she gave life to many.” By giving us life through salvation, Mary is our mother.
 
Personally, I have tried to entrust Mary with much of my life. When my first wife died, I entrusted my children to Mary as their spiritual mother. I also entrusted myself and every part of my life to her. She has not disappointed me. They were hard times, and she was, and still is, there for us.
 
By the virtue of her fiat, her “yes” to the Annunciation that she would bear the Savior, she said yes to all of creation, including us. She will never turn away from us if we ask for her intercession. Jesus wants us to do the same. Nor will Jesus ever ignore a request that comes through his mother. May we always remember that when we go to Mary, she takes our requests directly to Jesus. And, in turn, she says to us, “Do whatever he tells you.”
 
Here at RENEW, we have an excellent small-group resource called At Prayer with Mary. It has seven sessions that explore the aspects of Mary’s life that are central to our faith. To check it out, click HERE and select “Marian Resources” from the menu on the left.
 
Rich Vosler is a sales consultant at RENEW International. Contact him at 908 769 5400 x149 or [email protected]

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A reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah
(Chapter 60:1-6)
 
Light and darkness are two of the great biblical images. In this reading, Isaiah is telling the people of Israel that “your light has come.” Although “darkness covers the earth,” God will bring light to the whole world through Israel.
 
The word “catholic” means universal. We are part of the Catholic Church, a universal church whose light and presence should touch the whole world. Pope Francis is a truly catholic—that is universal—leader. He preaches and lives a life of peace, concern for the poor and forgotten and a broad, welcoming message. He sees the Catholic Church not as some exclusive club but rather as a warm loving embrace for all. He believes that our mission is to all, and we should welcome all, be a light for all, not an obstacle.
 
Isaiah was preaching this message at a most challenging time for the people of Israel—the exile in Babylon—when their world had been turned upside down and they endured great suffering. He came with a message of hope. Pope Francis has that message of hope for us and for all people.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 72:1-2 7-8, 10-11, 12-13)
 
“Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.” The psalmist knew when he wrote this, thousands of years ago, that it was not true but, he prayed that it would be someday, as we do today.
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians
(Chapter 3:2-3a, 5-6)
 
Paul talks about the mystery that has been revealed and writes that it is not only for Jews but for Gentiles as well. It is an inclusive message, a universal mystery. This may seem obvious to us, but it was the occasion for the first major division in the early Church. There were many, including Saint Peter for a while, who thought the new Church was only for Jews. Imagine that: our first pope was wrong about a crucial truth and was big enough to admit it and move on.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew
(Chapter 2:1-12)
 
Who were these men? Scholars have speculated about their identity for centuries. There are several theories, but the real importance of the visitors is that they represent the Gentiles, the wider world beyond Judaism. Jesus came for all, no matter where they come from or what their religion is. His appeal and call are universal.
 
The other significant figure here is Herod, the prototype of the bad king, the selfish ruler who thinks only of himself and will do anything, including mass murder, to protect his position. Of course, Herod’s plan to have the newborn king killed fails, and although Herod’s son plays a role in the death of Jesus, Jesus by then has grown into a charismatic healer who attracts large masses of followers and proclaims a message that is truly life giving.
 
This is a classic story of the seemingly powerless overcoming powerful evil rulers. It is a great model for our time when we have seen numerous despotic rulers rise and then fall before the power of the powerless.
 
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 Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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Joseph, you led your young family
from your house to a strange land
as you fled death and violence.
Pray for us when we must step into the unknown
in order to preserve or defend our families.
Mary, you comforted Jesus and strengthened Joseph
as you held your family together
in the midst of confusion and fear.
Pray for us when we face difficulties
that rise up suddenly to threaten our families.
Jesus, you joined us in this life
and ran all the risks we do
and experienced yourself as vulnerable and weak.
Fill us with your power
so we will live our lives in solidarity
with you and our families. Amen.

 
Adapted from PrayerTime: Faith-Sharing Reflections on the Sunday Gospels, available at the RENEW International store
 
Image courtesy of FreeBibleImages.org.

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