Thursday, December 16, 2004

Chapter 54
1 Raise a glad cry, you barren one who did not bear, break forth in jubilant song, you who were not in labor, For more numerous are the children of the deserted wife than the children of her who has a husband, says the LORD.
2 Enlarge the space for your tent, spread out your tent cloths unsparingly; lengthen your ropes and make firm your stakes.
3 For you shall spread abroad to the right and to the left; Your descendants shall dispossess the nations and shall people the desolate cities.
4 Fear not, you shall not be put to shame; you need not blush, for you shall not be disgraced. The shame of your youth you shall forget, the reproach of your widowhood no longer remember.
5 For he who has become your husband is your Maker; his name is the LORD of hosts; Your redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, called God of all the earth.
6 The LORD calls you back, like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit, A wife married in youth and then cast off, says your God.
7 For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with great tenderness I will take you back.
8 In an outburst of wrath, for a moment I hid my face from you; But with enduring love I take pity on you, says the LORD, your redeemer.
9 This is for me like the days of Noah, when I swore that the waters of Noah should never again deluge the earth; So I have sworn not to be angry with you, or to rebuke you.
10 Though the mountains leave their place and the hills be shaken, My love shall never leave you nor my covenant of peace be shaken, says the LORD, who has mercy on you.
Chapter 30
1 A psalm. A song for the dedication of the temple. Of David.
3 O LORD, my God, I cried out to you and you healed me.
4 LORD, you brought me up from Sheol; you kept me from going down to the pit.
5 Sing praise to the LORD, you faithful; give thanks to God's holy name.
10 "What gain is there from my lifeblood, from my going down to the grave? Does dust give you thanks or declare your faithfulness?
11 Hear, O LORD, have mercy on me; LORD, be my helper."
12 You changed my mourning into dancing; you took off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness.
Chapter 7
24 When the messengers of John had left, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John. "What did you go out to the desert to see--a reed swayed by the wind?
25 Then what did you go out to see? Someone dressed in fine garments? Those who dress luxuriously and live sumptuously are found in royal palaces.
26 Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.
27 This is the one about whom scripture says: 'Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, he will prepare your way before you.'
28 I tell you, among those born of women, no one is greater than John; yet the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he."
29 (All the people who listened, including the tax collectors, and who were baptized with the baptism of John, acknowledged the righteousness of God;
30 but the Pharisees and scholars of the law, who were not baptized by him, rejected the plan of God for themselves.)

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Chapter 45
6 so that toward the rising and the setting of the sun men may know that there is none besides me. I am the LORD, there is no other;
7 I form the light, and create the darkness, I make well-being and create woe; I, the LORD, do all these things.
8 Let justice descend, O heavens, like dew from above, like gentle rain let the skies drop it down. Let the earth open and salvation bud forth; let justice also spring up! I, the LORD, have created this.
18 For thus says the LORD, The creator of the heavens, who is God, The designer and maker of the earth who established it, Not creating it to be a waste, but designing it to be lived in: I am the LORD, and there is no other.
21 Come here and declare in counsel together: Who announced this from the beginning and foretold it from of old? Was it not I, the LORD, besides whom there is no other God? There is no just and saving God but me.
22 Turn to me and be safe, all you ends of the earth, for I am God; there is no other!
23 By myself I swear, uttering my just decree and my unalterable word: To me every knee shall bend; by me every tongue shall swear,
24 Saying, "Only in the LORD are just deeds and power. Before him in shame shall come all who vent their anger against him.
25 In the LORD shall be the vindication and the glory of all the descendants of Israel."
Chapter 85
8 Show us, LORD, your love; grant us your salvation.
9 I will listen for the word of God; surely the LORD will proclaim peace To his people, to the faithful, to those who trust in him.
10 Near indeed is salvation for the loyal; prosperity will fill our land.
11 Love and truth will meet; justice and peace will kiss.
12 Truth will spring from the earth; justice will look down from heaven.
13 The LORD will surely grant abundance; our land will yield its increase
Chapter 7
18 The disciples of John told him about all these things. John summoned two of his disciples
19 and sent them to the Lord to ask, "Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?"
20 When the men came to him, they said, "John the Baptist has sent us to you to ask, 'Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?'"
21 At that time he cured many of their diseases, sufferings, and evil spirits; he also granted sight to many who were blind.
22 And he said to them in reply, "Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.
23 And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me." 2

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Chapter 3
1 Woe to the city, rebellious and polluted, to the tyrannical city!
2 She hears no voice, accepts no correction; In the LORD she has not trusted, to her God she has not drawn near.
9 For then I will change and purify the lips of the peoples, That they all may call upon the name of the LORD, to serve him with one accord;
10 From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia and as far as the recesses of the North, they shall bring me offerings.
11 On that day You need not be ashamed of all your deeds, your rebellious actions against me; For then will I remove from your midst the proud braggarts, And you shall no longer exalt yourself on my holy mountain.
12 But I will leave as a remnant in your midst a people humble and lowly, Who shall take refuge in the name of the LORD;
13 the remnant of Israel. They shall do no wrong and speak no lies; Nor shall there be found in their mouths a deceitful tongue; They shall pasture and couch their flocks with none to disturb them.
Chapter 34
1 Of David, when he feigned madness before Abimelech, who forced him to depart.
2 I will bless the LORD at all times; praise shall be always in my mouth.
5 I sought the LORD, who answered me, delivered me from all my fears.
6 Look to God that you may be radiant with joy and your faces may not blush for shame.
16 The LORD has eyes for the just and ears for their cry.
17 The LORD'S face is against evildoers to wipe out their memory from the earth.
18 When the just cry out, the LORD hears and rescues them from all distress.
22 Evil will slay the wicked; those who hate the just are condemned.
Chapter 21
28 "What is your opinion? A man had two sons. He came to the first and said, 'Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.'
29 He said in reply, 'I will not,' but afterwards he changed his mind and went.
30 The man came to the other son and gave the same order. He said in reply, 'Yes, sir,' but did not go.
31 Which of the two did his father's will?" They answered, "The first." Jesus said to them, "Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you.
32 When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did. Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Chapter 41
13 For I am the LORD, your God, who grasp your right hand; It is I who say to you, "Fear not, I will help you."
14 Fear not, O worm Jacob, O maggot Israel; I will help you, says the LORD; your redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.
15 I will make of you a threshing sledge, sharp, new, and double-edged, To thresh the mountains and crush them, to make the hills like chaff.
16 When you winnow them, the wind shall carry them off and the storm shall scatter them. But you shall rejoice in the LORD, and glory in the Holy One of Israel.
17 The afflicted and the needy seek water in vain, their tongues are parched with thirst. I, the LORD, will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.
18 I will open up rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the broad valleys; I will turn the desert into a marshland, and the dry ground into springs of water.
19 I will plant in the desert the cedar, acacia, myrtle, and olive; I will set in the wasteland the cypress, together with the plane tree and the pine,
20 That all may see and know, observe and understand, That the hand of the LORD has done this, the Holy One of Israel has created it
Chapter 145
1 Praise. Of David. I will extol you, my God and king; I will bless your name forever.
9 The LORD is good to all, compassionate to every creature.
10 All your works give you thanks, O LORD and your faithful bless you.
11 They speak of the glory of your reign and tell of your great works,
12 Making known to all your power, the glorious splendor of your rule.
13 Your reign is a reign for all ages, your dominion for all generations. The LORD is trustworthy in every word, and faithful in every work.
Chapter 11
11 Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 1
12 From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, 2 and the violent are taking it by force.
13 All the prophets and the law 3 prophesied up to the time of John.
14 And if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah, the one who is to come.
15 Whoever has ears ought to hear.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Chapter 3
9 The LORD God then called to the man and asked him, "Where are you?"
10 He answered, "I heard you in the garden; but I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid myself."
11 Then he asked, "Who told you that you were naked? You have eaten, then, from the tree of which I had forbidden you to eat!"
12 The man replied, "The woman whom you put here with me--she gave me fruit from the tree, so I ate it."
13 The LORD God then asked the woman, "Why did you do such a thing?" The woman answered, "The serpent tricked me into it, so I ate it."
14 Then the LORD God said to the serpent: "Because you have done this, you shall be banned from all the animals and from all the wild creatures; On your belly shall you crawl, and dirt shall you eat all the days of your life.
15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel."
20 The man called his wife Eve, because she became the mother of all the living.
Chapter 98
1 A psalm. 2 Sing a new song to the LORD, who has done marvelous deeds, Whose right hand and holy arm have won the victory.
2 The LORD has made his victory known; has revealed his triumph for the nations to see,
3 Has remembered faithful love toward the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.
4 Shout with joy to the LORD, all the earth; break into song; sing praise
Chapter 1
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, 2
4 as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him. In love
5 he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ, in accord with the favor of his will,
6 for the praise of the glory of his grace that he granted us in the beloved.
11 In him we were also chosen, destined in accord with the purpose of the one who accomplishes all things according to the intention of his will,
12 so that we might exist for the praise of his glory, we who first hoped 3 in Christ.
Chapter 1
26 In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
27 to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin's name was Mary.
28 And coming to her, he said, "Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you."
29 But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
30 Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.
31 Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.
32 He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, 2 and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
33 and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end."
34 But Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?" 3
35 And the angel said to her in reply, "The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.
36 And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived 4 a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;
37 for nothing will be impossible for God."
38 Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word." Then the angel departed from her.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Chapter 40
1 Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God.
2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her service is at an end, her guilt is expiated; Indeed, she has received from the hand of the LORD double for all her sins.
3 A voice cries out: In the desert prepare the way of the LORD! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!
4 Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill shall be made low; The rugged land shall be made a plain, the rough country, a broad valley.
5 Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all mankind shall see it together; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.
6 A voice says, "Cry out!" I answer, "What shall I cry out?" "All mankind is grass, and all their glory like the flower of the field.
7 The grass withers, the flower wilts, when the breath of the LORD blows upon it. (So then, the people is the grass.)
8 Though the grass withers and the flower wilts, the word of our God stands forever."
9 Go up onto a high mountain, Zion, herald of glad tidings; Cry out at the top of your voice, Jerusalem, herald of good news! Fear not to cry out and say to the cities of Judah: Here is your God!
10 Here comes with power the Lord GOD, who rules by his strong arm; Here is his reward with him, his recompense before him.
11 Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, Carrying them in his bosom, and leading the ewes with care.
Chapter 96
1 Sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth.
2 Sing to the LORD, bless his name; announce his salvation day after day.
3 Tell God's glory among the nations; among all peoples, God's marvelous deeds.
10 say among the nations: The LORD is king. The world will surely stand fast, never to be moved. God rules the peoples with fairness.
11 Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice; let the sea and what fills it resound;
12 let the plains be joyful and all that is in them. Then let all the trees of the forest rejoice
13 before the LORD who comes, who comes to govern the earth, To govern the world with justice and the peoples with faithfulness.
Chapter 18
12 What is your opinion? If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray?
13 And if he finds it, amen, I say to you, he rejoices more over it than over the ninety-nine that did not stray.
14 In just the same way, it is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Chapter 35
1 The desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom.
2 They will bloom with abundant flowers, and rejoice with joyful song. The glory of Lebanon will be given to them, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; They will see the glory of the LORD, the splendor of our God.
3 Strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak,
4 Say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication; With divine recompense he comes to save you.
5 Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared;
6 Then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the dumb will sing. Streams will burst forth in the desert, and rivers in the steppe.
7 The burning sands will become pools, and the thirsty ground, springs of water; The abode where jackals lurk will be a marsh for the reed and papyrus.
8 A highway will be there, called the holy way; No one unclean may pass over it, nor fools go astray on it.
9 No lion will be there, nor beast of prey go up to be met upon it. It is for those with a journey to make, and on it the redeemed will walk.
10 Those whom the LORD has ransomed will return and enter Zion singing, crowned with everlasting joy; They will meet with joy and gladness, sorrow and mourning will flee.
Chapter 85
8 Show us, LORD, your love; grant us your salvation.
9 I will listen for the word of God; surely the LORD will proclaim peace To his people, to the faithful, to those who trust in him.
10 Near indeed is salvation for the loyal; prosperity will fill our land.
11 Love and truth will meet; justice and peace will kiss.
12 Truth will spring from the earth; justice will look down from heaven.
13 The LORD will surely grant abundance; our land will yield its increase.
Chapter 5
17 One day as Jesus was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem, and the power of the Lord was with him for healing.
18 And some men brought on a stretcher a man who was paralyzed; they were trying to bring him in and set (him) in his presence.
19 But not finding a way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on the stretcher through the tiles 3 into the middle in front of Jesus.
20 When he saw their faith, he said, "As for you, your sins are forgiven." 4
21 Then the scribes 5 and Pharisees began to ask themselves, "Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who but God alone can forgive sins?"
22 Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them in reply, "What are you thinking in your hearts?
23 Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise and walk'?
24 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins''--he said to the man who was paralyzed, "I say to you, rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home."
25 He stood up immediately before them, picked up what he had been lying on, and went home, glorifying God.
26 Then astonishment seized them all and they glorified God, and, struck with awe, they said, "We have seen incredible things today."

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Last Sunday, we learned that Advent serves the purpose of preparing us for the coming of the Lord as the Judge, either at death or at the end of this world, whichever may come first. It also taught us to prepare ourselves to receive the Real Physical Presence of our Redeemer through the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. And it taught us to prepare ourselves for the coming of Christmas, the birthday anniversary of the Lord's coming into this world as God incarnate. Consequently, it can be said that while the reign of God is at hand, it is already here, but not yet fully.

Today's First Reading from the Book of Isaiah [Is. 11:1-10] consisted of a descriptive prophecy related to the coming of the ideal king from David's line. It began by proclaiming that "A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots." [Is. 11:1] Jesse was the father of king David, from whom the Judean kings descended.

The Gospel of Matthew affirms that Jesus was the King referred to, He being of the root of Jesse who was the father of David. [Mt. 1:5-6; Rev. 5:5, 22:16]

Regarding the King to come, Our Lord Jesus Christ, it was said that "The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge..." [Is. 11:2] The Spirit of the Lord is the Holy Spirit, the life-giving breath that comes from Yahweh. It is the same Spirit who endows men with the gifts of extraordinary power, wisdom, understanding, counsel, might and knowledge.

At His final coming, the Lord "shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked." [Is. 11;3- 4]

When the Divine judgments arrive, they shall be as severe as a chastising rod and a hot lethal breath. "And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will destroy with the breath of His mouth, annihilating him by the manifestation of His coming." [2 Thess. 2:8]

At that time, "Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist, and faithfulness the belt around his loins." [Is. 11:5] The belt, also known as the "girdle," was a loincloth that was worn next to the body. In the prophecy of Isaiah, it was foretold that the King to come, Our Lord Jesus, would wear the symbolic garments of righteousness and faithfulness close to His body.

The aforementioned words remind us of the words of Saint Paul in the Letter to the Ephesians. "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His power. Put on the whole armour of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armour of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God." [Eph. 6:10- 17]

And especially now in the Advent Season, we should "Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end (we should) keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints." [Eph. 6:18]

When Isaiah said, "The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them..." [Is. 11:6] he was providing a picture of a Messianic era when paradise would be restored. This era, partially fulfilled through Jesus Christ, is approaching its final day when the coming of Christ shall be upon us.

While we cannot see the spiritual Kingdom of God that has come on earth as it is in Heaven, we believe that through the Sacrament of Baptism, we have been admitted into the spiritual Kingdom of God on earth, the mystical Body of Christ to which the Catholic Church is united as the visible image of the invisible. We also believe that our participation in the celebration of the Holy Mass through which we receive the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist is our participation in a great spiritual Feast in the Real Presence of Jesus, His mother, the saints and all the angels.

The First Reading ended by saying that "On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious." [Is. 11:10] What is that day? Was it in the past? Is it now? Or is it in the future? "On that day" is a reference to the past and to the present. It is a reference to the hope of the gentiles in Jesus. [Rom 15:12]

"Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope." [Rom. 15:4] The Words of God that were written in former days in the Holy Scriptures, they give us Christians a basis for our hope in Jesus Christ.

What was written in former days was in the hope that we too may live in harmony with one another in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together we may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. [Rom. 15:5-6] We are to be united! We are to welcome one another, just as Jesus has welcomed us, for the glory of God. [Rom. 5:7] As all the activities of Jesus were for the glory of God, [Phil. 1:11, 2:11] and continue to be so to this day, we too are called to glorify God in all things, day and night, here and there, in all our thoughts, all our words and all our actions.

Today's Second Reading teaches us that "... Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy." [Rom. 15:8-9]

To fulfill the promises of God the Father to the patriarchs, Jesus had to be born as a Jewish citizen and He had to minister to the Jewish nation. But, while this is so, the promises of God are to be shared by both, the Jewish people [Ps. 18:50] and we the gentiles. [2 Sam. 22:50] Despite our ethnic background, as Saint Paul tells us, the Christian community is called to be united as one.

"As it is written, 'Therefore I will confess you among the Gentiles, and sing praises to your name.'" [Rom. 15:9] At the incarnation of God, the world sang praises to His Most Holy Name. Since the days of the glorious Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the world has been singing praises to His Most Holy Name. At His glorious coming, the world will sing praises to His Name. And finally, throughout the days of the eternal Kingdom that awaits those who persevere in their living faith, the children of God shall sing endless praises to His Most Holy Name.

Accordingly, we must "Prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight." [Mt. 3:3] Today's Reading from the Gospel of Matthew [Mt. 3:1-12] began by telling us that Saint John the Baptist proclaimed a baptism of repentance in the wilderness of Judea. In the desert of Judea, there is a steep slope that falls from the central ridge of the country to the valley of the Jordan and the Dead Sea. According to Catholic tradition that has been handed down, when reference is made to baptism in the Jordan, it indicates that St. John the Baptism preached near the river, most likely not far from Jericho.

John's message was one of repentance in preparation for the Kingdom of Heaven that was at hand. It is the same message that Jesus proclaimed when He began His ministry in Galilee. "Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven has come near." [Mt. 4:17]

When the great prophet Isaiah prophesied a forerunner who would be crying out in the wilderness, he was clearly making reference to John the Baptist. [Mt. 4:3] The introduction of John the Baptist in the Gospel of Matthew is quite abrupt, lacking details as to who he was. The reason for this is because John was a well-known figure in the early days of the Christian community. There was no need for any lengthy introduction. This is affirmed in Chapter 19, verses 1 to 5 of the Acts of the Apostles. There, we read that when Paul passed through Ephesus, he came across John's followers who were promoting the baptism of repentance. They had never heard of Baptism in the Name of the Lord Jesus.

If St. John were here today, he would have no problem preparing himself during the Advent Season. To him, prayer and fasting was part of his life. In his days, there was no fast food hamburgers, high class restaurants, or 11 course meals. In humility, John wore a garment of camel's hair that was held together by a belt around his waist. His food consisted of locusts and wild honey. Surely, if he was here today, he would put us to shame by the way we live.

John the Baptist's lifestyle was similar to the prophet Elijah. In 2 Kings 1:7-8, we read, "'What kind of man was he who came to meet you and told you these things?' They answered him, 'A hairy man, with a leather belt around his waist.' He said, 'It is Elijah the Tishbite.'"

Before Jesus cames into the world, it was prophesied that prior to the arrival of the Messiah, Elijah would return. [Mt. 11:14] As with many other prophesies, this was a symbolic prophecy. Yet, some of the people waited for Elijah to literally return. On this subject, we read in the Gospel of Matthew, "The disciples asked Jesus, 'Why, then, do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?' Jesus replied, 'Elijah is indeed coming and will restore all things: but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but they did to him whatever they pleased...'" [Mt. 17:10-2] The symbolic prophecy of Elijah referred to the coming of John the Baptist as the forerunner of the Messiah.

Towards the end of today's Gospel Reading, we heard the following word of John the Baptist, "I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire." [Mt. 3:11] In these words, John alludes to the coming of the Holy Spirit in tongues of fire on Pentecost Day. [Acts 2:3]

At the same time, when speaking of a baptism of fire, it can be interpreted as meaning to receive the Holy Spirit in the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation. It can also be interpreted to mean the purifying fire of the Holy Spirit that sanctifies the souls so that they may become more in the likeness of Jesus Who is the First Fruit [1 Cor. 15:20] of many to follow.

As we "prepare the way of the Lord" in our lives, we are called to review the status of our disposition towards the grace of God the Father that is manifested through the purifying fire of the Holy Spirit. During Advent, we are called to be repentant of our sins. We are called to pray unceasingly, (pause) to make penance, (pause) to fast (pause) and to perform acts of charity towards our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Are we granting the Spirit of God the freedom to freely flow through us so we may shine as lights in the world? Or are we resisting the purifying of the Holy Spirit, choosing the pleasures of the world, its fame and it wealth? As we reflect upon this, let us not forget that "every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire." [Mt. 3:10] May the power of the Spirit of Christ strengthen us all in our struggle to become living saints, not in name only, but also in action.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Chapter 29
17 But a very little while, and Lebanon shall be changed into an orchard, and the orchard be regarded as a forest!
18 On that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book; And out of gloom and darkness, the eyes of the blind shall see.
19 The lowly will ever find joy in the LORD, and the poor rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.
20 For the tyrant will be no more and the arrogant will have gone; All who are alert to do evil will be cut off,
21 those whose mere word condemns a man, Who ensnare his defender at the gate, and leave the just man with an empty claim.
22 Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of the house of Jacob, who redeemed Abraham: Now Jacob shall have nothing to be ashamed of, nor shall his face grow pale.
23 When his children see the work of my hands in his midst, They shall keep my name holy; they shall reverence the Holy One of Jacob, and be in awe of the God of Israel.
24 Those who err in spirit shall acquire understanding, and those who find fault shall receive instruction.
Chapter 27
1 Of David 1 The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom do I fear? The LORD is my life's refuge; of whom am I afraid?
4 One thing I ask of the LORD; this I seek: To dwell in the LORD'S house all the days of my life, To gaze on the LORD'S beauty, to visit his temple.
13 But I believe I shall enjoy the LORD'S goodness in the land of the living.
14 Wait for the LORD, take courage; be stouthearted, wait for the LORD!
Chapter 9
27 And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed (him), crying out, "Son of David, 2 have pity on us!"
28 When he entered the house, the blind men approached him and Jesus said to them, "Do you believe that I can do this?" "Yes, Lord," they said to him.
29 Then he touched their eyes and said, "Let it be done for you according to your faith."
30 And their eyes were opened. Jesus warned them sternly, "See that no one knows about this."
31 But they went out and spread word of him through all that land.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Sunday's Readings
Chapter 11
1 But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.
2 The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, A spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD,
3 and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD. Not by appearance shall he judge, nor by hearsay shall he decide,
4 But he shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the land's afflicted. He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked.
5 Justice shall be the band around his waist, and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.
6 Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; The calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them.
7 The cow and the bear shall be neighbors, together their young shall rest; the lion shall eat hay like the ox.
8 The baby shall play by the cobra's den, and the child lay his hand on the adder's lair.
9 There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD, as water covers the sea.
10 On that day, The root of Jesse, set up as a signal for the nations, The Gentiles shall seek out, for his dwelling shall be glorious.
Chapter 72
1 Of Solomon.
2 O God, give your judgment to the king; your justice to the son of kings; That he may govern your people with justice, your oppressed with right judgment,
7 That abundance may flourish in his days, great bounty, till the moon be no more.
8 May he rule from sea to sea, from the river to the ends of the earth.
12 For he rescues the poor when they cry out, the oppressed who have no one to help.
13 He shows pity to the needy and the poor and saves the lives of the poor.
17 May his name be blessed forever; as long as the sun, may his name endure. May the tribes of the earth give blessings with his name; may all the nations regard him as favored.
Chapter 15
4 For whatever was written previously was written for our instruction, that by endurance and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.
5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to think in harmony 1 with one another, in keeping with Christ Jesus,
6 that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
7 Welcome one another, then, as Christ welcomed you, for the glory of God.
8 For I say that Christ became a minister of the circumcised to show God's truthfulness, to confirm the promises to the patriarchs,
9 but so that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written: "Therefore, I will praise you among the Gentiles and sing praises to your name."
Chapter 3
1 In those days John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea
2 (and) saying, "Repent, 3 for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!"
3 It was of him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said: "A voice of one crying out in the desert, 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.'"
4 John wore clothing made of camel's hair and had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey.
5 At that time Jerusalem, all Judea, and the whole region around the Jordan were going out to him
6 and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins. 6
7 When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees 7 coming to his baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?
8 Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance.
9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I tell you, God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones.
10 Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees. Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
11 I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire. 8
12 His winnowing fan is in his hand. He will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire."

Chapter 26
1 On that day they will sing this song in the land of Judah: "A strong city have we; he sets up walls and ramparts to protect us.
2 Open up the gates to let in a nation that is just, one that keeps faith.
3 A nation of firm purpose you keep in peace; in peace, for its trust in you."
4 Trust in the LORD forever! For the LORD is an eternal Rock.
5 He humbles those in high places, and the lofty city he brings down; He tumbles it to the ground, levels it with the dust.
6 It is trampled underfoot by the needy, by the footsteps of the poor.
Chapter 118
1 Give thanks to the LORD, who is good, whose love endures forever.
8 Better to take refuge in the LORD than to put one's trust in mortals.
9 Better to take refuge in the LORD than to put one's trust in princes.
19 Open the gates of victory; I will enter and thank the LORD.
20 This is the LORD'S own gate, where the victors enter.
21 I thank you for you answered me; you have been my savior.
25 LORD, grant salvation! LORD, grant good fortune!
26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD. We bless you from the LORD'S house.
27 The LORD is God and has given us light. Join in procession with leafy branches up to the horns of the altar.
Chapter 7
21 "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, 1 but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.
24 "Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.
25 The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.
26 And everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand.
27 The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. And it collapsed and was completely ruined."