Sunday Scripture Readings

BAPTISM OF THE LORD,

JANUARY 12

Isaiah 42: 1-4, 6-7; Psalm 29;

Acts 10:34-38; Mark 1:7-11

OUR GOOD NEWS: Now at last - Here's Jesus! Today's feast fittingly concludes the Christmas season. We have liturgically "remembered" - actualized in our own lives - Advent hope and expectation, then greeted the Lord in His comings to the Chosen People (Christmas) and to the Gentile world (Epiphany). Now we center our attention on implications of Jesus' birth and subsequent ministry. Jesus' baptism by John occupied a crucial place in the unfolding plan of salvation. This event revealed Jesus' divine sonship and served as the occasion for His anointing and appointment to messianic office. We gratefully acknowledge Jesus' freely chosen solidarity with our guilty human race, making possible our receiving forgiveness and a share in His divine sonship. With today's psalmist we experience God's power and majesty in the marvels of creation, but especially in His coming to bless us with fullness of life "upon the waters" of baptism - Jesus' and ours. We join with earthly worshipers, inviting supernatural beings - "sons of God," attendants at the heavenly throne - to recognize and extoll the divine majesty. God's glory or visible presence became palpable through a thunderstorm moving inland from the Mediterranean, God coming over "vast waters" that symbolize chaotic forces subdued by His creative act. God's imperious "voice" is heard in the awesome roar of thunder. "The God of glory thunders!" At the storm's height human and angelic creatures together acclaim with cultic shout ("Glory!") the Lord enthroned in His "palace" - heavenly abode/earthly temple. The storm passes, dying away in the distance; but "the Lord (remains) enthroned as king" forever, His absolute authority extending even over the primeval ocean-abyss ("flood"). Through the responsorial verse we beg blessings of "peace" - shalom/fullness of life, health and happiness - for ourselves and for all "His people." Today's selection from Acts emphasizes that outreach to Gentiles was neither an afterthought nor betrayal, but implicit from the very beginning, when Jesus was formally commissioned as God's "Servant." Jesus came in fulfillment of Isaiah, "anointed with the holy spirit" ("I have put my spirit upon him") "and with power ("called for the victory of justice") In Acts' telling, Peter addressed a pagan rather than a Jewish audience. Universal salvation prophesied by Isaiah was realized in Cornelius, Roman centurion and (according to Luke's schema) the first Gentile to accept salvation in Jesus. Peter expended much prayer and reflection upon Old Testament texts, especially Isaiah, during an extended, doubtless painful, quest for God's will. Now at last, "I begin to see" that God wanted Gentiles among the Christians. This was painful for Peter, since non-Jews were worshipers of pagan gods and often lived immoral lives. Today's passage describes how Peter's eyes were opened to this truth. What we consider self-evident only dawned upon him with difficulty and over a period of time.

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