Baptism of the Lord: fulfillment

Baptism of Christ. Jesus is baptized in the Jo...Matthew 3: 13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. 14 John tried to prevent him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?” 15 Jesus said to him in reply, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed him. 16 After Jesus was baptized, he came up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened (for him), and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove (and) coming upon him. 17 And a voice came from the heavens, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

John and Jesus in Dialogue.  As John the Baptist mysteriously appeared in the wilderness, so too Jesus. John appeared proclaiming: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (3:2).  It was a very public appeal to which people responded: “Jerusalem, all Judea, and the whole region around the Jordan were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins” (3:5–6.) Jesus appears on the scene and Matthew makes it clear that Jesus’ purpose is to be baptized by John (v.13). Continue reading

Baptism of the Lord: context

The baptism of Jesus by John the baptist, as i...Matthew 3: 13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. 14 John tried to prevent him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?” 15 Jesus said to him in reply, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed him. 16 After Jesus was baptized, he came up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened (for him), and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove (and) coming upon him. 17 And a voice came from the heavens, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

Context. The story of Jesus in Matthew 3:1–4:16 is bracketed by John the Baptist’s ministry.

  • In those days John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea (and) saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (3:1-2).
  • From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (4:17)

John prepared the way for Jesus and his ministry. Where John’s proclamation is that the kingdom is “right around the corner,” Jesus announces that the kingdom is here in the person of the Messiah, the Son of God.  The “inauguration” of the in-breaking of the kingdom (kairos) into Time (chromos) occurs at the baptism of Jesus which serves as the occasion for the coming of the Spirit and the Father’s approval of his beloved son. Continue reading

Being Family, Being Holy

flight-into-egyptOne of the things I do to prepare for the homilies is to continually read – books, magazines, on-lines articles and commentaries, and a host of other sources. I spent part of Saturday morning looking through the internet to see what people were saying or had said about the Holy Family.  There is no shortage of sources. There were very good articles with inspiring insights, but there were too many articles that, it seems to me, were simply not too helpful.

There were sources that bemoaned the rate of divorce and the state of families in the United States, but said little else. Articles that scolded. Articles that had true and factual things to say. But so many articles failed to hold up one of the readings from Scripture that might speak to families having a rough go of it – to hold out encouragement, hope, and a touch of compassion.  Continue reading

Resolutions and Insanity

CalvinUnless you happen to be like my muse, Calvin, in the comic strip, I suspect you are about to make some New Year’s resolutions.  How did you do on last year’s resolutions?  About the same as the rest of us?  One ad hominem wisdom saying defines “insanity” this way: to keep doing the same thing and expect a different result.  Perhaps 2014 is a time to consider changing the way resolutions are considered, made, and hopefully, kept.

During the Advent season, many people took the opportunity to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation as a spiritual preparation for Christmas and the New Year.  When someone lists out their sins and the areas of their lives that are in need of God’s forgiveness, I often respond with, “If you could only work on one thing from your list, what would be the priority?  What would be the one thing you would take into prayer and ask God’s help?”  Most people intuitively know their lives and have an answer.  I encourage them to do just that:  focus on that one thing with God’s help. Continue reading

Holy Family – a commentary

Russian icon of the Flight into Egypt; the bot...The Flight into Egypt. 13 When they had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.” 14 Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt. 15 He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

Overall, the passage serves to establish the key themes mentioned previously as it points to the larger events playing out even as God’s plan unfolds out of site in a faraway land. Having already alerted readers to the nefarious plans of Herod, we are not surprised when again (v.13) the angel appears to Joseph in a dream telling him to take the child Jesus to safety. The very similar wording to that in Mt 1:20 (the dream to Joseph to take Mary into his home) indicates that all continues in God’s careful direction of events by supernatural revelations; the parallel revelation in a dream to the magi (v. 12) has secured time for the family’s escape. The angel’s message begins with exactly the same words as in v.20, “Rise, take the child and his mother …”  Joseph’s action exactly matches the angelic instruction, while his setting off at night underlines the urgency of the situation (traveling by night was exceptional and potentially more dangerous). It also demonstrates Joseph’s exemplary obedience, which did not allow him even to delay until daylight. Continue reading

Holy Family – a context

Russian icon of the Flight into Egypt; the bot...Matthew 2:13-23. The Flight into Egypt 13 When they had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.” 14 Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt. 15 He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled, “Out of Egypt I called my son.” 16 When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi, he became furious. He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had ascertained from the magi. 17 Then was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiah the prophet:

18 “A voice was heard in Ramah,
sobbing and loud lamentation;
Rachel weeping for her children,
and she would not be consoled,
since they were no more.”

19 When Herod had died, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20 and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” 21 He rose, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go back there. And because he had been warned in a dream, he departed for the region of Galilee. 23 He went and dwelt in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He shall be called a Nazorean.”

Context.  The material in chapter 2 is unique to Matthew. It can be divided into four parts with each of them containing an OT quote, probably added by Matthew into traditional oral narrative material:

  • vv. 1-12 – The Visit of the Magi – with a quote from Micah 5:2
  • vv. 13-15 – The Escape to Egypt – with a quote from Hosea 11:1
  • vv. 16-18 – The Killing of the Children – with a quote from Jeremiah 31:15
  • vv. 19-23 – The Return from Egypt – with a quote from the prophets echoing Hos 11:1; it should be notes that “He shall be called a Nazorean” does not in fact occur anywhere in the OT, nor, as far as we know, in any other contemporary literature.   Continue reading

The Angel of Discomfort

St Joseph with the Infant Jesus (c. 1635), at ...When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home” (Matthew 1:24)

I don’t know about you, but I have done lots of things that were commanded of me. I have done them gladly. I have done them with a simmering resentment. I have done them out of Catholic guilt and fear of punishment. I have done them with love and joy.  I have done them with little reaction or second thought.

I wonder about Joseph. He did as the angle of the Lord had commanded him, but what was he thinking or feeling. What was his reaction? I realize that the Gospel is telling a larger story, but still…. I wonder about Joseph who appears so briefly and then disappears from the Gospels. Continue reading

Hark the Herald Angels Sing!

354 - 20 December: Hark! The Herald Angel SingsStores, offices, and all kinds of places are filled with the sound of familiar and heartening Christmas carols.  Some local radio stations are all Christmas music all the time with classic and modern renditions of the secular and religious carols and songs – sometimes as recorded by singing chipmunks.  It becomes part of the ambiance of our Advent season; part of what readies us for the celebration of Christmas. Continue reading

God Is With Us: commentary

First page of the Gospel of Mark, by Sargis Pi...

Matthew 1:18-24. 18 Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the holy Spirit. 19 Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man,  yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. 20 Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. 21 She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,  because he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means “God is with us.” 24 When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home. 25 He had no relations with her until she bore a son,  and he named him Jesus.

Commentary – Joseph and Jesus. Matthew’s gospel does not describe the birth of Jesus, but explains his origin (the virgin conception) and his name in relation to a specific Old Testament prophecy. The passage concentrates entirely on the experiences of Joseph rather than those of Mary. Even the miraculous conception of Jesus is related only as its discovery affected Joseph. This remarkable concentration, compared with the complete silence on Joseph elsewhere, indicates Matthew’s concern to establish Jesus’ legal lineage through Joseph, i.e. to explain how the preceding genealogy applies to Jesus the son of Mary.

Continue reading