Isaiah 61:1-2a, 10-11; Luke 1:46-54; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-8, 19-28
In the past weeks we looked at Jesus coming a second time at the end of the world, see Matthew 25:31-46, the final judgment. Then there is a second coming for each us when we see Jesus in his resurrected glory a few minutes after our death. Now our Liturgy readings bring St. John the Baptist into the picture. He was the last of the Old Testament prophets and the first in the New Testament ones. His role was to call the Jews to repent and prepare themselves for the coming of the Messiah, the long awaited savior of the human race.
The main Jewish leadership in Jerusalem refused to accept Jesus as their Messiah. He did not study to be a rabbi under them at “the Jerusalem seminary.” When Jesus went to John for baptism, the Holy Spirit let John know that Jesus was the Lamb of God, the Messiah. Jesus would also baptize for conversion and the repentance of past sins, yet he added an element that John could not. Jesus added the Holy Spirit. We have been baptizing Jesus’ way since his days on earth. This baptism makes us an official member of God’s Kingdom, his church. Because most of us were baptized as infants, sometime in our adult life we must make our own decision to follow Jesus.
Jesus’ commission and ours
Living in God’s Kingdom means that we also have the commission that Jesus fulfilled from the first reading today from Isaiah 61:2a. “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because he has anointed me; he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord….”
Jesus read this passage early in his adult ministry when he went “home” to Nazareth. On the Sabbath he stood up to read from this passage in Isaiah 61, see also Luke 4:18f. As adult Catholics we share that same mission of Jesus. We are to use many of the prayer resources in Christ’s church to get filled up with God power. We get “our gas tank” filled up and go out to point others to Jesus as St. John did. We do this by the way we live our Catholic life. We are to help Jesus save the world. So we too are to proclaim Jesus’ good news. Amen!
Modern day prophets
Who are the prophets in our neighborhoods and cities? We might be those prophets. By Baptism and Confirmation we have been commissioned. Belonging to a renewal movement that the Holy Spirit has raised up is a way God brings us deeper in his life. These groups help strengthen and support us for the task of evangelizing others. Look at your parish bulletin to see some of the renewal groups in your area. Some are Marriage Encounter, Cursillo, Christ Renews his parish, Life in the Spirit, www.christlife.com, Retrouvaille, Bible Study groups, Knights or Ladies of Columbus and various prayer groups. A Vatican office has identified 600 different renewal movements around the world. This is how the Holy Spirit orchestrates renewal and revival groups and makes us more holy members of his parishes.
St. Paul said in the second reading today, rejoice always, pray without ceasing. Well, we can’t pray twenty-four-seven. Yet we can pray more each day. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand God’s work in the New Testament. Paul goes on to advise, in all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for us in Christ Jesus. Then he instructs us not to “quench the Spirit.” In other words, listen and follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit instead of refusing his guidance and closing the door on him.
Fill the churches
As we pray more and listen to the quiet voice of the Holy Spirit, he will speaks prophetic messages to us and through us to guide others. By doing this we help build up our parish churches. We help Jesus fill up his churches and not close them. We are to “test everything; retain what is good, refrain from every kind of evil,” that is all around us each day. Let us be the lights of Jesus burning brightly. That is the Christopher movement. Light the candle of your life from Jesus and go out and light up other people for him. We can then be modern day prophets in our sphere of influence. The theme of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, PA, this year is “The Church Alive.” Can we help make our parish “alive with Jesus?”
Now in this last week of Advent, we prepare to celebrate the “birthday” of Jesus, his first coming, by opening our minds, ears and hearts to receive more of his gifts so we too can be his prophets today. Jesus always has much more to give us so we can be his good news to many others. The Spirit of the Lord has anointed us to bring glad tidings to the poor ones around us, the Alleluia verse at today’s Mass.
Have a good week,
+ Fr. Bob Hilz
(© 2017 Fr. Bob Hilz, TOR)