1st Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday, Year I

In today’s First Reading the letter to the Hebrews teaches us the heights and the depths to which Our Lord is willing to go through referring to two psalms. Psalm 8 is a psalm exulting in the wonders of creations and especially that the Lord has made man the noblest of his visible creations, only second to angels. The brief reference to Psalm 22 is the moment where the psalmist promises to glorify the Lord among his brethren after he has been delivered from his suffering, the psalm Our Lord said on the Cross.

We see Psalm 8 fulfilled in Christ: “You made him for a little while lower than the angels” refers to Our Lord’s Incarnation, and soon after speaks of his glorification, a glorification that we know comes through his suffering on the Cross and is not complete until the end of time. The reference to Psalm 22, when Our Lord glorifies his Father along will all of his brethren, refers to his heavenly glory, a glory in which we’ll share if we believe in him and entrust our lives to him.

Today’s Gospel shows that Our Lord is greater than the fallen angels as well. He casts out the unclean spirit and lends more credence to the power and authority his Father has given him. He also wants to rejoice with you from here to eternity. Help him to help you.

Readings: Hebrews 2:5–12; Psalm 8:2ab, 5–9; Mark 1:21–28. See also 22nd Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday.

1st Week in Ordinary Time, Monday, Year I

In today’s First Reading the author of the letter to the Hebrews reminds us that the God has spoken to us throughout salvation history through prophets and angels, but he himself has now come to speak to us through his Son. We’d be amazed, probably frightened, if an angel appeared to us today with a message from God, but the Gospel we try to live as Christians is the Lord himself speaking. We should be more frightened if we are not listening to the Lord speak through his Word, not only the written Word in Sacred Scripture, but the Word who became flesh who speaks in our hearts, thanks to the Holy Spirit, and the traditions he has communicated to us through the Apostles (also thanks to the Holy Spirit).

Sometimes we fall into a “copy-paste” outlook on the Word of God. We pick what we agree with and ignore what we don’t. We see Scripture as a source from which we can clip a few good things to help us in life instead of a history of salvation that wants to draw us in and transform us. There’s nothing wrong in having favorite passages from Scripture, but they should always lead us back to the “whole” Testament.

We believe that God had said everything needed through his Son. Let’s listen to his Word today with renewed hearts.

Readings: Hebrews 1:1–6; Psalm 97:1, 2b, 6, 7c, 9; Mark 1:14–20.

Baptism of the Lord, Cycle A

The Gospels of Mark, Luke, and Matthew recount the Baptism of Our Lord in the Jordan, but only in Matthew’s account, which we hear in today’s liturgy, does John the Baptist seem taken aback by the fact that Jesus is requesting baptism from the one who should be baptized by him. John is baptizing sinners, and he knows Our Lord is not a sinner, so why does he need baptism? Through this gesture Our Lord is expressing his solidarity with sinners; we know he will take their sins upon himself and destroy them upon the Cross, and the reality of humanity after Original Sin is that they need the grace of Christ, ordinarily through baptism, to be delivered from its effects.

Our Lord begins his public ministry by receiving his baptism at the hands of John, and this momentous occasion leads to a theophany where Son, Spirit (descending like a dove) and Father (a voice in the heavens) show they’re ready to begin the work of salvation in earnest: through the waters of baptism mankind begins its journey back to God. Thanks to Our Lord, mankind will be pleasing to the Father after a long, dark history since the Fall. The quiet work of justice prophesied by Isaiah in today’s First Reading has begun, a work that will reach beyond the Jews to all the nations, as represented by the story of Cornelius’ conversion in today’s Second Reading.

Today Our Lord’s work shifts from the Incarnation and the quiet years at Nazareth to the spotlight of his public ministry. Let’s make a resolution this year to bring his Gospel into the spotlight in our lives as well.

Readings: Isaiah 42:1–4, 6–7; Psalm 29:1–4, 9–10; Acts 10:34–38; Matthew 3:13–17. See also The Baptism of the Lord, Cycle C (1st Sunday in Ordinary Time).


Christmas, January 7th (after Epiphany)

In today’s First Reading the apostle John warns believers to test the spirits to see if the are from God before trusting them. Not every spirit or every inspiration is necessarily a good one, and one way to test a spirit is to see if it stands the test of time. If some impulse or inspiration changes radically, another spirit has come into play.

One way in which the Church knows it is united in the same Spirit with which it was founded is by Tradition: the teachings of the Church, teachings that come from the teachings Our Lord himself gave to the apostles, must logically have a continuity that endures. In today’s Gospel Our Lord begins his public ministry preaching the same message as John, whose mission is drawing to a close: “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” He proclaims the “Gospel of the Kingdom” and, in that same Spirit, so do we. If some spirit enters into us that contradicts that Spirit and that Gospel we can be sure it does not come from God, as well as any spirit that makes us lose faith in Our Lord.

Let’s ask Our Lord today to help us follow his Spirit: the Holy Spirit.

Readings:1 John 3:22–4:6; Psalm 2:7bc–8, 10; Matthew 4:12–17, 23–25.


Christmas, January 5th

In today’s First Reading John the Evangelist describes the bond of love between Christians as brotherhood. Good friends consider each other as brothers and sisters, even if they share no blood ties, and the sad case of Cain that John mentions today shows how evil it is when a brother turns on another. Christ, becoming man, became our brother, and he gives us the example to follow: he laid down his life for brothers and sisters who appreciated it, as well as for those who didn’t. John urges us today not only to see fellow Christians, but all of humanity as our brothers and sisters, deserving of our compassion and help, whether spiritual or material. This is the true measure of whether we love God.

In today’s Gospel the Lord begins to call his disciples to a new level of brotherhood: some are blood brothers, such as Peter and Andrew, James and John, but they also forge bonds of brotherhood with Our Lord and their fellow apostles as Our Lord’s ministry of love starts to spread. The greatest way we can help a brother or sister is to help him or her understand and achieve the purpose of their life: to be loved by God and to love in return. We may not always start by inviting them to consider becoming Christ’s disciple, but we know that’s the best direction they can take.

Cain was jealous of his brother Abel’s relationship with God, and that jealously led to murder. The true measure of our love for God is whether we love our brothers and sisters. Let’s examine our hearts today and expunge any trace of Cain.

Readings: 1 John 3:11–21; Psalm 100:1b–5; John 1:43–51.