Responding to the Mass of the 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

John proclaims the Lamb of God. Let us pause and ponder the living and loving Lord.

Draw near and take the body of the Lord
And drink the holy blood for you outpoured:
Saved by that body hallowed by that blood,
Whereby refreshed, we render thanks to God.

Salvation’s give, Christ the only Son
By his dear cross and blood the vict’ry won.
Offered was he for greatest and for least,
Himself the victim and himself the priest.

With heav’nly bread makes those who hunger whole,
Gives living waters the thirsty soul.
The judge eternal, unto whom shall bow
All nations at the last, is with us now.

  • Acknowledgements: Latin hymn, 7th Century
  • Photograph: (c) 2013, Allen Morris. Mosaic, Sion Abbey, Jerusalem.

Preparing for the Mass of the 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

In its exile in Babylon Israel experienced desolation and believed itself abandoned by the Lord. They were promised freedom, liberation and newness.

But God did not only promise these good things to Israel. They were to be offered, through Israel, to the whole world.

The Church associates Jesus with this service, and with the servant identified in the passage from Isaiah we hear at Mass this Sunday.

That same hidden mystery of salvation entrusted to Israel and fulfilled in Jesus is entrusted to the Church also, and to be fulfilled in and by all her members.

  • How might people see the light of salvation in you?
  • What might obscure that light?

Isaiah 49:3,5-6

(NB the text set for Sunday is given below in bold and in ‘quote sections’ below; the rest is the immediate biblical text from which the Lectionary text is extracted)

48.1 Hear this, O house of Jacob,
who are called by the name of Israel,
and who came from the waters of Judah,
who swear by the name of the LORD
and confess the God of Israel,
but not in truth or right.
2  For they call themselves after the holy city,
and stay themselves on the God of Israel;
the LORD of hosts is his name.

3  “The former things I declared of old;
they went out from my mouth, and I announced them;
then suddenly I did them, and they came to pass.
4  Because I know that you are obstinate,
and your neck is an iron sinew
and your forehead brass,
5  I declared them to you from of old,
before they came to pass I announced them to you,
lest you should say, ‘My idol did them,
my carved image and my metal image commanded them.’

6  “You have heard; now see all this;
and will you not declare it?
From this time forth I announce to you new things,
hidden things that you have not known.
7  They are created now, not long ago;
before today you have never heard of them,
lest you should say, ‘Behold, I knew them.’
8  You have never heard, you have never known,
from of old your ear has not been opened.
For I knew that you would surely deal treacherously,
and that from before birth you were called a rebel.

9  “For my name’s sake I defer my anger;
for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you,
that I may not cut you off.
10  Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver;
I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.
11  For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it,
for how should my name be profaned?
My glory I will not give to another.


The Lord’s Call to Israel
12  “Listen to me, O Jacob,
and Israel, whom I called!
I am he; I am the first,
and I am the last.
13  My hand laid the foundation of the earth,
and my right hand spread out the heavens;
when I call to them,
they stand forth together.

14  “Assemble, all of you, and listen!
Who among them has declared these things?
The LORD loves him;
he shall perform his purpose on Babylon,
and his arm shall be against the Chaldeans.
15  I, even I, have spoken and called him;
I have brought him, and he will prosper in his way.
16  Draw near to me, hear this:
from the beginning I have not spoken in secret,
from the time it came to be I have been there.”
And now the Lord GOD has sent me, and his Spirit.

17  Thus says the LORD,
your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
“I am the LORD your God,
who teaches you to profit,
who leads you in the way you should go.
18  Oh that you had paid attention to my commandments!
Then your peace would have been like a river,
and your righteousness like the waves of the sea;
19  your offspring would have been like the sand,
and your descendants like its grains;
their name would never be cut off
or destroyed from before me.”

20  Go out from Babylon, flee from Chaldea,
declare this with a shout of joy, proclaim it,
send it out to the end of the earth;
say, “The LORD has redeemed his servant Jacob!”
21  They did not thirst when he led them through the deserts;
he made water flow for them from the rock;
he split the rock and the water gushed out.

22  “There is no peace,” says the LORD, “for the wicked.”


The Servant of the Lord
49.1 Listen to me, O coastlands,
and give attention, you peoples from afar.
The LORD called me from the womb,
from the body of my mother he named my name.
2  He made my mouth like a sharp sword;
in the shadow of his hand he hid me;
he made me a polished arrow;
in his quiver he hid me away.

3  And he said to me, “You are my servant,
Israel, in whom I will be glorified.”
4  But I said, “I have laboured in vain;
I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity;
yet surely my right is with the LORD,
and my recompense with my God.”

5  And now the LORD says,
he who formed me from the womb to be his servant,
to bring Jacob back to him;
and that Israel might be gathered to him—
for I am honoured in the eyes of the LORD,
and my God has become my strength—
6  he says:
“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant
to raise up the tribes of Jacob
and to bring back the preserved of Israel;
I will make you as a light for the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

7  Thus says the LORD,
the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One,
to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nation,
the servant of rulers:
“Kings shall see and arise;
princes, and they shall prostrate themselves;
because of the LORD, who is faithful,
the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”

The Restoration of Israel
8  Thus says the LORD:
“In a time of favour I have answered you;
in a day of salvation I have helped you;
I will keep you and give you
as a covenant to the people,
to establish the land,
to apportion the desolate heritages,
9  saying to the prisoners, ‘Come out,’
to those who are in darkness, ‘Appear.’
They shall feed along the ways;
on all bare heights shall be their pasture;
10  they shall not hunger or thirst,
neither scorching wind nor sun shall strike them,
for he who has pity on them will lead them,
and by springs of water will guide them.
11  And I will make all my mountains a road,
and my highways shall be raised up.
12  Behold, these shall come from afar,
and behold, these from the north and from the west,
and these from the land of Syene.”

13  Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth;
break forth, O mountains, into singing!
For the LORD has comforted his people
and will have compassion on his afflicted.

14  But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me;
my Lord has forgotten me.”
15  “Can a woman forget her nursing child,
that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget,
yet I will not forget you.
16  Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are continually before me.
17  Your builders make haste;
your destroyers and those who laid you waste go out from you.
18  Lift up your eyes around and see;
they all gather, they come to you.
As I live, declares the LORD,
you shall put them all on as an ornament;
you shall bind them on as a bride does.

19  “Surely your waste and your desolate places
and your devastated land—
surely now you will be too narrow for your inhabitants,
and those who swallowed you up will be far away.
20  The children of your bereavement
will yet say in your ears:
‘The place is too narrow for me;
make room for me to dwell in.’
21  Then you will say in your heart:
‘Who has borne me these?
I was bereaved and barren,
exiled and put away,
but who has brought up these?
Behold, I was left alone;
from where have these come?’”

22  Thus says the Lord GOD:
“Behold, I will lift up my hand to the nations,
and raise my signal to the peoples;
and they shall bring your sons in their arms,
and your daughters shall be carried on their shoulders.
23  Kings shall be your foster fathers,
and their queens your nursing mothers.
With their faces to the ground they shall bow down to you,
and lick the dust of your feet.
Then you will know that I am the LORD;
those who wait for me shall not be put to shame.”24  Can the prey be taken from the mighty,
or the captives of a tyrant be rescued?
25  For thus says the LORD:
“Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken,
and the prey of the tyrant be rescued,
for I will contend with those who contend with you,
and I will save your children.
26  I will make your oppressors eat their own flesh,
and they shall be drunk with their own blood as with wine.
Then all flesh shall know
that I am the LORD your Saviour,
and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.”

Acknowledgements

  • Translation of Scriptures: English Standard Version (c) 2001-9, Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
  • Commentary: (c) 2020, Allen Morris
  • Photo (c) 2017, Allen Morris. Plaque, Bethlehem.

Preparing for the Mass of the 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

The editing of this Sunday’s psalm for its placing in the Lectionary mutes the complexity of the text.

The voice we hear at Mass sings of trust in the Lord and availability for his purpose. We are encouraged to hear the voice of Christ in the psalm.

However read on, our psalmist is aware of his iniquities and failings: this is not Christ!

But the love and compassion of God is not only for the righteous. It is for others too who have need of the Lord – and saved by him, even in our frailty we can be his effective servants, bearing witness to the Good News.

Psalm 39(40):2,4,7-10

(NB the text set for Sunday is given below in bold and in ‘quote sections’ below; the rest is the immediate biblical text from which the Lectionary text is extracted)

Psalm 40 (39)
 
1           For the Choirmaster. Of David. A Psalm.

2           I waited, I waited for the Lord,
            and he stooped down to me;
            he heard my cry.

 3           He drew me from the deadly pit,
            from the miry clay.
            He set my feet upon a rock,
            made my footsteps firm.
 
4           He put a new song into my mouth,
            praise of our God.
            Many shall see and fear
            and shall trust in the Lord.

5           Blessed the man who has placed
            his trust in the Lord,
            and has not gone over to the proud
            who follow false gods.
 
6           How many, O Lord my God,
            are the wonders and designs
            that you have worked for us;
            you have no equal.
            Should I wish to proclaim or speak of them,
            they would be more than I can tell!

7           You delight not in sacrifice and offerings,
            but in an open ear.
            You do not ask for holocaust and victim.
 
8
          Then I said, “See, I have come.”
            In the scroll of the book it stands written of me:
9           “I delight to do your will, O my God;
            your instruction lies deep within me.”
 
10          Your justice I have proclaimed
            in the great assembly.
            My lips I have not sealed;
            you know it, O Lord.

 
11          Your saving help I have not hidden in my heart;
            of your faithfulness and salvation I have spoken.
            I made no secret of your merciful love
            and your faithfulness to the great assembly.
 
12          O Lord, you will not withhold
            your compassion from me.
            Your merciful love and your faithfulness  
            will always guard me.
 
13          For I am beset with evils
            too many to be counted.
            My iniquities have overtaken me,
            till I can see no more.
            They are more than the hairs of my head,
            and my heart is sinking.
 
14          Be pleased, O Lord, to rescue me;
            Lord, make haste to help me.
15          O let there be shame and confusion
            on those who seek my life.
 
            O let them turn back in confusion
            who delight in my harm.
16          Let them be appalled because of their shame,
            those who jeer and mock me.
 
17          O let there be rejoicing and gladness
            for all who seek you.
            Let them ever say, “The Lord is great,”
            who long for your salvation.
 
18          Wretched and poor though I am,
            the Lord is mindful of me.
            You are my rescuer, my help;
            O my God, do not delay.
 

Acknowledgements

  • Translation of Psalms: From The Revised Grail Psalms: A Liturgical Psalter. (c) 2010.
  • Commentary: (c) 2019, Allen Morris
  • Photo (c) 2018, Allen Morris. Detail of Untitled (For Francis). Anthony Gormley (Collection of the Tate, London.)

Preparing for the Mass of the 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

As we begin the cycle of Sundays of Ordinary Time (ie the numbered Sundays of the Year) we begin to hear again the semi-continuous readings from the New Testament which are characteristic of the Roman Lectionary. In fact we have to wait until next week to hear the first of the readings from Matthew’s Gospel (the Gospel of the Year, Year A), but we do begin to read the first letter of St Paul to the Corinthians. – a reading which will continue until the Sunday before the 1st Sunday of Lent.

The second reading at Mass over the next three weeks should be from the 1st Chapter of the letter. In fact the last of the excerpts will go unread as the readings of the Sunday are replaced by the readings for the Presentation of the Lord – but all those readings are give below, in the full text of that 1st Chapter.

This week’s reading may seem to say very little – but in fact it says a great deal – of Paul’s calling; of the calling of the local Church; and of the blessing for us that God is, made known especially as Jesus our Lord.

  • How would you describe yourself, and your vocation?
  • And your local Christian community and its calling?
  • And what is your prayer for them?

1 Corinthians 1:1-3

(NB the text set for Sunday is given below in bold and in ‘quote sections’ below; the rest is the immediate biblical text from which the Lectionary text is extracted)

Greeting
1 Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes,

2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:

3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Thanksgiving
4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— 6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— 7 so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Divisions in the Church
10 I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarrelling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

Christ the Wisdom and Power of God
18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Acknowledgements

  • Translation of Scriptures: English Standard Version (c) 2001-9, Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
  • Commentary: (c) 2020, Allen Morris
  • Photo (c) 2006, Allen Morris. Site of ancient Corinth, Greece.

Preparing for the Mass of the 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Last Sunday we celebrated the Solemnity of the Baptism of Jesus, and heard the account provided in Matthew’s Gospel.

This Sunday coming, we hear of the encounter between John and Jesus in John’s Gospel. Notably John does not actually describe the baptism taking place, only the Baptist’s account of what happened afterwards – and especially his recognition of Jesus identity as the Chosen One of God, the Son of God.

Jesus comes to transform lives – to be the light and to be received as the light…

  • Where does Jesus bring change to your life?
  • How is his light and life witnessed to in your community, and by whom?

John 1:29-34

(NB the text set for Sunday is given below in bold and in ‘quote sections’ below; the rest is the immediate biblical text from which the Lectionary text is extracted)

The Word Became Flesh
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

The Testimony of John the Baptist
19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

24 (Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) 25 They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, 27 even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” 28 These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

Behold, the Lamb of God
29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”

Jesus Calls the First Disciples
35 The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). 42 He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).Jesus Calls Philip and Nathanael

43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

Acknowledgements

  • Translation of Scriptures: English Standard Version (c) 2001-9, Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
  • Commentary: (c) 2020, Allen Morris
  • Photo (c) 2017, Allen Morris. Baptistery, St Severin, Paris.

Responding to the Mass of the Baptism of the Lord

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The Baptism of Jesus marks the end of Jesus’ ‘hidden life’ and the beginning of his public ministry and mission.

That mission is now entrusted to the Church and shared in by all her members.

The mission is expressed in all sorts of ways – at home and overseas.

  • Why does God seek to call humankind to himself and all peoples to unity with each other?
  • How do you see you yourself participating in this mission?

—————————

Missio is the Pope’s charity for world mission

Missio ignites God’s love by helping local missionaries to work alongside global communities that are poor or in need, regardless of their background or belief.

Sometimes this need might be very specific: a motorbike for a Priest to celebrate Mass in remote villages; a simple community hall so people can gather together; vaccinations to protect vulnerable children. Whatever our missionaries need to help them share the joy of the Gospel, Missio strives to provide it.

Together we are enriching today’s global Catholic community.

Together we are training tomorrow’s generation of Priests and Sisters.

Together we are giving hope to the world’s poorest children.

Together we are Missio.

Acknowledgements

  • Commentary: (c) 2019, Allen Morris
  • Photo (c) 2017, Allen Morris. Wheat, New Hall Mill, Sutton Coldfield.

Responding to the Mass of the Baptism of the Lord

At this time when we remember and draw encouragement and hope from the Baptism of the Lord it is natural to call to mind, and give thanks for, our own baptism too.

Saint Pope John XXIII wrote how he considered the most significant day of his life to have been the day he was baptised – more significant than the day of his ordination, or the day he was installed as Pope.

It is that day that for all of us brought us from the world and way of life that is ‘just’ natural to a world and way of life that is explicitly lived in communion with God in Jesus Christ.

Many of us were infants on the day of our baptism and may have no memory of it, still less any sense of choosing baptism. And the baptised life can be simply something we take for granted.

The prayer of Blessing of Baptismal Water used at the Easter Vigil reminds of its awesome quality and the wonder that we are invited to participate in, and that in a unique way Baptism makes possible..

O God, who by invisible power
accomplish a wondrous effect
through sacramental signs,
and who in many ways have prepared water, your creation,
to show forth the grace of Baptism;

O God, whose Spirit
in the first moments of the world’s creation
hovered over the waters,
so that the very substance of water
would even then take to itself the power to sanctify;
O God, who by the outpouring of the flood
foreshadowed regeneration,
so that from the mystery of one and the same element of water
would come an end to vice and a beginning of virtue;

O God, who caused the children of Abraham
to pass dry-shod through the Red Sea,
so that the chosen people,
set free from slavery to Pharaoh,
would prefigure the people of the baptised;

O God, whose Son,
baptised by John in the waters of the Jordan,
was anointed with the Holy Spirit,
and, as he hung upon the Cross,
gave forth water from his side along with blood,
and after his Resurrection, commanded his disciples:
‘Go forth, teach all nations, baptising them
in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,’
look now, we pray, upon the face of your Church
and graciously unseal for her the fountain of Baptism.

May this water receive by the Holy Spirit
the grace of your Only Begotten Son,
so that human nature, created in your image,
and washed clean through the sacrament of Baptism
from all the squalor of the life of old,
may be found worthy to rise to the life of newborn children
through water and the Holy Spirit.

May the power of the Holy Spirit, O Lord, we pray,
come down through your Son
into the fullness of this font,
so that all who have been buried with Christ
by Baptism into death
may rise again to life with him.
Who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Amen.

Prayer for Blessing of Baptismal Water (at the Easter Vigil)

  • What is the anniversary date of your baptism?
  • How do you – or how might you – mark it?

Acknowledgements

  • Prayer: The Roman Missal, (c) 2010, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation.
  • Commentary: (c) 2020, Allen Morris
  • Photo (c) 2016, Allen Morris. Detail of Blessing of baptismal water, Baptism Window in Shrewsbury Cathedral.

Preparing for Mass of the Baptism of the Lord

In the section of Isaiah from which the Lectionary reading is taken, the Lord protests against his being displaced in Israel’s affection by idols, false gods, gods that exist only in the human imagination, and that are consequently powerless.

The one God is all-powerful and chooses to exercise his power and authority through his servant, whose immediate characteristics are both his humanity and his human frailty. And yet this one will fulfill God’s will and be saviour, especially for the most needy.

Isaiah 42:1-4,6-7

(NB the text set for Sunday is given below in bold and in ‘quote sections’ below; the rest is the immediate biblical text from which the Lectionary text is extracted)

41.14 Fear not, you worm Jacob,
you men of Israel!
I am the one who helps you, declares the LORD;
your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.
15  Behold, I make of you a threshing sledge,
new, sharp, and having teeth;
you shall thresh the mountains and crush them,
and you shall make the hills like chaff;
16  you shall winnow them, and the wind shall carry them away,
and the tempest shall scatter them.
And you shall rejoice in the LORD;
in the Holy One of Israel you shall glory.

17  When the poor and needy seek water,
and there is none,
and their tongue is parched with thirst,
I the LORD will answer them;
I the God of Israel will not forsake them.
18  I will open rivers on the bare heights,
and fountains in the midst of the valleys.
I will make the wilderness a pool of water,
and the dry land springs of water.
19  I will put in the wilderness the cedar,
the acacia, the myrtle, and the olive.
I will set in the desert the cypress,
the plane and the pine together,
20  that they may see and know,
may consider and understand together,
that the hand of the LORD has done this,
the Holy One of Israel has created it.

The Futility of Idols

21  Set forth your case, says the LORD;
bring your proofs, says the King of Jacob.
22  Let them bring them, and tell us
what is to happen.
Tell us the former things, what they are,
that we may consider them,
that we may know their outcome;
or declare to us the things to come.
23  Tell us what is to come hereafter,
that we may know that you are gods;
do good, or do harm,
that we may be dismayed and terrified.

24  Behold, you are nothing,
and your work is less than nothing;
an abomination is he who chooses you.
25  I stirred up one from the north, and he has come,
from the rising of the sun, and he shall call upon my name;
he shall trample on rulers as on mortar,
as the potter treads clay.

26  Who declared it from the beginning, that we might know,
and beforehand, that we might say, “He is right”?
There was none who declared it, none who proclaimed,
none who heard your words.

27  I was the first to say to Zion, “Behold, here they are!”
and I give to Jerusalem a herald of good news.
28  But when I look, there is no one;
among these there is no counsellor
who, when I ask, gives an answer.
29  Behold, they are all a delusion;
their works are nothing;
their metal images are empty wind.

The Lord’s Chosen Servant

42 Behold my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.
2  He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;
3  a bruised reed he will not break,
and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.
4  He will not grow faint or be discouraged
till he has established justice in the earth;
and the coastlands wait for his law.

5  Thus says God, the LORD,
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people on it
and spirit to those who walk in it:

6  “I am the LORD; I have called you in righteousness;
I will take you by the hand and keep you;
I will give you as a covenant for the people,
a light for the nations,
7  to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
from the prison those who sit in darkness.

8  I am the LORD; that is my name;
my glory I give to no other,
nor my praise to carved idols.
9  Behold, the former things have come to pass,
and new things I now declare;
before they spring forth
I tell you of them.”

Sing to the Lord a New Song

10  Sing to the LORD a new song,
his praise from the end of the earth,
you who go down to the sea, and all that fills it,
the coastlands and their inhabitants.
11  Let the desert and its cities lift up their voice,
the villages that Kedar inhabits;
let the habitants of Sela sing for joy,
let them shout from the top of the mountains.
12  Let them give glory to the LORD,
and declare his praise in the coastlands.
13  The LORD goes out like a mighty man,
like a man of war he stirs up his zeal;
he cries out, he shouts aloud,
he shows himself mighty against his foes.
14  For a long time I have held my peace;
I have kept still and restrained myself;
now I will cry out like a woman in labour;
I will gasp and pant.
15  I will lay waste mountains and hills,
and dry up all their vegetation;
I will turn the rivers into islands,
and dry up the pools.
16  And I will lead the blind
in a way that they do not know,
in paths that they have not known
I will guide them.
I will turn the darkness before them into light,
the rough places into level ground.
These are the things I do,
and I do not forsake them.
17  They are turned back and utterly put to shame,
who trust in carved idols,
who say to metal images,
“You are our gods.”

Israel’s Failure to Hear and See

18  Hear, you deaf,
and look, you blind, that you may see!
19  Who is blind but my servant,
or deaf as my messenger whom I send?
Who is blind as my dedicated one,
or blind as the servant of the LORD?
20  He sees many things, but does not observe them;
his ears are open, but he does not hear.
21  The LORD was pleased, for his righteousness’ sake,
to magnify his law and make it glorious.
22  But this is a people plundered and looted;
they are all of them trapped in holes
and hidden in prisons;
they have become plunder with none to rescue,
spoil with none to say, “Restore!”
23  Who among you will give ear to this,
will attend and listen for the time to come?
24  Who gave up Jacob to the looter,
and Israel to the plunderers?
Was it not the LORD, against whom we have sinned,
in whose ways they would not walk,
and whose law they would not obey?
25  So he poured on him the heat of his anger
and the might of battle;
it set him on fire all around, but he did not understand;
it burned him up, but he did not take it to heart.

Acknowledgements

  • Translation of Scriptures: English Standard Version (c) 2001-9, Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
  • Commentary: (c) 2020, Allen Morris
  • Photo (c) 2017, Allen Morris. Siege of Lachish, British Museum, London.

Preparing for Mass of the Baptism of the Lord

There is such a contrast between how quietly and simply Matthew describes the event at the Jordan and the language used in the psalm to describe the work of God.

Matthew perhaps wishes to downplay the Baptism, or at least the role John plays in the baptism of Jesus – thus the discussion between Jesus and John as to who should baptise who. But even so there is something rather laconic and prosaic about his account of the theophanies in the form of dove and voice from heaven.

The psalmist, in contrast, does not hold back!

And why? Perhaps because the psalm originates in Temple worship which as well as honouring the God of Israel supports the the role of Israel’s earthly king. But also because of what this means to us – the last words of the psalm assure us:

The Lord will give strength to his people,
      the Lord will bless his people with peace.

This power, the splendour is there for us, God’s chosen, God’s blessed.

Psalm 28(29):1-4,9-10

1     A Psalm of David.

      Ascribe to the Lord, you heavenly powers,
      ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
2     Ascribe to the Lord the glory of his name;
      bow down before the Lord, majestic in holiness.

3     The voice of the Lord upon the waters,
      the God of glory thunders;
      the Lord on the immensity of waters;
4     the voice of the Lord full of power;
      the voice of the Lord full of splendour.

5     The voice of the Lord shatters cedars,
      the Lord shatters the cedars of Lebanon;
6     he makes Lebanon leap like a calf,
      and Sirion like a young wild-ox.

7     The voice of the Lord flashes flames of fire.
8     The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness,
      the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh;
9     the voice of the Lord rends the oak tree
      and strips the forest bare.

      In his temple they all cry, “Glory!”

10   The Lord sat enthroned above the flood;
      the Lord sits as king forever.

11   The Lord will give strength to his people,
      the Lord will bless his people with peace.

Acknowledgements

  • Translation of Psalms: From The Revised Grail Psalms: A Liturgical Psalter. (c) 2010.
  • Commentary: (c) 2019, Allen Morris
  • Photo (c) 2017, Allen Morris. Traherne window I (Tom Denny), Hereford Cathedral

Preparing for Mass on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord

So much of Acts of the Apostles is taken up with the story of Paul, them ‘apostle to the Gentiles’.

However it is Peter who, in the Tradition, has the most particular and privileged place among the first Apostles, albeit as first among equals, shepherd to the shepherds.

In this section of Acts Luke seems to be at pains to establish a sort of balance between what he says about Paul (at much geater length) and what he says about Peter.

He tells stories of Peter which establish Peter as having a role as minister to the Gentiles and addressing the issues as to whether or not they are required to obtain the cultic observances enjoined on Jews by the Law. The issues that Paul has to address are, in Acts of the Apostles, first addressed – and resolved – by Peter (with a little help from heavenly visions.)

Luke knows the unity to which the Church is called, and the tensions through which, empowered by the Spirit, she has to work in order to bear more faithful witness to the Lord in the world.

  • What are the tensions that impact on your community?
  • How are they addressed? How might they be resolved?

2nd Readings: Acts 10:34-38

The Healing of Aeneas
32 Now as Peter went here and there among them all, he came down also to the saints who lived at Lydda. 33 There he found a man named Aeneas, bedridden for eight years, who was paralyzed. 34 And Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed.” And immediately he rose. 35 And all the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord.

Dorcas Restored to Life
36 Now there was in Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which, translated, means Dorcas. She was full of good works and acts of charity. 37 In those days she became ill and died, and when they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room. 38 Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to him, urging him, “Please come to us without delay.” 39 So Peter rose and went with them. And when he arrived, they took him to the upper room. All the widows stood beside him weeping and showing tunics and other garments that Dorcas made while she was with them. 40 But Peter put them all outside, and knelt down and prayed; and turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. 41 And he gave her his hand and raised her up. Then, calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive. 42 And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. 43 And he stayed in Joppa for many days with one Simon, a tanner.

Peter and Cornelius
10 At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of what was known as the Italian Cohort, 2 a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God. 3 About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God come in and say to him, “Cornelius.” 4 And he stared at him in terror and said, “What is it, Lord?” And he said to him, “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God. 5 And now send men to Joppa and bring one Simon who is called Peter. 6 He is lodging with one Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea.” 7 When the angel who spoke to him had departed, he called two of his servants and a devout soldier from among those who attended him, 8 and having related everything to them, he sent them to Joppa.

Peter’s Vision
9 The next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. 10 And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance 11 and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. 12 In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. 13 And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” 14 But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” 15 And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” 16 This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven.

17 Now while Peter was inwardly perplexed as to what the vision that he had seen might mean, behold, the men who were sent by Cornelius, having made inquiry for Simon’s house, stood at the gate 18 and called out to ask whether Simon who was called Peter was lodging there. 19 And while Peter was pondering the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are looking for you. 20 Rise and go down and accompany them without hesitation, for I have sent them.” 21 And Peter went down to the men and said, “I am the one you are looking for. What is the reason for your coming?” 22 And they said, “Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, who is well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation, was directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and to hear what you have to say.” 23 So he invited them in to be his guests.

The next day he rose and went away with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa accompanied him. 24 And on the following day they entered Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. 25 When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. 26 But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up; I too am a man.” 27 And as he talked with him, he went in and found many persons gathered. 28 And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean. 29 So when I was sent for, I came without objection. I ask then why you sent for me.”

30 And Cornelius said, “Four days ago, about this hour, I was praying in my house at the ninth hour, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing 31 and said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God. 32 Send therefore to Joppa and ask for Simon who is called Peter. He is lodging in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the sea.’ 33 So I sent for you at once, and you have been kind enough to come. Now therefore we are all here in the presence of God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord.”

Gentiles Hear the Good News
34 So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36 As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), 37 you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.

39 And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, 40 but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, 41 not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. 43 To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

The Holy Spirit Falls on the Gentiles
44 While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 45 And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, 47 “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.

Acknowledgements

  • Translation of Scriptures: English Standard Version (c) 2001-9, Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
  • Commentary: (c) 2020, Allen Morris
  • Photo (c) 2017, Allen Morris. Detail from door at Basilica at Tabgha, Galilee.