Christmas Season

The Way Has Been Prepared…Are You Ready?

January 2, when before Epiphany

[John] said: “I am ‘the voice of one crying out in the desert, “Make straight the way of the Lord,”’as Isaiah the prophet said.” John 1:23

John the Baptist is alive!  Yes, he is alive in Heaven receiving his eternal reward.  But he’s also alive in another way.  He’s alive in his ongoing proclamation, calling us to repentance and calling us to prepare the way for the Lord in our lives.

His message is just as relevant for us today as it was some 2,000 years ago.  At the time he walked the earth, he preached so as to prepare the immediate way for Christ.  He prepared the way for the Messiah to physically enter into our world and present us with the gift of eternal salvation.  But St. John continues to prepare the way for the Lord, if we are willing to listen.

We learn from John that the first step to a life of holiness is to “make straight the way of the Lord.”  How do we do this?  How do we make straight the way of the Lord?  We do it by humbly admitting those sins which get in the way of Jesus coming to us and transforming our lives.

Reflect, today, upon the year that is past as well as the year to come.  What is it that you need to let go of from the past and what is it that you need to focus on for the coming year.  Make a clear resolution to identify any obstacle to the coming of Christ into your heart and let yourself discover the new life that awaits you this coming year.

Lord, You came into this world out of perfect love for me.  You came to save me from all sin and You came to deliver me from all evil.  Help me to see that which has kept me from You this past year and to surrender it to You.  Help me also to have hope and vision for all that awaits and all that You are calling me to.  May I heed the words of the Baptist and make the road ahead straight so that I can follow Your perfect will.  Jesus, I trust in You.


Behold, the Lamb of God

January 3, when before Epiphany

“Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”  John 1:29

These familiar words of St. John the Baptist offer us a beautiful meditation.  They are spoken every time we attend Mass when the priest holds up the Sacred Host.  These words, spoken first by John as Jesus came to Him to be baptized, are words that can be prayerfully meditated upon throughout our lives.

Think about that statement: “Behold the Lamb of God…”  It’s good to start by imagining John speaking these words of Jesus.  But from there, we apply them to the Eucharist and to countless other moments in our daily lives.

When John first spoke these words, the “Lamb of God” was seen in a very ordinary way.  The eyes of all present saw only an ordinary man approaching the scene.  But the eyes of faith saw He who would give His life for the salvation of the world as the Sacrificial Lamb.

And when we look at the Sacred Host, as it is held up at Mass for all to see, we see Jesus, the Sacrificial Lamb, in an even more veiled way.  We see, with our eyes, a piece of bread.  But with the eyes of faith, once again we behold the Savior.

The Sacrificial Lamb of God is continually coming to us throughout our day.  He is all around us, coming to us in veiled form, revealing Himself in faith.  Do you see Him?  How is it that you are being called, this day, to behold His divine and sacrificial presence?  How is He present in acts of selfless charity?  How does He come to you each day and how does He desire you to bring Him to others each day?

Reflect, today, upon those sacred words.  “Behold the Lamb of God.”  Seek Him out, expecting His divine presence to be veiled but real.  Discover Him with the eyes of faith and rejoice as He draws near.

Lord, I behold Your divine presence today and every day.  I seek You and love You.  Give me the eyes of faith to discover Your real but hidden presence at all times.  You are all around me every day.  Help me to rejoice in how near You always are.  Jesus, I trust in You.


Pointing Others to Jesus

January 4, when before Epiphany

John was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.”  The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus.  John 1:35-37

Imagine if John would have so loved the attention that he was getting from everyone that he decided to keep it to himself.  Imagine if he decided that he could become “king” if he played his cards right.  Imagine if he became so self-consumed with his own popularity that he did not want to point others to Jesus and run the risk of losing them to Him.  Of course, that’s not what happened.  What happened is that John fulfilled his role beautifully, preparing the way for Jesus and pointing others to Him when the time was right.

In this passage above, John turns the eyes of two of his followers to our Lord.  He says to them, “Behold, the Lamb of God…”  They see Jesus and leave John. 

Perhaps that experience was bittersweet for John.  Perhaps he felt the loss of his followers on one level.  But any experience of loss would have been transformed and alleviated by the joy of knowing that he was fulfilling the purpose of his life by pointing others to Christ.

So it must be with us.  It’s easy to get self-consumed in life.  It’s easy to want all the attention and, when we receive it, it’s hard to let it go.  But true Christian love is always selfless.  It is always focused on our Lord and it always points others to Jesus.  John set a wonderful example of this life of virtue, we are called to do the same.

Reflect, today, upon those who are in your life.  Do you seek their attention for your own selfish sake?  Or do you rejoice in the many opportunities you have to point them to Jesus?  By pointing others to our Lord you will be satisfied beyond any selfishness and will be rewarded beyond measure.

Lord, help me to constantly look for ways to point those in my life to You.  Help me to be selfless and sacrificial at all times.  Help me to realize that love is all about You and is all about helping others come to know You and follow You.  When that requires sacrifice on my part, help me to embrace that sacrifice with wholehearted joy and zeal.  Jesus, I trust in You.


Being Yourself

January 5, when before Epiphany

Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Here is a true Israelite.  There is no duplicity in him.”  Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.”  Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”  John 1:47-49

Seriously?  Did Nathanael really come to know and profess Christ as the Son of God and the King of Israel simply because Jesus told him that He saw him under a fig tree?  It appears so.  But obviously there is much more going on here.

First of all, it’s important to look at Jesus’ initial comment about Nathanael.  Jesus says that “There is no duplicity in him.”  In other words, Nathanael was an honest, truthful, sincere and straight-forward sort of man.  What you see is what you get.  What a great quality! 

Secondly, we can see that this straightforwardness leads Nathanael to profess his faith in Christ almost immediately.  How is this the case?  Was it something that Jesus said?  Clearly it was something much deeper that led Nathanael to profess his faith in Christ.  It was a spiritual gift of faith by which the Holy Spirit revealed this to him.  The good thing is that Nathanael, being a man without duplicity, listened to the Holy Spirit speak to his heart and he then spoke this conviction openly and with transparency.  What a great quality to have when one is also open to the truth.

In our own lives we need to imitate this quality of Nathanael.  We must be open to the Holy Spirit speaking to us, and we must then be confident and honest in the convictions placed in our hearts so that we can reveal them honestly and openly to others.  In imitating these qualities, we will also be able to act as instruments of our Lord to all whom we meet.

Reflect, today, upon this intriguing encounter between Jesus and Nathanael.  How open are you to the voice of God speaking to your conscience?  And how ready are you to share your gift of faith openly and honestly with others?  Commit yourself to being an open instrument of the voice of God in this world in imitation of this great Apostle.

Lord, I desire to hear and know Your voice speaking to me in my conscience.  As I hear You, help me to be ready and willing to reveal You to others.  Jesus, I trust in You.


The Dignity of a Child of God

January 6, when before Epiphany

“You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”  Mark 1:11

These words, spoken by the Father in Heaven at the baptism of Jesus, reveal not only the dignity of the Son of God, they also reveal much about us.  They are words spoken about each one of us as a result of our own baptism into Christ.

Who are you?  This is an important question.  Very often we take our identity in something other than the truth.  We can often take our identity in what we accomplish or what we fail to accomplish.  And, in so doing, we tend to allow our actions to determine our dignity. 

Though it’s true that our actions are either in accord with or contrary to our dignity, it’s not true that our actions determine our dignity.  Our dignity is determined by one thing: Baptism.  In our baptism we are made sons and daughters of the Father in Heaven.  As a result, the Father sees us as His beloved children and He looks at us with great pleasure.  Not because of what we do or do not do, but because of who we are. 

Reflect, today, upon these words spoken by the Father and allow them to be spoken to you.  “YOU are my beloved child,” says the Father in Heaven.  “I am well pleased with YOU.”  The Father is pleased with you because you delight Him simply for being His child.  Ponder that truth and let it sink in as we prepare for the upcoming celebration of the Baptism of the Lord.

Lord, help me to always see my dignity as Your child.  Help me to know and believe that there is nothing I can do to strengthen or weaken Your love of me and, therefore, the dignity I receive from Your love.  Help me to always realize that my life gives You deep pleasure not because of what I do or do not do, but because of who I am.  I thank You for loving me as a perfect Father.  Help me, please, to always know and receive this perfect love.  Jesus, I trust in You.


A Manifestation of Joy

January 7, when before Epiphany

The headwaiter called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now.”  Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs in Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him. John 2:9-11

In John’s Gospel there are seven “signs” that Jesus performs that reveal His power and glory.  This, the first of His signs, reveals much to us.  As the story goes, the wine at the Wedding of Cana runs short, the mother of Jesus intercedes with Him, He asks the servants to fill six stone jars with water and that water is immediately turned into wine.  And it’s no ordinary wine!  It’s wine of the highest quality.

Wine is a symbol of the superabundance of God.  It reveals true celebration and joy.  Jesus, offering them the best of wine in abundance, reveals that He has come to fill us with an abundance of the most perfect joy.

Wine was also eventually used as a medium of the Precious Blood that Jesus would pour out for the forgiveness of sins.  We receive this abundant gift every time we receive Holy Communion. 

As we approach the conclusion of the Christmas season and the beginning of Ordinary Time, allow this first miraculous sign of Jesus to speak to you.  Let Him tell you that He came to fill your soul with an abundant joy.  And know that all He brings you is given to you through the glorious intercession of the great Mother of God.

Lord, I thank You for the abundant life of grace that You offer me.  I thank You for this, the first of Your miracles, and for the message You send to me and to all Your followers.  Help me to put my eyes on Heaven and the superabundant life of joy that awaits me there.  Jesus, I trust in You.


The Word Became Flesh

Second Sunday after Christmas

(When Epiphany is not transferred to the Sunday after January 1)

And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.  John 1:14

This passage, from John’s Gospel, reveals to us the Christmas mystery.  The Eternal Word of the Father, the Son of God, took on flesh and made His dwelling among us.  His presence among us reveals the glory of the Father in that the Father’s only Son is “full of grace and truth.”   

It’s easy to fail to understand the great significance of Christmas.  It’s easy to see it as a nice story that happened long ago involving the birth of a child and fail to understand the great mystery of the Incarnation.

By taking on our flesh, God unites Himself with our human condition.  His Incarnation creates a bridge between God and man, enabling humanity to see the glory of God.  But seeing the glory of God, through the mystery of the Incarnation, is not something that happens only with our eyes.  We must see the great mystery of the Incarnation with the eyes of faith.

Seeing the mystery of the Incarnation with the eyes of faith means that we, in fact, face the glory of God in our very lives.  It means we discover the dignity of being human by recognizing the incredible fact that God became one of us.  This should leave us in awe as we rejoice in how near God is to us.

As you continue your Christmas celebration, reflect, today, upon these simple words: “And the Word became flesh.”  Ponder them, reflect upon them and pray over them.  Allow the Christmas mystery of the Incarnation of God to sink ever more deeply into your life.

Lord, I thank You for Your Incarnation.  I thank You with profound gratitude for becoming one of us.  Help me to see Your glory as You are now present in human nature and help me to see the dignity that You have revealed to all of us by taking on our very flesh.  Jesus, I trust in You.


The Epiphany of the Lord

January 6, or the first Sunday after January 1

(Depending upon the practice of your local diocese or territory)

On entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother.  They prostrated themselves and did him homage.  Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.   Matthew 2:11

“Epiphany” means manifestation.  And the “Epiphany of the Lord” is Jesus’ manifestation not only to these three Magi from the East, but it’s also a symbolic but real manifestation of the Christ to the whole world.  These Magi, traveling from a foreign and non-Jewish nation, reveal that Jesus came for all people and all are called to adore Him.

These Magi were “wise men” who studied the stars and were aware of the Jewish belief that a Messiah was coming.  They would have been versed in much of the wisdom of the day and would have been intrigued by the Jewish belief in the Messiah.

God used what they were familiar with to call them to adore the Christ.  He used a star.  They understood the stars and when they saw this new and unique star over Bethlehem they realized that something special was happening.  So the first lesson we take from this for our own lives is that God will use what is familiar to us to call us to Himself.  Look for the “star” that God is using to call you.  It’s closer than you may think.

A second thing to note is that the Magi fell prostrate before the Christ Child.  They laid their lives down before Him in complete surrender and adoration.  They set a perfect example for us.  If these astrologers from a foreign land could come and adore Christ in such a profound way, we must do the same.  Perhaps you could try literally lying down prostrate in prayer this day, in imitation of the Magi, or at least do so in your heart through prayer.  Adore Him with a complete surrender of your life.

Lastly, the Magi bring gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  These three gifts, presented to our Lord, show that they acknowledged this Child as the Divine King who would die to save us from sin.  Gold is for a King, frankincense is a burnt offering to God, and myrrh is used for one who would die.  Thus, their adoration is grounded in the truths of who this Child is.  If we are to adore Christ properly, we must also honor Him in this threefold way.

Reflect, today, upon these Magi and see them as a symbol of what you are called to do.  You are called from the foreign place of this world to seek out the Messiah.  What is God using to call you to Himself?  When you discover Him, do not hesitate to acknowledge the full truth of who He is, lying prostrate before Him in complete and humble submission.

Lord, I love You and adore You.  I lay my life before You and surrender all.  You are my Divine King and Savior.  My life is Yours. (Pray three times and then prostrate yourself before the Lord)  Jesus, I trust in You.


Seeking Out The Needy

Monday after Epiphany (Or January 7)

They brought to [Jesus] all who were sick with various diseases and racked with pain, those who were possessed, lunatics, and paralytics, and he cured them. Matthew 4:24

Now that we have completed our Christmas Octave celebration and have also celebrated the Epiphany of the Lord, we begin to turn our eyes to Jesus’ public ministry.  Today’s Gospel reveals the beginning of His ministry after John the Baptist had been arrested.  In this Gospel, many who were in need were brought to Jesus.

We can look at this passage from different perspectives.  We can look at it from the perspective of the ministry of Jesus, from the perspective of those who have been cured, but also from the perspective of those who brought others to Jesus.  It’s this latter perspective that we reflect upon today.

Imagine yourself being one of those who brought to Jesus those with “various diseases,” those “racked with pain,” and those who were “possessed, lunatics and paralytics.”  Do you have the necessary love, concern and compassion to be one who brings these people to Jesus?

Often times, when we encounter those who are hurting or are the “rejects” of society, we tend to look down on them.  It takes a very merciful and compassionate person to see the dignity of these people and to do something to help them heal and encounter the love of God.  Reaching out to those in serious need requires great humility on our part and requires a truly non-judgmental heart.  The Son of God came into our world to bring healing and salvation to all people.  It’s our duty to help bring all people to Jesus, no matter their condition, level of need, or societal status.

Reflect, today, upon those who fall into this category in your own life.  Who is it that is hurting and in need?  Who is it that you may be tempted to judge and criticize?  Who is it who is broken, sad, confused, misguided or spiritually ill?  Perhaps there are people who are physically ill that God is calling you to reach out to, or perhaps it’s someone who is mentally, morally or spiritually ill in some way.  How do you treat them?  Today’s Gospel calls us to follow the example of these first disciples of Jesus by seeking out those in need and looking for ways to bring them to Jesus, the Divine Healer.  Commit yourself to this act of compassion and you will be blessed for your goodness.

Lord, please give me a heart of mercy and compassion.  Help me to realize that You came for all people, especially those who are in serious need.  Give me the grace to do my part so that all people will come to enter into Your healing presence.  Jesus, I trust in You.


Trusting Jesus in All Things

Tuesday after Epiphany (Or January 8)

By now it was already late and [Jesus’] disciples approached him and said, “This is a deserted place and it is already very late.  Dismiss [the crowds] so that they can go to the surrounding farms and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” Mark 6:35-36

Do you trust Jesus?  Trust is required of us on many levels.  It’s required on the level of receiving all the spiritual, emotional and psychological strength we need to not only survive each day but also to thrive in many ways.  Trust is also required on the level of God providing for our basic day-to-day needs such as food, shelter and clothing.  For most people, these areas of trust are not difficult, but for others it requires a tremendous amount of surrender.

This Gospel situation provides a context in which Jesus is able to test the trust of His disciples.  At first, they fail the test by panicking and asking Jesus to send the crowds away to obtain food, but in the end they are awe-struck as they see the providence of God at work.  In the end, Jesus multiplies five loaves of bread and two fish so as to feed over five thousand.

First of all, this Gospel does not tell us that we can be irresponsible in providing for our own needs and simply trust that Jesus will miraculously provide for us all the time.   It’s not about abandoning our own duty to work and provide for ourselves and our families. 

What this Gospel is about is trust.  In this context, the followers of Jesus were being drawn to put their eyes on our Lord and be with Him.  They were being drawn, spiritually, to abandon all cares in life in that moment so that they could be fed spiritually.  They were being invited into an act of faith, and it’s clear that the crowds were, indeed, trusting in this interior invitation.  It’s clear by the fact that they were still with Him despite their evident physical hunger.

One key message, therefore, is that God sometimes calls us to trust Him in ways that do not seem to be immediately practical and logical.  The practical thing to do would have been to leave and acquire food for themselves.  But the supernatural call of grace, at that moment, told this group of five thousand that they should remain with Jesus and trust that all would work out.  And that’s what they did, and it did work out.

Reflect, today, upon how God sometimes calls you to follow Him in ways that do not immediately make sense.  Don’t be surprised if you sense, at times, God calling you to listen more intently to His promise of providence than your own natural deduction of human logic.  God’s ways are far above our ways.  Sometimes His call is radical, and when you are deeply convicted, in faith, that God is calling you to trust Him, then do it.  Trust Him in all things and He will always provide for you.

Lord, my trust in You at times is weak.  At times I doubt Your goodness and Your providence in my life.  Help me to always trust more in Your gentle invitation than in my own conclusions in life.  Help me to be led by You always so as to live daily in accord with Your perfect plan.  Jesus, I trust in You.


Reflecting on the Experience of Grace

Wednesday after Epiphany (Or January 9)

After the five thousand had eaten and were satisfied, Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and precede him to the other side toward Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd.  And when he had taken leave of them, he went off to the mountain to pray.  Mark 6:45-46

What were the people thinking as Jesus left them?  They had been with Him for a few days without food, Jesus multiplies five loaves and two fish to feed them all, they were astounded at the miraculous feeding, and then Jesus leaves them and goes off by Himself to pray.  Imagine their thoughts and the conversation that the people would have had at this experience!

Perhaps some would have tried to come up with some rational explanation as to the multiplication of food, others would have believed in a miracle wholeheartedly, and others would have been uncertain about what to think.  This is the experience we often have when we encounter the power and grace of God in our lives.

We may not see actual physical miracles every day.  In fact, we may never encounter one in this lifetime.  But if we are open, we will experience the power of God alive in our lives on a regular basis.  Most often it will be subtle and hidden, but at times it will be clear and transforming.  The first question is whether or not we have the eyes of faith to see God at work, and the second question is whether or not we let His activity transform us. 

As the crowds dispersed, this second question would have been posed to them, interiorly, by God.  They just witnessed the power of God and now that they had this experience they were each called to let it transform them.  They were called to walk away, savor what happened, believe in it and allow it to sink in. 

Reflect, today, upon the presence of God in your life.  How has God spoken to you, helped you and been there in your time of need.  It’s easy to quickly forget what God does.  The goal is to hold on to all that He has done and allow that activity to continue ministering to our hearts.  Ponder, this day, His workings of the past so that those acts of Love by God may continue to bear fruit in your life today.

Lord, I know that You have been alive and active in my life in countless ways.  Help me to hold on to those gifts of grace always.  Help me to let Your presence in my life be a continual source of trust in Your perfect plan.  And when it appears as if You have left, help me to know that You are always near and always working in my life.  Jesus, I trust in You.


The Prophetic Role of Christ

Thursday after Epiphany (Or January 10)

[Jesus] said to them, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”  And all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.  Luke 4:21-22

Jesus had just arrived in Nazareth, where He had grown up, and entered the Temple area to read the Scripture.  He read the passage from Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.”  After reading this, He sat down and proclaimed that this prophecy from Isaiah was fulfilled. 

The reaction from the people of His town is interesting.  They “all spoke highly of Him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from His mouth.”  At least, this is the initial reaction.  But if we read on we see that Jesus challenges the people and, as a result, they were filled with fury and tried to kill Him then and there.

Often times, we have the same reactions to Jesus.  At first, we may speak well of Him and graciously receive Him.  For example, at Christmas we may sing carols and celebrate His birthday with joy and festivities.  We may go to church and wish people a merry Christmas.  We may set up a manger scene and decorate with Christian symbols of our faith.  But how deep is all of this?  Sometimes Christmas celebrations and traditions are only superficial and do not reveal any true depth of Christian conviction or faith.  What happens when this precious Christ-Child speaks words of truth and conviction?  What happens when the Gospel calls us to repentance and conversion?  What is our reaction to Christ in these moments?

As we continue the final week of our Christmas season, reflect, today, upon the fact that the little Child we honor at Christmas has grown up and now speaks words of truth to us.  Reflect upon whether or not you are willing to honor Him not only as an infant, but also as the Prophet of all Truth.  Are you willing to listen to His whole message and receive Him with joy?  Are you willing to allow His words of Truth to penetrate your heart and transform your life?

Lord, I love You and desire that all You have spoken would penetrate my heart and draw me into all truth.  Help me to accept You not only as a little child born in Bethlehem, but also as the great Prophet of Truth.  May I never be offended by the words You speak, and may I always be open to Your prophetic role in my life.  Jesus, I trust in You.


Falling Prostrate Before Jesus

Friday after Epiphany (Or January 11)

It happened that there was a man full of leprosy in one of the towns where Jesus was; and when he saw Jesus, he fell prostrate, pleaded with him, and said, “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.”  Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, “I do will it. Be made clean.”  Luke 5:12-13

Once again, we have the image of falling prostrate before our Lord.  This time it’s by a leper.  But just this past week, as we celebrated the Epiphany, we were reminded of the three Magi from the East who also came to adore Christ and fell prostrate before Him.

Perhaps we all would like to see ourselves as the Magi, coming to seek out Christ as individuals who are prestigious and admired by others in society.  The Magi would certainly have been seen that way.  However, we should not fail to also see ourselves as similar to this leper who came to Jesus in his weakness and frailty, falling down before our Lord begging for mercy.  No, we may not have leprosy, literally, but we do all come to Jesus sick and in need of His mercy and healing touch.

Notice what Jesus did.  He “stretched out His hand, touched him,” and then healed him. Jesus did not hesitate, He did not treat the leper with any disdain, nor did He lack the least bit of compassion.  Jesus immediately poured forth His healing grace into the leper’s life. 

As we draw close to the conclusion of the Christmas season with the coming celebration of the Baptism of the Lord, we should be reminded that we have all been touched by Christ in Baptism.  This “touch” continues throughout our lives.  It is a touch that sanctifies and transforms.  It’s a touch that heals and consoles.  Let yourself experience Jesus’ mercy by coming to Him with humility as you acknowledge your need for grace.  Do not be afraid to abandon yourself before Him, knowing for certain that He will not hesitate for a moment to reach out and offer you the abundance of His mercy.

Lord, if You wish, You can make me clean.  If You wish, You can heal me, forgive me, strengthen me and love me.  I thank You in advance because I know that You do desire and choose to bless me in these and in every other way that I need.  Thank You for Your mercy and grace and thank You for accepting me in my weakness.  I love You, my Lord, and I do choose to fall down prostrate before You in love and adoration.  Jesus, I trust in You.


He Must Increase; I Must Decrease

Saturday after Epiphany (Or January 12)

“He must increase; I must decrease.”  John 3:30

These powerful and prophetic words of St. John the Baptist should echo in our hearts every day.  They help set the tone for all that we are and who we must become.  What do these words mean?  Clearly, there are two things that John says here: 1) Jesus must increase, 2) We must decrease.

First of all, Jesus increasing in our lives is the primary goal we must have.  What exactly does this mean?  It means that He takes greater possession of our mind and will.  It means He possesses us and we possess Him.  It means that our number one goal and desire in life is the fulfillment of His holy will in all things.  It means that fear is cast aside and charity becomes our reason for living.  It’s very freeing to allow the Lord to increase in our lives.  It’s freeing in the sense that we no longer have to try and manage on our own.  Jesus now lives in and through us.

Second, when John says that he must decrease, he means that his own will, desires, ambitions, hopes, etc., must dissolve as Jesus takes over.  It means that all selfishness must be abandoned and selfless living must be the founding principle of our lives.  To “decrease” before God means we become humble.  Humility is a way of giving up everything not of God and allowing only God to shine through.

Reflect, today, upon this beautiful statement of St. John the Baptist.  Make it a prayer and say it over and over.  Let it become the guiding principle of your life.

Lord, You must increase and I must decrease.  Please come and take complete possession of my soul.  Transform my mind and heart, guide my will, emotions and desires.  And allow me to become a holy instrument of Your divine life.  Jesus, I trust in You.


The Baptism of the Lord

Sunday after January 6

After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove.  And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”  Luke 3:21-22

Today’s Feast marks the conclusion of the Christmas Season and the beginning of Ordinary Time.  It’s a feast of transition from Jesus’ hidden life to that of His public ministry.  It also echoes the theme of the Epiphany in that the Baptism of the Lord is another manifestation announcing Jesus’ divinity to all of His first followers and to the disciples of John the Baptist.

First of all, it needs to be pointed out that Jesus did not need the baptism of John.  John was baptizing as a call to and sign of interior repentance.  Jesus had no need to repent.  But, nonetheless, He comes to John.  John resists at first but Jesus insists.  Why did He receive baptism?

First, by accepting the baptism of John, Jesus affirms all that John has said and done and affirms his sacred role of preparing the way for Jesus and for a new era of grace.  Therefore, the Baptism of Jesus acts as a bridge between the Old Testament prophets (of which John was the last) and the New Testament era of grace and truth. 

Second, it has been said that when Jesus entered the waters of baptism, He was not baptized by the waters, rather, His Baptism was one in which all the created waters of this world were, in a sense, “baptized” by Him.  By entering into the waters, Jesus sanctifies water and pours forth His grace making all water the future source of salvation. 

Third, the Baptism of Jesus was an epiphany.  It was a moment of manifestation.  As He emerged from the waters, “Heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove.  And a voice came from Heaven, ’You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’”  This manifestation of the sonship and divinity of Jesus took place in a physical, audible and visible form so that all present would know, without question, that Jesus was the Son of the Father.  Thus, His baptism is a way in which the Father introduces His Son and His Son’s mission to the world.

As we prepare to begin Ordinary Time, reflect, today, upon these words of the Father at the Baptism of Jesus.  Hear the Father speaking to You about the divinity of His Son.  Turn your eyes to Jesus and prepare yourself to follow Him and to heed every word He speaks.  He was sent into this world to draw us to the Father, allow Him to fulfill that mission in your own life.

Lord, I believe that You are the Son of the Eternal Father and the Savior of the World.  I believe that You have brought about a new era of grace and truth and that I am called to follow You wherever You lead.  As we begin this liturgical season of Ordinary Time, may it be a time of extraordinary grace in which I daily heed Your voice.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Feasts and Solemnities

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