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THE LITURGY OF THE WORD.
It is very important for us to read God’s Word slowly and reflectively. We are not reading it just to get information or answer questions; we must enable God’s Word to enter us just like liquid polish enters timber that is thirsty for nutrition. A good rule of thumb is to have a question like this in our mind……”Lord, what are you saying to ME in your Word today? Secondly, how can my life be changed, in order to allow God’s Word to find a Home in my being? Finally, as for special Feasts, Advent and Lent, the three Readings are in a sequence which has an underlying thread running through them. In Ordinary time, the First Reading, and the Gospel are bridged…so we generally look for the link. The Second Reading is continuous, and follows on to the next Sunday.
The Nativity of Saint John the Baptist. Solemnity
1774 by Anton Raphael Mengs
This feast was observed on this date in the fourth century. It celebrates the holy birth of “the greatest of all the prophets,” the one who leapt for joy in his mother’s womb, who prepared the way for Christ, announced his presence, and baptised him in the Jordan River.
First Reading: Jeremiah 1:4-10
In the days of Josiah, the word of the Lord was addressed to me, saying,
‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you;
before you came to birth I consecrated you;
I have appointed you as prophet to the nations.’
I said, ‘Ah, Lord; look, I do not know how to speak: I am a child!’ But the Lord replied,
‘Do not say, “I am a child.”
Go now to those to whom I send you
and say whatever I command you.
Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to protect you –
it is the Lord who speaks!’
Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me:
‘There! I am putting my words into your mouth.
Look, today I am setting you
over nations and over kingdoms,
to tear up and to knock down,
to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant.’
The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Psalm: 70:1-6. 15. 17
R. Since my mother’s womb, you have been my strength.
In you, O Lord, I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame.
In your justice rescue me, free me:
pay heed to me and save me. R.
Be a rock where I can take refuge,
a mighty stronghold to save me;
for you are my rock, my stronghold.
Free me from the hand of the wicked. R.
It is you, O Lord, who are my hope,
my trust, O Lord, since my youth.
On you I have leaned from my birth,
from my mother’s womb you have been my help. R.
My lips will tell of your justice
and day by day of your help.
O God, you have taught me from my youth
and I proclaim your wonders still. R.
Let’s PAUSE again after this Reading, and reflect on it like you did after the first Reading. The Community Acclamation follows and should be sung: e.g ALLELUIA, or PRAISE TO YOU LORD JESUS CHRIST KING OF ENDLESS GLORY. When we are present at our Sunday Eucharistic Celebration, the Alleluia or Praise be to you…should always be sung. Why? It’s a bit like singing Happy Birthday! We never say it… 🙂
Second Reading: 1 Peter 1:8-12
You did not see Jesus Christ, yet you love him; and still without seeing him, you are already filled with a joy so glorious that it cannot be described, because you believe; and you are sure of the end to which your faith looks forward, that is, the salvation of your souls.
It was this salvation that the prophets were looking and searching so hard for; their prophecies were about the grace which was to come to you. The Spirit of Christ which was in them foretold the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would come after them, and they tried to find out at what time and in what circumstances all this was to be expected. It was revealed to them that the news they brought of all the things which have now been announced to you, by those who preached to you the Good News through the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, was for you and not for themselves. Even the angels long to catch a glimpse of these things.
The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Reflection time again……. Can you see and hear the links, connecting the First Reading, Second Reading and the Gospel? After that, we are then ready for what is to follow…..
Gospel: Luke 1:5-17
In the days of King Herod of Judaea there lived a priest called Zechariah who belonged to the Abijah section of the priesthood, and he had a wife, Elizabeth by name, who was a descendant of Aaron. Both were worthy in the sight of God, and scrupulously observed all the commandments and observances of the Lord. But they were childless: Elizabeth was barren and they were both getting on in years.
Now it was the turn of Zechariah’s section to serve, and he was exercising his priestly office before God when it fell to him by lot, as the ritual custom was, to enter the Lord’s sanctuary and burn incense there. And at the hour of incense the whole congregation was outside, praying.
Then there appeared to him the angel of the Lord, standing on the right of the altar of incense. The sight disturbed Zechariah and he was overcome with fear. But the angel said to him, ‘Zechariah, do not be afraid, your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth is to bear you a son and you must name him John. He will be your joy and delight and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord; he must drink no wine, no strong drink. Even from his mother’s womb he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, and he will bring back many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God. With the spirit and power of Elijah, he will go before him to turn the hearts of fathers towards their children and the disobedient back to the wisdom that the virtuous have, preparing for the Lord a people fit for him.’
The Gospel of the Lord. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
DEEP SEA DIVING INTO THE SCRIPTURES
If you have ever opened your eyes under water, or used a snorkel and face mask, or had the opportunity to use an aqualung, it is a very different world to explore isn’t it? I love snorkelling, and it is though the fish welcome you into their world. However, they need to be treated with respect, and one must be aware of ‘no-go’ zones especially where sharks are known to call that place, ‘home’ especially at meal times. So, this next section is going down into the Scriptures, which opens the pathway for us to be curious about The Word, and it will also develop an appetite in us to do this more often.
Focusing the Word
Key words and phrases
Elizabeth gave birth to a son, to be called John.
What will this child turn out to be?
You, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High.
You will go before the Lord to prepare his ways.
O Lord, you search me and you know me.
This message of salvation is meant for you.
Connecting the Word
to the point
John’s birth was cause for great wonder – something new surely was happening. Though the people asked, ‘What will this child turn out to be?’ we know that John became the forerunner of the One who would be Saviour. This solemnity invites us both to reflect on God’s plan and to rejoice that ‘this message of salvation is meant for you’ (second reading).
Understanding the Word
Zechariah and Elizabeth had been barren and now they have a son. God has blessed them and ‘shown great mercy’ towards them. So much of the circumstances surrounding this son’s birth, however, announced that he was a blessing even beyond what one might expect or hope for. John’s birth was even further cause for wonder – not just for the miracle of birth, but for what this birth means. Something new was happening. But the people were not prepared for exactly how new these events were: John would be the precursor of the One who would be Saviour.
John’s whole life and ministry were defined in terms of Jesus the messiah. The real amazement of the story of John’s conception and birth is that God uses mere humans in his plan of salvation as much as sending the only-begotten Son. John’s very birth was an announcement that God continues to be involved in the affairs of humankind to bring us to salvation. John was a light for Jesus so that Jesus could be ‘a light to the nations’ (first reading). This ought to dispel any fears or doubts that our own actions are meaningless, Just as John was the precursor of Jesus, so are we. As John ‘became strong in spirit’ and remained ‘in the desert’ until he was ready to preach and point to Jesus, so must we. As John preached repentance, so ought we. John, then, is a model for how we who are baptised into Christ might live our lives. Like John, we too were given our name ‘from (our) mother’s womb’ (see first reading). From all time God planned that we would share in divine life. From all time God intended that we would be saved. We rejoice on this day celebrating John’s birth because this birth brought God’s plan one step closer to fulfilment. We rejoice also because we, too, participate in God’s plan of salvation.
Something new is happening – God continues Christ’s saving work through us. We are both precursor and the presence of Christ in the world. Never before has this happened, even in John’s time. We announce Jesus and are the presence of the risen Christ. No wonder we are amazed. No wonder we rejoice. As with John, so with us: ‘For surely the hand of the Lord is with us’.
A realhomilie::: by Fr Kevin Walsh
Dear One and All,
Do you like good surprises? I am sure that I could safely say that you do…. well, the Birth of St. John the Baptist was a great surprise for Elizabeth and Zechariah. As you know, they were both advanced in age, and it was the custom of the time to think that if parents were childless, they were not exactly enjoying God’s favour! However, as we know from God’s Word and from the experience of God in our lives, the impossible can become possible.
The first reading from the Old Testament is taken from the Prophet Jeremiah; a particular section titled: – The calling of Jeremiah. In this wonderful extract, we see the humility of the man and we get a real inkling into his nature from his very name in Hebrew which means ‘uncertain one’. He is a tremendous example of a person who was not seeking greatness, and this is the one that was called by the Lord God. So much so, in order to strengthen Jeremiah, the Lord God said that ‘before you were in the womb, I knew you…’ How extraordinary is that? And of course this is not just meant for Jeremiah, it is for every single one of us past present and future! It’s too good to be true, but the fantastic truth is, that it is correct! Then in that reading we see the conversation that takes place and the child-like-ness of Jeremiah being put to the Lord, and what do we see? ‘I will put my words into your mouth….’ You will recall that this was similar to the plight of Moses while he was held in conversation with the Angel of the Lord in the Burning Bush in the Book of Exodus…” Go to Pharaoh and speak, because I will be with you…’ This applies to us as well. We too have been called by the Lord God to join our sisters and brothers on the great trek to God our Father. At times we are called to speak in the name of the Lord…..today this reading gives us strength to know that we are never alone, the Lord God in Jesus walk the walk with us! So, in Jeremiah’s short Novitiate, he set upon the path in no uncertain terms and became so unpopular because he spoke the Word in season and out of season, hence his adversaries wanted to do away with him, something we see in all prophets including the prophets of our day! So, it was to Israel he was sent to speak in the name of the Lord God. So, now we see John the Baptist in the light of Jeremiah….let’s move onto John.
The very name Israel in Hebrew means ‘Let God shine!’ The Christian community saw in John the Baptist the living out of this vocation. It is curious to note, that in Hebrew Yehohanan (John) means ‘Yahweh is gracious!’ His father’s name Zechariah, in Hebrew, Zekarayah means, ‘God has remembered’. And not forgetting Elizabeth, the Hebrew name: eliseba, meaning ‘God is fullness’. Today’s Feast puts all those names together into a person, and a message for all time.
The family of John the Baptist, together with Mary and Joseph, belonged to a group of people who longed for God’s saving hand to once again be evident, among the faithful few… the poor of YHWH, as they were called or the anawim (Anawim (pronounced ann-a-weem) is a Hebrew word from the Old Testament which describes the “poor ones” who remained faithful to God in times of difficulty. These humble people became known as the anawim or the “faithful remnant”to be more Biblically correct…
Let us remember that at this time, Israel had been overtaken by a foreign nation, the Romans! These people who hoped in their God, and relied on his promises, looked forward with eager expectation to some action! They had seen the Holy of Holies on Mt.Zion in Jerusalem treated with disdain and disrespect. What was going to happen next? The answer: His name was John! The one who would prepare a way for the Lord; the one who directed people to the Lamb of God proclaiming “turn away from sin, and listen to the Word made flesh in Jesus.”
In our daily lives, we too are called to prepare a way for the Lord, through the maintenance of our inner self, nourished by Word, Sacrament and Christian discipline. Like John the Baptist, through our Words and loving outreach, the God of graciousness speaks, to all who come near. This is evident through our attitudes, forgiveness and loving optimism for each other. Just like the faithful few – the Poor of YHWH, there was light in the birth of John! All nations would be included in God’s Household. The very same mission that John had, we have! We pray this Sunday that as individuals, and as a community, we may embody the graciousness, and loving outreach which was the core of John’s message. Prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight! Let your light shine! God Bless you and your families, and may we never forget each other in prayer. Fr.Kev
OUR FAMILY PRAYER TIME………
This is a great opportunity to gather the Family in Prayer. Having a Prayer Setting really adds to and designates this time as a ‘special’ time together. You might like to have a nice coloured cloth on a coffee table, or on the centre of the Dining Room Table. You will need a candle, Crucifix, Bible …in the opened position, even at the Gospel of the Sunday, and maybe a flower. During Easter tide you might like to place some white and gold material on your devotional altar. You might like to create your own permanent ‘sacred space’ in your home, where the Word of God is open, and a small tee light within a fire proof glass, could awaken in the minds and hearts of your family of the ‘real presence’ of God in His Word. Prayer time needs to be able to engage as many of our senses as possible. The burning of some fragrant oil also can evoke in the minds of your family, ‘prayer time’. Someone in the family might like to be the leader of the intercessions, then other family members can share the prayers….everyone can be invited to join is spontaneous shared prayer…
Leader: The God who acted so graciously in giving John to the elderly Elizabeth and Zechariah will show mercy to us and hear our prayers.
+That the Church may faithfully herald the presence of the saviour in the world. we pray to the Lord: LORD HEAR OUR PRAYER
+That world leaders may bring their people to peace and prosperity. we pray to the Lord: LORD HEAR OUR PRAYER
+That all newborn infants may grow and become strong in spirit. we pray to the Lord: LORD HEAR OUR PRAYER
+That all of us gathered here may recognise the many gracious gifts God bestows on each of us. we pray to the Lord: LORD HEAR OUR PRAYER
+Let’s think back over the past week, and what we have seen on the T.V News, Breaking News on our Mobile Phones and ipads….who are some of the people in our Global village or need our prayers? You might like to share some of these…………., we pray to the Lord: LORD HEAR OUR PRAYER
Leader: Gracious God, you give us all things to bring us to salvation: hear these our prayers, help us to rejoice on this festival of the birth of John the Baptist, and one day be with you in eternal glory. We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Blessing is taken from the Iona Abbey Sacramentary, Scotland.
Iona Abbey is located on the Isle of Iona, just off the Isle of Mull on the West Coast of Scotland. It is one of the oldest and most important religious centres in Western Europe. The abbey was a focal point for the spread of Christianity throughout Scotland and marks the foundation of a monastic community by St. Columba, when Iona was part of the Kingdom of Dál Riata.
1. The Cross
ALL WE SHALL TAKE IT.
2. The bread……………
ALL WE SHALL BREAK IT.
3. The pain
ALL WE SHALL BEAR IT.
4. The joy………………
ALL WE SHALL SHARE IT.
5. The Gospel……………
ALL WE SHALL LIVE IT.
6. The love…………
ALL WE SHALL GIVE IT.
7. The light……………
ALL WE SHALL CHERISH IT.
8. The darkness…………….
ALL WE SHALL PERISH IT. Amen.