As I reflected on the Scripture readings for this Sunday, I was reminded of a friend of mine who died of cancer a few years ago. Mary (not her real name) was in her fifties, and she left behind a husband and two children. I got to know the family not long after I was ordained a priest. Mary was a lively person who loved a good joke and had a hearty laugh. She was also a person of deep faith. It was clear that she loved God, treasured her Catholic faith, and tried to live out that faith through prayer and action.
The Chain of Discipleship
"Where are you staying?" (John 1:38)
According to the Gospel of Mark, Jesus' baptism was the occasion in which God confirmed Jesus' sonship. As such, the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord serves as a fitting close to the liturgical season centered on the Incarnation. In Mark's account of Jesus' baptism, the descent of the Spirit occurs immediately as Jesus comes up out of the water. A voice from Heaven addresses Jesus directly: "You are my beloved Son." Mark suggests that this was a personal revelation meant only for Jesus. Matthew's account is slightly different.
In the catacombs of Santa Priscilla, located on the northern periphery of ancient Rome on the Via Salaria, is a fresco dating from the early third century considered to be the earliest image of the Virgin Mary to come down to us. It depicts Mary as a veiled woman nursing the baby Jesus seated on her lap. Surprisingly, next to her is a figure of a man dressed as a teacher or philosopher pointing to a star above Mary's head. and a scepter shall rise out of Israel." (Numbers 24:17).
The Lectionary offers an array of options for the first and second readings and the responsorial psalm for today's Feast of the Holy Family, and I have chosen the readings that most appeal to me. When read together they don't form very much of a single theme, however. They are more like independent meditations that reflect on different aspects of family life, or like tesserae or pieces of a mosaic, that come together to give us a cogent picture of what being a family can mean.
This Sunday, the third in the season of Advent, is traditionally called "Gaudete" Sunday. The Latin word gaudete means "rejoice" and the Church calls for rejoicing because we have passed through the midpoint of Advent and the object of our longing and deepest hopes is fast approaching.
The Feast of Christ the King, which marks the end of the liturgical year, has a strong eschatological theme, reminding us to continue to await the return of Jesus and the final judgment. However, the image of Christ as a king or judge on the final days is given a counter-cultural twist both for the early Christian communities and for us today. Rather than picturing a king as an overbearing or distant ruler, we are given the image of a caring shepherd.