“I am baptizing with water … but the one who is to come will baptize you with Holy Spirit and with fire” (Matt 3:10).
"Do you believe that I can do this for you?" (Matt 9:28).
Today's gospel about two blind men emphasizes the futility of any situation in which "the blind lead the blind." Only a miracle can restore both sight and insight to such a calamity. Imagine whole nations and cultures in which blind leaders are guiding a blind populace, whose biases and prejudices are cultivated to distort everything and promote false goals and values.
"The lofty city ... is trampled underfoot by the needy, by the footsteps of the poor" (Isaiah 26:6).
A national protest over low wages for service workers is in the news. Thousands of advocates for a "livable" minimum wage went to the streets to push Congress and the large corporations that factor cheap labor into their profits to "hear the cry of the poor." A wealthy nation that builds its economy on a permanent underclass of fulltime workers living in poverty is eroding its moral foundations and the hopes of millions of its citizens for a better life.
"How can they hear without someone to preach?" (Romans 10:15).
St. Paul knew well how faith in Christ spread. Preachers filled with faith were sent to audiences primed by the Holy Spirit to hear deep in their hearts the eternal questions about human identity and purpose before God. When Word and Spirit came together, hearts overflowed with joy and confidence. "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (Rom 10:9)
"A little child shall lead them" (Isaiah 11:7).
In the midst of crisis, the prophet Isaiah proclaimed God's promise that history would guide the Chosen People through suffering and displacement to a future of peace and security. "There will be no harm or ruin on my holy mountain." The sign that peace has come to even natural rivals in the animal kingdom is that a little child will guide them.
"I will come and cure him" (Matt 8:7).
Hope release new energy in us. We enter Advent with a familiar gospel story about Jesus' eagerness to share the renewed life with us that flows from his Incarnation. God is in the world, and nothing can prevent us from accessing the creative possibilities that come from being in touch with Jesus.
“Be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come” (Matt 24:44).
The First Sunday of Advent briefly holds us in the darkness before dawn. The scripture readings emphasize our absolute need for God as one liturgical year ends and another begins. Christian hope assures us that as difficult as life can get, God is always present and in control. Yet hope must be embraced. Faith is not passive; it asks us to put our lives on the line.
“Consider the fig tree…” (Luke 21:29).
Jesus expressed amazement at his contemporaries for their failure to read the signs of the times.
In simplest terms, he pointed to the weather and the seasons for their obvious indicators of what was happening. A warm wind from the south meant a hot day tomorrow. A cloud on the western horizon warned of a possible storm on the lake. Budding trees said that spring was imminent.
“Stand up and go free; your faith has saved you” (Luke 19:17).
The familiar Gospel story about Jesus’ encounter with the 10 lepers is a classroom for reflecting on the importance of gratitude. Ten lepers are restored physically, bur one returns to thank Jesus, and his openness leads to an even greater miracle. For acknowledging Jesus as Lord, this 10th leper encounters God, the source of eternal life.
"By your perseverance you will secure your lives" (Luke 21:19).
As the liturgical year comes to an and end, the Lectionary is filled with disturbing apocalyptic themes. Luke wrote for his faith community some 50 years after the Christ Event, and he encouraged believers by finding parallels between what happened to Jesus and what was happening to them under persecution. As Jesus was handed over, tortured, imprisoned and executed, so will some of them be betrayed, taken to court and even killed.