Tag Archives: John the Baptist

Saint Andrew, the brother of Peter

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November 30th is the Feast of St. Andrew. On the lakeshore in Galilee Jesus called him along with his brother Simon Peter to follow him. We only know a few details about Andrew. What are they?

He’s a fisherman, of course. Andrew is a Greek name. The area around the Sea of Galilee was then multi-cultural. His Jewish family came originally from Bethsaida, a trading town in the upper part of the Sea of Galilee with a substantial Greek population. Would that explain why his Jewish family gave him that name? Did Andrew speak some Greek?  Afterwards they located afterwards in Capernaum.

If that’s all so, it could explain why later in John’s gospel, Andrew and Philip bring some Greek pilgrims to Jesus before his death in Jerusalem. Jesus rejoices, seeing them as signs that his passion and glorification will draw all nations to him. One can sees why the Greek church has Andrew as its chief patron: he introduced them to Jesus.

Bethsaida has been resented excavated.

Bethsaida 393

Bethsaida: Winegrowers house

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Bethsaida: Ruins

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Bethsaida: Ruins

Can we also see Andrew as someone interested in religious questions? He’s described as a disciple of John the Baptist, and John pointed Jesus out to him. Jesus then invited Andrew and another disciple to stay for a day with him. “Come and see.” Afterwards, Andrew “found his brother Simon and said to him ‘We have found the Messiah.’” (John 1,35-41)

For the Greek Church  Andrew is the first of the apostles because he’s the first to follow Jesus; then he calls his brother. Western and eastern Christian churches together celebrate his feast on November 30th.

The letter to the Romans, the first reading for his feast in the Roman  Catholic liturgy, stresses there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, and praises messenger who bring God’s word to others. Tradition says Andrews brought the gospel to Greek speaking people. It also claims that Andrew was crucified on the beach at Patras in Greece. Besides Greece, Andrew’s also the patron of Russia and Scotland.

We ask you, O Lord,

that, just as the blessed Apostle Andrew

was for your Church a preacher and pastor,

so he may be for us a constant intercessor before you.

Troparion (Tone 4) (Greek Orthodox)

Andrew, first-called of the Apostles
and brother of the foremost disciple,
entreat the Master of all
to grant peace to the world
and to our souls great mercy.
Kontakion (Tone 2)

Let us praise Andrew, the herald of God,
the namesake of courage,
the first-called of the Savior’s disciples
and the brother of Peter.
As he once called to his brother, he now cries out to us:

“Come, for we have found the One whom the world desires!”

The Passion of John the Baptist

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August 29th recalls the the death of John the Baptist. Mark’s gospel tells the gruesome story. King Herod ordered his death, prompted by Herodias. (Mark 6, 17-19) Because his death is like the Passion of Jesus the church calls it “The Passion of John the Baptist”.

Venerable Bede says that John’s death is like Jesus’ death because they both embraced the same values.  If John stayed silent about Herod’s conduct, he may have gained a few peaceful years of life, but he was more concerned with what God thought than what powerful people on earth thought.

“His persecutor had demanded not that he should deny Christ, but only that he should keep silent about the truth. Nevertheless, he died for Christ. Does Christ not say: I am the truth?

He preached the freedom of heavenly peace, yet was thrown into irons by ungodly men; he was locked away in the darkness of prison, though he came bearing witness to the Light of life.

“But heaven notices– not the span of our lives, but how we live them, speaking the truth.” (Bede, Homily)

Wonderful line: It doesn’t matter how many years we live, but how we live them, “speaking the truth.”

For John that meant dying for the truth. What does it mean for us? It may not mean getting our heads chopped off, but we should expect some scars from the daily battle for God’s truth. ” May we fight hard for the confession of what you teach.” (Opening prayer)

Who are you?

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In today’s reading at Mass from John’s gospel,  Jewish officials and Pharisees from Jerusalem send representatives to John the Baptist as he’s baptizing in the Jordan River near Jericho asking “Who are you?” “Are you the Messiah, Elijah, the Prophet?” “Why are you baptizing?”

“I’m not the Messiah, or Elijah, or the Prophet,” John answers. “I am the voice crying out in the desert, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord. ’” John knew who he was and who he was not, and he wasn’t afraid to be the one God wanted him to be.

John could have followed his father,  Zechariah, as a priest in the temple at Jerusalem,  a role passed on from father to son. But John chose a different course. God led him another way.

We don’t know when, but John went down to the Jordan Valley where the road ascended to Jerusalem, and preached to and baptized the crowds going up to Jerusalem to the temple of the Lord. The clothes he wore, his style of life set him apart from everyone else.

John didn’t care how he looked or what people thought of him. He certainly didn’t choose an easy place to be, a desert place. Later, Jesus praised his strength and determination.

To know who you are, you need to listen to God’s call,  and evidently John did that. To speak the truth courageously, you need to depend on God’s strength, and evidently John did that too.  He became a voice for God, even if he sounds at times like a drill sergeant readying people for the battle of the last days. He said unpopular things to powerful people and faced the consequences. Herod Antipas, who ruled Galilee and Perea, arrested him and put him to death.

We’re like John whenever we ask God, “Who am I?” and listen for an answer. We’re like him whenever we use bravely the voice God gives us.

December 19: Zechariah in the Temple

“In the days of King Herod” Luke’s gospel begins his story of the birth of John the Baptist. Ominous days. The priest Zechariah goes into the temple bearing incense to worship the Lord. An angel appears next to the altar of incense, where we expect an angel to be. “Your prayer has been heard,” the angel says to the old priest. “Your wife will bear you a son.”

Surely, the old priest was no longer praying for a son. Childbearing was over for his wife and him. The promise of new life was long gone and there’s no hope for a child.

But the angel promises a child “great in the eyes of the Lord” to be called John, who would more than fulfill their hopes, turning “many of the children of Israel to their God.”

The old priest doubts and is punished with silence. He won’t speak until after the child is born. Then he speaks again,  as he announces to those at his birth that “his name is John.”

You lose your voice when you lose hope in God’s promises. You get it back  when you believe.When John is born, Zechariah sings a song of praise at God’s unexpected  gift.

The Communion Prayer for today’s Mass says: “As we give thanks, almighty God, for these gifts you have bestowed, graciously arouse in us, we pray, the desire for those yet to come.”

Never doubt the gifts God wants to give, Zechariah tells us. Doubt silences us. God’s gifts give us a voice.

O Root of Jesse’s stem,
sign of God’s love for all his people:
come to save us without delay!

Readings here.

Advent Readings: Week 2

Advent_heading copy 2To reach God’s holy mountain there’s a journey to make, Isaiah says, but guides will show the way. “Behold, I send my messenger ahead of you, to prepare your way.” Mark 1, 1. John the Baptist appears in the desert promising forgiveness  to those washing in the waters of the Jordan River. We have been baptized in the waters of baptism.

The Old Testament readings this Advent week, mostly from Isaiah, describe a desert journey,  but the desert will bloom and a highway will be there, the prophet promises. (Monday) God will speak tender, comforting words to his people on the way. (Tuesday) Those who hope in him will renew their strength, soaring on eagle’s wings. (Wednesday) Though we are as insignificant as a worm, God holds us in his hands and says:“Fear not; I am with you.” (Thursday) God is our teacher and shows us the way  to go. (Friday) On the way, prophets like Elijah accompany us. (Saturday)

Jesus is our way, the gospel readings say. He healed and forgave the paralyzed man– symbol of a paralyzed humanity– who was lowered through the roof into the house in Capernaum. (Monday) Like a good shepherd he searches for and finds the stray sheep. (Tuesday) “Come to me all who are weary, ” he says. (Wednesday) He sends us prophets and guides like John the Baptist and Elijah.( Thursday) Though rejected like John the Baptist, Jesus still teaches. (Friday)

He will save us, even though unrecognized like John and Elijah. (Saturday)

List of Readings

Monday: Isaiah 30, 1-10 The desert will bloom and a highway will be there, a holy way.Luke 5,17-26 The paralyzed man, lowered through the roof, is healed and forgiven.

Tuesday: Isaiah 40,1-11 The desert is a way to the Lord. Comfort my people. Mattthew 18, 12-14 The shepherd searches for the stray sheep.

Wednesday: Isaiah 30,25-31 God is the strength of his people. Matthew 11,28-30   “Come to me all who are weary…”

Thursday: Isaiah 41,13-20   God says, “I will grasp you by the hand. Fear not.”Matthew 11,11-15   John the Baptist is sent like Elijah.

Friday: Isaiah 48-17-19 I teach you what’s for your good and lead you on the way to go. Matthew 11,1-19   John and Jesus rejected as teachers.

Saturday: Sirach 48,1-4; 9-11 Elijah, precursor of John. Matthew 17, 9-13   Elijah and John not recognized.

Advent Readings: Week 3

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Readings here

The gospel  readings for this week are about the unbelief of those you would expect to recognize Jesus, namely, the Jewish leaders and teachers in the temple, but they reject him. They also rejected John the Baptist before him. Yet, prostitutes, tax collectors and sinners believed in him and they also believed  in John, Jesus says.

Faith in Jesus doesn’t come from having knowledge or holding places of privilege and power.

On Monday this year, we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe and so we miss the the wonderful reading from the Book of Numbers assigned for that day. It’s about Balaam, a foreign prophet, who’s offered handsome pay if he will put a curse on the tribes of Israel. Instead, Balaam, “whose eyes are true, who sees what God sees and knows what God knows,”  blesses the tribes of Israel.

He promises a “star shall rise from Israel and a staff should appear from Jacob.”.

Even his donkey gets it right. He won’t take Balaam to the place where they want him to curse the Israelites. I guess that’s one reason a donkey appears at the manger in Bethlehem.

From December 17th onward, the Advent weekday readings at Mass turn to events  immediately before the birth of Jesus. On this day we listen to his  genealogy from Matthew’s gospel, beginning with Abraham and ending with Joseph, the husband of Mary. (Matthew 1, 1-17)

December 18th, we read the announcement of the angel to Joseph, “Son of David,” about the conception and birth of the Child. Joseph figures prominently in Matthew’s story of the birth of the Messiah. He will name him Jesus, because “he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1,19-25)  In the first reading Jeremiah prophesies a return of God’s people to their own land. God’s promises to David will be fulfilled. (Jeremiah 23,5-9)

The gospels for the remaining weekdays of Advent are from Luke, who sets the stage for Jesus’ birth on a grand scale. Herod the Great rules in Palestine when the Angel Gabriel appears to Zechariah in the temple in Jerusalem. (December 19th) but the world is about to be changed.

We can’t put Zechariah among the temple priests and rulers who reject Jesus, but he ‘s a warning just the same that “good” people can also hesitate before the mystery of the Word made flesh.