Category Archives: Uncategorized

Oct 24 – Luke/Acts Birth of the Church…and Pope Peter

Discussion centered on the diagram below of the NT works of St. Luke. Formation and growth of The Church is a theme that runs through Luke and Acts, and that theme is emphasized by the thirteen verses included in the diagram.

The spark that led in this direction was the simple fact that we are currently reading from St. Luke in the daily Mass readings, Luke 12 this week, and that better understanding of the context of those readings is of great value in understanding.

The story begins with the call of Peter to become a “fisher of men,” proceeds through training of the disciples, sending out of the seventy, St. Luke’s version of The Great Commission, Pentecost, and ends with St. Paul, imprisoned in Rome, awaiting death, and still obeying that commission, preaching and teaching. If you did not get a copy of the chart below and cannot read this one, here is an attached pdf (Luke Acts Birth of Church1) which can be downloaded. For an outline of the process of formation of the early church, read items 1-13 on the chart below and perhaps look up the passages in the NT and read them in context.

Discussion included the roles of Paul and Peter and the fact that Peter dominates the first half of Acts and Paul the last half. The first half ends with the Jerusalem Council at which Peter announced the final decision about the Gentiles:

Acts 15:7-11 After much debate had taken place, Peter got up and said to them, “My brothers, you are well aware that from early days God made his choice among you that through my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness by granting them the holy Spirit just as he did us. He made no distinction between us and them, for by faith he purified their hearts. Why, then, are you now putting God to the test by placing on the shoulders of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? On the contrary, we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they.”

It sounds like Peter is in charge, doesn’t it, but from that point on, Acts is all about the missionary journeys of St. Paul, and Peter is not mentioned. Here is a summary of the number of mentions of the two of them chapter by chapter.

 

This is of interest because it leads to skepticism in some quarters about Catholic claims of Peter as the first Pope and Bishop of Rome. Sacred Scripture does not announce that explicitly or even mention St. Peter going to Rome. But there is considerable historical support for our belief. You can read a good summary of it on Catholic Answers at THIS LINK.

You may wonder why I am presenting this information. Well, we do have this instruction from Pope St. Peter:

1 Peter 3:14-16 But even if you should suffer because of righteousness, blessed are you. Do not be afraid or terrified with fear of them, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame.

So, being informed about and comfortable with the foundations of our faith is a good thing.

October 17, 2018 – Saints, Martyrs, Fathers, and Doctors of the Church

St. Ignatius of Antioch, Saint, Martyr, Father, but Not a Doctor

You can read about St. Ignatius of Antioch at Franciscan Media. Below is a clip of the major contents reviewing what we learned from Fr. Linsky this morning.

Letters of St. Ignatius of Antioch

Here is a handy link to the seven letters of St. Ignatius. These are provided at the EWTN Website. They are fairly short and easy to read.

Reading the Church Fathers

This is a bit off the subject, but the question of Church Fathers came up during the discussion. I have often heard or read the recommendation that I should read the Church Fathers. I think that for me it would be an insurmountable task. Here is the whole collection, from the first 800 years, as preserved in 38 volumes and available from Amazon for roughly $1000.

A simpler, less burdensome, and more affordable approach would be to buy this Kindle version for $2.99, but even that seems unmanageable and unconquerable to me.

The following authors (alphabetical order) are included in this collection: Alexander of Alexandria, Alexander of Lycopolis, Ambrose, Aphrahat, Archelaus, Aristides the Philosopher, Arnobius, Athanasius, Athenagoras, Augustine of Hippo, Bardesanes, Barnabas, Basil the Great, Caius, Clement of Alexandria, Clement of Rome, Commodianus, Cyprian of Carthage, Cyril of Jerusalem, Dionysius of Rome, Dionysius the Great, Ephraim the Syrian, Eusebius of Caesarea, Gennadius of Marseilles, Gregory the Great, Pope, Gregory Nazianzen, Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory Thaumaturgus, Hermas, Hilary of Poitiers, Hippolytus, Ignatius of Antioch, Irenaeus of Lyons, Jerome, John of Damascus, John Cassian, John Chrysostom, Julius Africanus, Justin Martyr, Lactantius, Leo the Great, Pope
Malchion, Mar Jacob, Mathetes, Methodius, Minucius Felix, Moses of Chorene, Novatian, Origen, Pamphilus, Papias, Peter of Alexandria, Polycarp, Rufinus, Socrates cholasticus, Sozomen, Sulpitius,Severus, Tatian, Tertullian, Theodoret, Theodotus, Theophilus, Venantius, Victorinus, Vincent of Lérins

Doctors of the Church

I found a list of 36 Doctors of the Church at Catholic Online. Here is what they say about Doctors of the Church, some of whom are Church Fathers and some not:

This is a very special title accorded by the Church to certain saints. This title indicates that the writings and preachings of such a person are useful to Christians “in any age of the Church.” Such men and women are also particularly known for the depth of understanding and the orthodoxy of their theological teachings. While the writings of the Doctors are often considered inspired by the Holy Spirit; this does not mean they are infallible, but it does mean that they contributed significantly to the formulation of Christian teaching in at least one area.”

The Catechism contains references to the writings of many but not all Doctors of the Church.

Here  is the list in alphabetical order and then in chronological order by date of death. In that chart, it is interesting that there are groupings around 400 AD, 1200 AD, and 1600 AD.

It is interesting history and theology. If it all gets to be just too much, there is always the New Testament with the writings of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter, and Paul.

Justification and Martin Luther

The Word from The Word (Sacred Scripture)

Luke 18:9-14 He then addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else. “Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector. The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity– greedy, dishonest, adulterous– or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’ But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Romans 5:1-2 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access (by faith) to this grace in which we stand, and we boast in hope of the glory of God.

Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God;

The Catechism (Read the whole section HERE.)

Paragraph 1987: The grace of the Holy Spirit has the power to justify us, that is, to cleanse us from our sins and to communicate to us “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ” and through Baptism:34

Paragraph 1993: Justification establishes cooperation between God’s grace and man’s freedom. On man’s part it is expressed by the assent of faith to the Word of God, which invites him to conversion, and in the cooperation of charity with the prompting of the Holy Spirit who precedes and preserves his assent:

Paragraph 1994:  Justification is the most excellent work of God’s love made manifest in Christ Jesus and granted by the Holy Spirit. It is the opinion of St. Augustine that “the justification of the wicked is a greater work than the creation of heaven and earth,” because “heaven and earth will pass away but the salvation and justification of the elect . . . will not pass away.”43 He holds also that the justification of sinners surpasses the creation of the angels in justice, in that it bears witness to a greater mercy.

The Joint Declaration (Lutheran-Catholic) (Read it HERE.)

Here is a key paragraph, a Vatican website screen shot,  from the “Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification” by the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church.

Martin Luther

What little I know about Martin Luther comes mostly from The Story of Christianity, Volume 2, Chapter 2: Martin Luther: Pilgrimage to Reformation. The history book is by Justo L. Gonzalez who has a PhD in historical theology from Yale and has been a professor of church history at Emory, United Seminary, and the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta. Here are some key facts/turning points in Luther’s life.

1505 – Entered Augustinian monastery at age 21 where he suffered “an overpowering sense of his own sinfulness.” He never felt he had completely confessed all his sins. He was ordered to prepare to teach Sacred Scripture at Wittenberg University.
1512 – Received doctorate in theology
1515 – Concluded, based on his study, that the “righteousness of God” is given to those who “live by faith” simply because God wishes to give it. Therefore both faith and justification, he argued, are “the work of God, a free gift to sinners.”
1517 – Took strong position, as part of his “95 Theses,” against the sale of indulgences by a guy raising money for construction of The Basilica of St. Peter (The one in Rome). The sales guy, John Tetzel, had a little ditty: “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs.” The infamous 95 Theses, thanks to recently invented and rapidly expanding printing technology (Twitter of the 15th century), were widely distributed and got to Pope Leo X. Pope Leo turned the matter over to the Augustinians, Luther’s order, but they generally supported him. Pope Leo then turned the matter over to Cardinal Cajetan who demanded that Luther recant. Luther refused.
1521 – Luther was called before the Diet of Worms by Emperor and Pope and, when asked to recant, declared in German, “My conscience is a prisoner of God’s Word. I cannot and will not recant, for to disobey one’s conscience is neither just nor safe. God help me. Amen.” From that point, he was an outcast from the church.

The Reformation took on different characters, and different theologies, under leadership of Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, Henry VIII, and Knox. Anabaptists differed from them all because of their belief in baptism only for believers and by immersion. Many died in the ensuing conflicts during a time when church and state were hopelessly entangled. According to Gonzalez, “The martyrs were many – probably more than those who died during the three centuries of persecution before the time of Constantine.”

Luther was a believer in the Real Presence and the importance of Mary in the Salvation story. He is quoted as saying that he would rather partake of the Blood of Jesus with the Pope (whom he strongly disliked) than to sip mere wine with Zwingli (Swiss reformer who denied the Real Presence.)

Luther is infamous for anti-Semitic rants and other strange behavior in his waning years. Perhaps he was suffering from dementia or other mental problems.

Most scholars would support the idea that Luther had no interest in founding a Lutheran Church but only wanted to reform the True Church.

Pope Leo X

There is an extensive article in New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia about Pope Leo X.  One paragraph from that article addresses his role in the Reformation and is copied below. You will find the paragraph quoted at this link. It is the third paragraph from the end of the article.

“The most important occurrence of Leo’s pontificate and that of gravest consequence to the Church was the Reformation, which began in 1517. We cannot enter into a minute account of this movement, the remote cause of which lay in the religious, political, and social conditions of Germany. It is certain, however, that the seeds of discontent amid which Luther threw his firebrand had been germinating for centuries. The immediate cause was bound up with the odious greed for money displayed by the Roman Curia, and shows how far short all efforts at reform had hitherto fallen. Albert of Brandenburg, already Archbishop of Magdeburg, received in addition the Archbishopric of Mainz and the Bishopric of Hallerstadt, but in return was obliged to collect 10,000 ducats, which he was taxed over and above the usual confirmation fees. To indemnify hiim, and to make it possible to discharge these obligations Rome permitted him to have preached in his territory the plenary indulgence promised all those who contributed to the new St. Peter’s; he was allowed to keep one half the returns, a transaction which brought dishonour on all concerned in it. Added to this, abuses occurred during the preaching of the Indulgence. The money contributions, a mere accessory, were frequently the chief object, and the “Indulgences for the Dead” became a vehicle of inadmissible teachings. That Leo X, in the most serious of all the crises which threatened the Church, should fail to prove the proper guide for her, is clear enough from what has been related above. He recognized neither the gravity of the situation nor the underlying causes of the revolt. Vigorous measures of reform might have proved an efficacious antidote, but the pope was deeply entangled in political affairs and allowed the imperial election to overshadow the revolt of Luther; moreover, he gave himself up unrestrainedly to his pleasures and failed to grasp fully the duties of his high office.”

 

September 5, 2018 – Arrested Development

All About Spiritual Growth and Maturity
(Avoiding Arrested Development)
And Judging Pastors

Advice from Peter & Paul, and a Parable from Jesus,
All from the New American Bible (Revised Edition)

  • I fed you milk, not solid food, because you were unable to take it. Indeed, you are still not able, even now, for you are still of the flesh. While there is jealousy and rivalry among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving in an ordinary human way? Whenever someone says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely human? What is Apollos, after all, and what is Paul? Ministers through whom you became believers, just as the Lord assigned each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth. Therefore, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who causes the growth. The one who plants and the one who waters are equal, and each will receive wages in proportion to his labor. – 1 Corinthians 3:2-8
  • But grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory now and to the day of eternity. – 2 Peter 3:18
  • Therefore, let us leave behind the basic teaching about Christ and advance to maturity, without laying the foundation all over again – Hebrews 6:1
  • As for the seed that fell among thorns, they are the ones who have heard, but as they go along, they are choked by the anxieties and riches and pleasures of life, and they fail to produce mature fruit. But as for the seed that fell on rich soil, they are the ones who, when they have heard the word, embrace it with a generous and good heart, and bear fruit through perseverance. – Luke 8:14-15
  • Rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, insincerity, envy, and all slander;like newborn infants, long for pure spiritual milk so that through it you may grow into salvation, for you have tasted that the Lord is good.  Come to him, a living stone, rejected by human beings but chosen and precious in the sight of God, and, like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. – 1 Peter 2:1-5
  • Therefore, from the day we heard this, we do not cease praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding to live in a manner worthy of the Lord, so as to be fully pleasing, in every good work bearing fruit and growing in the knowledge of God, – Colossians 1:9-10
  • So, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in him, rooted in him and built upon him and established in the faith as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. – Colossians 2:6-7
  • Although you should be teachers by this time, you need to have someone teach you again the basic elements of the utterances of God. You need milk, not solid food. Everyone who lives on milk lacks experience of the word of righteousness, for he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those whose faculties are trained by practice to discern good and evil. – Hebrews 5:12-14
  • When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things. – 1Corinthians 13:11
  • For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, virtue with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with devotion, devotion with mutual affection, mutual affection with love. If these are yours and increase in abundance, they will keep you from being idle or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. – 2 Peter 1:5-8
  • And he gave some as apostles, others as prophets, others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers, to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the extent of the full stature of Christ, so that we may no longer be infants, tossed by waves and swept along by every wind of teaching arising from human trickery, from their cunning in the interests of deceitful scheming. Rather, living the truth in love, we should grow in every way into him who is the head, Christ,from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, with the proper functioning of each part, brings about the body’s growth and builds itself up in love. – Ephesians 4:11-16
  • Be eager to present yourself as acceptable to God, a workman who causes no disgrace, imparting the word of truth without deviation. – 2 Timothy 2:15

Whadda Ya Think of Your Pastor?

Based on my decades in the Church, that is a common question asked of church members. Based on the above Sacred Scripture quotations, which answer is a good pastor most likely to want to overhear being given to that question?

  1. Oh, he is just WONderful!
  2. His homilies are short and sweet!
  3. He always visits people in the hospital.
  4. He has a great voice.
  5. I’ll be glad when he is gone.
  6. I learn from him and enjoy serving with him.

I’ll go with number 6 on my current pastor.

John Adams, Old St. Mary’s, Psalms, Gervais, and Huger

(Oops. I first titled this Sam Adams, et.al. rather than John Adams, et. al. Must have had beer on the brain. Sam and John were second cousins.)

This post is a bit off the beaten path but is about stuff I have run across recently that might be of special interest to a group of mature Catholic men. 

I just finished the incredible biography of John Adams by David McCullough, and that after reading about our nation’s  early years through the eyes of Hamilton, Jefferson, Burr, etc. Two passages in particular in the McCullough book seemed of interest to the MPG. First is a visit by Adams and Washington to St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Philadelphia in 1776. It is still there, now known as “Old St. Mary’s,” and you will find Adams and Washington mentioned on their current website. Here is a screen shot of a Kindle page from McCullough’s biography with Adams’s description of the visit. Of course he understood all the Latin.

Also, in the McCullough book is Adams’s testimony about his love of the Psalms. It seemed meaningful to me considering our focus on Psalms in Morning Prayer. I sometimes find myself just mouthing the words without considering the deep meanings, history, context, and beauty. Here, in another screen shot from the Kindle book, are Adams’s words, expressed after his long retirement from public service. (He lived to age 90 and died on the same day as Jefferson, July 4, 1826.)

And, on a lighter note, here are a couple of pertinent clips from today’s The State about two contemporaries of Adams, John Lewis Gervais and Isaac Huger.

This story just made me think how ironic it would be if The Basilica of St. Peter had been built at the corner of Gervais and Huger instead of at the corner of Assembly and Taylor.

Check out the Adams biography. It is an incredible look at our founding fathers and the issues and problems they faced. And, I’m putting Old St. Mary’s on my want list for Mass attendance on some future visit to Philadelphia.

August 29, 2018 – John the Baptist, Last OT Prophet and First NT Saint

Important Addresses

To express concerns about or make suggestions relative to the current crisis facing the Church, it was suggested on the Catholic Answers website that we write our Bishop, the President of the USCCB, and the Apostolic Nuncio (Ambassador) to the United States. It was suggested that a copy of the letter sent to the Bishop be attached to the letter to the USCCB President and that a copy of the letter sent to the President of the USCCB be attached to the letter to the Nuncio. Here are the addresses:

Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone
Diocese of Charleston
901 Orange Grove Road
Charleston, SC 29407

Daniel Cardinal DiNardo
President of the USCCB
Archdioces of Galveston-Houston
1700 San Jacinto St
Houston, TX 77002

His Excellency, Archbishop Christophe Pierre
Apostolic Nuncio to the United States
3339 Massachusetts Ave NW
Washington DC 20008-3610

The Adventures of John the Baptist

There is much in the Bible about John the Baptist, and I got a bit bogged down in trying to arrange all the various passages in chronological order. I took all quotes directly from the NAB but removed verse numbers and inserted paragraph breaks. After all, there were no such things as Bible verses and chapters until the 16th century. So, hopefully some will find the story below readable and helpful in explaining the calling, ministry, arrest, and death of John the Baptist.

Old Testament Prophecies of John the Baptist

Isaiah 40:3 A voice cries out: In the desert prepare the way of the LORD! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!

Malachi 3:1 Lo, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me; And suddenly there will come to the temple the LORD whom you seek, And the messenger of the covenant whom you desire. Yes, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.

Luke 1:5-25 – Angel’s Promise to Zechariah and Elizabeth

In the days of Herod, King of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah of the priestly division of Abijah; his wife was from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Both were righteous in the eyes of God, observing all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren and both were advanced in years.

Once when he was serving as priest in his division’s turn before God, according to the practice of the priestly service, he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Lord to burn incense. Then, when the whole assembly of the people was praying outside at the hour of the incense offering, the angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right of the altar of incense.

Zechariah was troubled by what he saw, and fear came upon him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of (the) Lord. He will drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will be filled with the holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb, and he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of fathers toward children and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to prepare a people fit for the Lord.”

Then Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” And the angel said to him in reply, “I am Gabriel, who stand before God. I was sent to speak to you and to announce to you this good news. But now you will be speechless and unable to talk until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled at their proper time.”

Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah and were amazed that he stayed so long in the sanctuary. But when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He was gesturing to them but remained mute. Then, when his days of ministry were completed, he went home.

After this time his wife Elizabeth conceived, and she went into seclusion for five months, saying, “So has the Lord done for me at a time when he has seen fit to take away my disgrace before others.”

Luke 1:36-45 – Mary Gets Advance Notice – John Leaps in the Womb

And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.” Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.  And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

Luke 1:57-80 – Birth and Naming of John – Zechariah Speaks!

When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her, and they rejoiced with her. When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child, they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother said in reply, “No. He will be called John.” But they answered her, “There is no one among your relatives who has this name.”

So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called.  He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,” and all were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God.

Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea.  All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, “What, then, will this child be?” For surely the hand of the Lord was with him. Then Zechariah his father, filled with the holy Spirit, prophesied, saying:

“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, for he has visited and brought redemption to his people.  He has raised up a horn for our salvation within the house of David his servant, even as he promised through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old: salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us, to show mercy to our fathers and to be mindful of his holy covenant  and of the oath he swore to Abraham our father, and to grant us that, rescued from the hand of enemies, without fear we might worship him in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. And you, child, will be called prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God by which the daybreak from on high will visit us to shine on those who sit in darkness and death’s shadow, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”

The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel.

Matthew 3:1-17 – Appearance of John and Baptism of Jesus
(Also in Mark 1:1-11 – Remembered in John 1:15-37)

In those days John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea (and) saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”  It was of him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said: “A voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.'”

John wore clothing made of camel’s hair and had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. At that time Jerusalem, all Judea, and the whole region around the Jordan were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins.

When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones. Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees. Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in his hand. He will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. John tried to prevent him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?” Jesus said to him in reply, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed him.

After Jesus was baptized, he came up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened (for him), and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove (and) coming upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

John 1:15-37 – John Testifies about Baptism of Jesus, Gets Interrogated

John testified to him and cried out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘The one who is coming after me ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.'” From his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace, because while the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.  No one has ever seen God. The only Son, God, who is at the Father’s side, has revealed him.  And this is the testimony of John.

When the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites (to him) to ask him, “Who are you?” he admitted and did not deny it, but admitted, “I am not the Messiah.”  So they asked him, “What are you then? Are you Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.”  So they said to him, “Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us? What do you have to say for yourself?” He said: “I am ‘the voice of one crying out in the desert, “Make straight the way of the Lord,”‘ as Isaiah the prophet said.”

Some Pharisees were also sent. They asked him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Messiah or Elijah or the Prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.”  This happened in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. He is the one of whom I said, ‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’ I did not know him, but the reason why I came baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel.”

John testified further, saying, “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from the sky and remain upon him. I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the holy Spirit.’  Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”

The next day John was there again 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 3:22-36 – John Explains Who Jesus Is and What the Plan Is

After this, Jesus and his disciples went into the region of Judea, where he spent some time with them baptizing. John was also baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was an abundance of water there, and people came to be baptized, for John had not yet been imprisoned.

Now a dispute arose between the disciples of John and a Jew about ceremonial washings.  So they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, the one who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you testified, here he is baptizing and everyone is coming to him.”

John answered and said, “No one can receive anything except what has been given him from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said (that) I am not the Messiah, but that I was sent before him. The one who has the bride is the bridegroom; the best man, who stands and listens for him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made complete.

He must increase; I must decrease.” The one who comes from above is above all. The one who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of earthly things. But the one who comes from heaven (is above all). He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. Whoever does accept his testimony certifies that God is trustworthy. For the one whom God sent speaks the words of God. He does not ration his gift of the Spirit.

The Father loves the Son and has given everything over to him. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him.

Luke 3:1-20 – John Baptizes, Preaches, Gets Arrested and Sent to Prison

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert. He went throughout (the) whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'”

He said to the crowds who came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce good fruits as evidence of your repentance; and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones.  Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees. Therefore every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”

And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” He said to them in reply, “Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him, “Teacher, what should we do?” He answered them, “Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.”  Soldiers also asked him, “And what is it that we should do?” He told them, “Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages.”

Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Messiah.  John answered them all, saying, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire.  His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached good news to the people.

Now Herod the tetrarch, who had been censured by him because of Herodias, his brother’s wife, and because of all the evil deeds Herod had committed, added still another to these by (also) putting John in prison.

Matthew 11:2-15 – Jesus Confirms Own Identity, Explains John’s Identity

When John heard in prison of the works of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to him with this question, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” Jesus said to them in reply, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them. And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.”

As they were going off, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, “What did you go out to the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? Then what did you go out to see? Someone dressed in fine clothing? Those who wear fine clothing are in royal palaces. Then why did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.

This is the one about whom it is written: ‘Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way before you.’  Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.  From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent are taking it by force.  All the prophets and the law prophesied up to the time of John.  And if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah, the one who is to come.  15 Whoever has ears ought to hear.

Mark 6:17-29 (Also Matthew 14:1-12) – John is Executed

Herod was the one who had John arrested and bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, whom he had married.  John had said to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”

Herodias harbored a grudge against him and wanted to kill him but was unable to do so. Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man, and kept him in custody. When he heard him speak he was very much perplexed, yet he liked to listen to him.

She had an opportunity one day when Herod, on his birthday, gave a banquet for his courtiers, his military officers, and the leading men of Galilee.  Herodias’s own daughter came in and performed a dance that delighted Herod and his guests. The king said to the girl, “Ask of me whatever you wish and I will grant it to you.” He even swore (many things) to her, “I will grant you whatever you ask of me, even to half of my kingdom.”

She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the Baptist.” The girl hurried back to the king’s presence and made her request, “I want you to give me at once on a platter the head of John the Baptist.”

The king was deeply distressed, but because of his oaths and the guests he did not wish to break his word to her.  27 So he promptly dispatched an executioner with orders to bring back his head. He went off and beheaded him in the prison.  He brought in the head on a platter and gave it to the girl. The girl in turn gave it to her mother.  When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.

What Others Said about John the Baptist

Luke 7:33-34 For John the Baptist came neither eating food nor drinking wine, and you said, ‘He is possessed by a demon.’  The Son of Man came eating and drinking and you said, ‘Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’

John 10:41 – 11:1 Many came to him and said, “John performed no sign, but everything John said about this man was true.”  And many there began to believe in him.

Luke 11:1 He was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.”

Mark 2:18 The disciples of John and of the Pharisees were accustomed to fast. People came to him and objected, “Why do the disciples of John and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?”

Mark 6:14-16 King Herod heard about it, for his fame had become widespread, and people were saying, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead; that is why mighty powers are at work in him.”  Others were saying, “He is Elijah”; still others, “He is a prophet like any of the prophets.”  But when Herod learned of it, he said, “It is John whom I beheaded. He has been raised up.”

Good News in the Wednesday Psalms

Only eleven Psalms of the one hundred and fifty in Sacred Scripture are Included in the Wednesday Morning Prayers. It seems I should have them memorized by now. But my mind doesn’t work that way.

Here they are with Christian Prayer page numbers.

Invitatory (Every week) – 95 (P 688)
Week 1 – 36 and 47 (Page 738)
Week 2 – 77 and 97 (Page 812)
Week 3 – 86 and 90 (Page 886)
Week 4 – 108 and 146 (Page 958)
Feast Days – 63 and 149 (Page 707)

Given current gloominess, I thought it might be helpful to just look through these Psalms and seek out the Good News in each. Criteria were that the good news had to be only about God and not about me or us or the Israelites and their military victories or defeats. No whining, no lamenting, no confessing, no pleas for help or mercy or victory and not even any thanksgiving. Just about God.

Here is what I found, using the translation in Christian Prayer:

Psalm 95:3 – The Lord is God, the mighty God, the great king over all the gods.

Psalm 36:8 – O Lord, how precious is your love.

Psalm 47:8 – God is king of all the earth.

Psalm 77:14 – Your ways, O God, are holy.

Psalm 97:1 – The Lord is king, let earth rejoice.

Psalm 86:5 – O Lord, you are good and forgiving, full of love to all who call.

Psalm 98 – Didn’t find a verse meeting the criteria.

Psalm 108:5 – For your love reaches to the heavens and your truth to the skies.

Psalm 146:10 – The Lord will reign forever, Zion’s God, from age to age. (Oops. Zion crept in.)

Psalm 63:4a – For your love is better than life.

Psalm 149 – Didn’t find a verse meeting the criteria.

The Psalmists, of course, did not have the benefit of having had Jesus, God in Flesh, walk among them, revealing the Triune God as described in Philippians 2.

Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.

That seems to be consistent with the truths expressed in the Psalms about God but with deeper understanding.