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January 8, 1988     The Message
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January 8, 1988 Commentary The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern,i,!ndiana I I 5 Mass Readings By FATHER DONALD DILGER John and Jesus: examples of service to others Mass Readings for Sunday, Jan. 10, 1988 Mark 1:7-11 -- The Baptism of Jesus Today's gospel reading begins with a theme which we have noticed in all the gospels -- the careful subordination of John the baptizer to Jesus. This pattern is set by Mark and followed by Mat- thew and Luke. The Gospel of John, although it omits the baptism of Jesus, stresses even more the subordination of John to Jesus. This was described at length in the commentary of Dec. 13. To take (Zare of the master's sandals was the job of a slave. John the baptizer states in Mark that he is not wor- thy to do even that lowly task for Jesus. John pro- claims himself to be no more than the voice that warns tkat the time of the Messiah is at hand. John next compares his baptism with that which Jesus will give. His own baptism is with water only. It signified that the person who receiv- ed this baptism had changed his way of living -- a "baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sin." The baptism which Jesus will give will impart the Holy Spirit to those who receive it. It is probable that the disciples of Jesus were baptized with the baptism of John, since at least some of them had been followers of John the baptizer. Later, as we in Acts 1:5, they would receive "the promise of the Father...for John baptized with water, but...you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit." Now for the first time Jesus comes into Mark's Gospel. Mark simply states that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee. There is no clue as to his origin, no parents, no childhood, no family, no profession. Some of this information Mark will supply in 6:3-4 where he calls Jesus a carpenter, the son of Mary, names four brothers of Jesus, and refers even to the sisters of Jesus -- a difficult text us Catholics because of the age-old teaching of our Church that Mary was a virgin both before and after the birth of Jesus. Mary's virginity is incor- porated into the creed we recite at Sunday Mass. It is part of our pledge of allegiance to our Church and through our Church to our God. Mark states very simply that Jesus was baptiz- ed by John in the Jordan. Mark is the oldest gospel we have and has no problem with this statement even though he had already proclaimed himself unworthy to untie the sandal strings for Jesus. For Matthew, Luke, and John the matter was not so simple. In Matthew, John protests that he should rather be baptized by Jesus. It is only after Jesus OKs it that John baptizes him. Luke's approach is different. He has John the baptizer put into prison by Herod before Jesus comes to him for baptism and then states that Jesus, with others, was baptiz- ed but never tells by whom. John's Gospel omits the baptism of Jesus entirely. If it was so problematic why did the evangelists preserve the tradition of the baptism of Jesus? If Jesus himself was to baptize with the Ho- ly Spirit, as Mark has already told us, then he should also be shown to possess that Holy Spirit. The occasion of the baptism of Jesus by John will be the setting for Mark to show that Jesus possesses the Spirit. This is the only Pentecost in the Gospel of Mark. Beyond this we could say that it was important to have Jesus associated with the rite of Christian initiation. There is a precedent for this in the Old Testament in Genesis 17. There the covenant already struck between God and Abraham in Genesis 15 is repeated (by later authors} to bring Abraham into association: with the initiation rite of every male Jew -- circumcision. The same can be said of Moses. In Exodus 4:21-26 Moses, in one of the strangest stories of the Oid Testament, is brought into association with the rite of circumci- sion. Thus Jesus himself was baptized with the Ho- ly Spirit just as his future followers would undergo baptism with water and the giving of the Holy Spirit. What is the significance of the dove? There is no satisfactory answer to this question but we may be able to throw some light on it. In Leviticus 1:14; 5:7; 12:6-7 the dove is prescribed as an offer- ing to be sacrificed to atone for the uncleanness of the offerer. If we consider that in Mark 10:45 Jesus is said to "give his life as a ransom for" many" and in Mark 14:24 "This is my blood which is poured out for many" we may have some clue to the meaning of the dove. In Genesis 15:9 the dove is the bird sacrificed in the covenant between God and Abraham. After the flood the dove is the messenger of peace that returns to Noah with an olive leaf in its beak as a sign that the divine anger has come to rest and peace has returned to the earth. The voice from heaven: "You are my beloved Son, in you I am well pleased." The first part recalls the words of Psalm 2:7, "You are my son, today I have begotten you." These words were us- ed in annointing a new king, a "son of David," when he assumed office as ruler. They expressed the belief that the king was adopted by God in a very special way as had been promised to David by Nathan the prophet in II Sam. 7:14. The voice calls Jesus "Beloved Son." This echoes Genesis 22:2 where Abraham is told to "Take your son, your only son, whom you love .... " It is the command to sacrifice Isaac. As Isaac was obedient to his father even to the point of death, so Jesus would be obe- dient to death according to the will of his Father. The words "in you I am well pleased" recall the words of the Servant Poem of Isaiah 42:1: "Behold my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one, in whom I am well pleased." In Isaiah 53:4-5 that Servant becomes the Suffering Servant who takes upon himself the sins of others as Jesus also did, as we are told in Mark 10:45 and 14:24. What can we learn from all this? Above all, the humility of John, of whom Jesus said there is no greater man born of woman. Sometimes we do not get the affirmation or praise we deserve, yet in Luke 17:10 we read: "so you also, when you have done all that is commanded of you, say: 'We are unprofitable servants.'" Jesus himself, though he is God, "did not consider this a thing'to be clung to but emptied himself, taking on the nature of a ser- vant" {Paul to the Philippians 2:7-8}. In today's gospel John played a secondary role, to serve Jesus. The words trom heaven indicate that Jesus, too would be a servant who "came not to serve but to be served and to give his life as a ransom price for many." Can we do less? Other readings for Jan. 10: Isaiah 42:1-7; Acts 10:34-38. Vatican Letter Pope's general audience: polyglot of prayer and furl By AGOSTINO BONe NC News Service VATICAN CITY (NC) -- At the start of a Wednesday general audience, Pope John Paul II quietly makes a public Sign of the Cross and sits down in the chair at the the center of the stage. At the end of the audience -- in contrast to the subdued beginning -- he wades into the crowd, shaking hands, collec- ting presents, holding babies, listening to people telling him HIGH SCHOOL PLACEMENT EXAMINATION FOR ALL EIGHTH GRADERS SEEKING ADMISSION IN THE FALL OF 1988 Reitz MEMORIAL HIGH SCHOOL SATURDAY, JAN. 9, 1988 8:00-11:45 a.m. AqEMIAt CAFETERIA 1500 Unpin Ave. MATER DEI HIGH SCHOOL SATURDAY, JAN. 16, 1988 8:00-11:45 a.m. MATIER DEI CAFETERIA 1300 Harmony Way For Information, Call 476-4973 For Information, Call 426-2258 NO Registration Necessary TESTING FEE $3.00 (Payable At Time of Examination) ADMISSION IS OPEN TO STUDENTS OF A ll RACES, CREEDS & COLOR.-- TRADITION ... the difference their troubles and, in turn, of- fering sympathy. In between he has read a spiritual message in at least five languages, blessed the crowd numerous times, read off names of individual groups present and personally greeted bishops visiting Rome from around the world. Sometimes, at the end of the audience, he comments on a contemporary world issue. Several times a year, he wat- ches circus performers swing from the rafters of the Paul VI audience hall. For the pope, it's all in a Wednesday's work. Except when he is traveling far from the Vatican, tke midweek general audience is a papal fix- ture. It is also the best opportunity for an average pilgrim in Rome to see and hear the pope up close. Most of the year the au- diences are in the 7,000-seat au- dience hall. In the spring and autumn, weather permitting, the audiences are outdoors in St. Peter's Square, where often more than 10,000 people gather for the weekly appointment. What pilgrims and tourists see during the 90-minute au- dience is a polyglot paraliturgical service combined with the pope's natural instinct for pressing the flesh whenever he sees a crowd. The audiences begin with a Gospel reading in Italian, English, French, German and Spanish. The pope then gives a 10-minute homily in Italian. Often, the pope dedicates a series of homilies to the same topic, such as the meanings of the miracles of Christ. The pope then reads short summaries of the homily in English, German, French and Spanish, often tacking on a list of groups speaking that language present at the au- dience. The groups respond by standing and cheering. If it is a choir, the pope gets to hear a few bars of a religiously in- spired song. If there is a substantial Polish contingent, the pope also gives an extemporaneous summary of the homily in his native language. THE AUDIENCE formally ends with the pope giving an apostolic blessing on the crowd after inviting everyone to sing the "Our Father" with him in , Latin. But the formal ending marks the beginning of the real fun. The pope climbs down the stage and begins playing the crowd, leisurely walking along the front row and then up the center aisle. People along his path, held back by waist-high barriers, ply him with everything from spiritual re- quests to symbolic gifts. Others reach over several rows of peo- ple and try to touch him or catch his attention to shout out a message. A favorite gift is books, usually about the pope or dedicated to him. The pope thumbs through them, shares a few words with the presenter and then passes the book to a young bearer who piles it atop the others. In the weeks before Christmas the pope received numerous baskets of Italian seasonal foods, including bottles .of sparkling white wine, candied fruits and zampone, a pig-leg skin stuffed with chopped pork. Many of the gifts, especially the food, are donated to local charities.