Sunday Bible Reflections
The Lenten season continues with another story of testing. Last Sunday, we heard the trial of Jesus in the desert. In this week’s First Reading, we hear of how Abraham was put to the test.
The Church has always read this story as a sign of God’s love for the world in giving His only begotten son.
Today the child born on Christmas is revealed to be the long-awaited king of the Jews.
As the priests and scribes interpret the prophecies in today’s Gospel, He is the ruler expected from the line of King David, whose greatness is to reach to the ends of the earth (see Micah 5:1–3; 2 Samuel 5:2).
Jesus is found with His mother, as David’s son, Solomon, was enthroned alongside his Queen Mother (see 1 Kings 2:19). And the magi come to pay Him tribute, as once kings and queens came to Solomon (see 1 Kings 10:2,25).
Why did Jesus choose to become a baby born of a mother and father and to spend all but His last years living in an ordinary human family? In part, to reveal God’s plan to make all people live as one “holy family” in His Church (see 2 Corinthians 6:16–18).
In the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, God reveals our true home. We’re to live as His children, “chosen ones, holy and beloved,” as the First Reading puts it. The family advice we
hear in today’s readings—for mothers, fathers, and children—is all solid and practical.
What is announced to Mary in today’s Gospel is the revelation of all that the prophets had spoken. It is, as Paul declares in today’s Epistle, the mystery kept secret since before the foundation of the world (see Ephesians 1:9; 3:3–9).
Mary is the virgin prophesied to bear a son of the house of David (see Isaiah 7:13–14). And nearly every word the angel speaks to her today evokes and echoes the long history of salvation recorded in the Bible.
Mary is hailed as the “daughter Jerusalem,” called to rejoice that her king, the Lord God, has come into her midst as a mighty savior (see Zephaniah 3:14–17).
The mysterious figure of John the Baptist, introduced in last week’s readings, comes into sharper focus today. Who he is, we see in today’s Gospel, is best understood by who he isn’t.
He is not Elijah returned from the heavens (see 2 Kings 2:11), although like him he dresses in the prophet’s attire (see Mark 1:6; 2 Kings 1:8) and preaches repentance and judgment (see 1 Kings
18:21; 2 Chronicles 21:12–15).
Our God is coming. The time of exile— the long separation of humankind from God due to sin—is about to end. This is the good news proclaimed in today’s liturgy.
Isaiah in today’s First Reading promises Israel’s future release and return from captivity and exile. But as today’s Gospel shows, Israel’s historic deliverance was meant to herald an even greater saving act by God—the coming of Jesus to set Israel and all nations free from bondage to sin, to gather them up and carry them back to God.
The new Church year begins with a plea for God’s visitation. “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down,” the prophet Isaiah cries in today’s First Reading.
In today’s Psalm, too, we hear the anguished voice of Israel, imploring God to look down from His heavenly throne—to save and shepherd His people.
Today’s readings are relatively brief. Their language and “message” are deceptively simple. But we should take note of the serious mood and penitential aspect of the Liturgy today—as the people of Israel recognize their sinfulness, their failures to keep God’s covenant, their inability to save themselves.