Sunday Bible Reflections
Jesus in today’s Gospel teaches His apostles how to interpret the Scriptures.
He tells them that all the Scriptures of what we now call the Old Testament refer to Him. He says that all the promises found in the Old Testament have been fulfilled in His passion, death, and resurrection. And He tells them that these Scriptures foretell the mission of the Church—to preach forgiveness of sins to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
In the call of Samuel and of the first Apostles, today’s readings shed light on our own calling to be followers of Christ.
Notice in the Gospel today that John’s disciples are prepared to hear God’s call. They are already looking for the Messiah, so they trust in John’s word and follow when he points out the Lamb of God walking by.
Samuel is also waiting on the Lord—sleeping near the Ark of the Covenant where God’s glory dwells, taking instruction from Eli, the high priest.
The Liturgy last week revealed the mystery of God’s plan—that in Jesus all peoples, symbolized by the Magi, have been made “co-heirs” to the blessings promised Israel. This week, we’re shown how we claim our inheritance.
Jesus doesn’t submit to John’s baptism as a sinner in need of purification. He humbles Himself to pass through Jordan’s waters in order to lead a new “exodus”—opening up the promised land of heaven so that all peoples can hear the words pronounced over Jesus today, words once reserved only for Israel and its king: that each of us is a beloved son or daughter of God (see Genesis 22:2; Exodus 4:22; Psalm 2:7).
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).