“The Victory of Justice”
January 12th, 2014 (see other dates)
The Baptism of the Lord
Discussion Questions for Reading 1What are some characteristics of this servant described here? Why does the Church identify this servant as Jesus? What do you learn about Jesus from this reading?
Who is the "you" in the second part of the reading? How can you carry out the mission assigned to you in this reading? Do you know anyone who is blind, imprisoned, or living in a dungeon? Keep in mind that this does not only mean physical conditions but spiritual conditions. However, be careful not to "over-spiritualize" this passage. God does want us to care about the physical world, including people who are physically or mentally challenged, in prison, or living in difficult conditions. How can you meet this challenge of care for those in spiritual or physical distress?
Reading 1 Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7
Reading 1 ReflectionIn this reading the author tells us about a special servant of the Lord. He brings justice to God's people in ways that are peaceful and life-giving. He frees those who are imprisoned or wandering in the darkness. With a firm grasp, he takes God's people by the hand and guides them in keeping their covenant with God.
For Christians, this description of the servant of the Lord is an inspiring portrait of Jesus. He is the One who brings us peace, life, and freedom.
Discussion Questions for Reading 2This reading is proof, if we needed proof, that human nature has not changed very much since the time of Peter. We are often wary of people who did not grow up as we did, who are somehow different from us in some way. Perhaps Peter was surprised that this former pagan, this Gentile, this Roman had also been accepted by God. It may not have been the way Peter had expected God to work, because God first chose the Jews to carry his message to the world. Have you ever been surprised by God's choices, perhaps even of yourself? Have you ever been rejected or prejudged (the word prejudice literally means "to prejudge")? How did you handle it? Were you able to continue to "fear God and act uprightly" no matter what others thought of you?
Reading 2 Acts 10:34-38
Reading 2 ReflectionBecause God is just, God does not play favorites. All persons and nations are acceptable to the Lord. As Peter shares this welcome news with the household of the Roman soldier Cornelius, he can hardly wait to tell the entire Jesus story. He stresses how the Holy Spirit anointed Jesus at his baptism. After that, Jesus went forth to fulfill his ministry as the servant of the Lord.
Discussion Questions for GospelNote that Jesus does not contradict John when he says, "I should be baptized by you!"
In a very real way, John was right. However, Jesus only says, "Give in for now." Jesus had a bigger plan in mind, and he was asking John to cooperate by laying aside his own way of thinking "for now." Does God ever ask you to "give in" on smaller issues?
What is your response? How do you decide whether to "give in" or not? When it is important to you to be "right" and when can you lay aside your own way of thinking in order to let God's bigger plan unfold?
By our Baptism, we were given a share in Christ's life and ministry. He shares his identity with us. How will you live as another Christ, so that God will say of you,
"This is my beloved, on whom my favor rests"?
Gospel Matthew 3:13-17
Gospel ReflectionWhy did Jesus insist that John baptize him in the Jordan River? Jesus had no sin to be washed away, no need to repent. But Jesus had a great need to cooperate with God's plan of salvation. And that plan required that he identify totally with the people he had come to save.
Proclaiming Faith Activities for Primary Grades
Here Is My ServantIn today's gospel, Jesus stood in line to be baptized by John just like everybody else. When John asked Jesus why he wanted to be baptized, Jesus said because it was the right thing to do. It was one more way that Jesus showed that he was one of us. And God was very pleased with Jesus, his Son.
Ask the children: How do we know what the right thing to do is? Explain that we each have a "conscience" that tells us the right thing to do. Of course, first we have to learn from parents and teachers, and ask advice sometimes. Even as we grow older we keep learning about right and wrong from the Scriptures and the teachings of the Church. Learning and study helps our conscience to grow with us. A conscience is like a little nudge inside us that points us in the right direction. Make two columns on the board. Label one "Right Things" and label the other "Wrong Things." Brainstorm thoughts and actions and write them in one column or the other. End with a prayer, asking Jesus to help us know and do the right thing always.
Symbols of the TrinityExplain to the children that, at Jesus' Baptism, all three Persons of the Blessed Trinity are present. Ask the children to name the three Persons of the Blessed Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). Ask how the Father was present (through his voice from the heavens). Ask how the Son was present (Jesus, who was baptized). Ask how the Holy Spirit was present (seen as descending like a dove). Remind them that we honor the Trinity whenever we make the sign of the cross.
Distribute the reproducible master. On it are three symbols: the cloud with lines coming from it stands for the Father (voice from the heavens); the cross stands for Jesus Christ; the water at the base of the cross stands for the waters of baptism; the dove stands for the Holy Spirit. Explain the symbolism to the children and then have them color the page. Close the session by praying the Sign of the Cross together.
Proclaiming Faith Activities
Pay It Backward and ForwardJohn the Baptist could see who Jesus really was. This was a great gift, and he used it to introduce Jesus to his own followers. Today, too, the gift of seeing the talents and potential of others is a great gift. Who has seen your gifts and talents, your potential, and helped you along your way? Write that person a note of thanks for seeing who you really are and what you might become in the future.
Another way to express your gratitude is to "pay it forward." Is there someone you could help by offering a word of encouragement? It could be someone your own age, someone younger, or someone older, too. Write that person a note that says something like, "Keep on being who you are! You're doing great! Don't give up!"
ManifestationThe word epiphany means "manifestation." The mystery of Epiphany includes three manifestations, or showings, of Jesus: the first to the wise men, the second at his Baptism, and the third, his first miracle at Cana. In the first, Jesus showed himself to the world, in the second he showed himself to be the Son of God, and in the third, he showed himself ready to do God's work in the world.
Sometimes we say, when people doubt us, we say, "Well, I'll show YOU!" We are really "showing who we are" all the time. Think about your life in terms of three kinds of "showing."
When did I first show myself to the world? (i.e. your birthday)
When did I become a child of God? (i.e. your baptismal day)
When did I first consider myself ready to do God's work in the world? (i.e. This could be your Confirmation Day, or another day of commitment, such as a First Communion Day or a wedding day. Any day is a good day to be ready to do God's work in the world.)
The most important question of all: how do you show yourself as a Christian to the world today? What is God's work in the world for you today?
For Bibles and other scripture resources, please see the Sadlier Religion Catalog.
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