READ Matthew 3:1-12 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."
UNDERSTAND by Father Greg Friedman, OFM Have you heard about “God’s dream for the world”? That phrase “God’s dream for the world” is a favorite expression of a colleague of mine to describe how he interprets Scripture passages like those from Isaiah and St. Paul in today’s
liturgy. My friend says that God’s dream for the world is a vision of all of creation—reconciled, at peace, full of the justice and harmony intended for it by our Creator. Isaiah’s “peaceable kingdom”—a scene favored by artists, where the lion and the lamb play together—is an expression of what God envisions for all of us: the beautiful earth, healed of the ravages of greed and pollution; humanity living by God’s wisdom, understanding, justice. St. Paul encourages the Gentile Christians of the Church at Rome to see themselves united with Paul’s Jewish brothers and sisters in praising God. Accomplishing this dream of God means a real and radical change of heart—true conversion. And such change doesn’t come easy, as we know. Just look around at our world, or better yet look inside our own hearts. We need the prophetic “wake-up call” of John the Baptist in today’s Gospel to summon us to conversion. We need to welcome God’s grace and power— present in Jesus Christ—in order to become part of God’s dream for the world.
DISCUSS by Father Dan Kroger, OFM • In the first reading (Isaiah 11:1-10), we hear: “On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.” Who is Isaiah talking about? How does Isaiah think that things will really change when that “stump of Jesse” comes? Who is Jesse that Isaiah is talking about? • St. Paul prays that the Scriptures (the whole Bible) were written to us, so that we might have hope and encouragement by the word of God. Paul encourages us, in this week's second reading, to “Welcome one another, as Christ welcomed you.” What does he expect his readers to do?
• In the Gospel, what was the message that John the Baptist was preaching in the desert of Judea? How did John the Baptist look? What did he eat? How did the people respond to John the Baptist?
ACT by Susan Hines-Brigger • The Gospel talks about people being baptized in the Jordan River. Ask your parents or other adults to show you pictures of your Baptism and of the different symbols from that day. • Send a note to your godparents thanking them for agreeing to be a role model in your faith life
In this week's Faith and Family, we hear about the preaching of John the Baptist.