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Spiritual Reflections

Real presence

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It’s impossible to overemphasize the importance of today’s second reading. Paul’s insights give us the foundation for understanding the presence of the risen Jesus among us: an essential part of early Christian experience.

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Compare and contrast

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We have no idea which miracle the historical Jesus first worked. Our four Gospels aren’t much help in determining the event. Each evangelist carefully chooses Jesus’ first miracle. It sets the theme for the rest of his Gospel.

Only in John’s Gospel do we find the changing of water into wine at Cana as the first miracle Jesus performs. There are two keys to understanding its meaning and the theme John is creating. First, throughout his Gospel, John never refers to miracles as miracles. He always calls them “signs.”

Baptism, a first step

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As a community gathers to remember and celebrate the baptism of Jesus, all present are offered an opportunity to reflect upon their own sacramental initiation into Christ and the church. Jesus defined himself and his ministry in terms of the Servant described by Isaiah (first reading). Like him, we are called to learn who we are in Christ and what we are called to be and to do in the world.

Their story, our story

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As we gather together today around God’s living word and the living bread of Eucharist, we will hear Isaiah share his vision of a cavalcade of nations streaming toward Jerusalem. We will take note as he describes gift-bearing riders astride camels, proclaiming God’s praises. We will listen attentively as the author of Ephesians reveals the “mystery” that gentiles and Jews -- that is, all the peoples of the Earth -- are “coheirs, members of the same body and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel” (Ephesians 3:6).

The family of God

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Devotion to the Holy Family has a reasonably long history in Catholicism. It first appeared significantly in 17th-century France and was brought to the New World by Jesuit missionaries and French settlers and governors. In those early years, one would find two typical depictions of the Holy Family: one featuring St. Anne, Mary and the child Jesus, the other picturing Joseph, Mary and Jesus. The devotion received official status in 1921 when, under Pope Benedict XV, the feast was inserted into the general calendar of the Roman rite.

Acting on the word

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Each Gospel is unique. Each evangelist not only structures his work in a special way, he also treats his main characters differently than the other three, giving them traits or personality dimensions on which his original readers were expected to reflect. Luke’s treatment of Mary of Nazareth is classic.

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