The First Year of the Immediate Preparation for the Great Jubilee Year 2000

Author: Deacon John Taylor

The first year of the immediate preparation for the Great Jubilee Year 2000"

The fourth in a series by Deacon John Taylor

The first year, 1997, will thus be devoted to reflection on Christ, the Word of God, made man by the power of the Holy Spirit." Pope John Paul II

Why did Jesus come? This question has been asked now for twenty centuries and will be continue to be asked in the coming millennium. The Catechism of the Catholic Church devotes several pages to this question and all of us should study them and meditate on what is presented.

As a child I was taught that God made me to know Him, to love Him, to serve Him in this world and to be happy with Him in the next. As it turns out, mankind, all of us included, turned it's back on God and looked for things to know, things to love and collect, things to be happy with in this world and forgot completely about the next. In a word, we messed up!!

Why did Jesus come? First of all, to bring us back, to restore our relationship with God, the Father who had made us. It was an act of pure beautiful love for we poor creatures who had lost our way. Jesus came as a blazing light into our darkness, a bright beacon guiding us back, showing us how we need to live. He came to show us how to be holy because that's the only way we can be happy. This is one of those simple, obvious facts we tend to ignore. We can verify this easily by looking at people in our lives who are holy. There's a simple, basic happiness about them, a quiet serenity that surrounds them. I know that's contrary to what the world tells us, but then the world is in such a mess we'd be dumb to listen to it, and yet we tend to, don't we!

God made us to be like Him, in His image and likeness, and the more we resemble Him, the happier we'll be. Sorry guys and girls, that's just how it is! You can accept it and be happy, or you can reject it and be miserable! It's your choice. The reason Jesus came, was to show us how to be what we're meant to be. If we accept the fact that He, who is God eternal, came and was born a man on that first Christmas day, then we can call ourselves Christians. Of course if we really do, it must show in how we live, in how we love God, the people around us and all of His creation.

Jesus is absolutely unique. He is true God and at the same time true man. We worship Him as God, coeternal with the Father and the Holy Spirit and yet He has a human mother just like you and I do. Mary, whom we honor, is the proof of the humanity of Jesus. He is her son, that's why we look at her with such awe. He's one of us through Mary. She is the "Mother of God". All of the honor paid to Mary through the past twenty centuries by the Catholic Church is absolutely nothing compared to the awesome reality of the conception of the Son of God in her womb. As Jesus is unique, so too is Mary, for to deny Mary is to deny Christianity, to deny that He is truly man, at the same time as He is truly God.

The church teaches that though Mary was His mother, she remained a virgin, that God is His Father. The Archangel Gabriel in the Gospel of Luke says it all, "Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you" Then after calming her fears, "Behold you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give Him the throne of David His father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end". Mary asked how this could be since she had no relations with a man and the angel replied, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God." God is His father, but Mary is His mother. Is there any wonder that the Church honors her? We are simply imitating God, as all good servants should!

January 6, 1997 **************************************************

The fifth in a series by Deacon John Taylor

We human beings are a curious lot. We always wonder about things we don't know and the life of Jesus is no exception. Scripture tells us a lot about Him, and yet there's an awful lot left out. There are a lot of mysteries there.

We know about the Angel Gabriel coming to announce His coming and the whole story of Christmas tells us about His birth. We hear about shepherds coming to look for an infant dressed in swaddling clothes in a manger, about Magi seeking Him from far off bearing gifts, and about Herod's fear of a possible rival. We read about Joseph hurrying Mary and the infant off to safety in Egypt and eventually their return, but then there are long gaps. What about when He was a year old and learning to walk? What kind of games did He play when He was six? We have a brief glimpse when He's twelve and then a longer blank until he's about thirty years old. We don't even know when Joseph died, or how. It leaves a lot of questions unanswered!

If the gospels were written "so that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God, and that believing you might have life in His name", then maybe we should look at what is there as well as what isn't. The story of the Annunciation and the Visitation could provide us with enough to meditate on for a lifetime, but what about Christmas. We see Joseph and Mary being obedient to Roman law in going to Bethlehem and the shepherds did as the angels told them.

Jesus was circumcised on the eighth day and submitted to the Jewish law, he became a part of Abraham's descendants and began a lifetime of participation in it. The wise men had great faith in following a star. We can learn so much from them, after all they were pagans, yet open to God's call. I especially love the story of the presentation, when Jesus as the first born son was to be presented to God and He is recognized and praised by an old man, Simeon and an old woman Anna. In my life there are quiet, simple people just like them, who come to church for mass because they too recognize and praise Him.

When Joseph is told in a dream to flee to Egypt, he does just that. I wonder if many of us would pull up roots and go to a foreign country like he did, or if we'd look for another option first. Obviously Joseph and Mary had great faith and trust in God.

When they returned, Jesus was like another Moses whose life had also been threatened when he was a baby, and yet who lead his people out of bondage as Jesus would. The new testament had been prefigured in the old.

There's a gap here and yet, what we know already, shows Mary and Joseph with great faith in God and Jesus growing up in that household. Pope Paul VI says we can learn from the silence, from the family life and from the work that went on. Jesus will be identified as "the carpenter's son". The story of the finding in the temple says so much. it tells us they practiced their faith and made pilgrimages to Jerusalem. It tells us that Jesus was very much aware of His Father's work and that He was dedicated to it. It also tells us that He was obedient to and honored His mother and foster father. There's a lot our world could learn from pondering this along with Mary.

Finally, John the Baptist appears on the scene, a rough man, out of the desert, calling us to repentance, to change our ways, to bear witness to Christ. We really need to think about John. I wonder if I can say about Jesus in my life, "He must increase, but I must decrease", I wonder? January 10, 1997 ****************************************

The sixth in a series by Deacon John Taylor

The people of Israel were excited about a wild looking man who was preaching near the Jordan river. His message was that they were to repent of their sinfulness, he didn't mince words even to the religious leaders, "You brood of vipers! Who told you to flee from the wrath to come? Give some evidence that you mean to reform." John the Baptist burst on the scene looking like an Old Testament prophet, clothed in camel's hair with a leather belt around his waist, eating grasshoppers and wild honey and he baptized and exhorted the people to turn back to God. I'm not sure why we respond to this kind of a man of God, I guess we recognize how different they are from us who live comfortably, and it makes us uneasy. John is someone we can contemplate, and consider how serious we are about our faith. I wonder what I'd do if God called me to be like him?

One day John was baptizing sinners (even tax collectors and soldiers came), and suddenly Jesus was there to be baptized by him. John recognized who this was and in his humility tried to refuse, but Jesus answered: "Give in for now. We must do this if we would fulfill all of God's demands." So John gave in. What a lesson for us! From the standpoint of John, he recognized the "Lamb of God", the messiah, and knew his place, and yet he accepted what God wanted him to do. That's true humility, to know your unworthiness and yet to accept, what could be taken as a great honor, simply because that's God's will. All priests who have the great honor and privilege of consecration the body and blood of Jesus must be feel like John.

Scripture tells us that at that moment the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove descended upon Jesus and the Father proclaimed, "This is My beloved Son." The mission of Jesus, the messiah, the Son of God, begins. From this point on Jesus would be the source of the Holy Spirit for us, of hope and of holiness for us.

Why did Jesus submit to John's baptism? The Catechism tells us that it was His acceptance of His role as God's suffering servant, and of being numbered among us, the sinners He had come to save. God loves us that much! We who have been baptized have a great privilege, and yet we have a grave obligation too, to be good news to those around us. We can't forget it.

It's interesting, isn't it, that upon accepting His mission, the first thing that happens is that Jesus is lead into the desert to be tested. I don't know if you've ever been in a desert, but the creature comforts are pretty scarce there. It's a place where you learn to put first things first, to see what matters and what doesn't. I think we need that too, to periodically come apart and consider what's important in our lives, what's central and what's excess baggage.

Of course, when we try to draw close to God, to get our lives straight, you know who comes on the scene. Jesus had that experience too. After forty days of solitude, Satan tempts him three times, trying to persuade Him to "do His own thing." We can learn so much from how Jesus responds, not with anger or shouting, but quietly and firmly, quoting scripture, what the word of God says. Don't miss the point though that Satan also quotes scripture, but he uses it to confuse and compromise. Notice too, that Luke says that the devil left Him, but only to wait for another opportunity. Don't ever think it's any different for us.

Jesus showed himself to be totally obedient to God's will. Now I know that in our society "obedience" is a bad word, but we can learn it's true meaning from Christ and from reading the accounts of the temptation in the desert, and indeed the entire Gospel. If our Lord lived His human life in strict obedience to the will of the Father, then perhaps that needs to be our highest priority. How are we to know the will of God for us? Well, we can start with the commandments and the beatitudes. If we follow them conscientiously, and come frequently to the sacred signs of God's presence, the sacraments, then we'll have made an excellent start. January 14, 1997

Deacon John Taylor, St. Mary of the Mission Parish, Opelika, Alabama

(c) copyright 1997, John E. Taylor