The first year of the immediate preparation for the Great Jubilee
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
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
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
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
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,
(c) copyright 1997, John E. Taylor