Biblical Readings for each day's Mass,
(as listed in the Liturgical Calendar for Ireland, 2018)

07 January (Sun.) The Baptism of the Lord

1st Reading: Isaiah 55:1-11

Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near

Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live. I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.

See, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples. See, you shall call nations that you do not know, and nations that do not know you shall run to you, because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you.

Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake their way, and the unrighteous their thoughts; let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

Responsorial Psalm (from Isaiah 12)

Resp.: You will draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation

Truly, God is my salvation, I trust, I shall not fear.
For the Lord is my strength, my song, he became my saviour.
With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. (R./)

Give thanks to the Lord, give praise to his name!
Make his mighty deeds known to the peoples!
Declare the greatness of his name. (R./)

Sing a psalm to the Lord for he has done glorious deeds,
make them known to all the earth!
People of Zion, sing and shout for joy
for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel. (R./)

2nd Reading: 1 John 5:1-9

About love and faith, and the witness that God has given to his Son

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.

For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith.

Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one that testifies, for the Spirit is the truth.

There are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood, and these three agree. If we receive human testimony, the testimony of God is greater; for this is the testimony of God that he has testified to his Son.

Gospel: Mark 1:7-11

At the baptism the Father says, "You are my Son" and the Spirit rests on him

John (the Baptist) proclaimed, "The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his
sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased."

Alternative Readings:

1st Reading: Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7

A courageous servant of God will help others to keep the Covenant

Thus says the Lord:
"Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break,
and a dimly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.

He will not grow faint or be crushed
until he has established justice in the earth;
and the coastlands wait for his teaching.
I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness,
I have taken you by the hand and kept you;
I have given you as a covenant to the people,
a light to the nations,
to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
from the prison those who sit in darkness."

2nd Reading: Acts of the Apostles 10:34-38

After his baptism of Jesus went about doing good. Baptism sends us out to do good

Then Peter began to speak to them: "I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: he is Lord of all. That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him."


Where is baptism leading us?

I've had the privilege of leading a pilgrimage to the Holy Land on several occasions. One of my abiding memories is of an immersion up to my thighs in the river Jordan, where I and all my pilgrim friends renewed the promises of our baptism. It was a moving moment, when one could envision the Spirit hovering and the Father confirming each of us as his son or daughter. All who took part will remember that moment with great emotion, and with a sense of renewed commitment.

The baptism of Jesus is a moment of special grace in our story of salvation. Not only did he join us in our human condition, seeking moral and spiritual renewal, but the Father and the Spirit were seen and heard to be present with him by the banks of the Jordan, for the renewal of our human race. The gospel uses the simple phrase that "the heavens were opened," but it is a powerful statement. Later on, when Jesus completed his life-journey on Calvary, we read how "the veil of the Temple was rent in two." Now at last we were free to enter the Holy of Holies. Today's gospel is the beginning of a journey, which, through our own baptism, each of us is asked to travel. It is a journey full of purpose.

Each of us needs a sense of purpose and pattern to our Christian living. When I set out on a journey I need to have a definite idea of where I intend going, and how to make the journey. Peter summarised the purpose and pattern of Christ's life when he said, "went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him." We are invited to make his purpose our own.

A man was down the country travelling along by-roads where the signposts were few and far between. After a while, unsure of his directions, he decided to ask the first person he saw. When he came across a farmer driving his cows home for milking he stopped the car and asked if he was on the right road to Mallow. The farmer told him that he certainly was on the Mallow road. The driver thanked him and was about to move forward when the farmer added, in a nonchalant way, "You're on the right road, but you're going in the wrong direction!'

The vocation of Jesus

José Antonio Pagola

Before describing Jesus' ministry, our Gospels tell of an encounter that radically transformed his life. Mark's is the earliest and simplest account of the vocation of Jesus. After being baptized by John, Jesus feels himself a beloved Child of God, inhabited fully by God's Spirit. He sets out announcing to everyone, through his life and his message, the Good News of a God who is friend and saviour of the human person. So it's not surprising that the Pope, invites us to live these coming years in «a new stage of evangelization», and reminds us that our Church needs more than ever «evangelizers with Spirit». He well knows that only the Spirit of Jesus can instill in us the energy that puts in motion the radical conversion that we need. But by what paths?

This renewal of the Church can only be born of the Gospel itself. The people of today need to listen to the same message that Jesus proclaimed as he went about Galilee, nothing else. We need to «return to the source and recover the original freshness of the Gospel». Only in this way «will we break the worn-out plans of those who try to box in Jesus Christ». Pope Francis speaks of a radical renovation «that can't leave things as they are; merely basic maintenance doesn't work anymore». That's why he asks us «to abandon the comfortable pastoral criteria we have been using forever» and Invite everyone « to be bold and creative in the task of rethinking objectives, structures, the style and the methods of evangelists in our communities».

What we need is a Church that really communicates the Good News of Jesus to the present world. Our Pope warns against «enclosing ourselves in structures that give us a false sense of control or in customs that put people to sleep, while around us there's a hungry multitude and Jesus never tires of telling us: give them something to eat yourselves». He wants us to build a Church «with doors wide open», since the joy of the Gospel is for everyone and «no one should be excluded. » What a relief to hear from our Pope a vision of Church that recovers Jesus' original Spirit, breaking with hidebound attitudes. «Let us act like dispensers of grace and not like micromanagers. The Church is the Father's house where there's room for each one who feels burdened by life».