Sunday, January 31, 2016

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time - February 7, 2016

First Reading Commentary
In all three Readings this coming weekend we see God's call on the lives of individuals: In this Reading, Isaiah; in the Second Reading, Paul; and in the Gospel, Peter.  All three individuals imply unworthiness to such a calling.  We all have that feeling, don't we?  After all, who is worthy of Almighty God?  At Mass, we communally express our unworthiness to receive Jesus in the Eucharist.  In our own lives we are sometimes in circumstances in which our worthiness is judged by others; and there are times when we sit in the judgment seat and determine the worthiness or unworthiness of others.  And, of course, God probably finds our decision making process very amusing. 
In Scripture, for example, who would ever consider Peter as the ideal choice to be Chief Shepherd of Christ's Church; or who would've chosen Paul, enemy of Christ that he was, to be an apostle?  Scripture has many examples of those called by God who seem unworthy by human standards. 
In this Reading we find Isaiah being called by God to be a prophet.  The opening verse places this Reading in the year that King Uzziah died.  Whenever a story starts out like that, it's natural to assume that the death has already occurred.  Saint Jerome, however, offers another possibility; he plants the seed in our minds that this could be Isaiah's first successful prediction and King Uzziah wasn't dead until after Isaiah's calling. 
Isaiah saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty Throne.  Isaiah's vision of the Lord was probably of the Son, not the Father, as Jesus Himself seems to suggest in Saint John's Gospel when He refers to Himself as the fulfillment of the words spoken by Isaiah; and that Isaiah said those words because he saw the Lord's glory (cf. John 12:38-41). 
Seraphim are the first of the nine orders of angels and they cried out: "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts!"  The three-peat of the word "holy" has carried on through to our modern day liturgy.  It may also be a clue to what is to be revealed much later, that God is One in three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 
After Isaiah exclaims his unworthiness because of his unclean lips, one of the Seraphim touched his lips with an ember.  An ember is a piece of coal which still has a slight glow to it when a fire is smoldering.  The Latin version actually uses a word which translates as "coal" but the Septuagint translates as "carbuncle" which is a gem, when held up to sunlight, has the appearance of a glowing coal.  Saint Basil interprets the ember to symbolize "the word of God" while Saint Jerome refers to it as "the spirit of prophecy". 
In our own hearts and minds we may deem ourselves unworthy of God's call, but this Reading does show us that when God calls us, He will supply the graces necessary to fulfill that call.  As loyal and willing servants of the Lord and each other, the abandonment of our will and our submission to God's will moves our hearts to cry out with Isaiah: "Here I am, send me!"

Second Reading Commentary
Saint Paul refers to himself as "one born abnormally"; this is the humility of Paul speaking.  The point he is making is that Christ appeared to him; and he judges himself to be the least deserving of such a gift.  He doesn't consider himself to be in the same league as Cephas, who is Peter, and the other apostles because he admittedly persecuted the Church.  And so, he refers to himself as an abnormal birth because of his self-proclaimed unworthiness and also, unlike the original twelve, Paul was called after Christ's death, Resurrection and Ascension.  He does say, however, that the grace of God working through him has made him toil harder than the others -- harder, not better -- and why not!  It's not that Jesus favored Paul over the others or on the flip-side was punishing Paul by making him work harder because of his former days as a persecutor, but when we consider that Paul was indeed a persecutor of the Church, his extra-effort in laboring for Christ gives him much credibility especially when he is preaching the same message as the other apostles; or as Paul puts it, he is handing on that which he received.  Paul acknowledges that God's grace working through him has not been ineffective as he writes in this letter: "So we preach and so you believed." 
When God calls us and we respond affirmatively to that call, ineffectiveness is not an option; not because we're so pious that we're God's logical choice, but because no matter who we are or what we used to be by our own doing, God's grace is greater than all of that.
Gospel Commentary
Notice that Saint Luke mentions there are two boats; and Jesus got into the one belonging to Simon Peter.  And what did Jesus do when He got into Simon's boat?  He sat down and began to teach the crowds.  This perhaps is a preview of the Chair of Peter or the office of the papacy.  Something else to consider is the lake in which the Chair (boat) is on.  The plain of Gennesaret, because of its beauty, has been called "the Paradise of Galilee"; and from the word "paradise" we get a sense of eternal beauty or heaven.  Water is a symbol of life and from it the faithful are baptized and given a new life in Christ, a life that is eternal.  And so, from this Chair (boat) which rests on these waters of paradise the faithful receive the words of everlasting life. 
When Jesus was finished speaking He instructed Simon by saying, "Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch."  Simon responds by saying: "Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing."  After this exchange you can almost visualize Jesus giving Simon a divine stare as if to say: "Do you really doubt Me?"  And Simon would then lower his head in embarrassment while mumbling the words, "But at your command I will lower the nets."  And, of course, after following Jesus' instructions, so many fish were caught that the nets were tearing. 
For certain, a life committed to the Lord is a life of abundance.  After all of this, Simon, in astonishment over the amount of fish that were caught, must have felt compelled to somehow explain to his Lord why he questioned His instructions.  What he did instead was fall at the knees of Jesus and declare his unworthiness by saying: "Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man."  And what does Simon get for his lack of faith and lack of trust in Jesus? -- Promoted to a fisher of men -- certainly not logical by human standards.  Scripture does remind us, however, that God does not see as man sees because the Lord looks into the heart (cf. 1 Samuel 16:7).  Perhaps what Jesus saw in Simon was a humble heart.  Simon, with divine assistance, caught an abundant and overflowing amount of fish; now, answering Jesus' call to be a fisher of men, he would be destined to find in his net innumerable souls.

Thursday, January 28, 2016


Today is the feast of Saint Thomas Aquinas. At Matins the Carthusians listened to these words of wisdom from this liturgical day's highly acclaimed citizen of heaven.
* * * * * *
The principle of every good is in this: the law of love is the source of spiritual life. It is a natural and manifest fact that the loving heart is inhabited by what it loves. Whoever loves God possesses Him within. “Who dwells in charity dwells in God and God in him” (1 Saint John 4:16). The nature of love transforms whoever loves into the beloved being. If we love God we will be completely divine. “Whoever is united with the Lord becomes one spirit with Him” (1 Corinthians 6:17).

Without charity, the soul no longer acts: “Whoever does not love abides in death” (1 Saint John 3:14). If a person possesses all the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but lacks charity, that person has no life. For it matters not whether one has the grace of tongues, or the gift of faith, or any other gift such as prophecy; these do not bring life without charity. Even if a dead body should be adorned with gold and precious jewels, it nevertheless remains dead. Charity leads to the observance of the divine commandments. Charity is present if one is occupied with great things; but if one is not so occupied, charity is not present. We see a lover do great and difficult things because of the One loved, and that is why the Lord says, “If anyone loves Me he will keep My word” (Saint John 14:23). Whoever keeps this command and the law of divine love fulfills the whole law. Charity provides protection against adversity. Misfortune cannot harm one who has charity; rather it becomes useful to that person. Misfortune and difficulties seem pleasant to the lover. Charity truly leads to happiness, since eternal blessedness is promised only to those who have charity. For all other things are insufficient without charity. You must note that it is only the different degrees of charity, and not those of any other virtues, which constitute the different degrees of blessedness. Many of the saints were more abstemious than the apostles, but the apostles excel all the other saints in blessedness because of their higher degree of charity.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time - January 31, 2016

Click here for the Readings
First Reading Commentary
Although the words used in this Reading are meant specifically for the prophet Jeremiah, one can get the sense that similar words are spoken to each and every soul created by God. 
When God says, "I knew you," these words are designed to show affection.  To be known or infinitely loved before being formed in the womb outlines God's plan for our soul's eternal destiny. 
We are advised, however, to gird our loins for a fight which means to get ready for the battle we face in this life because our privilege to call God “Father” and our discipleship of His Son may not always be well-received by our culture.  Fortunately we are promised by God that no matter what crosses we have to bear, victory will be ours because He will deliver us. 
Indeed the victory has been gained for us by Jesus Christ as the promise of resurrection and eternal joy and peace await us when the battle is finished.
Second Reading Commentary
It's best to begin by pointing out that everywhere in this Reading where the word "love" appears, the Latin Vulgate uses a word which translates as "charity" which is defined as: Love for God and love for neighbor, which, of course, are inseparable. All of the examples used in this Reading are spiritual gifts given out of love by God Almighty; therefore, without love none of these gifts would exist.  Paul's point, then, is that God is the Giver of gifts because of His love for us; hence, it is for love of God and neighbor that the recipient of such gifts is to share those gifts with God's people. 
The reference to a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal symbolizes someone who's in it for personal notoriety, since a gong or cymbal produces a loud noise which would cause others to take notice. 
The example of: "If I give away everything I own" shows that faith and charitable works go hand-in-hand.  Exactly how important is this virtue of charity or love?  Eighteenth century exegete, Dom Augustin Calmet answers with these words: "I formerly judged of the goodness and excellence of these spiritual gifts by the advantages they procured; but after the Almighty had bestowed upon me His particular Light, my opinion was far otherwise.  Prophecy and the gift of languages are certainly very estimable gifts, yet charity is much more excellent.  It is by charity we approach near to God, that we become His true Image.  Can we, then, wonder at the magnificent praises, glorious prerogatives and surprising effects Saint Paul gives to this all necessary virtue?"
In the application of this Reading in our modern times, one need not look any further than Saint John Paul II.  He exhibited before our very eyes his belief that “love never fails.”  Towards the end of his earthly journey we watched as his tongue failed, his ability to verbally communicate was “brought to nothing.”  The walls of temporality imprison us all, but the Holy Father’s mysticism was able to scales those walls just enough to be able to see partially what lies beyond; and when he breathed his last, whatever in him that was indistinct, changed to a face-to-Face encounter.  His partialness was transformed into fullness.  The Perfect came to take him home.
Gospel Commentary
Isn't this the son of Joseph. . .  Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place."  Two separate statements: the first is asked by those in the synagogue; the second is said by Jesus.  Two separate statements but both have a similar meaning.  Both make us aware that the impressions and opinions we have of others can become stalemates within our own minds; and the solution is to be open to and accept the movement of the Spirit.  Not a whole lot is known about Jesus' younger years but the question, "Isn't this the son of Joseph" would seem to suggest that those hidden years in Jesus' life were rather ordinary and there probably wasn't anything about His life that was all that noticeable. 
This Gospel begins where last week's finished with Jesus proclaiming Himself as the fulfillment of a prophecy found in Isaiah.  This is an extraordinary statement especially when it seems that all that is implied about Him is rather ordinary.  Indeed no prophet is accepted in his own native place. 
With any long-term relationship we have in our own lives, we're usually pretty confident that we know what that person is like; and what they're capable or not capable of doing.  This would be considered our ordinary perception of that person.  When that person, however, does something or becomes someone contrary to the notions and opinions we have already formed, it becomes difficult to accept or believe and the ordinary now becomes extraordinary.  There's the former juvenile delinquent who's now a police officer; or the historically struggling student who's now on the dean's list at college; and how about that former self-proclaimed agnostic who's now a cleric.  There is Saint Paul, who was a staunch enemy of Christianity who ended up becoming one of Christ's greatest disciples.  There's the virtually unknown, uneducated fisherman named Peter who ends up being the Church's first pope.  Perhaps you have done something or become someone that your family and closest friends find difficult to believe.  Sadly for some, being a devout disciple of Christ is a source of strain within their own household. 
Our own human weakness, skepticism and pride can make it difficult to accept the extraordinary or unforeseen.  Time is also an issue.  If those in the synagogue knew Jesus to be the son of Joseph, after all those years of familiarity with this seemingly ordinary Person, how could He possibly be the Messiah?  Once someone is perceived in a certain way, anything contrary to that is not easily accepted and sometimes that disbelief can  lead to disrespectful treatment of that person because of that human stubbornness that holds on to a perception. 
The ordinary expectation of the Messiah was revealed by the prophets, namely the salvation of the Jews.  The reality, however, of what has been achieved by the Redeemer is extraordinary, namely the salvation of not just the Jews, but all of God's people, past, present and future; and He gained this victory for us through suffering. 
As Jesus continues to speak, the crowd becomes furious and intends to hurl Him down and throw Him out of town but Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away.  Jesus may have slipped through the crowd using ordinary means but Saint Ambrose would have us also consider that He may have escaped using extraordinary or miraculous means, such as vanishing or a sudden, unexplainable change of heart on the part of the crowd. 
In our own struggles to accept the extraordinary, the belief that Jesus dwells within us is the key to receiving the wisdom to know that through us He is capable of doing all things. 

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time - January 24, 2016

First Reading Commentary
This Reading along with this weekend's Gospel has settings of a gathered assembly.  Ezra reads from the book of God's Law which most likely would have been from Deuteronomy and Leviticus.  He proclaimed God's Law from daybreak till midday; that's about six hours.  Okay, who is complaining about the length of the modern day Mass? 
When Ezra opens the scroll, all the people rose much like we do at Mass when the Gospel is proclaimed.  Ezra also interpreted what was read so that those present could understand.  In our own tradition this would translate into a homily in which the homilist explains the Scriptures for us, not necessarily on a scholarly level, but more importantly on a level of application.  That is to say, the homilist takes the events which occurred thousands of years ago and gives us some food for thought on how we can apply God's word to our own lives. 
Ezra and the Levites said to the people: "Today is holy to the Lord your God."  The Latin text reveals that this assembly occurred on the first day of the seventh month; therefore, this would not have been the Jewish Sabbath since the Jewish Sabbath is the seventh day.  More than likely this was one of the high holy days since rich foods and sweet drinks followed; and such delights give us a sense of heaven. 
Many of the traditions of our own faith come to us from the Jewish traditions and this Reading gives us an example.  In the Jewish faith there was only one feast for mourning, which was the day of expiation.  All the other holy days were joyful, hence the eating of rich foods and drinking of sweet drinks.  It is for this same reason that the Church does not fast on joyful solemnities. 
This Reading closes with the words: "Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength!"  Much later in history Saint Paul would preach very similar words except he would encourage us to rejoice in the Lord always.  The Lord is indeed our strength and when we trust in that, sadness can never prevail.
Second Reading Commentary
This Reading teaches us to put aside our egos and also avoid the capital sin of envy.  Perhaps there are times that our God-given gifts and talents may seem less useful when compared to the gifts and talents of others.  This, of course, is not the case.  Saint Paul uses the example of a human body to make this point.  Some parts of the human body may seem less useful or less important than other body parts; but each body part is integral and contributes to the overall health of the entire body.  The same is true for the Mystical Body of Christ.  While we may wish that we could sing as beautifully as that cantor does or speak as eloquently as that priest does, the truth is that these envious gifts are given to these individuals by God for His own perfect reasons.  Our calling is not to wish we were like someone else; instead, our calling is to offer to others the gifts we do have. 
For most of us, the gifts that we have are meant for 'behind the scenes' work.  Few of us possess gifts that are in the forefront or are publicly noticeable; but that doesn't make our gifts less important.  On the contrary, in the Eyes of God we are all equal; and our journey to holiness can be best achieved by putting to maximum use what God has given us.  On the flip side, if you do have gifts that are used mostly in a public setting, seemingly always prowling around is the temptation of pride. 
As recipients of God's gifts, it is always commendable to set aside time to offer praise and gratitude to the gift Giver, without Whom our efforts would be useless.  And so, even though we might be tempted from time-to-time to think that God somehow must have overlooked something by not giving us the ability to lay hands on someone and heal them, we are, nonetheless, still called to greatness by making the best possible use of what God has given us because service is our shared calling; and in doing so, we will be fulfilling our duty as a working, viable and crucial Body part in the Body of Christ.
Gospel Commentary
In the first sentence the word "fulfilled" when read from the Latin Vulgate translates as "accomplished".  Perhaps "fulfilled" is a better translation because it gives a sense of prophetic words becoming true to its fullness. 
Saint Luke is addressing this to Theophilus who is probably a close friend or colleague since the name is preceded with the title, "most excellent".  It should be noted, however, that the name "Theophilus" means "a lover of God".  Therefore, if the name of Theophilus is used symbolically, we, as lovers of God, are minimally the intended secondary audience. 
After Jesus reads the Scripture passage from the prophet Isaiah, He proclaims Himself as the fulfillment of that passage.  "He has anointed Me to bring glad tidings to the poor."  In this verse the word "poor" can be understood to mean the Gentiles since at that time the Gentiles had little knowledge of God, His Law, or His prophets.  The big picture of this prophecy, however, deals with more than just the Gentiles.  The overall theme of this prophecy is the redemption of humankind; and in this setting redemption was just proclaimed by the Redeemer Himself. 
Keeping in mind that Jesus' audience is Jewish, the words "a year acceptable to the Lord" would be better understood by the ancient Jews because it is a reference to a jubilee year in which slaves were given their freedom.  The understanding prophetically then, is that Jesus will set us free from our slavery to sin and death.  This story is much clearer to those of us who already know the 'Jesus Story'.  At the time that Jesus actually read this prophecy it's not likely that anyone present in the synagogue understood what He meant when proclaiming Himself as the fulfillment. 
When reading the Gospels we find that Jesus had quite a few run-ins with the Pharisees, Sadducees and scribes because they misunderstood and misinterpreted the Law and the Prophets; therefore, it seems reasonable to theorize that when Jesus had finished reading Isaiah's prophecy and then proclaiming Himself as the fulfillment, the hearers were left scratching their heads in bewilderment.  In fact, we'll continue with this Gospel next weekend and you'll find that the assembly was amazed at the words that came from Jesus' Mouth; but as Jesus continued to speak, the assembly became filled with fury. 
The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council expounds on Christ's proclamation of Isaiah by conveying that Christ is always present in His Church, especially in her liturgical celebrations.  He is present in the Sacrifice of the Mass.  By His power He is present in the sacraments so that when anybody baptizes it is really Christ Himself Who baptizes.  He is present in His word since it is He Who speaks when the holy Scriptures are read in the Church.  Lastly, He is present when the Church prays and sings, for He has promised, "Where two or three are gathered together in My Name there am I in the midst of them."


Sunday, January 10, 2016

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time - January 17, 2016

First Reading Commentary
The word "espoused" is used here to show the relationship of God and His people – and prophetically His Church.  He, our Builder, shall marry us and He will also rejoice in us.  Using the imagery of a marriage shows how much God loves His people since by the Almighty's own Law the bond of marriage is indissoluble. 

Notice the other examples used to describe what we mean to Him: He refers to us as a glorious crown, a royal diadem, and His delight; we are set aside as His very own.  There have been many infidelities on man’s part throughout human history, yet our Lord refuses to permanently walk away from us and leave us desolate and forsaken.  His love for us is so strong, so far beyond our comprehension that He gave His only Son for us.  He did this so that we may behold and experience His perfect Love for all eternity.
Second Reading Commentary
This Reading gives us a really good blueprint of the Mystical Body of Christ.  We are able to have a better understanding of what it means to be members of that One Body.  This Reading reminds us that to each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.  Not all of us possess the same gifts; our gifts are different according to God's plan for us.  The benefit of these gifts is not meant for our own gain but for the good of the entire Body.  Therefore, the gifts that are given to us as individuals are meant to be shared with the rest of the Body. 

When we hear God's call and are able to discern and recognize our gifts, then we and our gifts become a working Body part.  If you think you don't know what your gifts are, as a disciple of Christ, it's likely that your gifts are being utilized anyway.  All of these gifts, regardless of how they are distributed, are produced by One and the same Spirit.
Gospel Commentary
Like most Scripture stories there is much more going on than what is clearly defined in the story itself; and this Gospel is no exception.  What is clear is that the changing of water into wine is the first of many miracles to be performed by Jesus in His public ministry.  And so it is evident that this Man called Jesus is something more than an ordinary man. 

The Church teaches us that this Gospel has something to offer for the Sacrament of Matrimony since the setting is a wedding.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church reads: "On the threshold of His public life Jesus performs His first sign — at His Mother's request — during a wedding feast.  The Church attaches great importance to Jesus' presence at the wedding at Cana.  She sees in it the confirmation of the goodness of marriage and the proclamation that thenceforth marriage will be an efficacious sign of Christ's presence" (CCC 1613). 

The Church next shifts our attention to Mary's role.  The Catechism also reads: "The Gospel reveals to us how Mary prays and intercedes in faith.  At Cana, the Mother of Jesus asks her Son for the needs of a wedding feast; this is the sign of another feast — that of the wedding of the Lamb where He gives His Body and Blood at the request of the Church, His Bride.  It is at the hour of the New Covenant, at the foot of the Cross, that Mary is heard as the Woman, the new Eve, the true Mother of all the living" (CCC 2618). 

The headwaiter says: "Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now."  Our "now" occurs at every Mass.  During the preparation of the gifts the inferior wine is brought to the altar.  At the Consecration the inferior wine is changed into something far superior: Jesus' own Precious Blood. 

If we knew nothing about Jesus, this Gospel begins to show us what we can expect from Him.  We see Him as Man in the sense that He is among family and friends taking part in the normal occurrences of life, in this case a wedding.  We also see Him as God in the miracle of changing water into wine.  But also, and perhaps more importantly, we see His divine involvement in the lives of others.  Mary asks for this miracle and her prayer is answered and the guests receive the good wine.  The headwaiter's prophetic statement is said under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. 

Jesus walked the earth at the time of this wedding feast and throughout the Gospel stories; but we know that there would come a time when He would no longer walk among us physically; but He would still be present to us not only in the Eucharist, but also, as this Gospel and other biblical stories show us, through the lives of others.  If we are truly one in the Body of Christ, then this Gospel, right at the beginning of Jesus' public life, teaches us how much care and attention should be given to each other.  Our willingness to be temples of the Holy Spirit opens the floodgates for us to be possible instruments of divine revelation for each other.  What is our Lord saying to us through the words and deeds of others? 

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Baptism of the Lord - January 10, 2016

First Reading Commentary (Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7)
In the twelfth chapter of Saint Matthew's Gospel is found the fulfillment of this prophecy from Isaiah concerning the Messiah.  In fact, this Reading is used in that chapter to show that Christ has indeed fulfilled it. 
Generally, whenever the word "nations" is used in most modern translations, the older texts translate as "Gentiles".  And so, the Messiah prophesied here shall bring forth justice to the Gentiles; and justice means moral and religious discernment and knowledge of right and wrong which is an attribute of the Messiah. 
In the older translations of prophecy the interpreters tend to approach the Scriptures with a pre-Messianic mindset, and thus the reader will read that God's plan of salvation will include both Jews and Gentiles.  The more modern translations use the word "nations" to express a point of view from the post-Resurrection age to show that there is no longer any distinction between Jew and Gentile. 
It is because of Christ's humble Humanity that He is called a Servant.  "The coastlands will wait for His teaching" in the Latin Vulgate translates as, "The islands shall wait for His law" while the Septuagint translates as, "The Gentiles shall hope in His Name." 
From the verse, "I, the Lord, have called you…" to the end of this Reading seems to be an addition which came later and is probably not from the original author.  These closing verses show that the Messiah's mission is ordained by God, in which He will be set as a Covenant of the people -- all people, and a Light for the nations -- all nations. 
Christ healed those who were physically blind but most likely the blindness in this Reading refers to spiritual blindness in which many were imprisoned and in darkness because of a lack of spirituality and an obsession for material wealth. 
Beyond the interpretation of Jesus as the Messiah, this Reading also invites us as individuals to reflect on our own baptism.  In baptism the soul hears the Voice of God saying: "Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put My Spirit."  How faithful have I been to that calling to be a servant of God?  How committed am I to pleasing Him?  Am I a holy temple in which His Spirit can dwell?

First Reading Commentary (Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11)
In the opening verse the prophet Isaiah is referring to the end of Babylonian captivity and prophetically the coming of the Messiah.  The word “service” in the second sentence is somewhat sugar-coated; most translations opt for words like “evil” and “warfare”.  “Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!  Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill shall be made low; the rugged land shall be made a plain, the rough country, a broad valley.”  These words should turn our hearts and minds to the coming of the Messiah as these are the words that were proclaimed by Saint John the Baptist.  The verse that follows prophetically sets the scene of the Baptism of Christ as all who were present witnessed the glory of the Lord and heard the Voice of God say: “You are My beloved Son; with You I am well pleased.” 
“Go up on to a high mountain, Zion, herald of glad tidings; cry out at the top of your voice, Jerusalem, herald of good news!”  The word “mountain” is used here to symbolically show elevation like placing oneself upon a stage with the whole world as your audience.  The idea here is to give the image of making sure that everyone can see and hear the good news proclaimed concerning the coming of the Messiah Who is the Lord God, bringing His reward which is our salvation. 
The final verse is familiar and comforting as we see the tender side of our Savior Who feeds His flock with His own precious Body and Blood, gathering together His baptized family, carrying and leading us with care.
Second Reading Commentary (Acts 10:34-38)
Cornelius was a centurion who was very devout and believed in Israel's God.  Peter's speech is the first recorded address to Gentiles.  Peter publicly states that all nations and all peoples who act uprightly are acceptable to God.  Observance of the Mosaic Law is not a prerequisite for belonging to God. 
The Greek text is a little unclear as to whether the word that God sent to the Israelites is referring to Jesus Christ, the eternal "Word", or the "word" meaning Christ's teachings and/or the Gospel.  Most translations accept it to mean the latter; although the peace proclaimed through Jesus Christ could not have been proclaimed by anyone else because Jesus is the Source of true peace. 
Peter proclaims Christ as "Lord of all" which is proof of His Divinity.  Peter continues by stating that the Jesus story began after the baptism that John preached which is an acceptance of John the Baptist's ministry and a belief that John was part of a divine plan.  God anointed Jesus' Human Nature with the graces of the Holy Spirit so that He may begin His public Ministry as the Messiah.
Second Reading Commentary (Titus 2:11-14; 3:4-7)
There is a difference of opinion among scholars whether Saint Paul is actually the author of the letter to Titus.  Those who believe he is the author believe so because the writing style is similar to the first letter to Timothy.  Those who think otherwise believe so because in the letter to Titus, Paul writes about departing from Titus and leaving him to care for the Church in Crete.  As far as we know, Paul has never visited Crete. 
The author of this Reading, regardless of who it is, describes the powerful weapon that love is.  It is love that is the driving force of the grace of God.  It is love that has saved us and continues to train us to reject godless ways.  It is God’s love for us that enables us to be baptized, receiving what this Reading calls the “bath of rebirth”, and becoming a part of God’s chosen family.  Love is the reason that Jesus gave Himself for us to deliver us from all lawlessness.  This Reading reminds us that God’s love is given to us out of His kindness and generosity and not because of any righteous deeds we have done.  It is God’s loving grace that justifies us and makes us heirs of eternal life.  It is that simple, four letter word that has the power to do so many wonderful things and has already done miraculous things.  As recipients of so great a gift, it is love that compels us to also offer or share this divine gift to all those we meet.
Gospel Commentary
There are a handful of reasons why all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Christ.  First of all, the circumstances leading up to John’s birth were a bit unusual: His mother Elizabeth was well past the age of being able to conceive; his father Zechariah was stricken and left unable to speak until after John’s birth; plus John’s style of preaching and his ability to attract followers.  There were also rumors floating around that the Messiah had indeed entered into the world because of the story of the Magi and the massacre of the Holy Innocents which occurred during John’s infancy.  All of these reasons were probably still imprinted on the minds of most of the people which led many to a logical conclusion that John indeed was the Christ. 
Receiving John’s baptism was a mere acceptance of what he preached; and what he preached was that there’s One Who is coming Who will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire.  Many who heard John’s words were baptized by him including Jesus.  Certainly Jesus was not in need of anyone’s baptism but He subjected Himself to it to teach humility and to take His place among sinful men and women even though He Himself was sinless. 
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: “The Baptism of Jesus is on His part the acceptance and inauguration of His mission as God’s suffering Servant.  He allows Himself to be numbered among sinners; He is already ‘the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world’” (CCC 536). 
The Father expresses His approval of the Son with the words: “You are My beloved Son; with You I am well pleased.”  At baptism we become children of God.  Give some thought to your own baptism even if you were too young to remember it.  Did our heavenly Father express those very same words: “You are My beloved son/daughter; with you I am well pleased?”  John fulfilled the Lord’s work by reaching out to his fellow men and women; preaching tirelessly for their conversion. 
Jesus came to do the will of His heavenly Father because of His love for the Father.  Jesus took upon Himself the unbearable weight of our own guilty lives.  Both Jesus and John show us that love for God and love for humanity are never incompatible, but instead, always intertwined.  Saint Gregory Nazianzen advises us to venerate the Baptism of Christ and celebrate the feast honorably.  He exhorts us with these words: “Be cleansed so that you may be like lights in the world, a life-giving force to all others, and stand as perfect lights beside that great Light.”