1st Reading: Is 11:1–10* From the stump of Jesse a shoot will come forth; from his roots a branch will grow and bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest upon him— a Spirit of wisdom and understanding, a Spirit of counsel and power, a Spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord. Not by appearances will he judge, nor by what is said must he decide, but with justice he will judge the poor and with righteousness decide for the meek. … The wolf will dwell with the lamb, the leopard will rest beside the kid, the calf and the lion cub will feed together and a little child will lead them. … The child will put his hand into the viper’s lair. No one will harm or destroy over my holy mountain, for as water fills the sea the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord. On that day the “Root of Jesse” will be raised as a signal for the nations. The people will come in search of him, thus making his dwelling place glorious.
1st Week of Advent Psalter: Week 1
Ps 72:1–2, 7–8, 12–13, 17 Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
Gospel: Lk 10:21–24 Jesus was filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit and said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and made them known to the little ones. Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will. I have been given all things by my Father, so that no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and he to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” Then Jesus turned to his disciples and said to them privately, “Fortunate are you to see what you see, for I tell you that many prophets and kings would have liked to see what you see but did not, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”
lthough the phrase, the lion shall lie down with the lamb, is one of the more popular quotes from the Bible, it’s really misquoted. In the King James version, it’s the wolf that will dwell with the lamb, and it’s the leopard that will rest beside the kid, while the calf and the lion cub will feed together. But, no matter how we interpret it all, the most remarkable part of this prophecy in Isaiah is the amazing prediction that a little child will lead them! There has always been a tendency to overlook the significance of the child Jesus, finding its way into commentaries on his ministry and teaching. The centrality of childhood, in understanding and entering Christ’s kingdom, has been overlooked or marginalized. We haven’t seen children as signs of the kingdom. Our Christian brothers and sisters must start to see that the parent-child relationship is at its most pervasive, when it describes God’s love for each and every person. Christ taught us to pray: Our Father! As Christians, we have been born again and have become like children. This process deeply interweaves us into the incarnation: the child Christ is in us and we are in Him!
02 December wednesday
1st Week of Advent Psalter: Week 1
Ps 23:1–3a, 3b–4, 5, 6 I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.
1st Reading: Is 25:6–10a On this mountain Yahweh Sabaoth will prepare for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines, meat full of marrow, fine wine strained. On this mountain he will destroy the pall cast over all peoples, this very shroud spread over all nations, and death will be no more. The Lord Yahweh will wipe away the tears from all cheeks and eyes; he will take away the humiliation of his people all over the world: for Yahweh has spoken. On that day you will say: This is our God. We have waited for him to save us, let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation. For on this mountain the hand of Yahweh rests. Moab instead will be trodden down, as straw trodden down on a dunghill. Gospel: Mt 15:29–37 Jesus went to the shore of Lake Galilee, and then went up into the hills where he sat down. Great crowds came to him, bringing the dumb, the blind, the lame, the crippled, and many with other infirmities. The people carried them to the feet of Jesus, and he healed them. All were astonished when they saw the dumb speaking, the lame walking, the crippled healed and the blind able to see; so they glorified the God of Israel. Jesus called his disciples and said to them, “I am filled with compassion for these people; they have already followed me for three days and now have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away fasting, or they may faint on the way.” His disciples said to him, “And where shall we find enough bread in this wilderness to feed such a crowd?” Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” They answered, “Seven, and a few small fish.” So Jesus ordered the people to sit on the ground. Then he took the seven loaves and the small fish and gave thanks to God. He broke them and gave them to his disciples, who distributed them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the leftover broken pieces filled seven wicker baskets.
henever we read today’s verse…This is our God. We have waited for him to save us; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation!…we receive the power to comfort our heart so much and thrill our soul. There are many things we can run after in our search for pleasure in this world; but the things of this world never truly satisfy. The pleasure is fleeting, the consequences are devastating, and we end up hating what we may have thought we loved. However, the love of God is so much greater than anything the world could ever offer. God’s mercy is certainly something worth being glad about. God knows our souls in the adversities we go through in life. We are never alone or left by ourselves; God is always there. He sees us, considers what we are going through, and truly cares for us. When we call upon Him and then listen for Him with our heart, He answers and shows us great and mighty things, which we didn’t know, or didn’t realize the value of, before. So yes, let’s be glad and rejoice, because God is working on our behalf!
1st Reading: Is 26:1–6 On that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah: We have a strong city, he himself has set up walls and fortifications to protect us. Open the gates! Let the righteous nation enter, she who is firm in faithfulness. You keep in perfect peace the one of steadfast mind, the one who trusts in you. Trust in Yahweh forever, for Yahweh is an everlasting Rock. He brought down those who dwell on high, he laid low the lofty city, he razed it to the ground, leveled it to the dust, Now it is trampled the poor and the lowly tread upon it.
1st Week of Advent Francis Xavier Psalter: Week 1
Ps 118:1 and 8–9, 19–21, 25–27a Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Gospel: Mt 7:21, 24–27 Jesus said to his disciples, “Not everyone who says to me: Lord! Lord! will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my heavenly Father. “So, then, anyone who hears these words of mine and acts accordingly is like a wise man, who built his house on rock. The rain poured, the rivers flooded, and the wind blew and struck that house, but it did not collapse because it was built on rock. But anyone who hears these words of mine and does not act accordingly, is like a fool who built his house on sand. The rain poured, the rivers flooded, and the wind blew and struck that house; it collapsed, and what a terrible fall that was!”
ossibly we have watched a child, who is afraid of the water, jump off the side of the pool into the arms of a loving parent. What causes that child to jump? It is trust in the parent. Why does the child trust the parent? The parent has shown, through love, that he or she will not let anything bad happen to the child. We should have that child-like faith in God. It is not a blind, leave-your-brainat-the-door type of trust or faith. God doesn’t want us to check our brains at the door. He has given us plenty of proof, not only of His existence, but also of the truth of His word. Do we trust God with the big things, like our eternal home, but not trust Him in the little things, like our jobs and our finances? We must trust God in the little things as well as the big things. Do we believe that God cares enough about us to look after those things as well? God has shown so much of His love for us, that it is only reasonable to trust that He will take care of the little things in our lives.
04 December friday
1st Week of Advent John of Damascus Psalter: Week 1
Ps 27:1, 4, 13–14 The Lord is my light and my salvation.
1st Reading: Is 29:17–24* … On that day the deaf will hear the words of the book, and out of the dark and obscurity the eyes of the blind will see. The meek will find joy and the poor among men will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel. For the tyrant will be no more and the scoffers gone forever, and all who plan to do evil will be cut down— those who by a word make a you guilty, those who for a bribe can lay a snare and send home the just empty-handed. Therefore Yahweh, Abraham’s redeemer, speaks concerning the people of Jacob: No longer will Jacob be ashamed; no longer will his face grow pale. When he sees the work of my hands, his children again in his midst, they will sanctify my name, they will sanctify the Holy One of Jacob, and stand in awe of the God of Israel. Those who err in spirit will understand; those who murmur will learn. Gospel: Mt 9:27–31 As Jesus moved on from Capernaum, two blind men followed him, shouting, “Son of David, help us!” When he was about to enter the house, the blind men caught up with him, and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do what you want?” They answered, “Yes, sir!” Then Jesus touched their eyes and said, “As you have believed, so let it be.” And their eyes were opened. Then Jesus gave them a stern warning, “Be careful and let no one know about this.” But as soon as they went away, they spread the news about him through the whole area.
e know we’re safe in the arms of God; we just have to believe it. As Christians we often fall prey to senseless fears. We tend to worry and fret over things which we cannot control. We’re very aware that God is with us; yet we have difficulty turning over our fears to Him. For some reason, we find it necessary to cling to the things that Christ says to release; we want to handle them ourselves. Christ said it plainly: “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” Just believe! It’s easy for us to insist that we trust God completely when, in fact, we fail Him by not fully believing in Him. We know God will care for us, however, we fail to believe what we know. When fear attacks us, whether it be health issues, children or anything else, we should remember what Christ said: “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” We should always keep these words close to our heart: God of all strength and wisdom, help us to believe what we know to be true…that is you, our loving God!
1st Reading: Is 30:19–21, 23–26 O people of Zion, who dwell in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. When you cry, he will listen; when he hears, he will answer. When the Lord has given you the bread of anguish and the water of distress, he, your teacher will hide no longer. Your own eyes will see him, and your ear will listen to his words behind you: “This is the way, walk in it.” He will then give rain for the seed you sow and make the harvest abundant from the crops you grow. On that day your cattle will graze in wide pastures. Your beasts of burden will eat silage tossed to them with pitchfork and shovel. For on the day of the great slaughter, when fortresses fall, streams of water will flow on every mountain and lofty hill. The light of the moon will be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun seven times greater, like the light of seven days, when Yahweh binds up the wounds of his people and heals the bruises inflicted by his blows.
1st Week of Advent Psalter: Week 1
Ps 147:1–2, 3–4, 5–6 Blessed are all who wait for the Lord.
Gospel: Mt 9:35—10:1, 5a, 6–8 Jesus went around all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom, and he cured every sickness and disease. When he saw the crowds he was moved with pity, for they were harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is abundant but the workers are only few. Ask the master of the harvest to send workers to gather his harvest.” Then he called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority over the unclean spirits to drive them out and to heal every disease and sickness. Jesus sent these twelve on mission with the instruction: “Do not visit pagan territory and do not enter a Samaritan town. Go instead to the lost sheep of the people of Israel. “Go and proclaim this message: The kingdom of heaven is near. Heal the sick, bring the dead back to life, cleanse the lepers, and drive out demons. You received this as a gift, so give it as a gift.”
famine of food is not as great as a famine of the word of God. There are right-handed and lefthanded errors, while the devil is busy courting us into by-paths, away from the way to God. But, to all true penitents, sin becomes very distasteful. This is shown in the conversion of souls, by the power of divine grace. The effect of this brings comfort and joy to the people of God. Light, that is, knowledge, shall increase. This is the light which the gospel brought into the world, and which proclaims healing to the broken-hearted. Obedience is the pathway to God’s blessings upon us. Let’s hope we don’t plug our ears to God and walk down the wrong path, thereby missing His blessings. When we walk in the way of God, we experience the joy of being used as God’s instrument and the quiet joy and contentment that settles in on us. We must always strive to put our egos aside and follow God’s promptings. Words will not explain the ecstasy that will fill our hearts, when we allow God to use us in bringing joy to others.
1st Reading: Bar 5:1–9 Jerusalem, put off your garment of mourning and unhappiness, put on the splendor and glory of God forever. Wrap yourself in the mantle of holiness that comes from God, put on your head the crown of glory of the Eternal One. For God will show your splendor to every being under Heaven. He will call your name forever, “Peace in Justice” and “Glory in the Fear of the Lord.” Rise up, Jerusalem, stand on the heights. Look towards the East and see your children gathered together from the setting of the sun to its rising, by the voice of the Holy One, rejoicing because God has remembered them. They left you on foot, taken away by the enemy. God will lead them back, carried gloriously like royal princes. For God has resolved to bring low every high mountain and the everlasting hills, to fill up the valleys and level out the ground, in order that Israel may walk in safety under the Glory of God. Even the forests and the fragrant trees will give shade to Israel at God’s command. For God will lead Israel with joy by the light of his Glory, Ps 126:1–2, 2–3, 4–5, 6 escorting them with his mercy and justice. The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy. 2nd Reading: Phil 1:4–6, 8–11 When I pray for you, I pray with joy. I cannot forget all you shared with me in the service of the Gospel, from the first day until now. Since God began such a good work in you, I am certain that he will complete it in the day of Christ Jesus. God knows that I love you dearly with the love of Christ Jesus, and in my prayers I ask that your love may lead you each day to a deeper knowledge and clearer discernment, that you may have good criteria for everything. So you may be pure of heart and come blameless to the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of holiness that comes through Christ Jesus, for the glory and praise of God.
Gospel: Lk 3:1–6 It was the fifteenth year of the rule of the Emperor Tiberius; Pontius Pilatus was governor of Judea; Herod ruled over Galilee, his brother Philip ruled over the country of Iturea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias over Abilene. Annas and Caiaphas were the High Priests at that time when the word of God came to John, the son of Zechariah in the desert. John proclaimed a baptism for repentant people to obtain forgiveness of sins and he went through the whole country bordering the Jordan River. It was just as is written in the book of the prophet Isaiah: listen to this voice crying out in the desert: prepare the way of the Lord, make his path straight. The valleys will be filled and the mountains and hills made low. Everything crooked will be made straight and the rough paths smooth; and every mortal will see the salvation of God.
2nd Sunday of Advent Psalter: Week 2
he season of Advent calls us to conversion of mind and heart so that we might be more open to the presence of the Lord in our lives. We are encouraged to turn away from sin and to leave behind anything in our lives that is contrary to the Gospel. Then are we truly free to embrace the Lord and to put our faith into action. We are often kept from doing what is good, honorable and holy by stumbling blocks of our own making. Habits of selfishness keep us from recognizing the needs of the poor and less fortunate. Indulging ourselves in the culture of hedonism prevents us from experiencing true love and all of the fidelity, commitment and sacrifice that it requires. “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his path straight,” John the Baptist cries. He speaks not only to the people of his day who gathered around him. He speaks to us and invites us to change our ways so that our hearts will be open to the presence of the Lord in our everyday living.
07 December monday
2nd Week of Advent Ambrose Psalter: Week 2
Ps 85:9ab and 10, 11–12, 13–14 Our God will come to save us!
1st Reading: Is 35:1–10* … They, my people, see the glory of Yahweh, the majesty of our God. Give vigor to weary hands and strength to enfeebled knees. Say to those who are afraid: “Have courage, do not fear. See, your God comes, demanding justice. He is the God who rewards, the God who comes to save you.” Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unsealed. Then will the lame leap as a hart and the tongue of the dumb sing and shout. … There will be a highway which will be called The Way of Holiness; no one unclean will pass over it nor any wicked fool stray there. … Only the redeemed will walk there. For the ransomed of Yahweh will return: with everlasting joy upon their heads, they will come to Zion singing, gladness and joy marching with them, while sorrow and sighing flee away. Gospel: Lk 5:17–26 One day Jesus was teaching and many Pharisees and teachers of the Law had come from every part of Galilee and Judea and even from Jerusalem. They were sitting there while the power of the Lord was at work to heal the sick. Then some men brought a paralyzed man who lay on his mat. They tried to enter the house to place him before Jesus, but they couldn’t find a way through the crowd. So they went up on the roof and, removing the tiles, they lowered him on his mat into the middle of the crowd, in front of Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “My friend, your sins are forgiven.” At once the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees began to wonder, “This man insults God! Who can forgive sins but only God? But Jesus knew their thoughts and asked them, “Why are you reacting like this? Which is easier to say: ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or: ‘Get up and walk’? Now you shall know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” And Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” At once the man stood before them. He took up the mat he had been lying on and went home praising God. Amazement seized the people and they praised God. They were filled with a holy fear and said, “What wonderful things we have seen today!”
oday, we get the chance to pray for people, who have yet to believe in God with all their hearts. Some believe in God provisionally, but hesitate to trust Him fully. Their hearts are fearful that nothing will really ever change. For them, God is still on probation. As time passes without dramatic changes, expectations gradually tend to fade. Let’s pray that they receive the courage and strength of heart, they will need to trust God fully. Let’s pray that God will strengthen them to do what they must do. Strength for weak hands to hang on to hope? Let’s ask God to give them gripping power. Imagine them holding on to hope, the lifeline to their future and Christ is the power pulling them up. Boldness for wobbly knees to move forward towards God’s call? Let’s ask God to fortify their readiness to make the decisions they’ll need to answer Christ’s summons and follow Him.
1st Reading: Gen 3:9–15, 20* Yahweh God called the man saying to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard your voice in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.” God said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree I ordered you not to eat?” The man answered, “The woman you put with me gave me fruit from the tree and I ate it.” God said to the woman, “What have you done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me and I ate.” Yahweh God said to the serpent, “Since you have done that, you will eat dust all the days of your life. I will make you enemies, you and the woman, your offspring and her offspring. He will crush your head and you will strike his heel.” The man called his wife by the name of Eve, because she was the mother of all the living.
Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary Psalter: Proper
Ps 98:1, 2–3ab, 3cd–4 Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous deeds.
2nd Reading: Eph 1:3–6, 11–12 Gospel: Lk 1:26–38 The angel Gabriel came to Mary and said, “Rejoice, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” Mary was troubled at these words, wondering what this greeting could mean. But the angel said, “Do not fear, Mary, for God has looked kindly on you. You shall conceive and bear a son and you shall call him Jesus. He will be great and shall rightly be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the kingdom of David, his ancestor; he will rule over the people of Jacob forever and his reign shall have no end.” Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be if I am a virgin?” And the angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, the holy child to be born shall be called Son of God. Even your relative Elizabeth is expecting a son in her old age, although she was unable to have a child, and she is now in her sixth month. With God nothing is impossible.” Then Mary said, “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me as you have said.” And the angel left her.
n the constitution, Ineffabilis Deus, of 8 December 1854, Pope Pius IX pronounced that the Blessed Virgin Mary, “in the first instance of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace granted by God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin.” The Blessed Virgin Mary lived her life in the state, in which Adam and Eve lived before their sin. She was as capable of sin as they were. Her life, like ours, was a series of choices between good and bad, self and other, God’s will and her own. Her glory, for which generations will call her blessed, is that in every instance she said, “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me as you have said.” We should not imagine that Mary had an easier time with temptation than we do. The Blessed Virgin Mary, apart from her Son, is the only one who really knew humility, since it was she who, in every instance, chose obedience, who let God’s will trump her own, who refused to be duped into trusting in her own resources. Hail Mary!
09 December wednesday
2nd Week of Advent Juan Diego Psalter: Week 2
Ps 103:1–2, 3–4, 8 and 10 O bless the Lord, my soul!
1st Reading: Is 40:25–31 To whom, then, will you liken me or make me equal? says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes and see: who has created all this? He has ordered them as a starry host and called them each by name. So mighty is his power, so great his strength, that not one of them is missing. How can you say, O Jacob, how can you complain, O Israel, that your destiny is hidden from me, that your rights are ignored by Yah-weh? Have you not known, have you not heard that Yahweh is an everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth? He does not grow tired or weary, his knowledge is without limit. He gives strength to the enfeebled, he gives vigor to the wearied. Youth may grow tired and faint, young men will stumble and fall, but those who hope in Yahweh will renew their strength. They will soar as with eagle’s wings; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and never tire. Gospel: Mt 11:28–30 Jesus said to the crowds: “Come to me, all you who work hard and who carry heavy burdens and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and humble of heart; and you will find rest. For my yoke is good and my burden is light.”
oung people don’t generally realize that their strong energy levels will diminish. They tend to think that they will always feel as good as they do now and always look as good as they do now. But, the reality of growing older, and a mark of maturity, is that we face life squarely as it is. We all grow weary and when we do we can become susceptible to despair and depression. It’s easy to be negative and critical when we’re weary. We become like the man, who had both an identity crisis and energy crisis. He didn’t know who he was, but was too tired to find out. However, we have received God’s promise that…those who hope in Yahweh will renew their strength. The idea is that as we draw near to God and trust in Him, He imparts to us His strength. What we need is new strength and that’s exactly the promise that’s made to us. When we hope in God, we tie ourselves to Him and receive His strength. So, when it says that God will renew our strength, it means that we will exchange our strength for His. What an exchange it is!
1st Reading: Is 41:13–20 For I, Yahweh, your God, take hold of your right hand and say to you: “Fear not, I am your assistance.” Fear not, Jacob, poor worm, and you, people of Israel, so frail. I am your redeemer, says Yahweh, the Holy One of Israel, your helper. I will make you a thresher, new and with sharp double teeth: you will thresh hills and mountains, crushing them and reducing them to chaff. You will winnow them, the wind will carry them off and the storm will scatter them. But you will rejoice in Yahweh and glory in the Holy One of Israel. The poor and the afflicted seek water, and find none. Their tongues are parched with thirst. But I, Yahweh, will hear them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them. I will open up streams over the barren heights and let the rivers flow through all the valleys; I will turn the desert into lakes and brooks and the thirsty earth into a land of springs. I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the acacia, the myrtle and the olive; I will plant in the wasteland fir, cypress and pine— that all may see and know, consider and understand, that the hand of Yahweh has done this, that the Holy One of Israel has created it.
2nd Week of Advent Psalter: Week 2
Ps 145:1 and 9, 10–11, 12–13ab The Lord is gracious and merciful; slow to anger, and of great kindness.
Gospel: Mt 11:11–15 Jesus said to the crowds, “No one greater than John the Baptist has come forward among the sons of women, and yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven is something to be conquered and the unyielding seize it. “Up to the time of John, there was only prophesy: all the prophets and the Law; and if you believe me, John is this Elijah, whose coming was predicted. Let anyone with ears listen!”
ear binds multitudes of Christians: it is estimated that eighty percent of Christians, today, are oppressed by a spirit of fear. We need a knowledge of God, if we are to be delivered from the spirit of fear. Fear stops people from using their spiritual gifts. The fear of rejection hinders people from beginning wonderful relationships. The fear of failure holds many back from beginning wonderful enterprises. The fear of death paralyzes and torments many. If we are aware of Christ’s presence within us, we really can’t be overcomed by fear. Fear cannot control us. Ultimately, it must be driven out in all its forms. We’ve seen before how perfect love drives out fear; but where does this perfect love come from? One thing to be sure of: it doesn’t come from ourselves. This perfect love comes from God. God is love, and that love drives out the spirit of fear. If we daily make more room for God in our lives, if we make room for Him through prayer and meditation and thanking God in life and death, then fear will find no place inside our hearts.
11 December friday
2nd Week of Advent Damasus I Psalter: Week 2
Ps 1:1–2, 3, 4 and 6 Those who follow you, Lord, will have the light of life.
1st Reading: Is 48:17–19 Thus says Yahweh, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: I, Yahweh, your God, teach you what is best for you; I lead you in the way that you must go. Had you paid attention to my commandments, your peace would have been like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea. Your descendants would have been like the sand, and those born of your stock like its grains, their names never cut off nor blotted out from my presence. Gospel: Mt 11:16–19 Jesus said to the crowds, “Now, to what can I compare the people of this day? They are like children sitting in the marketplace, about whom their companions complain: ‘We played the flute for you but you would not dance. We sang a funeral song but you would not cry!’ “For John came fasting and people said: ‘He is possessed.’ Then the Son of Man came, he ate and drank, and people said: ‘Look at this man! A glutton and drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet the outcome will prove Wisdom to be right.”
f there is one lesson that all leaders learn, it is that they cannot please everyone. The most important person for any of us to please is God. When God calls us to a particular mission, He wants us to be faithful to His calling. At times, that means us taking an unpopular route. Often, when we do things based on human respect, we end up becoming unhappy, because we don’t please God and we don’t feel fulfilled. Fulfilment comes when we live a life according to the purpose, for which we were made. God has designed us all with a purpose, a specific mission in life, and has given us the innate desire and the gifts needed to fulfil this mission. When we choose to ignore the longing of our hearts to do God’s will, we choose to ignore the path that brings us fulfillment, the path that brings us happiness. If we want to be happy in this life, then we have to do what God tells us, travel the road that He shows us, because only He, who designed us, knows why He designed us. Let’s take God’s route, even if it means taking the unpopular choice.
1st Reading: Zec 2:14–17 “Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for I am about to come, I shall dwell among you,” says Yahweh. “On that day, many nations will join Yahweh and be my people, but my dwelling is among you.” The people of Judah will be for Yahweh as his portion in his holy land. He will choose Jerusalem again. Keep still in Yahweh’s presence, for he comes, having risen from his holy dwelling.”
Our Lady of Guadalupe Psalter: Week 2
Jdt 13:18bcde, 19 You are the highest honor of our race.
Gospel: Lk 1:39–47 Mary then set out for a town in the Hills of Judah. She entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leapt in her womb. Elizabeth was filled with Holy Spirit, and giving a loud cry, said, “You are most blessed among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb! How is it that the mother of my Lord comes to me? The moment your greeting sounded in my ears, the baby within me suddenly leapt for joy. Blessed are you who believed that the Lord’s word would come true!” And Mary said: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit exults in God my savior!
et’s look briefly at what Mary says in her praise to God. There are three distinct sections in the Magnificat. Firstly, there is Mary’s expression of what she feels in her heart, namely joy. Secondly, she mentions what God has done specifically for her as an individual: He has regarded her lowliness and done great things for her, thus bestowing upon her an enduring reputation for blessedness. And thirdly, she spends most of the time describing the character of God and why she has rejoiced in her own lowliness. It is clear from Mary’s words that God is not partial to the rich, the powerful or the proud. Mary’s spiritual beauty reaches its emotional peak in the first part of her song, where she responds from the heart to all God did for her: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit exults in God my savior!” A mouth magnifies God by speaking His praises, but no one hears a soul. No one but God! Here, Mary is not verbalizing a silent prayer. At this moment, her heart and soul feel the greatness and holiness and mercy of God. And the feeling is resoundingly one of joy!
1st Reading: Zeph 3:14–18a Cry out with joy, O daughter of Zion; rejoice, O people of Israel! Sing joyfully with all your heart, daughter of Jerusalem! Yahweh has lifted your sentence and has driven your enemies away. Yahweh, the King of Israel is with you; do not fear any misfortune. On that day they will say to Jerusalem: Do not be afraid nor let your hands tremble, for Yahweh your God is within you, Yahweh, saving warrior. He will jump for joy on seeing you, for he has revived his love. For you he will cry out with joy, as you do in the days of the Feast.
Is 12:2–3, 4, 5–6 Cry out with joy and gladness, for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel. 2nd Reading: Phil 4:4–7 Rejoice in the Lord always. I say it again: rejoice and may everyone experience your gentle and understanding heart. The Lord is near: do not be anxious about anything. In everything resort to prayer and supplication together with thanksgiving and bring your requests before God. Then the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Gospel: Lk 3:10–18 The people asked John, “What are we to do?” And John answered, “If you have two coats, give one to the person who has none; and if you have food, do the same.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized and asked him, “Master, what must we do?” John said to them, “Collect no more than your fixed rate.” People serving as soldiers asked John, “What about us? What are we to do?” And he answered, “Don’t take anything by force or threaten the people by denouncing them falsely. Be content with your pay.” The people were wondering about John’s identity, “Could he be the Messiah?” Then John answered them, “I baptize you with water, but the one who is coming will do much more: he will baptize you with Holy Spirit and fire. As for me, I am not worthy to untie his sandal. He comes with a winnowing fan to clear his threshing floor and gather the grain into his barn. But the chaff he will burn with fire that never goes out.” With these and many other words John announced the Good News to the people.
3rd Sunday of Advent Psalter: Week 3
his Sunday of Advent is known as Gaudete Sunday, a name that comes from the latin word that means “Rejoice!” As the rose candle on the Advent wreath is lit, we rejoice that Christmas is near. We rejoice in the fact that our God does not keep His distance from us, but enters into our human experience, shares our sorrows and our struggles, and takes upon His shoulders the weight of our sins so that we might dare to hope for the gift of eternal life. John the Baptist proclaimed Good News to the people of his day. Today we rejoice in the Good News that the Lord’s love is greater than anything we could have ever imagined. He re conciles us poor sinners and abides with us so that we might never again fear the powers of sin and death. He gives us consolation in times of sorrow and courage in times of weakness. He fills our hearts with the “peace of God which surpasses all understanding.” We rejoice this day not simply because of the nearness of the celebration of Christmas, but for the nearness of our God who makes that celebration possible.
14 December monday
3rd Week of Advent John of the Cross Psalter: Week 3
Ps 25:4–5ab, 6 and 7bc, 8–9 Teach me your ways, O Lord.
1st Reading: Num 24:2–7, 15–17a* He looked up and saw Israel camping, tribe by tribe; and the spirit of God came upon him and he uttered his song: … Like valleys stretching far, like gardens beside a stream, like aloes planted by Yahweh, like cedars beside the waters. His buckets are overflowing and his seeds are always watered. His king becomes stronger than Agag, and his kingdom grows.” Then Balaam pronounced his oracle: … I see a figure, but not really. I behold him but not near. A star shall come forth from Jacob, he rises with a staff in his hand; he shatters the forehead of Moab and tears down all the sons of Sheth.” Gospel: Mt 21:23–27 Jesus had entered the Temple and was teaching when the chief priests, the teachers of the Law and the Jewish authorities came to him and asked, “What authority have you to act like this? Who gave you authority to do all this?” Jesus answered them, “I will also ask you a question, only one. And if you give me an answer, then I will tell you by what authority I do these things. When John began to baptize, was it a work of God, or was it merely something human?” They reasoned out among themselves, “If we reply that it was a work of God, he will say: Why, then, did you not believe him? And if we say: The baptism of John was merely something human, beware of the people; since all hold John as a prophet.” So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what right I do these things.”
n Advent, the world is awake, decking the halls, and looking to the birth of another infant. The birth of Christ is a part of our identity, reminding us, that we also were born, that we were fragile, that we were celebrated. For those born in December, and for any who remember their own beginnings in the scenes of Advent, the season offers a time of contemplating infant beginnings, a lesson in what it means to be human, like no other. Stories and celebrations of our own birth are juxtaposed with a nativity story, told long before we were born, and one that will continue to be told long after us. The story of God is a story filled with nativity scenes. In a world, where significance and identity are earned by what we do, by what we have accomplished, by what we own, the kingdom of God arrives scandalously, even offensively. In this kingdom, our worth begins before we have said or done the right things, before we have accumulated the right lifestyle or even made the appropriate confessions. In this kingdom, the very God of creation steps into the world as a child as well!
1st Reading: Zep 3:1–2, 9–13 Woe to the rebellious, the defiled, the city that oppresses. She did not pay attention to the call nor accept the correction; she did not trust Yahweh nor did she approach her God. At that time I will give truthful lips to the pagan nations that all of them may call on the name of Yahweh and serve him with the same zeal. From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia they will bring offerings to me. On that day you will no longer be ashamed of all your deeds when you were unfaithful to me; I will have removed from your midst the conceited and arrogant and my holy mountain will no longer be for you a pretext for boasting. I will leave within you a poor and meek people who seek refuge in God. The remnant of Israel will not act unjustly nor will they speak falsely, nor will deceitful words be found in their mouths. They will eat and rest with none to threaten them.
3rd Week of Advent Psalter: Week 3
Ps 34:2–3, 6–7, 17–18, 19 and 23 The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
Gospel: Mt 21:28–32 Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people, “What do you think of this? A man had two sons. He went to the first and said to him: ‘Son, today go and work in my vineyard.’ And the son answered: ‘I don’t want to.’ But later he thought better of it and went. Then the father went to the second and gave him the same command. This son replied: ‘I will go, sir,’ but he did not go. “Which of the two did what the father wanted?” They answered, “The first.” And Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you: the publicans and the prostitutes are ahead of you on the way to the kingdom of heaven. For John came to show you the way of goodness but you did not believe him, yet the publicans and the prostitutes did. You were witnesses of this, but you neither repented nor believed him.”
hildren are not usually the main characters in the stories we tell, yet the story of Christmas begins and ends with a child we don’t quite know what to do with. Here, a vulnerable baby in a dirty stable breaks in as the harbinger of good news, the fulfillment of the law and the prophets, the anointed leader who comes to set the captives free-wrapped in swaddling clothes and resting in a manger. Coming as a child, God radically draws near, while at the same time radically overthrowing our conceptions of status, worth, power, and authority. Jesus is crowned king long before he can sit in a throne. He begins overturning idols and upsetting social order long before he can even speak. Advent, like childhood, reminds us that we are in need of someone sovereign. It also reminds us that, like the baby in a Bethlehem stable, we too are somewhat out of place, homeless and longing for home. For us to be human is to be implicitly religious; for even within our most deeply felt needs for love and refuge, we are reminded that there is one who has come so very far to meet us and protect us.
16 December wednesday
3rd Week of Advent Psalter: Week 3
Ps 85:9ab and 10, 11–12, 13–14 Let the clouds rain down the Just One, and the earth bring forth a Savior.
1st Reading: Is 45:6c–8, 18, 21c–25* … I am Yahweh, and there is no other. I form the light and create the dark; I usher in prosperity and bring calamity. I, Yahweh, do all this. … I, Yahweh, have created it. Yes, this is what Yahweh says, he who created the heavens, —for he is God, who formed and shaped the earth, —for he himself set it: “I did not let confusion in it, I wanted people to live there instead” —for I am Yahweh and there is no other. … There is no other God besides me, a Savior, a God of justice, there is no other one but me. Turn to me and be saved, all you from the ends of the earth, for I am God and there is no other. … Gospel: Lk 7:18b–23 The disciples of John gave him all this news. So he called two of them and sent them to the Lord with this message, “Are you the one we are expecting, or should we wait for another?” These men came to Jesus and said, “John the Baptist sent us to ask you: Are you the one we are to expect, or should we wait for another?” At that time Jesus healed many people of their sicknesses or diseases; he freed them from evil spirits and he gave sight to the blind. Then he answered the messengers, “Go back and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind see again, the lame walk, lepers are made clean, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the poor are given good news. Now, listen: Fortunate are those who encounter me, but not for their downfall.”
t seems that, as the world supposedly becomes less complicated through technological advances, we still find ourselves waiting. According to researchers, the average person will spend five years of his or her life waiting in line, two years holding onto the telephone, and six months sitting at red lights. That is over seven and a half years, either at best doing nothing, or at worst experiencing great aggravation. The bottom line is that, even in our fast-paced world, with its post-modern conveniences, we are all waiting for something. During the Advent season, we discover purpose in our waiting. We symbolically participate in the waiting of the patriarchs, kings, prophets and priests as, patiently and reflectively, we await Christ’s final and glorious return. Through prayer and reflection, liturgy, Eucharist, and the signs and symbols of Advent, we groan with Isaiah for a day when weapons will be turned into agricultural instruments. We cry out with Zechariah, rejoicing that the dawn from on high is breaking upon us. We pray with many, whose expectations of the future kingdom may have been hazy, yet who still yearn for something more complete and more real.
1st Reading: Gen 49:2, 8–10 “Gather round, sons of Jacob. And listen to your father Israel! Judah, your brothers will praise you! You shall seize your enemies by the neck! Your father’s sons shall bow before you. Judah, a young lion! You return from the prey, my son! Like a lion he stoops and crouches, and like a lioness, who dares to rouse him? The scepter shall not be taken from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs, and who has the obedience of the nations.
3rd Week of Advent Psalter: Week 3
Ps 72:1–2, 3–4ab, 7–8, 17 Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
Gospel: Mt 1:1–17* This is the account of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham. Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers. Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah (their mother was Tamar), Perez was the father of Hezron, and Hezron of Aram. Aram was the father of Aminadab, Aminadab of Nahshon, Nahshon of Salmon. … Jesse was the father of David, the king. David was the father of Solomon. His mother had been Uriah’s wife. … Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and from her came Jesus who is called the Christ—the Messiah.
uring Advent, we legitimately cry out Maranatha! Come Lord! On that first Christmas day, the world was somehow sanctified. Something in the fabric of the cosmos shifted, as creation became a fitting vehicle for God’s redemptive work. As the season of Advent shows, even waiting has become sanctified. As we wait in long lines this Advent, or as we wait for anything really, it is important that we remember the waiting of those, who were expecting the Messiah, and that we always wait with patience, humility and hope. Especially during Advent, to wait, prayerfully and patiently, is not only good spiritual discipline, but also lowers our risk of holiday-induced anxiety. We’re all waiting for something, so why not use these experiences to enhance our Advent disciplines, by waiting prayerfully? If we keep an Advent calendar, we have great opportunities to witness to the secular culture about Christ. But, if we choose not to take part in that office Christmas party, and are asked why we aren’t participating, we can say that, for us, it isn’t Christmas yet: we are observing Advent, quietly waiting for Christ, not just for His birthday on Christmas Day, but for His second coming in glory.
18 December friday
3rd Week of Advent Psalter: Week 3
Ps 72:1–2, 12–13, 18–19 Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
1st Reading: Jer 23:5–8 Yahweh further says, “The day is coming when I will raise up a king who is David’s righteous successor. He will rule wisely and govern with justice and righteousness. That will be a grandiose era when Judah will enjoy peace and Israel will live in safety. He will be called Yahweh-our-justice!” “The days are coming,” says Yahweh, “when people shall no longer swear by Yahweh as the living God who freed the people of Israel from the land of Egypt. Rather, they will swear by Yahweh as the living God who restored the descendants of Israel from the northern empire and from all the lands where he had driven them, to live again in their own land!” Gospel: Mt 1:18–25 This is how Jesus Christ was born. Mary his mother had been given to Joseph in marriage but before they lived together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph, her husband, made plans to divorce her in all secrecy. He was an upright man, and in no way did he want to discredit her. While he was pondering over this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, descendant of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. She has conceived by the Holy Spirit, and now she will bear a son. You shall call him ‘Jesus’ for he will save his people from their sins.” All this happened in order to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: The virgin will conceive and bear a son, and he will be called Emmanuel which means: God-with-us. When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do and he took his wife to his home. So she gave birth to a son and he had not had marital relations with her. Joseph gave him the name of Jesus.
dvent is when peace becomes something visible. We long for peace, as Christians spend this time preparing for the coming of the Prince of Peace. We long, not solely for peace on earth, the absence of conflict, but also, more deeply, for the peace of Christ. When we celebrate Mass each Sunday, we pray for this peace; and we even exchange a sign of it before we approach the table of the Eucharist. As deep and personal as our desire is, faith tells us that peace is essentially social. As we move toward the feast of Christ among us, we are challenged to broaden our understanding of peace and to open our hearts all the wider. We long for peace in the hearts of those struggling with poverty of all sorts: those in the developing world and those, struggling in the shadows of the developed world. We pray for displaced people everywhere. This Advent, let us open our hearts for peace. Let our prayer for Christ’s coming be a longing for wars to end; for troops to return to their families. But let it also be a longing for justice, a longing that things set awry will be made right.
1st Reading: Jdg 13:2–7, 24–25a* There was a man of Zorah of the tribe of Dan, called Manoah. His wife could not bear children. The Angel of Yahweh appeared to this woman and said to her, “You have not borne children and have not given birth, but see, you are to conceive and give birth to a son. … The woman went to her husband and told him, “A messenger of God who bore the majesty of an angel spoke to me. I did not ask him where he came from nor did he tell me his name. But he said to me: ‘You are to conceive and give birth to a son. … The woman gave birth to a son and named him Samson. The boy grew and Yahweh blessed him. …
3rd Week of Advent Psalter: Week 3
Ps 71:3–4a, 5–6ab, 16–17 My mouth shall be filled with your praise, and I will sing your glory!
Gospel: Lk 1:5–25* … On seeing the angel, Zechariah was deeply troubled and fear took hold of him. But the angel said to him, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah, be assured that your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son and you shall name him John. He will bring joy and gladness to you and many will rejoice at his birth. … Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I believe this? I am an old man and my wife is elderly, too.” The angel replied, “I am Gabriel, who stands before God, and I am the one sent to speak to you and bring you this good news! My words will come true in their time. But you would not believe and now you will be silent and unable to speak until this has happened.” … When his time of service was completed, Zechariah returned home and some time later Elizabeth became pregnant. …
he only Christ, whom many people in poverty will see, read or know about, this Advent, is in those who give, not just material gifts, but their time, heart and knowledge. During Advent, we must do more than just write a check; we need to meet with people in poverty and we must hold each other accountable. Christ came and gave the world hope, when there was despair; out there in the cruel world, there are plenty of lives that we should touch. Our children are our future leaders. We fail many of them as they work through their turbulent adolescence, many without the security of a loving family life. The destructive behavior of children often reflects the ills of our society; they are often the scapegoats of those ills. But, that doesn’t excuse them from learning about the accountable consequences of their actions. For them to reach the point of feeling remorseful, they need consistent discipline, limits to their activities and a lot of support from caring people in our community. This Advent, we should seize any opportunity to teach our children respect for the unique persons they are, with their huge gifts from God of potential and talent.
1st Reading: Mic 5:1–4a The Lord says this, “You, Bethlehem Ephrathah, so small that you are hardly named among the clans of Judah, from you shall I raise the one who is to rule over Israel. For he comes forth from of old, from the ancient times. Yahweh, therefore, will abandon Israel until such time as she who is to give birth has given birth. Then the rest of his deported brothers will return to the people of Israel. He will stand and shepherd his flock with the strength of Yahweh, in the glorious Name of Yahweh, his God. They will live safely while he wins renown to the ends of the earth. He shall be peace.” When the Assyrian invades our land and sets foot on our territory, we will raise against him not one but seven shepherds, eight warlords. 2nd Reading: Heb 10:5–10 This is why on entering the world, Christ says: You did not desire sacrifice and offering; you were not pleased with burnt offerings and sin offerings. Then I said: “Here I am. It was written of me in the scroll. I will do your will, O God.” First he says: Sacrifice, offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire nor were you pleased with them—although they were required by the Law. Then he says: Here I am to do your will. This is enough to nullify the first will and Ps 80:2–3, 15–16, 18–19 establish the new. Now, by this will of God, we Lord, make us turn to you; are sanctified at once by the sacrifice of the let us see your face and we shall be saved. body of Christ Jesus.
Gospel: Lk 1:39–45 Mary then set out for a town in the Hills of Judah. She entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leapt in her womb. Elizabeth was filled with Holy Spirit, and giving a loud cry, said, “You are most blessed among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb! How is it that the mother of my Lord comes to me? The moment your greeting sounded in my ears, the baby within me suddenly leapt for joy. Blessed are you who believed that the Lord’s word would come true!”
4th Sunday of Advent Psalter: Week 4
he Fourth Sunday of Advent highlights the role of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the story of our salvation. God chooses to enter into our human experience through the person of the Blessed Mother. By assenting to the invitation of the angel Gabriel, Mary changes the course of human history. Her unconditional “Yes” to God’s will untangle the knot tied by the sin of Adam and Eve. Her example of fidelity and obedience serves as a model for us to follow as we seek the path of holiness and everlasting life. As we prepare to celebrate Christmas in a worthy manner, we ask the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We ask her to pray with us and for us, that we might welcome the saving presence of the Lord into our lives and embrace Him as our Savior and King. We pray that we might know the Lord’s will for our lives and embrace that will with determination and courage. As she was privileged to hold the Lord Jesus in her womb and in her arms, so may we be fashioned by God’s grace into bearers of the Lord.
21 December monday
4th Week of Advent Peter Canisius Psalter: Week 4
Ps 33:2–3, 11–12, 20–21 Exult, you just, in the Lord! Sing to him a new song.
1st Reading: Zep 3:14–18a (or Song 2:8–14) Cry out with joy, O daughter of Zion; rejoice, O people of Israel! Sing joyfully with all your heart, daughter of Jerusalem! Yahweh has lifted your sentence and has driven your enemies away. Yahweh, the King of Israel is with you; do not fear any misfortune. On that day they will say to Jerusalem: Do not be afraid nor let your hands tremble, for Yahweh your God is within you, Yahweh, saving warrior. He will jump for joy on seeing you, for he has revived his love. For you he will cry out with joy, as you do in the days of the Feast. I will drive away the evil I warned you about, and you will no longer be shamed. Gospel: Lk 1:39–45 Mary then set out for a town in the Hills of Judah. She entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leapt in her womb. Elizabeth was filled with holy spirit, and giving a loud cry, said, “You are most blessed among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb! How is it that the mother of my Lord comes to me? The moment your greeting sounded in my ears, the baby within me suddenly leapt for joy. Blessed are you who believed that the Lord’s word would come true!”
dvent is a season that seems to get lost in our culture. Because we so often think of the month of December as the Christmas Season, and we use this time to prepare our homes for the holidays, we often neglect to prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ. One way to prepare our hearts is by growing our relationship with God. Because God is so much greater than our minds can begin to comprehend, we can only know God through glimpses…through reflections. That is what we offer here: reflections! One day we will see God face-to-face, but now we only see through a mirror, dimly. Nevertheless, these reflections do provide a means of knowing God as best we can. By exploring various images of God, our hope is that God will become more real, and that relationships with God will deepen and grow. As we take time out for prayer and reflection during the season of Advent, may these reflections deepen our relationship with God, so that we may more fully experience the celebration of the coming of Christ. Our hope is that these reflections will provide a way of making the Advent journey more meaningful. Maranatha!
1st Reading: 1 S 1:24–28 When the child was weaned, Hannah took him with her along with a three-year-old bull, a measure of flour and a flask of wine, and she brought him to Yahweh’s house at Shiloh. The child was still young. After they had slain the bull, they brought the child to Eli. Hannah exclaimed: “Oh, my lord, look! I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to Yahweh. I asked for this child and Yahweh granted me the favor I begged of him. Now, I think, Yahweh is asking for this child. As long as he lives, he belongs to Yahweh.” And they worshiped Yahweh there.
4th Week of Advent Psalter: Week 4
1 S 2:1, 4–5, 6–7, 8abcd My heart exults in the Lord, my Savior.
Gospel: Lk 1:46–56 And Mary said: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit exults in God my savior! He has looked upon his servant in her lowliness, and people forever will call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, Holy is his Name! From age to age his mercy extends to those who live in his presence. He has acted with power and done wonders, and scattered the proud with their plans. He has put down the mighty from their thrones and lifted up those who are downtrodden. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He held out his hand to Israel, his servant, for he remembered his mercy, even as he promised our fathers, Abraham and his descendants forever.” Mary remained with Elizabeth about three months and then returned home.
dvent is a time for penance. In this, it is similar to Lent. But, it doesn’t have the same rugged intensity as Lent. It’s a bit softer and sweeter. Lent is a more severe penance, aiming at the ultimate extremes of Good Friday and Easter. Advent aims for Christmas and its images of the baby in the manger, with Mary and Joseph, the Shepherds, Wise Men and animals, in peace and calm. Advent is a time of penance, but with the cozy feelings of Christmas. Advent is Lent with a little sugar on top! Nonetheless, Advent remains a very real time of penance. Beneath the peaceful manger scene is the rather harsh reality of the King of Kings born in the rugged poverty of a manger instead of a traveler’s inn. This is where the real penance begins. We must use all of the God-given tools at our disposal to embody the love of Christ in our daily lives. This Advent, let us, please, try to get beneath all the signs and symbols of the celebration, to the reality of Christ in our life. This will cause us all to do penance, or to change…and to change for the better!
23 December wednesday
4th Week of Advent John of Kanty Psalter: Week 4
Ps 25:4–5ab, 8–9, 10 and 14 Lift up your heads and see; your redemption is near at hand.
1st Reading: Mal 3:1–4, 23–24 Now I am sending my messenger ahead of me to clear the way; then suddenly the Lord for whom you long will enter the sanctuary. The envoy of the covenant which you so greatly desire already comes, says Yahweh of hosts. Who can bear the day of his coming and remain standing when he appears? For he will be like fire in the foundry and like the lye used for bleaching. He will be as a refiner or a fuller. He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver. So Yahweh will have priests who will present the offering as it should be. Then Yahweh will accept with pleasure the offering of Judah and Jerusalem, as in former days. I am going to send you the prophet Elijah before the day of Yahweh comes, for it will be a great and terrible day. He will reconcile parents with their children, and the children with their parents, so that I may not have to curse this land when I come.” Gospel: Lk 1:57–66 When the time came for Elizabeth, she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the merciful Lord had done a wonderful thing for her and they rejoiced with her. When on the eighth day they came to attend the circumcision of the child, they wanted to name him Zechariah after his father. But his mother said, “Not so; he shall be called John.” They said to her, “No one in your family has that name”; and they asked the father by means of signs for the name he wanted to give. Zechariah asked for a writing tablet and wrote on it, “His name is John,” and they were very surprised. Immediately Zechariah could speak again and his first words were in praise of God. A holy fear came on all in the neighborhood, and throughout the Hills of Judea the people talked about these events. All who heard of it pondered in their minds and wondered, “What will this child be?” For they understood that the hand of the Lord was with him.
he season of Advent has been a time of fasting and penitence for sins, similar to the season of Lent. However, a different emphasis for the season of Advent has unfolded in much of the Church. Nowadays, Advent has come to be celebrated more in terms of expectation or anticipation in the context of oppression and injustice, the longing for redemption from the systemic evil of the world, expressed in evil empires and tyrants. In that sense, all creation groans for its redemption, as we witness the evil that so dominates our world. There will be time enough, during the rest of the Church year, to remember our sins. So, we celebrate with gladness the great promise in the Advent, knowing that there is also a somber tone as the theme of threat is added to the theme of promise. This is reflected in some of the scripture readings for Advent, in which there is a strong prophetic tone of accountability and judgment on sin. But this is also faithful to the role of the king, who comes to rule, save and judge the world. So, the prayer of Advent remains: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel!
1st Reading: 2 S 7:1–5, 8b–12, 14a, 16* … “Now you will tell my servant David, this is what Yahweh of hosts says: … Now I will make your name great as the name of the great ones on earth. I will provide a place for my people Israel and plant them that they may live there in peace. … Yahweh also tells you that he will build you a house. “When the time comes for you to rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your son after you, the one born of you and I will make his reign secure. I will be a father to him and he shall be my son. If he does wrong, I will punish him with the rod, as men do. Your house and your reign shall last forever before me, and your throne shall be forever firm.”
4th Week of Advent Psalter: Week 4
Ps 89:2–3, 4–5, 27 and 29 For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.
Gospel: Lk 1:67–79* Zechariah, filled with holy spirit, sang this canticle, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has come and redeemed his people. He has raised up for us a victorious Savior in the house of David his servant, as he promised through his prophets of old, salvation from our enemies and from the hand of our foes. He has shown mercy to our fathers and remembered his holy covenant, the oath he swore to Abraham, our father, to deliver us from the enemy, that we might serve him fearlessly as a holy and righteous people all the days of our lives. And you, my child, shall be called prophet of the Most High, for you shall go before the Lord to prepare the way for him and enable his people to know of their salvation when he comes to forgive their sins. …
verything works together to deepen the mystery of a new presence in the solitude of Christmas night, making it more intimate, more divine. Joseph and Mary’s outward poverty is the guardian of this mystery. If Joseph and Mary had looked as if they were rich, people would have made room for them in the inn, because of Mary’s condition. They would have turned out other less important guests; they would have found a way to keep them; and the mystery of the birth of Jesus would no longer have this solitude and silence. It would have happened in the midst of noise. This is not the way, in which God visits our earth! On the contrary, poverty must push aside all those who seek only earthly possessions, all those who think only of settling on earth. When it comes to the mystery of the Incarnate Word’s first visit to this world, poverty has done its job so well that there is no one left, except Mary and Joseph. When poverty is loved and accepted, there is true solitude. It is this solitude of Mary and Joseph that Christ comes to live and to reveal, to give and to surrender Himself!
25 December friday
The Nativity of the Lord Psalter: Proper
Ps 98:1, 2–3, 3–4, 5–6 All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God.
1st Reading: Is 52:7–10* How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who herald peace and happiness, who proclaim salvation and announce to Zion: “Your God is king!” Break into shouts of joy, O ruins of Jerusalem, for Yahweh consoles his people and redeems Jerusalem. Yahweh has bared his holy arm in the eyes of the nations; all the ends of the earth, in alarm, will witness God’s salvation. 2nd Reading: Heb 1:1–6 Gospel: Jn 1:1–18 In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God and the Word was God; he was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him and without him nothing came to be. Whatever has come to be, found life in him, life which for humans was also light. Light that shines in the dark: light that darkness could not overcome. A man came, sent by God; his name was John. He came to bear witness, as a witness to introduce the Light so that all might believe through him. For the Light was coming into the world, the true Light that enlightens everyone. He came to his own, yet his own people did not receive him; but all who have received him he empowers to become children of God for they believe in his Name. These are born, but without seed or carnal desire or will of man: they are born of God. And the Word was made flesh; he had his tent pitched among us, and we have seen his Glory, the Glory of the only Son coming from the Father: fullness of truth and loving-kindness. From his fullness we have all received, favor upon favor. For God had given us the Law through Moses, but Truth and Loving-kindness came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but God-the-Only-Son made him known: the one who is in and with the Father.
hen we are with family and friends at Christmas, we are at our best. Christ’s call is to give to all of us, the opportunity to share in His unconditional love. To let down our defenses and to marvel at all the small growth moments that touch our souls, is to keep us vulnerable and receptive to God’s presence. Above all, Christ invites us to be child-like in our faith and to trust in a creator, who always knows where we are and what we need. A creator, who knows the difference between a fish and a snake, a scorpion and an egg, when it comes to sustenance and nurture. Christmas Day keeps hope alive in our sometimes jaded and weary hearts, by reminding us of the infant Jesus, as we sit quietly, allowing peace and simplicity to seep into our souls. The nativity is God’s blessing personified, our connection to the mystery of the stable. Our prayer, on this Christmas Day, should be that we experience Christ’s birth with an open heart and contemplative vision. Christmas is memorable in that it challenges us to display our spirit of peace on earth and goodwill to all humankind!
1st Reading: Acts 6:8–10; 7:54–59 Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. Some persons then came forward, who belonged to the so-called Synagogue of Freedmen from Cyrene, Alexandria, Cilicia and Asia. They argued with Stephen but they could not match the wisdom and the spirit with which he spoke. When they heard this reproach, they were enraged and they gnashed their teeth against Stephen. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, fixed his eyes on heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus at God’s right hand, so he declared: “I see the heavens open and the Son of Man at the right hand of God.” But they shouted and covered their ears with their hands and rushed together upon him. They brought him out of the city and stoned him, and the witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul. As they were stoning him, Stephen prayed saying: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
Stephen, First Martyr Psalter: Proper
Ps 31: 3cd–4, 6 and 8b, 16bc and 17 Into your hands, O Lord, I entrust my spirit.
Gospel: Mt 10:17–22 Jesus said to his disciples, “Be on your guard with respect to people, for they will hand you over to their courts and they will flog you in their synagogues. You will be brought to trial before rulers and kings because of me, and so you may witness to them and the pagans. “But when you are arrested, do not worry about what you are to say and how you are to say it; when the hour comes, you will be given what you are to say. For it is not you who will speak; but it will be the Spirit of your Father in you. “Brother will hand over brother to death, and a father his child; children will turn against parents and have them put to death. Everyone will hate you because of me, but whoever stands firm to the end will be saved.”
n this first day after Christmas, we turn to that first Christian martyr among Jesus’ followers. Stephen was a leader of the Greek-speaking Jewish Christians. He was one of seven deacons, chosen to deal with internal community affairs and thus free up the apostles for preaching. Stephen was described as a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit. The apostles prayed over him and then imposed hands on him. This gesture of human touching bestowed special power and appeared often in the New Testament. The laying-on of hands signified healing, imparting the Holy Spirit, and a commissioning for ministry. The glory of God, which Stephen saw in an opening in the sky, pours out its power over us today. Stephen’s final cry speaks powerfully to us. The apostles’ hands were once laid upon him as a blessing for service. Now, other hands, in rage, propelled the stones that pierced open his flesh. We pray to Stephen for help to control our tempers. As we try to remedy every harmful result of human misdeeds, we try to follow Stephen’s example of suffering meekly. Christ’s love for us reconstructs what has been torn to pieces in our hearts.
1st Reading: 1 S 1:20–22; 24–28 Hannah became pregnant. She gave birth to a son and called him Samuel because she said: “I have asked Yahweh to give him to me.” Once more Elkanah went to the temple with his family to offer his yearly sacrifice and to pay his vow to Yahweh. Hannah would not go along but she said to her husband, “I will bring the child there as soon as he is weaned. He shall be presented to Yahweh and stay there forever.” When the child was weaned, Hannah took him with her along with a three-year-old bull, a measure of flour and a flask of wine, and she brought him to Yahweh’s house at Shiloh. The child was still young. After they had slain the bull, they brought the child to Eli. Hannah exclaimed: “Oh, my lord, look! I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to Yahweh. I asked for this child and Yahweh granted me the favor I begged of him. Now, I think, Yahweh is asking for this child. As long as he lives, he belongs to Yahweh.” And they worshiped Yahweh there. 2nd Reading: 1 Jn 3:1–2, 21–24 See what singular love the Father has for us: we are called children of God, and we really are. This is why the world does not know us, because it did not know him. Ps 84:2–3, 5–6, 9–10 Beloved, we are God’s children and what we Blessed are they who dwell in your house, shall be has not yet been shown. Yet when he O Lord. appears in his glory, we know that we shall be like him, for then we shall see him as he is. When our conscience does not condemn us, dear friends, we may have complete confidence in God. Then whatever we ask we shall receive, since we keep his commands and do what pleases him. His command is that we believe in the Name of his Son Jesus Christ and that we love one another, as he has commanded us. Whoever keeps his commands remains in God and God in him. It is by the Spirit God has given us that we know he lives in us.
Gospel: Lk 2:41–52 Every year the parents of Jesus went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover, as was customary. And when Jesus was twelve years Holy Family old, he went up with them according to the Psalter: Proper custom for this feast. After the festival was over, they returned, but the boy Jesus remained in Jerusalem and his parents did not know it. They thought he was in the company and after walking the whole day they looked for him among their relatives and friends. As they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem searching for him, and on the third day they found him in the Temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking questions. And all the people were amazed at his understanding and his answers. His parents were very surprised when they saw him and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I were very worried while searching for you.” Then he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Do you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand this answer. Jesus went down with them, returning to Nazareth, and he continued to be subject to them. As for his mother, she kept all these things in her heart. ven at an early age Jesus had to be about And Jesus increased in wisdom and age, and His Father’s business, for He was born into in divine and human favor. this world to accomplish the Father’s plan for our salvation. At the age of twelve Jesus would speak intelligently about the scriptures, amazing all who listened with His wisdom and understanding. That scene foreshadows the teaching ministry of Jesus that would take place two decades later as crowds would gather from near and far to listen to Him preach. We are also part of the story, for we have the great privilege of listening to the Lord Jesus every time we open the Bible. Now, as then, His words have the capacity to inspire, convert, motivate and console. Jesus continues to be about His Father’s business as He draws us to Himself and bids us to be nourished at the twofold table of Word and Sacrament every time we participate in Holy Mass. May we keep these things in our heart and place our confidence in the Lord Jesus so that we might remain in Him, and He in us.
28 December monday
Holy Innocents Psalter: Proper
Ps 124:2–3, 4–5, 7b–8 Our soul has been rescued like a bird from the fowler’s snare.
1st Reading: 1 Jn 1:5—2:2 We heard his message from him and announce it to you: God is light and there is no darkness in him. If we say we are in fellowship with him, while we walk in darkness, we lie instead of being in truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we are in fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, the Son of God, purifies us from all sin. If we say, “We have no sin,” we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all wickedness. If we say that we do not sin, we make God a liar, his word is not in us. My little children, I write to you that you may not sin. But if anyone sins, we have an intercessor with the Father, Jesus Christ, the Just One. He is the sacrificial victim for our sins and the sins of the whole world. Gospel: Mt 2:13–18 After the wise men had left, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you for Herod will soon be looking for the child in order to kill him.” Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and left that night for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. In this way, what the Lord had said through the prophet was fulfilled: I called my son out of Egypt. When Herod found out that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was furious. He gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its neighborhood who were two years old or under. This was done in line with what he had learned from the wise men about the time when the star appeared. In this way, what the prophet Jeremiah had said was fulfilled: A cry is heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation: Rachel weeps for her children. She refuses to be comforted, for they are no more.
t is impossible to determine the day or the year of the slaughter of the Holy Innocents, since the chronology of Christ’s birth and subsequent biblical events is most uncertain. All we know is that the infants were slaughtered within two years, following the apparition of the star to the wise men. The Church venerates these children as martyrs; they were the first buds of the Church, killed by the frost of persecution. They died, not only for Christ, but in his stead. The feast of the Holy Innocents is celebrated within the octave of Christmas, because the Holy Innocents gave their life for the newborn Jesus; and these first flowers of the Church accompanied the child Jesus, upon his entering this world on Christmas Day. No matter how many babies were killed, we weep for their murders, no less than we weep for the extremely brutal Holocaust and other genocides, which we have seen around the world, in our own day and age. But, even if there had been only one Innocent, we would recognize the greatest treasure that God put on the earth: a human person, destined for eternity and graced by the death and resurrection of Christ!
1st Reading: 1 Jn 2:3–11* How can we know that we know him? If we fulfill his commands. If you say, “I know him,” but do not fulfill his commands, you are a liar and the truth is not in you. But if you keep his word, God’s love is made complete in you. This is how we know that we are in him: he who claims to live in him must live as he lived. … If you claim to be in the light but hate your brother, you are still in darkness. If you love your brothers and sisters, you remain in the light and nothing in you will make you fall. But if you hate your brother you are in the dark and walk in darkness without knowing where you go, for the darkness has blinded you.
5th Day in the Octave of Christmas Thomas Becket Psalter: Week 1
Ps 96:1–2a, 2b–3, 5b–6 Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice!
Gospel: Lk 2:22–35* … There lived in Jerusalem at this time a very upright and devout man named Simeon; the Holy Spirit was in him. He looked forward to the time when the Lord would comfort Israel, and he had been assured by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before seeing the Messiah of the Lord. So he was led into the Temple by the Holy Spirit at the time the parents brought the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law. Simeon took the child in his arms and blessed God, saying, “Now, O Lord, you can dismiss your servant in peace, for you have fulfilled your word and my eyes have seen your salvation, which you display for all the people to see. Here is the light you will reveal to the nations and the glory of your people Israel.” His father and mother wondered at what was said about the child. Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother, “See him; he will be for the rise or fall of the multitudes of Israel. He shall stand as a sign of contradiction, while a sword will pierce your own soul. Then the secret thoughts of many may be brought to light.”
fter weeks of anticipation, the Christmas celebrations have flashed by us and are suddenly gone. But, it’s possible that this moment of melancholy may be the best teaching moment of the whole season. God gives us gifts to enjoy. They are expressions of his generosity as well as ours; but gifts and celebrations themselves are not designed to satisfy. They’re designed to point us to the giver. Gifts are like sunbeams: we aren’t meant to love sunbeams, but the sun. If we depend on anything in the world to satisfy our soul’s deepest desire, it will eventually leave us with that post-Christmas soul-ache. We will ask if that is all there is, because we know deep down that’s not all there is. We are designed to treasure people, not their things. It is more blessed to give than receive. What kind of happiness felt richer this Christmas: getting the presents that we wanted, or making someone else happy with something that we gave to them? Receiving is a blessing, but Jesus is right: giving is a greater blessing. A greedy soul lives in a lonely world. A generous soul lives in a wide world of love, each and every day!
30 December wednesday
6th Day in the Octave of Christmas Psalter: Week 1
Ps 96:7–8a, 8b–9, 10 Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice!
1st Reading: 1 Jn 2:12–17 My dear children, I write this to you: you have already received the forgiveness of your sins through the Name of Jesus. Fathers, I write this to you: you know him who is from the beginning. Young men, I write this to you: you have overcome the Evil One. My dear children, I write to you because you already know the Father. Fathers, I write to you because you know him who is from the beginning. Young men, I write to you because you are strong and the Word of God lives in you who have indeed overcome the Evil One. Do not love the world or what is in it. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the craving of the flesh, the greed of eyes and people boasting of their superiority—all this belongs to the world, not to the Father. The world passes away with all its craving but those who do the will of God remain for ever. Gospel: Lk 2:36–40 There was a prophetess named Anna, daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. After leaving her father’s home, she had been seven years with her husband, and since then she had been continually about the Temple, serving God as a widow night and day in fasting and prayer. She was now eighty-four. Coming up at that time, she gave praise to God and spoke of the child to all who looked forward to the deliverance of Jerusalem. When the parents had fulfilled all that was required by the law of the Lord, they returned to their town, Nazareth in Galilee. There the child grew in stature and strength and was filled with wisdom: the grace of God was upon him.
o now it’s all over. Too much shopping, too much food…and now, the maxed-out credit-cards! Advent ought to have been a time of reflection; now, Christmas ends with the same frantic opening of presents. But, let’s turn things around. Post-Christmas should also be a time for reflection. It’s time to ease back, measure the year past and consider the year to come. For many of us, it is a period of thinking through incarnation; the central mystery of faith, the divine uniting with the human; the transcendent becoming immanent; humanity enlivened by divinity. Incarnation is ultimately sacramental; the created makes known the uncreated and, through humanity, divinity is glimpsed. This year, the wonder is that all of us are called to this: to be the daughters and sons of God, in whose lives, love, kindness, justice and peace are seen. May we be as Christ, to all those we meet; may we be sacraments; may we be as one with the divine, as one with our ultimate reality…Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, born a child in Bethlehem, lived, suffered, died and rose from the dead, so that we all might have eternal life with Him!
1st Reading: 1 Jn 2:18–21 My dear children, it is the last hour. You were told that an antichrist would come; but several antichrists have already come, by which we know that it is now the last hour. They went out from us though they did not really belong to us. Had they belonged to us, they would have remained with us. So it became clear that not all of us were really ours. But you have the anointing from the Holy One, so that all of you have true wisdom. I write to you, not because you lack knowledge of the truth, but because you already know it, and lies have nothing in common with the truth.
7th Day in the Octave of Christmas Sylvester I Psalter: Week 1
Ps 96:1–2, 11–12, 13 Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice!
Gospel: Jn 1:1–18* In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God and the Word was God; he was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him and without him nothing came to be. Whatever has come to be, found life in him, life which for humans was also light. Light that shines in the dark: light that darkness could not overcome. A man came, sent by God; his name was John. He came to bear witness, as a witness to introduce the Light so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light but a witness to introduce the Light. For the Light was coming into the world, the true Light that enlightens everyone. He was already in the world and through him the world was made, the very world that did not know him. He came to his own, yet his own people did not receive him; but all who have received him he empowers to become children of God for they believe in his Name. … John bore witness to him openly, saying: This is the one who comes after me, but he is already ahead of me for he was before me. From his fullness we have all received, favor upon favor. For God had given us the Law through Moses, but Truth and Loving-kindness came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but God-the-Only-Son made him known: the one who is in and with the Father.
n the light of the New Year coming up, here are some practical suggestions to help us maintain the joy in our Christian lives, every day of the coming year: Make reflection a part of daily life; learn something new of God’s word each day. Review the events of the last year and remove any new obstacles that have arisen. Repent of what has hurt or harmed our brothers or sisters; forgive them and mean it. Let go of anger, hurt, and resentment. Resolve to say at least three positive, uplifting things about other people, before saying a single, critical or negative thing. Pray for one another as individuals and as a Church: this will build up our joy, if for no other reason than that, if we truly love God, we shall be more inclined to listen, whenever He tells us what He wants us to do. Perform random acts of kindness; smile, complement, be a friend, encourage, teach, be hospitable, generous and friendly. Draw in others, by being Christ to them, so that they will see Him in us. We are Christ’s gospel: Christ needs to be heard through us!