Isaiah 8:23 – 9:3; Psalm 27:1, 4, 13-14; 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17; cf. Matthew 4:23; Matthew 4:12-23 or 4:12-17
It can be disheartening to realize that from the beginning there have been divisions in the Church. Within the community at Corinth in St. Paul’s time, there was bickering among different groups over who had their allegiance, i.e., “I belong to Paul […] to Peter […] to Apollos […] to Christ.” Paul confronts the issue head-on, asking the various factions, “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?”
Division is different than diversity. Diversity allows for different gifts to be recognized, but division often brings darkness into the world, whether it happens among countries, churches, ethnic groups, or families. The light that Christ brought into the world allows us to look into the face of another and see a brother or sister; even to recognize the face of God, because this person is a child of God.
Soon after Jesus began preaching that the Kingdom of God was at hand, He called others to join Him in His work. He continues to call others to help him. Now, it is our turn. Have you heard the call? Have you answered it?
Isaiah 49:3, 5-6; Psalm 40:2, 4, 7-8, 8-9, 10; 1 Corinthians 1:1-3; John 1:14a, 12a; John 1:29-34
God’s word invites us to know Jesus in three ways: first, as the servant the prophet Isaiah describes; second, as the Lamb of God, as
John the Baptist calls him, who takes away the sins of the world; and finally and most importantly, as the Son of God. Isaiah’s servant has been formed from the womb not only to bring God’s people back to God, but also to be a light to the nations. Jesus fulfills this prophecy by his suffering and dying for us and for all peoples. He is truly the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world and restores us to God as beloved sons and daughters. A disciple of Jesus is one who learns from Jesus by being with Jesus. In learning who Jesus is, we learn who we are called to be.
Like John the Baptist in today’s Gospel, we are to bring others to the Lord by how we live our lives and by a willingness to speak about our faith in him and the difference he has made in our lives. Do you see yourself as a true disciple of Jesus? How do you spend time with him?
Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7; Psalm 29:1-2, 3-4, 3, 9-10 (R/. 11b); Acts 10:34-38; cf Mark 9:7; Matthew 3:13-17
Today, the Christmas season comes to a close with another epiphany of Jesus as God’s beloved Son. The importance of Jesus’ baptism is underlined in that the first three Gospels directly describe it, and John’s Gospel mentions it as having already happened. Why did Jesus need to be baptized? John the Baptist asks this himself in Matthew’s account. Jesus responds by saying, “To fulfill all righteousness.” Scholars interpret this remark as showing Jesus’ solidarity with sinners, those for whom he had been sent, even though he himself did not sin.
The central moment occurs when Jesus is coming out of the water. The Holy Spirit descends upon him, and, in Matthew only, the Father announces, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” More than a public service announcement for those present then, it proclaims to us now, Jesus is the Son of the Father.
He will go from this event to be tempted in the desert, and then into his ministry of preaching, teaching, healing, and casting our demons. As we return to Ordinary Time, consider what tasks God has given to us.
Do you see your Baptism as rooting you in a life of service?
Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 72:1-2, 7-8, 10-11, 12-13 (R/. cf. 11); Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6; Matthew 2:2; Matthew 2:1-12
The story of the Magi is one of the most popular stories in Sacred Scripture. Artists have celebrated it in poetry (T.S. Eliot’s The Journey of the Magi,) in art (Da Vinci, Bosch, Lippi,) in fiction (Van Dyck’s The Other Wise Man,) and in opera (Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors.) It is the story of being drawn out from what is familiar and led to something that exceeds one’s hopes and desires. It is a story of every restless heart that will not find rest until it rests in God. The Magi paid close attention to what was before them in the present, a star, and were open to what was valuable from the past, the prophecies given to Israel, thereby allowing both nature and divine revelation to guide them to the One who alone could fill their hearts.
The Epiphany was not a “once and for all” event. Our liturgical tradition recognizes three “showings” or “manifestations”: the journey of the Magi, the wedding feast at Cana, and the baptism of Jesus – all revelations of Jesus as the One who came to draw us toward God and one another.
What epiphanies have you had lately? What manifestations have you experienced which have brought you closer to God?
Numbers 6:22-27; Psalm 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8; Galatians 4:4-7; Hebrews 1:1-2; Luke 2:16-21
We return again to Bethlehem and the visit of the shepherds to meet their Savior. While much of the reading focuses on the shepherds, what they saw and said, today’s feast directs us to Mary, providing Pau’s only reference to her and a helpful image of her from Luke’s Gospel. In his most fiery letter, Paul notes that “God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law…” On this feast celebrating Mary as the mother of God, Paul’s words provide the earliest designation of her as mother of God’s Son. God not only lowered himself to our human estate; he made himself, for a short time, subservient to Mary, his human mother. If Christ made himself subservient to Mary, how much more so should we be obedient to her as well?
Luke gives us a prayerful perspective on Mary, presenting her as the woman who ponders, “Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” She is a fitting example to imitate as a new year begins. She invites us to ponder and reflect on who Christ is for us and for our world. We live in such a non-stop, 24/7, busy-busy-busy world. Mother Mary calls us to sit down beside her and ponder the mystery of the Father sending his Son into the world to give us life.
What does Mary invite you to ponder? When we serve her and follow her example, then we will begin to imitate Jesus Christ. It is then that we will grow stronger in our faith.
Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14; Psalm 128:1-2, 3, 4-5 (R/. cf. 1); Colossians 3:12-21 or 3:12-17; Colossians 3:15a, 16a; Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23
Today we are invited to focus on the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. One may think being holy is being free from problems, but God’ Son was born into a dangerous world. From the beginning, Jesus was seen as a threat. Herod was a royal thug intent on removing anyone who threatened him, but Joseph acted to protect the child from the king’s murderous rage. A reciprocal regard holds a family together.
Sirach focuses on the honor and respect that children owe their parents. Colossians urges parents not to discourage their children. Furthermore, husbands and wives are to honor one another. Calling wives “subordinate” is unfortunate vocabulary in many cultures today, given the frequency o spousal abuse, but urging husbands to “love their wives and avoid any bitterness toward them” helps restore a mutual regard.
All relationships are to be transformed in Christ to bring His presence into the word. This transformation happens when we are “swaddled” in compassion, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, and above all, love. It is through this transformation that the grace of the Incarnation becomes enfleshed in the family and every family becomes holy.
What do you think makes a family holy?
Isaiah 62:1-5; Psalm 89:4-5, 16-17, 27, 29 (R/.2a); Acts 13:16-17, 22-25; Matthew 1:1-25 or 1:18-25
Readers often dread the long list of names in this Gospel. Name after name after name – strange names, foreign to us, flowing together in a litany evoking and ancient world. But if one takes time reading them, even proclaiming them, as if you were reading a roll call of one’s own ancestors, on begins to realize that each name is to be honored. Each is a son or a daughter (five interesting women are mentioned.) Each was part of Israel’s history, Jesus’ history, salvation history. God was at work in each of these lives.
Matthew’s genealogy also implies that Jesus did not come from a perfect family; but a family of sinners. That is not to say the Jesus or Mary were with sin; rather Jesus’ ancestors in the lines of Abraham and David, through fourteen generations after the Babylonia exile (560 years after the death of Amel-Marduk, the king of Babylon – in Jewish tradition, one generation was the equivalent of 40 years.) Like Jesus’ ancestors, we too are not perfect. We are sinners, and we welcome Jesus into our human family.
The story of Joseph concludes the genealogy with the angel’s command that Joseph name the child born of Mary and the Holy Spirit. The name to be given is Jesus “because he will save his people from their sins.” Tonight, we begin our Christmas celebration remembering that the Son of God, our Savior, was born into our human family.
What does it mean to you to have Jesus in your family and, by Baptism, to be in his?
Isaiah 7:10-14; Psalm 24:1-2, 3-4, 5-6 (R/. 7c and 10b); Romans 1:1-7; Matthew 1:23; Matthew 1:18-24
Sacred Scripture gives us several stories about dreamers – Jacob and his son Joseph come to
mind. But the most important dreamer of all was a carpenter named Joseph. In his dream, an angel came and spoke to him and said, “Do not fear to take Mary into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.” In addition, in his dream, Joseph was told to name the child Jesus, which means “God saves.” When he awoke from the dream, he did what had been asked and took Mary into his home.
That was not the end of his dreams though. They kept coming. Voices spoke, “Joseph, take the mother and child into Egypt – Herod is trying to kill him.” “Joseph, take the mother and child out of Egypt – Herod is dead.” Each time Joseph listened to his dreams. Perhaps once one begins to live in God’s dream; it becomes clearer, if not easier. God’s dream is that we live in the world as God’s children, taking care of each other and working to bring God’s peace, justice, mercy, and forgiveness – God’s very presence, wherever it is needed.
How are you living God’s dream?
Isaiah 35:1-6a, 10; Psalm 146:6-7, 8-9, 9-10 (R/. cf. Isaiah 35:4); James 5:7-10; Isaiah 61:1 (cited in Luke 4:18); Matthew 11:2-11
Isaiah is the prophet of joy in Advent. He pictures a dry desert that will blossom and flower when the Lord comes. He then images the healing that the Lord will also bring: feeble hands strengthened, weak knees made firm, blind eyes opened, deaf ears made clear, the lame leaping, and the mute singing for joy. This is the jubilation that accompanies the coming of the Lord. God wants all of us to have fullness of life. It will surely come in God’s good time. Even now, we get a taste of it, knowing that by our Baptism, we have entered into the life of the Trinity, and by receiving the Eucharist, we enter into communion with the Lord and each other.
For the fullness of joy, we must wait patiently, as James reminds us, not complaining but with hearts trusting in God’s promises. The rest is only a matter of time. While Jesus praises John as more than a prophet, nevertheless he concludes by saying, “Yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” Even now we are children of the kingdom.
How have you known the joy that is a gift of the Holy Spirit?