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?
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?
Isaiah 11:1-10; Psalm 72:1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17 (R/. cf. 7); Romans 15:4-9; Luke 3:4, 6; Matthew 3:1-12
Advent is a season that set before us visionaries like the poet-prophet Isaiah, the preacher-missionary Paul, and the herald-prophet John the Baptist. Each offers us a vision of God’s good creation coming together in unity. For Isaiah, it is all creation – human and animal; for Paul, it is the church in Rome “thinking in harmony with one another;” for John it is the Promised One coming to gather the good wheat into his barn, God’s harvest, which is the children of the kingdom.
We are brought together each Sunday to think, live, pray, and sing in harmony to the gracious God who continues to come to us in Jesus Christ, the One who came in the power of the Holy Spirit, an who continues to come in God’s Word and in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. The risen Lord draws us more deeply into communion with the Father and with one another.
How can you help bring about God’s dream for a renewed and unified creation?
Isaiah 2:1-5; Psalm 122:1-2, 3-4, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9; Romans 13:11-14; cf. Psalm 85:8; Matthew 24:37-44
Having something to look forward to brings hope into our lives. Having something good coming in our future helps us to move through difficult times and to bear suffering more peacefully. Advent begins by holding up what believers have to look forward to at the end of time, and at the end of one’s own time on earth. The prophet Isaiah expresses it as people gathering on God’s holy mountain to be instructed by God and to live in peace.
In the second reading, Paul instructs us that “our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed” so we should “conduct ourselves properly as in the day.”
In the Gospel, Jesus also calls us to live in a way expectant of the Second Coming of the Son of Man. He warns that it will come “at an hour you do not expect.” This notion brings fear to some, but for those who conduct themselves properly and live as God has commanded, the Second Coming brings something to look forward to with great hope, life in peace with God for eternity.
Do you live trusting that something; rather, Someone good is coming? If you are fearful, take this time of Advent to reflect on how you can change your outlook to a feeling of hope and anticipation for the Second Coming of our Lord, Jesus Christ, for none of us know when he will return, and none of us know when our time on earth will come to an end. Let us all come into the right relationship with Him so that we may trust in His coming peace.
Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14; Psalm 24:1-2, 3-4, 5-6 (R/. cf. 6); 1 John 3:1-3; Matthew 11:28; Matthew 5:1-12a
In a healthy parish, individuals work together as one community for the good of all. This power is rooted in the love God poured into our hearts to pour out into the world. All Saints Day celebrates this power that entered into the world through the dying and rising of Christ, a power manifested especially in those drawn into the one body of Christ through baptism. More broadly, this power enters the world whenever men and women are poor in spirit, mourn the world’s sorrows, are meek, hunger and thirst for righteousness, show mercy, are pure of heart, peacemakers, and withstand persecution for the sake of living in right relationship with God, others, and the world. They not only will enter heaven; they bring it into the world now. These are the saints.
Who are the saints who have touched your life?