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.
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?
Jeremiah 38:4-6, 8-10; Psalm 40:2, 3, 4, 18 (R/.14b); Hebrews 12:1-4; John 10:27; Luke 12:49-53
A man interviewed on the evening news admitted taking his eyes off the road for only three seconds to check his cell phone when he smashed into the car in front of him. Losing focus can be dangerous, leading even to loss of life – your own or someone else’s.
The Letter to the Hebrews calls us to live a focused life so we may reach the goal our faith sets before us: eternal life with the Lord. Using the image of a runner striving to win a race, the letter first calls us to remove any weight of sin that would weigh us down; then it commands us to “keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of the faith.” Just as Jesus kept his focus on doing the Father’s will, enduring both opposition and suffering – even death – we must “not grow weary and lose heart” in our struggle to achieve the end God has planned for us.
What image or story of Jesus helps you focus on him?
1 Kings 19:16b, 19-21; Psalm 16:1-1. 5. 7-8, 9-10, 11 (R/. cf. 5a); Galatians 5:1, 13-18; 1 Samuel 3:9, John 6:68c; Luke 9:51-62
In 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt gave a speech naming the four freedoms Americans cherished: freedom of speech, freedom to worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. Americans have valued freedom from the beginning of our country. Freedom is also a biblical value. St. Paul writes. “For freedom Christ has set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.” The slavery Paul refers to is the slavery of sin, which chokes off our freedom and limits what we do. Freedom reveals itself in living by the Spirit, which means living in love. A disciple of Jesus freely chooses to follow Jesus and his teachings. We do not use our freedom to enslave or manipulate others, much less to oppress or respond violently to those who oppose us. God gives us the strength to commit ourselves to Jesus, not letting anything, neither comforts nor family ties, keep us from following him. With the dedication of Elisha, who burned his oxen behind him, we set out each day freely to follow Jesus.
How have you used your freedom this day?
Exodus 3:1-8a, 13-15; Psalm 103: 1-2, 3-4, 6-7, 8, 11; 1 Corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12; Matthew 4:17; Luke 13: 1-9
Carpe diem! (Seize the day!) was the Latin saying I learned in high school. It called us to be open to the opportunities life brings – for doing good, for making the world a better place, for enjoying the day’s blessings.
Moses heard a voice from a burning bush telling him to go down to Egypt. He was given a brief introduction to God and a call to help free the Hebrew slaves. Moses seized the day, obeying the call to act, now.
Jesus calls on his fellow Jews to seize the day by repenting. Life is short. People die tragically and unexpectedly. Look to your own life, Jesus tells them. God has given you these days, so bear fruit, now.
Paul calls on the Corinthians to seize the day. Not just our actions but even our desires can mislead us. So do not be complacent. Take care, now. Baptism lays a foundation, but we have to build on it. Baptism gives us the Spirit and the virtues of faith, hope, and love. We renew our baptismal promises in a few weeks. Act now; seize the day to grow closer to God.
What opportunity does this day offer you?