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Second Sunday of Advent, Cycle A

First Reading
Isaiah 11:1-10

A descendent of Jesse will usher in a time of peace.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 72:1-2,7-8,12-13,17
The Messiah will bring justice and peace to the nations.

Second Reading
Romans 15:4-9
Both Jews and Gentiles glorify God for the salvation found in Christ Jesus.

Gospel Reading
Matthew 3:1-12
John the Baptist appears in Judea preaching a message of repentance.

Background on the Gospel Reading

In this week’s Gospel Reading and next week’s, our Advent preparation for Christmas invites us to consider John the Baptist and his relationship to Jesus. In this week’s Gospel, Matthew describes the work and preaching of John the Baptist.

John the Baptist appears in the tradition of the great prophets of Israel, preaching repentance and reform to the people of Israel. In fact, the description of John found in this reading is reminiscent of the description of the prophet Elijah (2 Kings 1:8). In this reading, John directs a particularly pointed call to repentance to the Pharisees and Sadducees, parties within the Jewish community of the first century.

John marks the conversion of those who seek him out with a baptism of repentance. Other groups in this period are thought to have practiced ritual washings for similar purposes, and John’s baptism may have been related to the practices of the Essenes, a Jewish sect of the first century. John’s baptism can be understood as an anticipation of Christian baptism. In this passage, John himself alludes to the difference between his baptism and the one yet to come: “I am baptizing you with water, for repentance . . . He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Matthew 3:11).

In this reading, John makes very clear that his relationship to the Messiah yet to come (Jesus) is one of service and subservience: “. . . the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals” (Matthew 3:11). In the context of Matthew’s Gospel, today’s passage is followed by Jesus’ baptism by John, an event that is attested to in all four of the Gospels and appears to have been the start of Jesus’ public ministry.

John’s preaching of the coming of the Lord is a key theme of the Advent season. As John’s message prepared the way for Jesus in the first century, we, too, are called to prepare ourselves for Jesus’ coming. We respond to John’s message by our repentance and reform of our lives. We are also called to be prophets of Christ, who announce by our lives, as John did, the coming of the Lord.-loyolapress.com

First Sunday of Advent, Cycle A

First Reading
Isaiah 2:1-5
Isaiah describes his vision in which all nations are gathered together by God in peace.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 122:1-2,3-4,4-5,6-7,8-9
Rejoicing, let us enter the house of the Lord.

Second Reading
Romans 13:11-14
Be prepared, salvation is near.

Gospel Reading
Matthew 24:37-44
Jesus tells his disciples that the coming of the Son of Man will catch many people unprepared. Jesus tells his disciples that they are to always be ready for the day of the Lord.

Background on the Gospel Reading

Today is the first Sunday of Advent, which is also the first Sunday of a new liturgical year for the Church. The Advent season includes the four Sundays that precede Christmas. It is a time of preparation for the coming of the Lord. In this season, we recall two central elements of our faith: the final coming of the Lord in glory and the incarnation of the Lord in the birth of Jesus. Key themes of the Advent season are watchful waiting, preparation, and justice.

In this new liturgical year, the Gospel of Matthew will be the primary Gospel proclaimed (Lectionary Cycle A). In today’s Gospel, we hear Jesus speak about the need for wakefulness, for watchful waiting, for the coming of the Son of Man.

Matthew’s Gospel is dated by most scholars after 70 A.D. Most believe that Matthew wrote for a primarily Jewish community, but one that was no longer centered on the Temple in Jerusalem. These were Jewish Christians trying to come to terms with their relationship to Judaism in a new situation: Judaism after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. There may have been Christians who believed that the events of the world around them gave evidence of the imminent return of the Lord in glory.

The passage from Matthew we read today is rather straightforward. No one knows the precise time of the coming of the Lord in glory, so watchful waiting and vigilance are required. The passage speaks to the uselessness of looking for signs; there will be none. As a thief sneaks in during the night, so will the Lord’s coming in glory be.

The question for us as members of the Christian community, then, is how do we prepare for this? Today’s passage speaks more about the manner of waiting, rather than the details of the preparation. Jesus compares the vigilance required of Christians to the vigilance of a homeowner who knows the plans of the thief. If one knows that the thief’s action is imminent, one remains watchful. As Christians, we know that our Lord is coming even if we cannot know the precise timing. Jesus calls us to be watchful and vigilant, like the homeowner. If we become lax in our Christian living, we may be caught unprepared.-loyolapress.com

The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe (Thirty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time), Cycle C

First Reading
2 Samuel 5:1-3
David is anointed king.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 122:1-2,3-4,4-5
Enter the house of the Lord rejoicing.

Second Reading
Colossians 1:12-20
Hymn to Jesus as the first-born of all creation.

Gospel Reading
Luke 23:35-43
Jesus is crucified under the title King of the Jews.

Background on the Gospel Reading

Today as a Church, we conclude our liturgical year and celebrate the Feast of Christ the King. The Gospel we proclaim shows the great mystery of our faith: In the moment of his crucifixion, Jesus is shown to be King and Savior of all.

Luke’s Gospel has been loaded with surprises: the poor are rich, sinners find salvation, the Kingdom of God is found in our midst. Here we see the greatest surprise of all. We are confronted with the crucified Jesus, whom faith tells us is King and Savior of all. The irony is that the inscription placed on the cross, perhaps in mockery, contains the profoundest of truth. As the leaders jeer, the thief crucified by his side recognizes Jesus as Messiah and King, and finds salvation.

Jesus is King, but not the kind of king we might have imagined or expected. His kingship was hidden from many of his contemporaries, but those who had the eyes of faith were able to see. As modern disciples of Jesus, we, too, struggle at times to recognize Jesus as King. Today’s Gospel invites us to make our own judgment. With eyes of faith, we, too, recognize that Jesus, the crucified One, is indeed King and Savior of all.-loyolapress.com

Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C

First Reading
Malachi 3:19-20
The day of justice is coming, says the Lord.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 98:5-6,7-8,9
Sing praise to God, who rules with justice.

Second Reading
2 Thessalonians 3:7-12
Paul urges the community to follow his example and to earn their keep.

Gospel Reading
Luke 21:5-19
Jesus predicts the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and warns his followers that persecution will come before the end time.

Background on the Gospel Reading

In the context of Luke, today’s Gospel appears near the end of Jesus’ teaching in Jerusalem, just prior to the events that will lead to his crucifixion. His warnings and predictions are ominous but can be read in many ways.

To those who first heard Luke’s Gospel, those may have been words of encouragement. The destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans was history (70 A.D.); Luke’s Gospel, Catholic scholars propose, was written between 80 and 90 A.D. His audience was probably Gentile Christians. Luke here tries to interpret the fall of Jerusalem for them and to locate it in God’s plans for humankind (salvation history). At the same time, Luke is suggesting to his audience that there will be a considerable elapse of time before Jesus’ final coming. Luke’s listeners have likely seen much upheaval and are anxious to know if these are the signs of Jesus’ coming. Luke is urging greater patience.

In the second part of today’s Gospel, Jesus warns that his followers will face persecution for their beliefs. Luke presents persecution as an opportunity for the followers of Jesus for “It will lead to your giving testimony” (Luke 21:13). In persecution God’s wisdom and power will be shown in the example of followers of Jesus. Perseverance in the face of persecution will lead to their salvation.

Here Jesus is assuring his followers that God is present to all believers, even in times of trouble. Ultimately, Jesus will witness to this with his own death. As disciples of Jesus, we try to follow his example, trusting in God’s mercy and protection, even when we are facing difficulties.-loyolapress.com

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