The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, Cycle A

First Reading
Sirach 3:2-7,12-14
Honor to one’s parents will be rewarded.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 128:1-2,3,4-5
Happy are those who follow the Lord’s ways.

Second Reading
Colossians 3:12-21 (or shorter form, Colossians 3:12-17)
Do all things in the name of Jesus and give thanks to God.

Gospel Reading
Matthew 2:13-15,19-23
In a dream, God tells Joseph to flee to Egypt to protect Jesus from King Herod.

Background on the Gospel Reading

Today we celebrate the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. As we do so, our Gospel invites us to consider Joseph’s protection of Jesus in the face of danger. Just as in the announcement of Jesus’ birth, an angel appears to Joseph in a dream. The angel warns him of Herod’s plans to harm Jesus. Joseph follows the command of the angel and takes Joseph and Mary to Egypt, returning only after receiving word in another dream that it was safe to do so.

This feast is part of the Christmas season, so we should look at today’s Gospel in the context of what Scripture tells us about Jesus’ birth. Today’s reading is found in the Gospel of Matthew, following the story of the visit of the Magi. Recall that Matthew’s story about the birth of Jesus makes Joseph the primary character. Among Matthew’s themes in this infancy narrative is Jesus as the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies about the messiah. Indeed, the story of the Holy Family’s flight to Egypt recalls the story of Moses in the Book of Exodus.

It should also be noted that today’s reading omits the verses that recount Herod’s order of the massacre of the infant boys in and around Bethlehem. We mark this event on the Feast of the Holy Innocents on December 28.

These events remind us of the difficult reality of Jesus’ birth. While the story of the Magi’s visit will be recalled in our liturgy on the Feast of the Epiphany, our Christmas celebration is made more sober by the recollection that not everyone received Christ’s birth with joy or obedience. Herod’s jealousy and malice contrast with Joseph’s obedience to the words of the angel. The Holy Family’s escape to Egypt and the massacre that Jesus is saved from remind us of the struggles and sacrifices that are required as preparation for God’s salvation.-loyolapress.com

Pope Francis’ December 2019 Intention

The Future of the Very Young
That every country take the measures necessary to prioritize the future of the very young, especially those who are suffering.

Prayer

Father of Goodness,
the birth of your Son Jesus opens a new time to the world,
a time of hope and peace.
We pray for children and adolescents,
especially those who live discouraged by their difficulties and sufferings,
who do not find opportunities to develop, feel enthusiasm for the future,
nor the support they need to have a decent life.
Help us to give them a bright future,
embracing with love the children and adolescents of today,
so they can transform the world that you have created
in a space of life and fraternity among all.
Our Father…

Liturgical Feasts/ Anniversaries/ Observances

(Legend: Ab=Abbot  Ap=Apostle  Pp=Pope  Bp=Bishop  Ch=Children  De=Deacon  Dr=Doctor  Kg=King Ma=Married  Mt=Martyr  Pr=Priest  Qu=Queen Re=Religious Vg=Virgin Fd=Founder, Hm=Hermit)

Dec 01: 1ST SUNDAY OF ADVENT

Dec 03: FRANCIS XAVIER**(pR)

Dec 04: John Damascene (Pr, Dr)

Dec 06: Nicholas (Bp)

Dec 07: Ambrose* (Bp, Dr)

Dec 08: 2ND SUNDAY OF ADVENT

Dec 09: IMMACULATE CONCEPTION OF MARY***

Dec 11: Damasus I, Pp

Dec 12: Our Lady of Guadalupe

Dec 13: LUCY* (Vg, Mt)

Dec 14: JOHN OF THE CROSS* (Pr, Dr)

Dec 15: 3RD SUNDAY OF ADVENT

Dec 21: Peter Canisius (Pr, Dr)

Dec 22: 4TH SUNDAY OF ADVENT

Dec 23: John of Kanty

DEC 25: CHRISTMAS DAY

Dec 26: STEPHEN, FIRST MARTYR**

Dec 27: JOHN THE EVANGELIST**(Ap)

Dec 28: THE HOLY INNOCENTS** (Mts)

Dec 29: HOLY FAMILY

Dec 31: Silvester I (Pp)

Prayer for our nation

Leader:
Let us proclaim the name of the Lord; and ascribe greatness to our God!

All:
Lord, Your work is perfect. And all your ways are just.  Let Your voice be heard today by all the nations.

O God, Judge of the nations, put fear into our hearts so that we may know that we are only human. Father, the whole of creation groans and labours to be delivered from the bondage of corruption, into the glorious liberty of the children of God.

Lord Jesus, send forth Your Spirit of Truth and let this Spirit prove to ‘the powers that be’ how wrong they are about sin, righteousness and judgment. O Lord, declare the power of Your works to Your people and let us be filled with the knowledge of Your glory as the waters cover the sea.

Gather us, O Lord, in Your Name and may all worship the One True God. Amen.

(A prayer composed from various Scripture verses of the Bible – Herald Malaysia)

The Nativity of the Lord (Christmas)—Mass During the Day

First Reading
Isaiah 52:7-10
God’s salvation is announced to the world.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 98:1-6
A prayer of praise for God’s salvation.

Second Reading
Hebrews 1:1-6
God now speaks to us through his Son.

Gospel Reading
John 1:1-18 (or shorter form, John 1:1-5, 9-14)
John announces that in Jesus, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

Background on the Gospel Reading

Four Masses are celebrated for the feast of Christmas, and each is given its own set of readings to help us contemplate Christ’s birth. The Gospel for the vigil Mass on Christmas Eve is taken from the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew. The Mass at midnight proclaims the birth of Jesus using the Gospel of Luke. The Mass at dawn on Christmas morning continues the story of the birth of Jesus as found in Luke’s Gospel through the shepherds’ visit to the infant Jesus. In each of these Gospel readings, we hear portions of the Infancy Narratives with which we are familiar.

The Gospel for the Christmas Mass during the day is taken from the beginning of John’s Gospel, but this Gospel is not an Infancy Narrative like those found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Instead, John’s Gospel begins at the beginning, as it were, and presents the Creation story as the framework for announcing the Incarnation. John’s opening words, “In the beginning . . .,” echo the opening verse of the Book of Genesis. This framework invites us to view Jesus’ birth from God’s perspective. Each of the Gospels makes clear that Jesus’ birth was the result of God’s initiative. However, John’s Gospel highlights that this was the divine intention from the very beginning, from the moment of Creation.

As we observe in today’s reading, the Gospel of John includes highly philosophical and theological language. One example that particularly stands out is John’s use of the expression, “Word of God.” This expression (logos in the Greek) borrows from a concept found in both Jewish and Greek thought. In Jewish thought, this phrase describes God taking action—for example, in the Creation story and in the Wisdom literature. In Greek, or Hellenistic, thought, the logos was understood as an intermediary between God and humanity. John and others in the early Church adopted this language to describe God’s incarnation in Jesus. As the term was used to express the trinitarian faith of Christians, the word Logos came to be equated with the Second Person of the Trinity.

In this prologue to the Gospel of John, the main themes that will be developed in his Gospel are introduced. These themes are presented as dualities: light/darkness, truth/falsehood, life/death, and belief/unbelief. We also hear in this prologue a unique aspect of John’s Gospel—the motif of testimony. John the Baptist was sent by God to testify about Jesus, the light. Others in this Gospel will also offer testimony about Jesus. The reader is invited to accept this testimony, which bears witnesses to Jesus, the Son of God. But even more directly, Jesus’ action and words will themselves testify to his identity with God as God’s Incarnate Word.

Thinking about Jesus’ birth in these theological and cosmological terms seems particularly appropriate as we celebrate the feast of Christmas in the darkness of winter. At this time, nature itself seems to remind us of the darkness of sin. Into this darkness, in the midst of our sinfulness, God comes to dwell among us. John’s Gospel reminds us that through the Incarnation, God saves us from the darkness of sin and makes us his children.-loyolapress.com

Fourth Sunday of Advent, Cycle A

First Reading
Isaiah 7:10-14
Ahaz proclaims the sign that the Lord will give: a virgin shall give birth to a son, Emmanuel.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 24:1-2,3-4,5-6
The Lord is the King of Glory who established the earth.

Second Reading
Romans 1:1-7
Paul greets the community at Rome and declares himself a servant of Christ Jesus.

Gospel Reading
Matthew 1:18-24
An angel appears to Joseph, directing him to take Mary as his wife and telling him that the child she will bear will be called Emmanuel.

Background on the Gospel Reading

Finally, on this the Fourth Sunday of Advent, our Gospel Reading permits us to begin our contemplation of the mystery of the Incarnation we celebrate at Christmas: “Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about” (Matthew 1:18).

The Gospel of Matthew tells the story of the birth of Jesus from Joseph’s perspective. Today’s Gospel passage is the second movement in this story. In the preceding verses of the first chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, the Evangelist has listed the genealogy of Jesus, tracing his lineage through King David to Abraham. In the chapter to follow, Matthew tells of the visit from the Magi, the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt, and Herod’s massacre of the infants in Bethlehem. (The other stories which we associate with Christmas, the Annunciation, the Visitation, the angel and the shepherds, are found in the Gospel of Luke).

We must not gloss over too quickly the difficult circumstances described in today’s Gospel. The way that Joseph and Mary face these circumstances tells us much about these holy people and their faith in God. Joseph and Mary are betrothed to be married. This is sometimes described as an engagement period, but it is more than that. Betrothal in first century Jewish culture was in fact the first part of the marriage contract. A breach of this contract was considered adultery. Mary is found to be with child. If adultery is proven, the punishment might be death. Joseph has rights under Mosaic law, but chooses to act discreetly in his plans to break the marriage contract, so as to protect Mary. Then God intervenes.

The message of the angel of the Lord given to Joseph in his dream tells us much about the child that Mary bears and his role in God’s plan. He is conceived by the Holy Spirit. His name will be Jesus, which in the Hebrew means “Yahweh saves.” He will be the fulfillment of the prophecy heard in today’s first reading from Isaiah: “. . . The virgin shall be with child . . . and shall name him Emmanuel [God with us].”

Joseph does as the angel of the Lord directs. He takes Mary to be his wife and accepts the child in her womb as his own. Joseph and Mary are both cooperative with God’s plan. They are both models for us of what it means to be faithful servants of God.-loyolapress.com

Third Sunday of Advent, Cycle A

First Reading
Isaiah 35:1-6,10
In the day of the Lord, all sorrow and mourning will cease.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 146:6-7,8-9,9-10
The Lord will save his people.

Second Reading
James 5:7-10
Be patient, and be ready; the coming of the Lord is near.

Gospel Reading
Matthew 11:2-11
Jesus tells John the Baptist of the signs of the kingdom that are being worked through him and praises John as more than a prophet.

Background on the Gospel Reading

The third Sunday of Advent is traditionally called Gaudete SundayGaudete is the Latin word meaning “rejoice.” This Sunday is so named because “Rejoice” is the first word in the entrance antiphon for today’s Mass taken from Philippians 4:4,5: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice! The Lord is near.” Some people mark this Sunday on their Advent wreath with a pink candle instead of a purple candle. This Sunday is a joyful reminder that our salvation is near.

This week’s Gospel Reading continues our Advent reflection on the person and message of John the Baptist. Last week we heard John speak about his relationship to the coming Messiah, Jesus. This week, we hear Jesus’ message to John the Baptist, now in prison, about the signs of the kingdom found in Jesus’ ministry and Jesus’ assessment of John’s role in the Kingdom of God.

The Gospel of Matthew tells the story of John’s arrest in chapter 14:3-12. In today’s Gospel, John sends word to Jesus from prison, asking if Jesus is the Messiah for whom he has been waiting. Jesus responds by pointing to the miracles that he has worked and invites John and the other hearers to make their own determination. In his next breath, however, Jesus praises John for his role in preparing the way for Jesus. Then Jesus says that all of those who work for the Kingdom of God will be as great as John and even greater.

Jesus’ message to John about the signs of the kingdom being performed recalls the salvation described by the prophet Isaiah. This passage is a reminder that the beginning of salvation is already mysteriously present to us, but also yet to be fulfilled. Salvation is already in our midst as manifest in the miraculous deeds of Jesus and in the Church. But salvation is also to be fulfilled in the coming reign of God. Even as we observe our world today, we can find glimpses of God’s work among us. Even more, we help to prepare the way for God’s kingdom by our words and our deeds. This message is indeed a cause for rejoicing.– loyolapress.com

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

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