Reflections on the Daily Readings

December 4 - 10, 2016
The Season of Advent - The Second Week.
Readings: Sunday Cycle A; Weekday Cycle I.
Divine Office - Psalter Week II.

Sunday 4:            Second Sunday of Advent
Isaiah 11:1-10; Psalm 71; Romans 15:4-9; Matthew 3:1-12
Our readings today give us two key people and two important role models for us. The first is Isaiah who spoke of the Lord’s arrival and who, in his way, prepared the way for the Lord’s coming. The second is John the Baptist – the Lord’s own cousin – who is spoken of by Isaiah and who prepared the way for the Lord in the Lord’s own time.
The first reading from the Prophet Isaiah speaks of a new king who will come to rule the people. This king will be blessed with God’s Spirit who will give him wisdom and insight, counsel and power, and integrity and who will deal fairly with all the people. In the time of this king there will be peace for all those who are at odds with each other. The text begins and ends with the mention of Jesse and Jesse’s son – David – was the greatest of all the kings and from him is descended the Messiah. The Psalm reminds us that in the days of the Lord, ‘justice shall flourish and peace till the moon fails’.
In the second reading from his letter to the Romans, St Paul reminds the people that Jesus Christ came to save them all. He was born into the Jewish faith to carry out the promises God made to the patriarchs but that doesn’t mean that only Jews can follow Jesus Christ. Regardless of a person’s ethnic background they can still be followers of Jesus Christ as long as they believe in him and live out his Gospel in their lives.
In the gospel we are introduced to John the Baptist who is preaching repentance and who directly challenges the Pharisees and Sadducees who come to him for baptism. He has a stark warning that the Lord will sift through his people and separate the faithful from the unfaithful, and he points out that there will always be those who will be unfaithful. We are the successors to John and to his mission and by our baptismal promises we have taken on the duty to prepare the way in our own time for the Lord’s imminent coming in power through the celebration of Christmas. Before we can be heralds of that great news we must first prepare a way for him to enter more deeply into our own hearts and we do that through repentance, through facing up to those things which are at odds with the Gospel. These days of Advent are a time to clean up our lives and to make ourselves worthy of the birth of Jesus Christ in our own time.

Monday 5:           Of the Second Week of Advent
Isaiah 35:1-10; Psalm 84; Luke 5:17-26
We again begin this week with a text from Isaiah and today we read that the Lord himself is coming to his people and when he does the lame shall walk, the blind shall see and the deaf shall hear. Upon his arrival the barren lands shall become prosperous and dry lands shall be watered. The Psalm continues this theme of the Lord coming to save his people. The gospel text from St Luke recounts the cure of a lame man whose stretcher had to be let in through the roof because of the crowds. Jesus tells the man that his sins are forgiven and this does not sit well with the Pharisees who had come to hear him, for they believed that only God himself could forgive. The text can be seen to fulfil the first reading in that this is God himself among the people and therefore Jesus does have the authority to forgive. This is important for us at this time as we need to look at our own lives and not just ask whether or not we believe Jesus to be the Son of God, but to also acknowledge our failings – openly and honestly – and ask the Lord for forgiveness as we approach the celebration of his birth.

Tuesday 6:           Of the Second Week of Advent
Isaiah 40:1-11; Psalm 95; Matthew 18:12-14
In our first reading from the Prophet Isaiah we read of how God will come to console his people and to tell his people that their sin has been atoned for. The concluding part of the text tells us that God is like a shepherd who will feed his flock and gather his lambs in his arms. The Psalm continues this theme and also praises God. In our very short gospel text Jesus uses a parable about a shepherd who goes in search of one stray sheep and then rejoices when he gets it back. Jesus concludes by saying that God rejoices when someone who has strayed from the right path returns to the true path. This again is a reminder to us to look closely at our own lives and to make amends for anything that it is not in keeping with the values of the Gospel. Now is the time to repent of our sins while knowing that God is our consolation and that he rejoices at our return.

Wednesday 7:     Memorial of St Ambrose, Bishop & Doctor of the Church*
Isaiah 40:25-31; Psalm 102; Matthew 11:28-30
Our first reading today reminds us of the power of God and that there is no one else like him in creation for he is the Creator of all – he alone can bring us consolation and peace. Our very short gospel passage sees Jesus calling the people to himself, particularly those who are burdened and weary. The Lord tells us that he has a yoke to be carried but that his yoke is easy and light. The readings remind us again that we need to look at our lives and at our faith and acknowledge that God is the Lord of all and that Jesus is his Son and our Saviour.

Thursday 8:         Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary*
Genesis 3:9-15, 20; Psalm 97:1-4; Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12; Luke 1:26-38
Today’s solemnity recalls the conception of Mary in the womb of her mother. It is fitting that she should be conceived free from the traditional mark of original sin as she would be the mother of Jesus Christ. Our first reading comes from the Book of Genesis and it reminds us of how sin entered the world through our first parents. Because of their sin, Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden and a barrier was placed between humans and God. By contrast, Mary is often seen as the ‘New Eve’ for it is through her Son that we are restored to full unity with God.
The second reading from St Paul’s letter to the Ephesians reminds us that God has chosen us in Jesus Christ to be his people and that Mary’s immaculate conception was part of God’s predestined plan for our salvation and glory. In order to achieve that salvation and glory we have to live the gospel values and say ‘yes’ to God every day, just as Mary did.
Our gospel text from St Luke recalls the Annunciation to Mary by the Angel Gabriel. In the scene Mary is greeted with the words, ‘Rejoice, so highly favoured!’ (Luke 1:28), which shows the special place Mary already had above the rest of the sons and daughters of God. Just as important, and indeed central, is Mary’s ‘yes’ to the angel’s message because it allows the poor decision of Adam and Eve to be reversed. Mary is a woman and the exemplar of the faith that we are called to have in God. Falling as it does in Advent, this solemnity also reminds us of our preparations for the birth of Jesus Christ at Christmas and of the necessity to remove sin from our own lives.

Friday 9:              Of the Second Week of Advent
Isaiah 48:17-19; Psalm 1; Matthew 11:16-19
In our last text from Isaiah for a while we read how the Lord laments the fact that the people were not open to keeping his commandments for if they had been their happiness would be so much greater. The Psalm reminds us that those who do follow the Lord and keep his commandments and live as he asks ‘will have the light of life.’ Our gospel text for today is a continuation of yesterday’s in which Jesus is talking about his cousin, John the Baptist. He reminds the people that when John came living a good life they called him a mad man and that when he, Jesus, arrived living the life they wanted John to live they called him a drunkard and a glutton. There is a reminder here that we cannot create God to be who we want him to be. The readings remind us that if we reject God and his Son as they are then we will never be truly happy. We are challenged today to look at our image of God and see if it is an image we have made ourselves and use to justify how we live, or do we believe in God as he really is and so live our lives according the Gospel.

Saturday 10:        Of the Second Week of Advent
Sirach 48:1-4, 9-11; Psalm 79; Matthew 17:10-13
Our first reading today comes from the Book of Ecclesiasticus or Sirach and reminds us of the Prophet Elijah and of all that he did. It tells us that he will come again and it reminds us of the gospel passage on Thursday in which Jesus implied that John the Baptist was Elijah retuning. In the gospel text we see Jesus speaking with his disciples and they ask him why Elijah has to come back. He tells them that this has to happen to make sure that all is as it should be. He then says that Elijah has indeed come back and they understand this to be John the Baptist. This takes place after John has been beheaded. It is also a reminder that we too have to make sure all is ready for the celebration of the Birth of Christ. The most important preparations concern the faith and not expensive presents and glittering wrapping paper. If we fail to prepare properly for Christmas then we will be missing out on the most important gift of all – the presence of Christ in our hearts.

Memorials this Week:
December 7:        Memorial of St Ambrose, Bishop & Doctor of the Church
Ambrose was born sometime around the year 340 in Gaul. He was a lawyer and later became governor in what is today northern Italy. He had his offices in Milan where he was elected Bishop by popular acclaim of the laity and was consecrated on December 7, 374, even though he was still only preparing to be baptised. He worked untiringly for the Church and was not afraid of standing up to the Emperors in defence of the faith and of morals. He was a close friend of St Monica and baptised St Augustine. He died on Good Friday, 397.

December 8:        Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
This solemnity celebrates the fact that Mary herself was conceived without original sin, a state which reflected the fact that she was to be the Mother of God. Though this belief was held for many centuries it was only formally proclaimed by the Church in 1854.

© P. Breen, O.Carm. 2011
The Reflections above are available in printed form in:
Reflections on the Readings for every day of the Church's year.
Patrick J. Breen, O.Carm. Dublin: Columba Press. 2011. ISBN 978 1 85607 732 3.

And direct from the publishers: Columba Press, Dublin.

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