Reflections on the Daily Readings

December 21 - 27, 2014.
The Season of Advent - The Fourth Week/The Season of Christmas
Readings: Sunday Cycle B; Weekday Cycle I.
Divine Office - Psalter Week IV/Proper.

Sunday 21:          Fourth Sunday of Advent
2Samuel 7:1-5, 8b-11, 16; Psalm 88; Romans 16:25-27; Luke 1:26-38
Rather than being dependant on David to build a dwelling place for God on earth, the first reading from the second book of Samuel, presents God as ensuring that David’s “house” (that is, his dynastic line) will be continued. The Psalm celebrates the abiding care and faithful love of God who honours the promise he made to ensure the survival of David’s house and line: “I will sing for ever of your love, O Lord.” The gospel describes the unexpected way in which the promise was fulfilled, through the birth of the “Son of the Most High” from Mary who was betrothed to a man from the house of David, and hence, legally, herself of that house. Through her consent, “I am the handmaid of the Lord: let what you have said be done to me,” God has come to live permanently in our human nature, building a house for himself in the womb of the Virgin Mary. The Ark for the Covenant, which David wished to build of wood, takes flesh in Mary who becomes the Ark which carries Christ. We too are called to be Arks to carry the Good News of salvation wherever we go.

Monday 22:         Of the Fourth Week of Advent
1Samuel 1:24-28; Psalm – 1Samuel 2:1, 4-8; Luke 1:46-56
Today’s first reading comes from the first Book of Samuel and our text recounts the birth of Samuel himself. His mother was barren and had pleaded with the Lord to give her a child. This the Lord did and she brings the child to the temple at Shiloh to dedicate him to the Lord in keeping with the promise she had made. In our gospel we continue yesterday’s meeting between Mary and Elizabeth. We have the ‘Magnificat’ – Mary’s hymn of praise as written by Luke for the wondrous thing the Lord has done for her. We are told that Mary stayed for three months with Elizabeth and then returned home.

Tuesday 23:         Of the Fourth Week of Advent
Malachi 3:1-4, 23-24; Psalm 24; Luke 1:57-66
In our first reading from the Prophet Malachi we read that the Lord will send a messenger to prepare things before his arrival. This messenger will be Elijah who appeared in our texts in the second week of Advent and in those texts there was the implication that John the Baptist was the new Elijah. In our gospel text we have the birth of John the Baptist and how his father’s speech was restored when he said that the child was to be named John. We are told in the concluding sentence that ‘the hand of the Lord was with’ John. The connection between the first reading and the gospel text is quite clear.

Wednesday 24:   Of the Fourth Week of Advent
Morning Mass
2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8-12, 14, 16; Ps 88; Luke 1:67-79
Our first reading for today from the second book of Samuel tells of a message for King David given to Nathan by the Lord. In the message the Lord says that David’s house will be a great house which will be established for ever. This house will be one to which all peoples will come. Our gospel text comes from the birth of John the Baptist and today we see his father – Zechariah the priest – proclaim a hymn of praise for God – the Benedictus. In this hymn, Zechariah blesses God and says that he has come to the help of his people by raising up one from the house of David. He says that his own son, John, ‘shall be called Prophet of the Most High and will go ahead of the Lord to prepare the way before him.’ The season of Christmas is now upon us and the scene has been fully set for the celebration of Christ’s birth. All the signs of the past few weeks, and particularly of the past eight days, have pointed to this moment and it is now time for us to rejoice in the birth of our salvation. At the same time we must not let this opportunity pass – the preparations we have made over the past few weeks must not be allowed to lapse but our ‘new lives’ must continue into the season of Christmas and beyond as people of renewed and invigorated faith.

Christmas Eve – Vigil Mass
Isaiah 62:1-5; Psalm 88; Acts 13:16-17, 22-25; Matthew 1:1-25
Our first reading this evening from the prophet Isaiah speaks of the Lord coming to his people. There is one reason for this – “the Lord takes delight in you.” In the second reading from the Acts of the Apostles we see St Paul witnessing to Christ. He reminds the people that Jesus is of David’s line – the successor who had been promised by God. Jesus’ immediate predecessor was John the Baptist and Paul quotes from John – “I am not fit to undo his sandal.” The first part of our gospel from St Matthew gives the genealogy of Jesus going back to Abraham. The second part of the passage tells us how Jesus came to be born but the story centres on Joseph rather than the actual birth. Joseph was aghast to find out that his young bride was pregnant but at the word of God he accepted what was happening and looked after Mary and the Child. Joseph is our role model because, like him, we too have doubts, but, also like him, we are called on to believe in the word of God and to truly accept Jesus as our Lord and to carry out his will.

Christmas Eve – Midnight Mass
Isaiah 9:1-7; Psalm 95; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-14
Our first reading from Isaiah speaks of the Son that is given to us. This Son will destroy war and oppression. He will assume all authority and the peace he brings will have no end. In the second reading St Paul tells us that the grace of God has been revealed – it has been revealed in Christ. But he also reminds us that we are waiting for the second coming of Christ and until then we should have no ambition other than to do good. Our gospel passage from St Luke tells of the lowly birth of Christ at Bethlehem. The shepherds were the first to hear the glad tidings and we too are called on to hear these same glad tidings and to believe in our Saviour and to worship him.

Thursday 25:       The Solemnity of the Nativity of Our Lord – Christmas Day
Dawn Mass
Isaiah 62:11-12; Psalm 96; Titus 3:4-7; Luke 2:15-20
Isaiah tells us in the first reading this morning that our Saviour comes – he has been born for us. St Paul reminds us in his letter to St Titus that the Saviour came to us for no other reason than the fact that he had compassion for us. Despite all we had done and continue to do the Lord has compassion for us and still wants to save us. In the gospel passage from St Luke we see the shepherds coming to worship their new-born King and Saviour. They were the first to hear the great news and they readily came and worshipped. We too are called on this day to worship our Saviour who has been born anew for us.

Mass during the Day
Isaiah 52:7-10; Psalm 97; Hebrews 1:1-6; John 1:1-18
Today we read in Isaiah how the Lord has come to redeem his people and how “all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.” The author of the letter to the Hebrews tells us in the second reading that God had spoken to his people in past times through various prophets and in various other ways. But now he has spoken to us through his own Son, a Son who has destroyed the power of sin and death. In the gospel, we read the opening passage of St John’s gospel in which he speaks of Christ as being the Word of God, a Word which has been with God since the beginning, a Word which was God. He reminds us that this Word was in the world from the very beginning but the world did not recognise it. Those who did recognise it and accept it were saved. We too will be saved if we truly accept that the Son who is born to us today is the Son of God and has the power to save.

Friday 26:            Feast of St Stephen, the First Martyr*
Acts 6:8-10, 7:54-59; Psalm 30; Matthew 10:17-22
Our first reading today from the Acts of the Apostles gives an account of Stephen’s belief in the Son of God and of the “great wonders and signs” he worked and which led to his arrest and trial before the supreme court of the Jews. It goes on to tell us of his martyrdom for holding such beliefs. The Psalm could quite easily have been the last words of Stephen as he died – “Into your hands I commend my spirit, it is you who will redeem me Lord.” In the gospel passage from St Matthew we see Jesus warning his followers that they will be handed over to others and betrayed for believing in him. But he tells them not to worry because they will have the Spirit of God with them and those who stand “firm to the end will be saved.” Having just celebrated the birth of the Saviour we are challenged to believe in him even to the point of dying for him as St Stephen did.

Saturday 27:        Feast of St John the Apostle & Evangelist*
1 John 1:1-4; Psalm 96; John 20:2-8
In the first reading, St John is giving testimony that what he has said about Jesus is the truth. It is almost his affidavit that what he is saying is correct and not some made up story. He is writing this account because he wants to share his joyful friendship with God with others. In the gospel, we have the account of John and Peter going to the tomb having heard that Jesus was no longer there. John gets there first but waits for Peter – the first among equals – before he goes in. They see that Jesus has risen and they believe all that he has said and this is what John’s testimony in the first reading points to. We too are challenged today to believe in God having been given assurances by John that Jesus is the Saviour.

Memorials this Week:
December 26:      Feast of St Stephen, the First Martyr
Stephen was the first deacon and the first martyr for the Church. His martyrdom is recounted by St Luke in the Acts of the Apostles. He was stoned to death by the Sanhedrin at Jerusalem while Saul (the future St Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles) looked on approvingly.

December 27:      Feast of St John the Apostle & Evangelist
The younger brother of St James the Greater, John was the only apostle that we know of who did not suffer martyrdom, but died at a good age in Ephesus maybe as late as 100 AD. He is attributed with authorship of the fourth Gospel, of three epistles and of the Book of Revelation though it is doubtful that he is the author of the last of these. He is sometimes referred to as ‘John the Divine’ or ‘John the Theologian.’ Being ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved’ and the only apostle to be present at the foot of the cross, he was entrusted with the care of Our Lady by our Lord at the crucifixion.

© 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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