Reflections on the Daily Readings

December 8 - 14, 2019
The Season of  Advent - The Second Week
Readings: Sunday Cycle A; Weekday Cycle II.
Divine Office - Psalter Week II.

Sunday 8:            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 9:           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, the Mother of the Saviour, the Mother of God Incarnate. 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 the letter to the Ephesians attributed to St Paul, 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 ourselves, 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.

Tuesday 10:         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 11:    Of the Second Week of Advent
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 12:       Of the Second Week of Advent
Isaiah 41:13-20; Psalm 144; Matthew 11:11-15
In our first reading from the Prophet Isaiah we again have the theme of the Lord coming to his people to console them and so change their lives for ever. The Psalm praises God for his kindness and compassion. In our gospel passage Jesus introduces the figure of John the Baptist and tells us that all the prophecies were pointing towards him. He also tells us that a greater than John the Baptist has never been seen but at the same time even the least person is as great as John. Like John, we all have a role to play in the building up of the kingdom and in the spreading of the Good News. However, we might not all do it in the same way as John but it is important that we do make a serious effort knowing that God values each of us as much as he valued John.

Friday 13:            Memorial of St Lucy, Virgin & Martyr*
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 14:        Memorial of St John of the Cross, Priest & Doctor of the Church*
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.

In Carmelite churches:
December 14:      Feast of St John of the Cross, Priest & Doctor of the Church*
Isaiah 43:1-3a, 4-5; Psalm 138; Romans 8:14-18 28-30; John 17:11, 17-26
Our first reading today from the Prophet Isaiah is quite appropriate for the feast of St John of the Cross because in it the Lord is telling his faithful servant that he will be with him to protect and strengthen him no matter what trials and fears he has to face. The reading from the letter to the Romans also speaks of suffering as making us true heirs and brothers of Christ. Only in suffering for the sake of the kingdom can we truly be seen as Christ-like. In the Gospel we see Jesus thanking, praising and petitioning God. He thanks the Father for those who have been faithful to him and asks that they may be strengthened for their work of building the kingdom. He also asks that they may be united in their work in the same way that the Father and Son are united. The readings reflect very much the life which John lived in Spain and they also challenge us to work for the building up of the kingdom even in the face of conflict but knowing that God is our side to help us and to reward us.

Memorials this Week:
December 9:       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 through giving birth to Jesus, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity. Though this belief was held for many centuries it was only formally proclaimed by the Church in 1854. Affirmation was seen to be given to this dogma in 1858, when Bernadette Soubirous asked the Lady who had appeared to her in Lourdes who she was, and the Lady eventually replied that she was the Immaculate Conception.

December 13:     Memorial of St Lucy, Virgin & Martyr
Very little is known about Lucy though pious tradition says that she turned down the advances of a suitor who, in an act of rage, denounced her as a Christian and had her killed. She suffered martyrdom at Syracuse, on the island of Sicily, about the year 304, during the persecution under the Emperor Diocletian. She is listed among the saints and martyrs in the Roman Canon of the Mass (Eucharistic Prayer I).

December 14:     Memorial of St John of the Cross, Priest & Doctor of the Church
Juan de Yepes Alvarez was born in Fontiveros, Old Castile, north-western Spain, in 1542 and became a Carmelite Friar in 1563. Having met St Teresa of Avila they became good friends and Teresa encouraged him to reform the male branch of the Order of Carmelites as she was reforming the Carmelite nuns. This he did and founded a number of reformed monasteries. He was imprisoned by the Carmelites at Toledo in central Spain for trying to reform them and later was badly treated by the houses of the reform which he had established, and which in time became the Oder of Discalced Carmelites. It is as a mystic that John is known as a Doctor of the Church. His best known writings and poems are ‘The Ascent of Mount Carmel,’ ‘The Dark Night of the Soul,’ and ‘The Spiritual Canticle’. He died at Ubeda in Andalusia, Spain, on December 14, 1591, and was canonized in 1726.

© P. Breen, O.Carm. 2011, 2013
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.

Related pages....