Reflections on the Daily Readings

December 9 - 15, 2018
The Season of Advent - The Second Week
Readings: Sunday Cycle C; Weekday Cycle I.
Divine Office - Psalter Week II.

Sunday 9:            The Second Sunday of Advent
Baruch 5:1-9; Psalm 125; Philippians 1:3-6, 8-11; Luke 3:1-6
The readings today point to the arrival of a greater age when peace will reign on the earth. That time begins each Christmas and our season of Advent is not just a time to prepare to live in that age but also a time to prepare ourselves to play our part in the building up of that kingdom.
In the first reading from the prophet Baruch, we are told that the Lord will save his people and his city will become a place of beauty to which all will return triumphant. The people had been spread abroad but now they return to Jerusalem with great rejoicing, while the surrounding nations also render praise to Jerusalem. Integrity is now being restored to the city. The Psalm is a hymn of praise and thanksgiving for all that God has done for his people.
In the second reading St Paul praises the Philippians for all that they have done in helping him to spread the word of God. He prays that God will bless them for their faithfulness and that their love for each other and for God will increase more and more. This is essential as they prepare for the day of the Lord’s coming.
In our gospel passage from St Luke we read of the arrival of John the Baptist who came to prepare the way for Jesus Christ. Luke gives the names of several key people of the time and this gives the text a firm anchor in human history. All that John does fulfils the word of the prophet Isaiah who said that there would be a forerunner to the Messiah, and Luke is clear that this person is John who preached baptism for the forgiveness of sins. This is a reminder to us that now is the time to make our preparations for the arrival of the Lord, now is the time to make a straight and open path into our hearts for the Saviour who will come to us this Christmas.

Monday 10:         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 11:         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 12:   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 13:       Memorial of St Lucy, Virgin & Martyr*
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 14:            Memorial of St John of the Cross, Priest & Doctor of the Church*
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.

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 Psalm reminds us that the Lord knows everything we do and that there is no hiding from him. The second 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. The Lord has called people for this and with those he has called he shares his glory.
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 at our side to help us and to reward us.

Saturday 15:        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 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 during the persecution under the Emperor Diocletian about the year 304. 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 Carmelite Order 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 his own reform which he had established. 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 Úbeda, in the Spanish region of Andalusia, 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.

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