Reflections on Daily Readings 2023
November 26th - December 30th, 2023
November 26 – December 2, 2023
Ordinary Time – The Thirty-fourth Week | Readings: Sunday Cycle A; Weekday Cycle 1.
Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17; Psalm 22; 1Corinthians 15:20-26, 28; Matthew 25:31-46
The image we have in our readings is of the king as a shepherd which was a common image in the ancient Near East several thousand years ago. In the first reading from the prophet Ezekiel, the Lord says that he will be in the midst of his sheep so that he can keep all of them in view and look after them. The text was written at a time when the leadership of the people was at a low point and so the Lord is assuring the people that they will receive new leadership, one that will give life and look after them. That leadership will be God himself and he will watch over the weak as well as the strong.
The second reading from St Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians speaks about the resurrection of the dead in which Jesus Christ is the first to be raised, followed by all those who are faithful to him, and so that which was granted to Jesus Christ is available to all his people. The mission of Jesus is to bring all things under the rule of the Father as Creator of all.
In the gospel, Jesus tells his listeners that all peoples and nations will be assembled before the throne of glory and they will be sorted out according to their deeds. Those who have believed in God and lived out this faith in their lives will be welcomed into the Kingdom, and the mark of faith will be their reaching out to others who are in need and doing all that is possible to ease their burdens and make their lives better. Jesus also associates himself with his subjects and says that he is to be found in each person and therefore highlights the importance of helping others regardless of race, nationality, colour or religion. On the other hand, those who have not been faithful will not enter the Kingdom. Jesus is the supreme King no matter who the civil leaders might be, and he is to be loved, obeyed and honoured above all others, because he alone can bring eternal life.
Monday of the Last Week in Ordinary Time
Daniel 1:1-6, 8-20; Psalm – Daniel 3:52-56; Luke 21:1-4
For the last week of the Church’s year we read from the Book of Daniel written in 165-168 BC but including events as far back as the rule of King Nebuchadnezzar in 605-562 BC. The king enforced his own religion and had four young Israelites brought to his palace to be educated. These were placed in the care of Ashpenaz who educated them but helped them to avoid some of the pagan practices of the king. These four – Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah – became friends of the king because of their wisdom which had been given them by God. The book was written to strengthen the faith of the people who were being suppressed by the Syrians. The Psalm is a hymn of praise for God. In the Gospel we see a poor widow putting all she had in to the collection plate in the synagogue. Jesus praises her because from what she needed to survive she gave all she could to help others. It is easy for us all to put something in the plate when it comes from the surplus that we have and doesn’t really make a difference to our daily lives. True charity is when we gave from what we need to live each day and this is what we are called to do as followers of Christ.
Tuesday of the Last Week in Ordinary Time
Daniel 2:31-45; Psalm – Daniel 3:57-61; Luke 21:5-11
In our reading today from the book of Daniel we read that King Nebuchadnezzar has had a vision and is unable to interpret it. Daniel is brought to him and tells him what he has seen and interprets the vision. Daniel predicts that the king’s successors will not be as successful as he for they will turn from God and so their kingdom and his line will fall. It is a reminder for the people of the second century before Christ, who are under the rule of the Syrians, that the Syrian kingdom too will fall as its king does not worship the one true God. Our Psalm is again one of thanksgiving taken from the third chapter of the book of Daniel. In the Gospel, Jesus predicts the demise of the Temple which was so central to the Jewish faith and nation. He also warns his audience not to listen to those who will come pretending to be him for there is only one Messiah and he has given us the message of salvation and shown us the way to reach that salvation.
Wednesday of the Last Week in Ordinary Time
Daniel 5:1-6, 13-14, 16-17, 23-28; Psalm – Daniel 3:62-67; Luke 21:12-19
In our passage from the book of Daniel for today we see that King Nebuchadnezzar has been succeeded by his descendent, Belshazzar, who profanes the sacred vessels brought from the Temple in Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar. During the banquet a hand writes on the wall and the only one who can interpret it is Daniel. He predicts that Belshazzar’s kingdom is to come to an end and will be split between two of his rivals. It is a further reminder to the persecuted Jews of the second century BC that the reigning king of Syria will fall because he does not worship the true God. Our Psalm continues to be taken from the book of Daniel. In today’s Gospel passage we see Jesus warning his disciples that difficult times lie ahead for them because they are his followers and that some will die as a result. He tells them not to prepare their defence but to trust in him for he will be their protection and their defence.
Feast of St Andrew the Apostle
Romans 10:9-18; Psalm 18; Matthew 4:18-22
In the first reading from the letter to the Romans, St Paul speaks of the importance of spreading the Good News because if the Word is not spread then people will not hear of Christ and so will be unable to believe in him or to call upon him. In our gospel text for today’s feast we read of the call of St Andrew by Christ. Andrew responded generously to the Lord’s call and without hesitation and he spread the Gospel among the peoples even to the point of giving his life in martyrdom for Christ. His example of spreading the Good News is set before us today and we are reminded that we have all been called by Christ to do the very same in our own day.
Like so many of Christ’s apostles very little is actually known about Andrew. He was the brother of St Peter, a disciple of John the Baptist, and was the first to be called by Christ. In St John’s Gospel he tells his brother of Jesus with the words – “We have found the Messiah.” He is also mentioned in the gospels as the one who brought the Gentiles to Jesus and the one who pointed out the boy with the loaves and fishes. He is said to have preached the Gospel in Asia Minor and Greece and to have been martyred by crucifixion at Patras in Achaia. He is the patron saint of Scotland, Greece and Russia.
Friday of the Last Week in Ordinary Time
Daniel 7:2-14; Psalm – Daniel 3:75-81; Luke 21:29-33
In our reading from the book of Daniel we read of a vision which Daniel had in which he sees the coming of the Son of God. On this Son is conferred the sovereignty of the earth and this sovereignty will be eternal. There are four visions in this section of the book and which are explained in tomorrow’s passage. One of the visions speaks of “one like a son of man, coming on the clouds of heaven.” This is an image which Our Lord used of himself in his teaching. In our Gospel text Jesus speaks to the disciples about how people are able to read the signs of the seasons. In the same way these signs will indicate that the kingdom is at hand and that while people may die the words of Christ will never pass away.
Saturday of the Last Week in Ordinary Time
Daniel 7:15-27; Psalm – Daniel 3:82-87; Luke 21:34-36
Again today we read from Daniel’s vision and at the end we are told that the sovereignty conferred on the Son of God will also pass to the saints of God and so we too become a line of kings to continue the kingdom. In our final Gospel passage for this liturgical year we are reminded by Christ to always be on our guard against anything that would lead us away from God. We do not know when the end will come – today, tomorrow or next year – and so we must always be ready to answer the call of God and to stand before him with confidence.
December 3 – December 9, 2023
Advent – The First Week | Readings: Sunday Cycle B; Weekday Cycle 2.
First Sunday of Advent
Isaiah 63:16b-17; 64:1,3b-8; Psalm 79; 1Corinthians 1:3-9; Mark 13:33-37
The readings today look forward to the Second Coming of Jesus, our Lord, asking that he reveal once again his mercy and his saving help. In the first reading from the Prophet Isaiah, the prophet asks God to “tear the heavens open” and come to the help of his people just as he came to help them when they were slaves in Egypt and in Babylon. The Psalm asks God, the shepherd of Israel, to deliver the people he created: “God of hosts, bring us back; let your face shine on us and we shall be saved.” The gospel warns us to be on our guard and to “stay awake” if we are to be ready for the Second Coming of Christ at the end of time. Like somebody who leaves his servants to look after his house when he goes abroad, he can return when we least expect it. In the second reading, St Paul invites the community at Corinth to wait with patient endurance for the Lord’s return.
Monday of the First Week of Advent
Isaiah 2:1-5; Psalm 121; Matthew 8:5-11
The readings throughout the Advent Season help us to prepare for the coming of Christ at Christmas by putting certain images and thoughts before us regarding the Son of God. We begin today with a text from the Prophet Isaiah which is one of the major prophetic writings of the Old Testament and which began to be written down in 744 BC. In today’s text we are told that people will stream to the Lord’s Temple and that there will be a time of peace and prosperity between nations and peoples. The Psalm takes up this theme and speaks of rejoicing when others say ‘let us go to God’s house.’ In the gospel from St Matthew we have the cure of the centurion’s servant. When Jesus said that he would go the centurion’s house the man said that he didn’t have to do that – all he had to do was to say the word and the servant would be cured. The man had tremendous faith in Jesus and in his word and it is this example of faith which we are to ponder on today. This is the faith that we are each called to have and to demonstrate if the birth of Christ at Christmas is to have any meaning in our lives and if we are to reach eternal life.
Tuesday of the First Week of Advent
Isaiah 11:1-10, 11-14; Psalm 71; Luke 10:21-24
The reading today from Isaiah speaks of an offspring of Jesse who will be king and who will rule with God’s blessing. In his time there will be peace and prosperity for all and the kingdom will be sought after by the nations. On this king will rest the Spirit of the Lord who will bring him wisdom and insight, counsel and power, knowledge and fear of the Lord. The Psalm continues this theme and says that ‘In his days justice shall flourish.’ In the gospel from St Luke we see that Jesus is filled with the Holy Spirit and proclaims that everything has been entrusted to him by the Father and that the only way to know the Father is through the Son. This means that the birth of Christ at Christmas is not a mere nicety or an excuse for a celebration – without getting to know Christ and accepting him into our hearts we cannot really know the Father. If we are to enter eternal life then we need to strengthen our relationship with both which we do in these days of Advent.
Wednesday of the First Week of Advent
Isaiah 25:6-10; Psalm 22; Matthew 15:29-37
In our first reading from the Prophet Isaiah we see the Lord inviting us to a banquet on his holy mountain. At that banquet the Lord will bring peace to our lives, he will remove all mourning and all embarrassment from our lives. Most importantly, he will destroy Death itself. In the gospel from St Matthew we see that many people have come to Jesus bringing their sick who he cures. In the second part of the text we see him feeding this multitude of people from very meagre resources. In both readings the Lord feeds his people and changes their lives, giving them hope for the future.
Thursday of the First Week of Advent
Isaiah 26:1-6; Psalm 117; Matthew 7:21, 24-27
In the text from the Prophet Isaiah today we read that the Lord has set up a strong city for his people. Those who lived in the high citadels have been knocked from their thrones so that even the poor trample on them. The Psalm reminds us that ‘It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in men [or] princes.’ In the gospel passage we see Jesus teaching the people and telling them that it is very easy for people to call out his name and seek his help but this does not win entry to heaven. We must have faith in Christ but we must put that faith into practice and carry out the will of God if we are to enter heaven. While faith may be a personal thing to each one of us it is something which must be lived out in a communal way in that what we believe must be seen by others in the way in which we live. If we haven’t been living out our faith then we need to look at that carefully and make a change if we are to worthily receive the gift of Christ in our lives in a few weeks’ time.
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.
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. 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. The second reading from St Paul’s letter to the Ephesians reminds us that God has chosen us in 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. Falling as it does in Advent, this solemnity also reminds us of our preparations for the birth of Christ at Christmas and of the necessity to remove sin from our own lives.
Saturday of the First Week of Advent
Isaiah 30:19-21, 23-26; Psalm 146; Matthew 9:35-38, 10:1, 5-8
Our first reading speaks of the people being punished and how miserable life will be. But it also speaks of the Lord healing his people and how he will be gracious to them when he hears them cry out to him. In our gospel passage we see that Jesus has been travelling throughout the countryside and teaching people in various towns and villages. He feels sorry for them because they want the message he has but he has not enough time to get around to them all. So he sends out the Twelve to preach in his name and to heal the sick. There is a reminder here that we too should preach the Good News wherever we go and we can do this very effectively by the way in which we live our lives. A good life demonstrating the Gospel values can speak more than a good sermon for actions speak louder than words. The harvest today is still vast and we each have a role to play in the building up of the kingdom so that the celebration of Christmas may have greater meaning for all of us.
December 10 – December 16, 2023
Advent – The Second Week | Readings: Sunday Cycle B; Weekday Cycle 2.
Second Sunday of Advent
Isaiah 40:1-5,9-11; 64:1,3b-8; Psalm 84; 2Peter 3:8-14; Mark 1:1-8
The readings today focus on the role of John the Baptist in preparing a way for the Lord’s coming through conversion. In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah looks forward to the return of the exiled Israelites from Babylon by means of a road across the desert that the Lord would construct for that purpose. The Psalm looks forward to the peace and justice that God will establish when his kingdom comes: “Let us see, O Lord, your mercy and give us your saving help.” The gospel invites us to prepare for our celebration of the Lord’s Incarnation by opening our hearts to the Gospel message of conversion. In anticipation of Christ’s Second Coming at the end of time, the second reading says that we should be found “at peace” with God and with our neighbour when he comes.
Monday 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 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 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.
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).
Feast of St John of the Cross, Priest & Doctor of the Church
Juan de Yepes Alvarez was born in Fontiveros, Old Castile, 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 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 Ubeda on January 14, 1591, and was canonized in 1726.
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 Jesus 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 very much reflect 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, knowing that God is at our side to help us and to reward us.
Friday 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 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.
December 17 – December 23, 2023
Advent – The Third Week | Readings: Sunday Cycle B; Weekday Cycle 2.
Third Sunday of Advent – Gaudete Sunday
Isaiah 61:1-2a, 10-11; Psalm – Luke 1:46-50, 53-54; 1Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-8, 19-28
The readings for this third Sunday of Advent anticipate the joy of the Second Coming of Jesus, our Lord – hence the name “Gaudete” – Rejoice. The first reading is the text Jesus quoted to announce his mission as the anointed Messiah, the one sent to bring good news to the poor and liberty to captives. The Psalm, which is Mary’s Magnificat, echoes the joy of the first reading, praising God for the wonderful things he has done for her and for all the people of Israel. The gospel describes John the Baptist as a witness of Jesus, a voice crying in the wilderness and calling people to conversion and baptism, but also recognizing that he is not worthy to undo the sandal of the one who comes after him, the one who will baptize people with the Holy Spirit. The second reading invites us to see our Christian life, not just as a series of obligations towards God and neighbour, but as a joyful and prayerful way of life, recognising and thanking God for the many gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Jeremiah 23:5-8; Psalm 71; Matthew 1:18-24
Today we turn to the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah which was put together in 605 BC and in our text we have a similar theme to yesterday’s text from Genesis. Today we are told that a descendent of King David will reign as true king. Having read the genealogy of Jesus yesterday we know that Jesus is a descendent of King David. Our gospel text tells us of how Joseph and Mary came to be together and the dilemma Joseph had when he discovered that Mary was already pregnant. We have in the text the Annunciation to Joseph in which he is told that this child is no ordinary child but one who will save people from their sins. Being a man of faith, Joseph heeds the dream and takes Mary as his wife. Joseph’s ‘yes’ to God is one we are called to have in our lives.
Judges 13:2-7, 24-25; Psalm 70; Luke 1:5-25
Our first reading today from the Book of Judges recounts the annunciation to the wife of Manoah of the tribe of Dan in which she is told that she would bear a son. This child was Samson who was a great champion against the Philistines. In the gospel we read of the annunciation to Zechariah, the priest, by the angel Gabriel. The angel tells him that Elizabeth, his wife and cousin of Mary, will bear a son despite her years. The angel tells Zechariah that he is to name the child John and that he will be great in the sight of the Lord bringing many people back to the Lord. Zechariah doubts what the angel says and loses the power of his speech as a result.
Isaiah 7:10-14; Psalm 23; Luke 1:26-38
In the first reading from the Prophet Isaiah we see King Ahaz refusing to put the Lord to the test. The Lord then gives the people a sign and the sign is that of a maiden with child. This child will be special and will be called ‘Immanuel.’ Over the past few days we have read of various annunciations to people by the Lord’s angel and all were about the birth of a child. Today we have the most important of those annunciations and this is to Mary. She is the maiden spoken of in the first reading and her child is to be great and is to be named ‘Jesus.’ Of importance in this text is the fact that Mary, despite being undoubtedly surprised by the visit, readily says ‘Yes’ to the angel’s word. This attitude of Mary, like Joseph’s own response to his annunciation, is the attitude we are all called to have as we approach the great season of Christmas – an attitude of openness and receptiveness to the will of God in our lives.
Songs 2:8-14 or Zephaniah 3:14-18; Psalm 32; Luke 1:39-45
Our first reading today comes from the Song of Songs which has often been seen as an allegory of the story of God and his people. Seeing it in this way the groom represents God and in our passage we see him inviting his beloved to come to him and to live with him in happiness. In the alternative reading from the Prophet Zephaniah the people are told to rejoice for the Lord is in their midst and that he has driven away their enemies and renewed them. Looking to the gospel text we see Elizabeth and her unborn son rejoicing when Mary and her unborn child come into their presence. In our gospel text we see Mary travelling to the hill country of Judah to be with her cousin, Elizabeth, and to rejoice in Elizabeth’s pregnancy. As soon as Elizabeth hears Mary’s voice the child in her womb leaps for joy – John has recognised who the child Mary is carrying is. At the same time Elizabeth acknowledges that Mary carries the Lord and that therefore she is most blessed.
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.
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.
December 24 – December 30, 2023
Christmas Season | Readings: Sunday Cycle B; Weekday Cycle 2.
Christmas Eve – 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs
1 John 1:5-2:2; Psalm 123; Matthew 2:13-18
In our first reading, St John calls on us to live as children of the light always doing what is right and good. He also reminds us that – if we do go astray – the Lord will be our advocate and will return us to union with God. Our gospel passage today recounts the flight into Egypt of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, and of the slaying of the Innocents by Herod in his attempt to kill the newborn king and so secure his own throne.
The Holy Innocents gave their lives for Christ that he might live reminding us of the presence and power of the forces of darkness in our world. We are called on to believe in God even to the point of dying for him.
Fifth Day in the Octave of Christmas
1John 2:3-11; Psalm 95; Luke 2:22-35
In our first reading today St John reminds us of the commandment to love one another, a love which must be as self-sacrificing as the love of Christ for us. By living out this commandment we will come to perfection in God and we will truly be living Christian lives. Failure to live by love removes us from the light of Christ so that we become the people who walk in darkness. In our gospel passage we read of the presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple in accordance with the Law. While there, the Holy Family are met by Simeon who blesses them and thanks God for letting him see the Messiah before he dies, which he can now do in peace. He also warns them – especially Mary – that though this child is the Son of God there will also be suffering associated with him.
Sixth Day in the Octave of Christmas
1John 2:12-17; Psalm 95; Luke 2:36-40
In our first reading from St John we are again reminded to keep faithful to God and to live according to his will by avoiding the obstacles which the world places before us. The spirit of goodwill which marks this joyful season must permeate our lives not just for these few weeks each year but every day of our lives. It is a challenge to live this way but a challenge which we can live up to because we have the love of God to support us. Our gospel is the end section of the Presentation text and today we see Anna greeting the Child and telling all present that he is the Saviour of Jerusalem. Having fulfilled the Law, the Holy Family then return to Nazareth.