Reflections on Daily Readings 2024
December 1st - December 28th, 2024
December 1 – December 7, 2024
Advent – The First Week | Readings: Sunday Cycle C; Weekday Cycle 1.
First Sunday of Advent
Jeremiah 33:14-16; Psalm 24; 1Thessalonians 3:12-4:2; Luke 21:25-28, 34-36
In the first reading today from the prophet Jeremiah we read that the Lord is about to fulfil the promise which he had made to the Houses of Israel and Judah. He is about to raise up the great successor to David which he had promised and whose kingdom shall last for ever. In the second reading from his first letter to the Thessalonians, St Paul urges us to grow in love as we await the coming of Christ. In the gospel, Jesus tells us to always stand ready for the moment when he returns. If we are ready and attentive to our Christian duties then we will have nothing to fear. Many people are waiting for the second coming of Christ at the end of time and often miss the rebirth of Christ at Christmas. Each Advent we await this rebirth of Jesus in our lives and we must prepare for that wondrous event by making love a greater part of the way in which we live.
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.
Memorial of St Francis Xavier, Priest
Francis Xavier was born in Navarre in 1506 and was one of the original seven companions of St Ignatius of Loyola, who founded the Jesuits. He was one of the greatest missionaries and concentrated his efforts on India and the Far East. He organised his newly-founded communities in such a way that they were well able to survive after he had moved to new territories. He died in 1552 on his way to China. He was named Patron Saint of the Foreign Missions and of all works for the spreading of Christianity by Pope St Pius X.
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.
Friday of the First Week of Advent
Isaiah 29:17-24; Psalm 26; Matthew 9:27-31
Our reading from Isaiah continues to speak of how things will be different in the day of the lord when the Messiah shall come among the people. Those who are lowly will be raised up, those who plot evil against the good will be silenced, shame will be removed. The Psalm asks the Lord that we live in his house for ever. In the gospel we see Jesus restoring sight to two blind men but only after they had affirmed that they had faith in him and his ability to cure them. This is the sort of thing which the first reading spoke of and so we can see that Jesus is the one to whom the first reading refers. It is now time for us to affirm our faith in Christ as we move towards the celebration of his birth.
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.
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 – December 14, 2024
Advent – The Second Week | Readings: Sunday Cycle C; Weekday Cycle 1.
The Second Sunday of Advent
Baruch 5:1-9; Psalm 125; Philippians 1:4-6, 8-11; Luke 3:1-6
In our 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 Psalm is a hymn of praise and thanksgiving for all that God has done for his people. In our second reading we see St Paul praising 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. In our gospel passage from St Luke we read of the arrival of John the Baptist who came to prepare the way for Christ. All that he does fulfils the word of the prophet Isaiah who said that there would be a fore-runner to the Messiah. The readings 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.
Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Transferred from December 8th)
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.
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.
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.
Thursday 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 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.
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 Nigh of the Soul, and The Spiritual Canticle. He died at Ubeda on December 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.
December 15 – December 21, 2024
Advent – The Third week | Readings: Sunday Cycle C; Weekday Cycle 1.
Third Sunday of Advent – Gaudete Sunday
Zephaniah 3:14-18; Psalm – Isaiah 12:2-6; Philippians 4:4-7; Luke 3:10-18
The third Sunday of Advent is traditionally known as ‘Gaudete Sunday’ for the readings speak of rejoicing. In our first reading from the prophet Zephaniah the prophet tells the people that the Lord will forgive his people and he will redeem them from their enemies. The Lord is in the midst of his people and he will rejoice in them. The Psalm is one of praise for God who is the strength of his people. In our second reading St Paul calls on us to be happy or to rejoice in the Lord for he is very near to his people. He calls on us to praise and thank God for all that he has done for us and continues to do for us. In the gospel today we see John the Baptist teaching the people and encouraging them to live what we call Christian lives – sharing with the poor and needy. Because of his teaching the people think that he is the Messiah but he tells them that he is not. John was the one who first brought the Good News to the people and we too are called to do the same. We have received many blessings from the Lord and today is an opportunity to reflect on those and to give thanks and praise to God for them. Having done so we must then go out and spread the Word of God to others in society so that they too may feel the presence of Christ this Christmas.
Monday of the Third Week of Advent.
Numbers 24:2-7, 15-17; Psalm 24; Matthew 21:23-27
Our first reading today comes from the Old Testament Book of Numbers and recounts a poem by Balaam, son of Beor. In the poem Balaam recounts what the Lord tells him and he declares that one from the tribe of Jacob shall take the leadership and he will be a great king. In the gospel we see Jesus being challenged by the chief priests and the elders of the Temple. They want to know where he gets his authority from. We know that Jesus is a descendent of Jacob and so he is the great king spoken of in the first reading. However, he is also the Son of God and is himself God and there is no greater authority than this. The challenge for us today is to ask ourselves whether or not we really see him this way for this is one of the cornerstones of our faith.
Genesis 49:2, 9-10; Psalm 71; Matthew 1:1-17
The readings for these final days leading up to Christmas all set the scene for the birth of Christ. Today we read from the Book of Genesis – the first book of the Bible – and in it we see Jacob blessing his twelve sons prior to his death. Our passage comes from the blessing of his son Judah who will also be blessed by his own brothers. Jacob also says that the sceptre shall not pass from Judah until the one comes to whom it rightfully belongs. Our gospel text comes from St Matthew and presents the genealogy of Jesus Christ from Abraham. Judah was the great-grandson of Abraham and is one of the fore-fathers of Jesus. Therefore, Jesus is the one to whom the sceptre rightfully belongs. This helps to make sense of the readings of the past three weeks which spoke of a mighty king coming to rule the people and bring them peace. This person is Jesus Christ.
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.
December 22 – December 28, 2024
Advent – The Fourth Week/Christmas Season | Readings: Sunday Cycle C; Weekday Cycle 1.
Fourth Sunday of Advent
Micah 5:1-4; Psalm 79; Hebrews 10:5-10; Luke 1:39-45
In our first reading we have a prediction about the birth of Christ which is to take place in Bethlehem – for a long time regarded as a low and insignificant village which couldn’t produce anyone or anything of importance. Now it is to be the birthplace of the Lord’s restoration. In the second reading from the letter to the Hebrews we see the author speaking about Christ’s life and mission on earth. We are told that God did not want the sacrifices and holocausts which the Jews offered up to God in atonement for their sins. But to put an end to the sacrifices once and for all Christ was born in human form and became for us the ultimate sacrifice so that no sacrifice will ever again be necessary. All others are nothing by comparison to his sacrifice upon the cross. In our gospel for today we see Mary going to visit her cousin Elizabeth who is herself pregnant. Elizabeth rejoices at Mary’s presence and tells us that even the child within her womb leapt for joy because he recognises in whose presence he now is. We too stand in the presence of God every time we come to Church but do we rejoice as much as Elizabeth and her unborn son did all those years ago? If not, then now is the time to do something about it and to make a special place for Christ in our lives and in our families this Christmas.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Feast of the Holy Innocents
This feast recalls the slaying of the children under the age of two years by King Herod and which is recounted in St Matthew’s Gospel. They are venerated as martyrs not simply because they died for Christ but because they died instead of him.
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.