St. Stephen, First Martyr

Thursday December 26, 2019

ST. STEPHEN, FIRST MARTYR

Introduction

From the very beginning of its existence, the Church suffered persecution like its founder Jesus. St. Stephen was of Greek pagan origin and highly respected in the young Church of Jerusalem. Like Jesus, he died praying for his persecutors and entrusted himself, even as he died, into the hands of God. He had been one of the seven deacons who assisted the apostles, particularly in the ministry to the poor. He is described in Acts of the Apostles as “filled with faith and with the Holy Spirit” and “full of fortitude.”

Opening Prayer

Lord, our God,
we honor today St. Stephen,
the first martyr of your young Church.
Make us good witnesses like him,
people filled with faith and with the Holy Spirit,
men and women who are full of fortitude,
as we try to live the life of Jesus.
Give us a great trust,
that we may live and die in your hands
and make us pray for those who harm us,
that you may forgive them and us.
We ask you this through Christ, our Lord.

Reading 1: ACTS 6:8-10; 7:54-59

Stephen, filled with grace and power,
was working great wonders and signs among the people.
Certain members of the so-called Synagogue of Freedmen,
Cyrenians, and Alexandrians,
and people from Cilicia and Asia,
came forward and debated with Stephen,
but they could not withstand the wisdom and the spirit with which he spoke.

When they heard this, they were infuriated,
and they ground their teeth at him.
But he, filled with the Holy Spirit,
looked up intently to heaven
and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God,
and he said,
"Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man
standing at the right hand of God."
But they cried out in a loud voice, covered their ears,
and rushed upon him together.
They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him.
The witnesses laid down their cloaks
at the feet of a young man named Saul.
As they were stoning Stephen, he called out
"Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."

Responsorial Psalm 31:3CD-4, 6 AND 8AB, 16BC AND 17

R. (6) Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.
Be my rock of refuge,
a stronghold to give me safety.
You are my rock and my fortress;
for your name's sake you will lead and guide me.
R. Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.
Into your hands I commend my spirit;
you will redeem me, O LORD, O faithful God.
I will rejoice and be glad because of your mercy.
R. Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.
Rescue me from the clutches of my enemies and my persecutors.
Let your face shine upon your servant;
save me in your kindness.
R. Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.

Alleluia: Ps 118:26A, 27A

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD:
the LORD is God and has given us light.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel: MT 10:17-22

Jesus said to his disciples:
"Beware of men, for they will hand you over to courts
and scourge you in their synagogues,
and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake
as a witness before them and the pagans.
When they hand you over,
do not worry about how you are to speak
or what you are to say.
You will be given at that moment what you are to say.
For it will not be you who speak
but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
Brother will hand over brother to death,
and the father his child;
children will rise up against parents and have them put to death.
You will be hated by all because of my name,
but whoever endures to the end will be saved."

Intercessions

– For faithful witnesses, who testify to God and to the values of the Gospel by their life and when necessary by their death, we pray:
– For zealous and compassionate people, who serve their neighbors in their need, we pray:
– For people persecuted because of their faith, that they may keep steadfast in their faith and strong in the Holy Spirit, we pray:
– For deacons in the Church, that God may keep them generous in their ministry of service, we pray:

Prayer over the Gifts

Lord, our God,
we bring before you bread and wine,
as we remember how St. Stephen
gave food to the hungry.
Make us too, ministers of your love,
who care for the poor,
that no one in our Christian communities
may suffer any want.
For we try to be one heart and mind
in Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Prayer after Communion

Lord our God,
as we celebrate the memory of St. Stephen,
take away from us all fear
and dispose us to bear witness in all serenity
to the death and resurrection of Jesus.
May we learn from this martyr
to become more like Jesus
in what we say and in the way we live.
We ask this through Christ, our Lord.

Blessing

How much Stephen was like Jesus , living in the hands of the Father and dying as he forgave those who were killing him and entrusted himself to God. May God give us such a beautiful faith and bless us, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Commentary

On the day after Christmas, it may seem strange that persecution is our theme. St. Stephen is the church’s first martyr, and his feast is celebrated in immediate proximity to the birth of the Lord whom he served. Not only was a Stephen a grace-filled person, he was also a skilled debater, with the result that his litigants proved to be no match for him. As happens all too ffequendy, disagreement turned to violence, with his opponents railing against Stephen. They finally killed him in a classic case of religious zeal gone berserk. Among the opponents is an interesting figure, the young Saul who will soon become Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles.
Early Christians fared no better than the protomartyr. The death of Stephen was an omen of things to come. Today’s Gospel presents a picture of what transpired in the latter part of the first century. Cruel torture, public litigation, sharp family division. The followers of Jesus endured all of these things. But Jesus assured them of divine guidance and a future that is certainly theirs. Perseverance spells salvation.
Have this mind in you that was also in Christ Jesus—his reminder of Paul is clearly reflected in the death of Stephen. During his trial, Jesus assured his accusers that they would one day see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven; so Stephen dies with a vision of this eschatological figure. Stephen, like Jesus, dies by surrendering his spirit to God.
The spirit of Christmas is not limited to ornaments and tinsel. Nor even to the peace and calm of the creche. It is the assurance that the child came to suffer that gives us hope, and so, like Stephen, Christ’s surrender must be our own. As we pass through this valley of tears, we are certainly called to suffer. But with Christ’s sentiments as our own we shall surely prevail. And the true spirit of Christmas will never be lost.

Points to Ponder

Religious division
Family division
Christ the model of tolerance
Paul’s conversion
The assurance of heaven.

St. John, Evangelist

Friday December 27, 2019

ST. JOHN, EVANGELIST

Introduction

Close to our Lord, obsessed by love. These may will be the marks of John, the Evangelist. He had experienced in his person what it means to be loved by Jesus and to love in return. And Jesus was the Lord, God’s Son! In later life, he was driven by this love, as his Gospel and his first letter reveal to us. He was the man who preached love; the words he used, the urgency and insistence with which he spoke cannot come but from a man who lived this love deeply and who felt that this should be the mark too, of the Christian communities.

Opening Prayer

Lord God, you are love itself.
We know that you loved us first
before we could ever love you.
Let this unforgettable experience
of your “beloved apostle,” John
become also our deep and lasting experience.
May the love you have shown us
in your Son, Jesus Christ,
move us to love you very deeply in return
and overflow on all those we meet in life.
We ask you this through Christ, our Lord.

Reading 1: 1 JN 1:1-4

Beloved:
What was from the beginning,
what we have heard,
what we have seen with our eyes,
what we looked upon
and touched with our hands
concerns the Word of life —
for the life was made visible;
we have seen it and testify to it
and proclaim to you the eternal life
that was with the Father and was made visible to us—
what we have seen and heard
we proclaim now to you,
so that you too may have fellowship with us;
for our fellowship is with the Father
and with his Son, Jesus Christ.
We are writing this so that our joy may be complete.

Responsorial Psalm: 97:1-2, 5-6, 11-12

R. (12) Rejoice in the Lord, you just!
The LORD is king; let the earth rejoice;
let the many isles be glad.
Clouds and darkness are around him,
justice and judgment are the foundation of his throne.
R. Rejoice in the Lord, you just!
The mountains melt like wax before the LORD,
before the LORD of all the earth.
The heavens proclaim his justice,
and all peoples see his glory.
R. Rejoice in the Lord, you just!
Light dawns for the just;
and gladness, for the upright of heart.
Be glad in the LORD, you just,
and give thanks to his holy name.
R. Rejoice in the Lord, you just!

Alleluia See Te Deum

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
We praise you, O God,
we acclaim you as Lord;
the glorious company of Apostles praise you.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel: JN 20:1A and 2-8

On the first day of the week,
Mary Magdalene ran and went to Simon Peter
and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them,
"They have taken the Lord from the tomb,
and we do not know where they put him."
So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.
They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter
and arrived at the tomb first;
he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in.
When Simon Peter arrived after him,
he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there,
and the cloth that had covered his head,
not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.
Then the other disciple also went in,
the one who had arrived at the tomb first,
and he saw and believed.

Intercessions

– Lord Jesus, make us understand and put into practice that the core of the Gospel is love for you and for one another, we pray:
– Lord Jesus, may our words and actions bear witness that we believe and rejoice in you as our risen Lord, we pray:
– Lord Jesus, make us happy people, who feel secure because we know that we live in your presence, we pray:

Prayer over the Gifts

Father,
bread and wine are the signs
in which your Son gives himself to us today.
May these gifts be, at the same time,
the signs in which we place ourselves
at your disposal.
May we have the courage to reach out
to our neighbors far and near,
our brothers and sisters whom you love
and whom we love
in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

Prayer after Communion

Our living and loving God,
who can nourish our love better
than he who spoke of it to us,
your Son, Jesus Christ?
Like him, who strengthens us by his body and blood,
may we respond to the warmth of your love
by caring for our brothers and sisters,
even at the expense of ourselves.
We ask you this through Christ, our Lord.

Blessing

John is the apostle who insists that we should love one another as Jesus loves us. Jesus asks us to live in him as he lives in us. May we remain and grow in this love, with the blessing of Almighty God, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Commentary

John the Apostle, one of the original Twelve, was the brother of James and the son of Zebedee. At one time he was identified as the author of the fourth Gospel; that position is not widely held today. The author of the Gospel is simply said to be “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 21:20), but nowhere in the Gospel is that disciple identified.
The feast today, however, honors John, one of the apostles, one who certainly lived the life of discipleship. In today’s intro duction to the first letter of the author John, the disciple is said to be one who accepts the reality of Christ, who believes that he is truly God’s Son who has appeared in the flesh. He was a man in the fullest sense of the word. At the same time, as today’s Gospel makes clear, the believer is convinced that the tomb was empty because Jesus had risen and had gone to the Father.
Moreover, as the Gospel of John describes him, the “disciple whom Jesus loved” is the one who rests his head on the chest of Jesus, stands at the foot of the cross, is entrusted to Mary, runs to the tomb on Easter morning, and recognizes the risen Christ on the lake shore. In short, he is the true believer who never falters and never abandons the Lord. While we know little about the Aposde John, we hardly err in seeing many of these qualities in him.
Early Christianity saw the emergence of heterodox groups who were qualifying their belief in the God-Man. Some claimed that he was not truly man but only appeared to be such. Others recognized his manhood but not his divinity; he was the best of all possible men but that and no more. Orthodoxy has consistently taught what the writings of John the Evangelist express: Christ was God in the flesh.
At times we find it difficult to be the faithful disciple. We are prone to avoid the difficult choice that often leads to the cross. We practice our faith but hardly run to the tomb. We view the shoreline of life from various angles but do not always see the Lord in what transpires. There is a real lesson in today’s readings. To remain true to Christ throughout fife is not an easy path but becomes possible with the conviction that Christ alone is truly the way, the truth, and the life. In the words of Isaiah, it means “to run and not grow weary.”

Points to Ponder

Jesus, true God and true man
The beloved disciple, resting in Christ
The beloved disciple, standing at the cross
The beloved disciple, running to the tomb
The true disciple, “It is the Lord.”

Holy Family

Sunday December 29, 2019

HOLY FAMILY

1. Pleasing the Lord
2. When Jesus Was A Child

Greeting

The Lord loves you.
In our families and communities
may the Lord unite you in his love
and may you do everything in his name.
His peace be always with you. R/ And also with you.

Introduction

1. Pleasing the Lord

Every family has its cares and worries. On today’s feast of the Holy Family we are shown that Mary and Joseph and Jesus had more than their share of problems and woes, especially that the very reason and heart of this family was Jesus, this bewildering son. They did everything for him. What is typical in the Holy Family is that in everything they sought God’s will; the same is true for Jesus, God’s will was to be his food and drink. Let the heart of our families, be like that of Jesus, and together with Mary and Joseph may we ask ourselves what God wants of us and joyfully do it.

2. When Jesus Was a Child

Of what value for our Christian living are the ordinary things we do every day, like eating and cleaning, talking and writing? What have they to do with our faith? A look at the hidden life of Jesus will help us understand and appreciate these things. Before he went out to preach and heal, he did all these common, banal things. And through these, he saved us. If we can do them like he did and with him, they are good and holy, and through them we give worship to God.

Penitential Act

Let us ask pardon from the Lord
that we have often done carelessly
the common tasks of everyday life.
(pause)
Lord Jesus, you grew up in Nazareth
and lived as the son of the local carpenter.
Lord, have mercy. R/ Lord, have mercy.

Lord Jesus Christ, to work with your hands
was part of your human dignity.
Christ, have mercy. R/ Christ, have mercy.

Lord Jesus, through your life in the Holy Family
you sanctified the ordinary tasks
of everyday life.
Lord, have mercy. R/ Lord, have mercy.

Have mercy on us, Lord,
and forgive us all our sins.
May our lives give you worship
and lead us to everlasting life. R/ Amen.

Opening Prayer

Let us pray
that God may bless our families
(pause)
God our Father,
you let Mary and Joseph
provide the warmth of a home
to your own Son, Jesus Christ.
Let Jesus become the heart and center
of all our Christian families.
May we all grow up in him
and become closer to one another
in patience and love.
With the Holy Family of Nazareth,
may we seek your will in all we do.
We ask this in the name of Jesus the Lord. R/ Amen.

First Reading: Honor Your Father and Your Mother

The two foundations of family life are love and respect, says the Bible. Should these two virtues not remain the cornerstone of our homes today?

Reading 1: Sir 3:2-6, 12-14

God sets a father in honor over his children;
a mother's authority he confirms over her sons.
Whoever honors his father atones for sins,
and preserves himself from them.
When he prays, he is heard;
he stores up riches who reveres his mother.
Whoever honors his father is gladdened by children,
and, when he prays, is heard.
Whoever reveres his father will live a long life;
he who obeys his father brings comfort to his mother.

My son, take care of your father when he is old;
grieve him not as long as he lives.
Even if his mind fail, be considerate of him;
revile him not all the days of his life;
kindness to a father will not be forgotten,
firmly planted against the debt of your sins
—a house raised in justice to you.

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 128:1-2, 3, 4-5.

R. (cf. 1) Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.
Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD,
who walks in his ways!
For you shall eat the fruit of your handiwork;
blessed shall you be, and favored.
R. Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.
Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine
in the recesses of your home;
your children like olive plants
around your table.
R. Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.
Behold, thus is the man blessed
who fears the LORD.
The LORD bless you from Zion:
may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem
all the days of your life.
R. Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.

Second Reading: Life in the Lord

Say and do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, and you will have the right relationship with God and with people.

Reading 2: Col 3:12-21

Brothers and sisters:
Put on, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved,
heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience,
bearing with one another and forgiving one another,
if one has a grievance against another;
as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do.
And over all these put on love,
that is, the bond of perfection.
And let the peace of Christ control your hearts,
the peace into which you were also called in one body.
And be thankful.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,
as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another,
singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs
with gratitude in your hearts to God.
And whatever you do, in word or in deed,
do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Wives, be subordinate to your husbands,
as is proper in the Lord.
Husbands, love your wives,
and avoid any bitterness toward them.
Children, obey your parents in everything,
for this is pleasing to the Lord.
Fathers, do not provoke your children,
so they may not become discouraged.

Or: Col 3:12-17

Brothers and sisters:
Put on, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved,
heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience,
bearing with one another and forgiving one another,
if one has a grievance against another;
as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do.
And over all these put on love,
that is, the bond of perfection.
And let the peace of Christ control your hearts,
the peace into which you were also called in one body.
And be thankful.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,
as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another,
singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs
with gratitude in your hearts to God.
And whatever you do, in word or in deed,
do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Alleluia: Col 3:15a, 16a

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Let the peace of Christ control your hearts;
let the word of Christ dwell in your richly.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel: On the Road with the Lord

With his family Jesus relives the history of the People of God: from the Holy Land to Egypt, from Egypt to the Holy Land. Mary and Joseph accept to be uprooted and inconvenienced by the coming of the Savior.

Gospel: Mt 2:13-15, 19-23

When the magi had departed, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said,
"Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt,
and stay there until I tell you.

Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him."
Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night
and departed for Egypt.
He stayed there until the death of Herod,
that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled,
Out of Egypt I called my son.

When Herod had died, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared in a dream
to Joseph in Egypt and said,
"Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel,
for those who sought the child's life are dead."
He rose, took the child and his mother,
and went to the land of Israel.
But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea
in place of his father Herod,
he was afraid to go back there.
And because he had been warned in a dream,
he departed for the region of Galilee.
He went and dwelt in a town called Nazareth,
so that what had been spoken through the prophets
might be fulfilled,
He shall be called a Nazorean.

Intercessions

With the Holy Family of Nazareth we trust in the Lord who knows all our needs, and we ask him to bless all human families. Let us say: R/ Lord, bless your people.
– For the family of the Church, that it may be a mother and a home for all people in need, let us pray: R/ Lord, bless your people.
– For all married couples, that they may keep the freshness of their first love or rediscover it, let us pray: R/ Lord, bless your people.
– For all the families of the world, that they may keep growing in mutual appreciation and service, let us pray: R/ Lord, bless your people.
– For children and young people, that their parents may be concerned about their growth and happiness, let us pray: R/ Lord, bless your people.
– For separated couples and their children, that they may meet warmhearted people whose understanding love help them to overcome the failure of their home life, let us pray: R/ Lord, bless your people.
– For our Christian communities, that as members of one family we learn to carry each other’s burdens and to share each other’s joys, let us pray: R/ Lord, bless your people.
Father, we trust in you. May we not deny one another all the love you show us in Jesus Christ our Lord. R/ Amen.

Prayer over the Gifts

God our Father,
you invite us to share the family table
of Jesus your Son.
May the food and drink he gives us
change us into gifts to one another,
that we may become each other’s
bread and wine, life and joy.
Let serving love and respect
be our offering to one another and to you,
today and tomorrow and every day,
on account of your Son in our midst,
Jesus Christ our Lord. R/ Amen.

Introduction to the Eucharistic Prayer

United before God as his sons and daughters we pray the prayer taught us by his Son Jesus of Nazareth. R/ Our Father...

Deliver Us

Deliver us Lord, from every evil
and let the peace of Christ live
in our hearts and our homes.
Keep us from all that divide us
or enclose us within ourselves.
Give us compassion, gentleness and patience,
that we may prepare in hope and joy
for the full coming among us
of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. R/ For the kingdom...

Invitation to Communion

This is Jesus the Lord,
who comes to unite us
as the sons and daughters of the Father.
Happy are we to be invited
at the family table of the Lord. R/ Lord, I am not worthy...

Prayer after Communion

God our Father,
Jesus your Son made himself near to us
in this Eucharistic celebration.
He has been here for us,
approachable and available to all.
May he keep on living
in our homes and our communities.
Let him make us approachable too
and available to one another,
even at the cost of personal discomfort
and with Mary and Joseph
ready for any task you may entrust us.
For we can do everything
in the name of Jesus the Lord. R/ Amen.

Blessing

It was good to be together
as the family of God’s people
and to pray with the Holy Family of Nazareth
for what is dear to all of us:
our homes, our families,
the Christian community,
the family of our nation and people.
May God bless us all
and keep us united:
the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. R/ Amen.

Go in the peace of the Lord. R/ Thanks be to God.

Commentary

We all like to wear new clothes. Now that a new year is beginning, we would like to start it with new resolutions that are sometimes difficult to meet, such as losing weight, exercising or quit smoking. Most of the time, the resolutions are short-lived. In today’s second reading Paul describes something workable, which is a good model: the clothing that is appropriate for God’s chosen ones.
It is a garment made of compassion, kindness, humility, and patience. It is not that making a resolution to practice these virtues will be easier, but it is more enduring. Put love on, Paul tells us, and this way peace will reign. We want peace in our families and want to have good and strong families. The recipe is in that clothing, albeit somewhat expensive, because these virtues are not instantly acquired, but with lots of sacrificed love and plenty of practice.
Today we celebrate the Holy Family and we are called to live a new life of family, where the relationships are not based on who can do more or is in charge, nor on the envy between siblings, or the unequal treatment that leads to resentment, but on compassion, kindness, and patience. This is a family in the style of Jesus.

Points to Ponder

Which one of the virtues recommended seems more difficult to me?
What would I have to change?
What do I appreciate the most in the life of my family?
Which of these virtues are demonstrated in some members of my family?

Holy Innocents

Saturday December 28, 2017

HOLY INNOCENTS

Introduction

Today’s celebration shocks us into the realization that the birth of Christ was not all peace and joy. The coming of Jesus was the beginning of a struggle-to-death between the powers of evil and the kingdom of light, a struggle that would have its climax in the passion and death of Jesus. Herod stands here for the forces of evil. Even innocent children are often the victims of this enmity.
The story of the Innocents may very well be a theological illustration of Matthew on this climactic clash between good and evil that began with the birth of Jesus. Often, the innocents have to suffer on account of so much evil in the world caused by other people.

Opening Prayer

Lord, our God,
today’s innocent martyrs
bore witness to you
not by proclaiming your name in words
but by laying down their lives for you,
even though they were not aware of it.
We pray to you on their feast
that we may bear witness to you
both by the words we speak
and the way we live what we believe in.
May we do so in the full awareness
of what we are doing.
We ask you this through Christ, our Lord.

Reading 1: 1 JN 1:5—2:2

Beloved:
This is the message that we have heard from Jesus Christ
and proclaim to you:
God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all.
If we say, "We have fellowship with him,"
while we continue to walk in darkness,
we lie and do not act in truth.
But if we walk in the light as he is in the light,
then we have fellowship with one another,
and the Blood of his Son Jesus cleanses us from all sin.
If we say, "We are without sin,"
we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just
and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing.
If we say, "We have not sinned," we make him a liar,
and his word is not in us.

My children, I am writing this to you
so that you may not commit sin.
But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father,
Jesus Christ the righteous one.
He is expiation for our sins,
and not for our sins only but for those of the whole world.

Responsorial Psalm: 124:2-3, 4-5, 7CD-8

R. (7) Our soul has been rescued like a bird from the fowler's snare.
Had not the LORD been with us—
When men rose up against us,
then would they have swallowed us alive,
When their fury was inflamed against us.
R. Our soul has been rescued like a bird from the fowler's snare.
Then would the waters have overwhelmed us;
The torrent would have swept over us;
over us then would have swept the raging waters.
R. Our soul has been rescued like a bird from the fowler's snare.
Broken was the snare,
and we were freed.
Our help is in the name of the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.
R. Our soul has been rescued like a bird from the fowler's snare.

Alleluia See Te Deum

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
We praise you, O God,
we acclaim you as Lord;
the white robed army of martyrs praise you.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel: MT 2:13-18

When the magi had departed, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said,
"Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt,
and stay there until I tell you.
Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him."
Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night
and departed for Egypt.
He stayed there until the death of Herod,
that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled,
Out of Egypt I called my son.

When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi,
he became furious.
He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity
two years old and under,
in accordance with the time he had ascertained from the magi.
Then was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiah the prophet:

A voice was heard in Ramah,
sobbing and loud lamentation;
Rachel weeping for her children,
and she would not be consoled,
since they were no more.

Intercessions

– That children may be spared from suffering, malnutrition and maltreatment, we pray to God our merciful Father:
– That children may not become the victims of unloving parents, who do not want them, abandon them or desert them as they separate from each other, we pray:
– That children may have caring parents, who help them to grow toward a generous and rich adulthood, we pray:

Prayer over the Gifts

We bring these our gifts before you, Lord God;
accept them from your faithful people,
that we may be strengthened in our faith.
May they also bring your salvation
to those whom we sometimes call anonymous Christians,
those who do not know you,
yet who seek you with a sincere heart
by trying to do what is right and good.
We ask you this through Christ, our Lord.

Prayer after Communion

Lord, God of eternal light,
we all share in the struggle-to-death
between light and darkness.
Let the light of your love and peace
shine among people all over the world,
that our solidarity in the evil of sin
may be changed into a new solidarity
of justice, forgiveness and community
by the coming among us of your Son,
Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Blessing

We ask the Lord today that he may bless our children, that they may grow up as God’s children, as good Christians and good citizens. May Almighty God bless them and you all, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Commentary

Interpreting the birth of Jesus and the visit of the Magi as a threat to his royal position, Herod orders the death of all male children in Bethlehem under two years old. Matthew is keenly interested in pointing up likenesses between Jesus and Moses and draws here a striking parallel to the pharaoh’s order to destroy the Hebrew male offspring at the time of Moses’ birth in Egypt.
The death of innocent children, whether in biblical times or our own, strikes us deeply as a real injustice. It is a grim fact that children continue to be subjected to barbarous deaths. In very recent times, from the former Yugoslavia in Europe to Rwanda in Africa, ethnic cleansing has made victims of helpless women and children. In the troubled Middle East, suicide bombers indiscriminately take the lives of innocent people, including children. And, despite all the talk of limited tactical strikes, war takes the lives of all too many noncombatants. The fact is that children are often the first to perish.
In addition, today’s feast reminds us of the innocent lives that are taken through abortion. Today more and more voices are being raised on behalf of the voiceless. Whatever the reason for an abortion, it is the innocent who suffer. It is not a sectarian issue; it is a human one.
We cannot pass over the reading from John’s epistle without touching on one of its issues. Life in the Spirit is granted through initial recognition of sin and guilt. But today’s reading makes clear that even after baptism, sin frequently occurs. In such a case our heavenly Intercessor stands with us in seeking forgiveness. So much emphasis in the New Testament falls on initial justification that we are often led to wonder if there is a “second plank after shipwreck.” The answer is an unequivocal “yes.” Even with the best of intentions, we all stumble along the way. While not rejecting Christ, we do not always live up to what he asks of us. It is good to know that the helping hand of Christ is there to lift us up.

Points to Ponder

The death of innocent children in our day
The child in the womb
Violence in the world today
The sacrament of reconciliation.

Open to God´s Mystery

Monday December 30, 2019

OPEN TO GOD’S MYSTERY

Introduction

To thank God for the liberation he brings us in and through his Son, Jesus, is the core of every Eucharistic celebration. There we say: “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.” With the prophetess Anna, let us express our thanks for our liberation to the Lord, our God, and praise him wholeheartedly.
Too easily, as St John says, we lose our heart to the world; we follow its ways of thinking and acting. Let us ask the Lord to forgive us.

Opening Prayer

Almighty Father,
you let humble, faithful people
recognize your Son
and welcome him as the Savior,
who brought freedom and life to his people.
May we, too, recognize and welcome Jesus
in all that is little and humble
and with him grow up in wisdom and grace
to the maturity of your sons and daughters,
so that we attain the full stature of Jesus.
We ask this through him, our Lord.

Reading 1: 1 JN 2:12-17

I am writing to you, children,
because your sins have been forgiven for his name's sake.

I am writing to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.

I am writing to you, young men,
because you have conquered the Evil One.

I write to you, children,
because you know the Father.

I write to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.

I write to you, young men,
because you are strong and the word of God remains in you,
and you have conquered the Evil One.

Do not love the world or the things of the world.
If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
For all that is in the world,
sensual lust, enticement for the eyes, and a pretentious life,
is not from the Father but is from the world.
Yet the world and its enticement are passing away.
But whoever does the will of God remains forever.

Responsorial Psalm 96:7-8A, 8B-9, 10

R. (11a) Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice!
Give to the LORD, you families of nations,
give to the LORD glory and praise;
give to the LORD the glory due his name!
R. Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice!
Bring gifts, and enter his courts;
worship the LORD in holy attire.
Tremble before him, all the earth.
R. Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice!
Say among the nations: The LORD is king.
He has made the world firm, not to be moved;
he governs the peoples with equity.
R. Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice!

Alleluia

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
A holy day has dawned upon us.
Come, you nations, and adore the Lord.
Today a great light has come upon the earth.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel: LK 2:36-40

There was a prophetess, Anna,
the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher.
She was advanced in years,
having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage,
and then as a widow until she was eighty-four.
She never left the temple,
but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.
And coming forward at that very time,
she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child
to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.

When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions
of the law of the Lord,
they returned to Galilee,
to their own town of Nazareth.
The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom;
and the favor of God was upon him.

Intercessions

– For fathers and mothers, that they may give their children the freedom to be themselves and to grow up as mature, responsible Christians, we pray:
– For all young people, that they may come to love Christ deeply and let his word take roots and grow in them, we pray:
– For small children, that they may come to love God through their experience of their parents’ love, we pray:
– For all of us, God’s children, that we may seek God’s will in all we do and form communities that care for one another, we pray:

Prayer over the Gifts

God, our Father,
through the food and drink of the Eucharist,
appease our hunger
and quench our thirst,
for all that is good in your sight.
We offer ourselves
together with your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Prayer after Communion

God, our Father,
here in this Eucharist,
your Son, Jesus has offered us
his liberation and victory
to overcome in this world
evil in us and around us.
Dispose us to receive always with gratitude
the life and the light of Jesus
and to follow in his footsteps,
for he is our Lord, for ever and ever.

Blessing

Old people, Anna as well as Simeon, women as well as men, often see with eyes the mysteries of God with a perspicacity that puts to shame theologians and holders of degrees. That is what they learn through prayer and reflection. May God bless these wise people, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Commentary

Growth comes in different forms. Returning with his parents to Nazareth, Jesus grows in stature, in intelligence, and, above all, in faith. Anna, too, experienced growth in her life. In the presentation account, she appears in the temple together with Simeon. Widowed after seven years of marriage, she grew into her eighty- four years by a life of faithful prayer and fasting. It was a steady, sustained growth, culminating in her encounter with Jesus the Messiah.
The letter of John today looks at Spirit growth in fathers and sons. The father, as the elder, has been gifted with a faith experience of Christ, hidden from the ages and now revealed: God’s son.
in the flesh. This is the cornerstone that, once accepted, leads to a growth in faith and love. John then addresses the sons, or children, whose lives have been involved in the struggle, conquering evil not with a single blow but by facing the daily challenge.
The elderly and the young face a common crossroad: one fork leads to growth and the fullness of God; the other, to chaos and destruction. John summarizes the choices. One may follow the enticements of a world that is passing away; it offers affluence, entrapment, sexual license, and corrupting forces. But it is inevitably misleading. Yet, put quite simply, true growth lies in taking the other fork, the route of Jesus and Anna, that of doing God’s will.
Choices face us every day of life. It may appear gratifying to choose the wrong path. But the right choice leads to a clearer vision, one that grows within us. It is the way of God. As Paul says, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child...; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways” (1 Cor 13:11).

Points to Ponder

Life in widowhood Christian growth
Wrong choices
The right choice.



Fernando Armellini


Fernando Armellini is an Italian missionary and biblical scholar. With his permission we have begun translating his Sunday reflections on the three readings from the original Italian into English.

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Sunday Reflection


There is a video available by Fr. Fernando Armellini with commentary for today’s Gospel