Heavens and Earth Rejoice

Scripture Reading
Sing to the LORD a new song;

sing to the LORD, all you lands.
Sing to the LORD; bless his name;
announce his salvation, day after day. 

Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice;
let the sea and what fills it resound;
let the plains be joyful and all that is in them!
Then shall all the trees of the forest exult before the LORD.

The LORD comes,
he comes to rule the earth.
He shall rule the world with justice
and the peoples with his constancy.
(Psalm 96:1-2, 11-13)

 

Scripture Study

96:1–3. “A new song” (cf. Ps 33:3; 40:3; Is 42:10) may refer to the fact that this is a newly composed psalm, or to the new situation implied by the belief that the nations will worship the God of Israel (vv. 3, 7, 10).

96:10–13. The peoples are also invited to acknowledge to each other that the God who controls the universe is also he who dispenses justice (v. 10). Hope that God will “judge the peoples with equity”, that is, by causing evil to disappear and by keeping his promises right across the world, leads the psalmist to invite all creation, even inanimate things, to rejoice (vv. 11–13): “What do this justice and fidelity mean? On the day of Judgment, he will gather his chosen ones to himself and send the rest away; he will place some to his right hand, and others to his left. It is only right and fair that those who show no mercy before the coming of the judge should not then hope for mercy from him. Whereas those who struggle to be merciful towards others will be judged with mercy” (St Augustine, Enarrationes in Psalmos, 95, 15).[1]

Scripture Reflection

When verse 13 says “he comes to rule the earth,” to what does it refer? According to I Chronicles 16:23–33, Psalm 96 is one of the hymns of praise sung by Asaph and his choral guild before the ark after David brought it to Jerusalem. The procession bringing the ark of the LORD represented in liturgical drama his coming to his palace-temple as king (see Ps. 24:7–10). The reality behind the liturgical act was the marvelous works of salvation, the historical occasions when Israel had experienced the intervention of the LORD, moments Israel remembered in epic story (Exodus, Joshua, Judges, Samuel) and in poetry celebrating the LORD’s coming in theophany (Psalm 18; note the repetition of Ps. 29:1–2 in 98:7–9). Phrases and clauses from Psalm 96 and from Psalms 97 and 98 appear in the prophecy of the exilic Isaiah (compare vv. 11–13 with Isa. 40:10; 44:23; 49:13; 55:12; also 59:19f.; 60:1; 62:11). Isaiah saw the return of the exiles from Babylon as a revelation of the LORD as king and as a demonstration of his rule that proved that the gods of the nations were nothing.

The past “comings” of the LORD have a future. The liturgy remembers and anticipates. The psalm always places those who sing it in the presence of the LORD who has come and will rule the earth in righteousness and faithfulness. The hymn looks back to the nativity and forward to the second coming; Christ has come, and will come again. The psalm puts the Christ event in the sequence of the Old Testament marvelous works by which the LORD manifested his rule. It interprets the Christ as the LORD’s demonstration that other gods are mere nothings. Through the Christ, the LORD is working out his rule of righteousness and faithfulness among the nations.

– James Mays

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV. 

 

 

[1] James Gavigan, Brian McCarthy, and Thomas McGovern, eds., Psalms and the Song of Solomon, The Navarre Bible (Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishers, 2003), 323–325.

Flight

Scripture Reading

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.
(Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23)

 

Scripture Study

2:13 Rise, take the child: God works within the structures of the family: Joseph is instructed by the angel because he is the head of the Holy Family and the one most responsible for their well-being (cf. Eph 5:21–6:3). Egypt: A frequent place of refuge in the OT (Gen 12:10; 46:4; 1 Kings 11:40; Jer 26:21) and the location of large Jewish colonies (Alexandria and Elephantine) during NT times.

2:15 Out of Egypt: A quotation from Hos 11:1. Matthew anticipates its fulfillment in 2:21. ● Hosea 11:1 points back to the Exodus, where God’s “first-born son” (Ex 4:22), Israel, was delivered from slavery under the oppressive Pharaoh. Matthew sees this text also pointing forward, when Jesus, the eternal first-born Son (Rom 8:29), is delivered from the tyrant Herod and later brought out of Egypt (2:21) (CCC 530).

2:22 Archelaus: Son of Herod the Great. After Herod’s death, the Roman emperor Augustus divided his kingdom among his three sons. Archelaus was given the title “ethnarch” of Judea, Idumea, and Samaria. He quickly acquired a reputation like his father’s, governing with a ruthless and heavy hand. He was eventually banished by Augustus to Gaul in a.d. 6. Joseph took Mary and the Child north to the district of Galilee, where Archelaus’ younger brother, Herod Antipas, ruled as tetrarch until a.d. 39.

2:23 Nazareth: An obscure Galilean village nowhere mentioned in the OT. It was insignificant in the eyes of many Jews (cf. Jn 1:46). He shall be called a Nazarene: No OT prophecy corresponds to this exact wording. Matthew apparently paraphrases the message of several prophets into a summary statement about the Messiah. ● The paraphrase is based on a word association between Jesus’ home of Nazareth and the Hebrew word netser, translated as “branch” in Is 11:1. Isaiah used the image of a branch growing from a stump to signify hope for the kingdom of David. The great Davidic tree (dynasty) had been cut off since the Exile, but the sprouting branch indicated that God would raise up another king from the hopeless situation. Later prophets used this same image to signify the Messiah-king (Jer 23:5, 33:14–16) who would build the Temple (Zech 3:8, 6:11–13).[1]

Scripture Reflection

In today’s Gospel we see Joseph receiving the Lord’s direction for his care of Mary and Jesus. Joseph listens to God’s word in a dream. Dreams play a very interesting role in the Bible. In the Old Testament Joseph is an interpreter of dreams and successfully reads the dream of Pharaoh; the wise men in the New Testament are redirected to their homeland because an angel appeared to them in a dream. In one of the psalms, we find this line: “even at night, he directs my heart.”

What does it mean that Joseph is willing to listen to the wisdom of a dream? It means that he is willing to go beyond the strictures of the rational mind. Not repudiating them, but going beyond them, thinking in new ways, entertaining unexpected possibilities, plumbing deeper and richer dimensions of his soul. When Joseph and Mary bring the infant Jesus into the temple, therefore, we are meant to appreciate that the prophecy of Ezekiel is being fulfilled. The glory of Yahweh is returning to his favorite dwelling. And this is precisely what Simeon sees.

Are we stymied sometimes because we cannot think out of the box? We can’t expect the impossible? We can’t dream? And is our openness to God’s direction not dependent upon just this capacity? That God becomes one of us in order to save us from our sins. Who would ever even consider this possibility? What an absurdity! Only dreamers.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV. 

 

 

[1] Curtis Mitch, “Introduction to the Gospels,” in The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: The New Testament (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010), 9-11.

The Presentation

Scripture Reading

When the days were completed for their purification
according to the law of Moses,
the parents of Jesus took him up to Jerusalem
to present him to the Lord,
just as it is written in the law of the Lord,
Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,
and to offer the sacrifice of
a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,
in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. 
This man was righteous and devout,
awaiting the consolation of Israel,
and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 
It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit
that he should not see death
before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. 
He came in the Spirit into the temple;
and when the parents brought in the child Jesus
to perform the custom of the law in regard to him,
he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying:

“Lord, now let your servant go in peace;
your word has been fulfilled:
my own eyes have seen the salvation
which you prepared in the sight of every people,
a light to reveal you to the nations
and the glory of your people Israel.”

The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him;
and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother,
“Behold, this child is destined
for the fall and rise of many in Israel,
and to be a sign that will be contradicted
(and you yourself a sword will pierce)
so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
(Luke 2:22-35)

 

Scripture Study

Simeon, who is described as a righteous and devout man, obedient to God’s will, addresses himself to our Lord as a vassal or loyal servant who, having kept watch all his life in expectation of the coming of his Lord, sees that this moment has “now” come, the moment that explains his whole life. When he takes the Child in his arms, he learns, not through any reasoning process but through a special grace from God, that this Child is the promised Messiah, the Consolation of Israel, the Light of the nations.

Simeon’s canticle (vv. 29–32) is also a prophecy. It consists of two stanzas: the first (vv. 29–30) is an act of thanksgiving to God, filled with profound joy for having seen the Messiah. The second (vv. 31–32) is more obviously prophetic and extols the divine blessings which the Messiah is bringing to Israel and to all men. The canticle highlights the fact that Christ brings redemption to all men without exception—something foretold in many Old Testament prophecies (cf. Gen 22:18; Is 2:6; 42:6; 60:3; Ps 28:2).

It is easy to realize how extremely happy Simeon was—given that many patriarchs, prophets and kings of Israel had yearned to see the Messiah, yet did not see him, whereas he now held him in his arms (cf. Lk 10:24; 1 Pet 1:10).[1]

Scripture Reflection

Today’s Gospel tells the story of the presentation of Jesus in the temple. The temple was, in practically a literal sense, the dwelling place of the Lord. In the temple, divinity and humanity embraced, and the human race was brought back online with God.

But the sins of the nation had, according to the prophet Ezekiel, caused the glory of the Lord to depart from the temple. Therefore, one of the deepest aspirations of Israel’s people was to re-establish the temple as the place of right praise so that the glory of the Lord might return. When Joseph and Mary bring the infant Jesus into the temple, therefore, we are meant to appreciate that the prophecy of Ezekiel is being fulfilled. The glory of Yahweh is returning to his favorite dwelling. And this is precisely what Simeon sees.

The old seer is a symbol of ancient Israel, watching and waiting for the coming of the Messiah. Simeon knew all of the old prophecies; he embodied the expectation of the nation, and the Holy Spirit had given him the revelation that he would not die until he had laid eyes on his Savior.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

 

[1] Saint Luke’s Gospel, The Navarre Bible (Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishers, 2005), 48.

The Innocents

Scripture Reading

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.
(Matthew 2:13-18)

 

Scripture Study

2:13 Rise, take the child: God works within the structures of the family: Joseph is instructed by the angel because he is the head of the Holy Family and the one most responsible for their well-being (cf. Eph 5:21–6:3). Egypt: A frequent place of refuge in the OT (Gen 12:10; 46:4; 1 Kings 11:40; Jer 26:21) and the location of large Jewish colonies (Alexandria and Elephantine) during NT times.

2:15 Out of Egypt: A quotation from Hos 11:1. Matthew anticipates its fulfillment in 2:21. ● Hosea 11:1 points back to the Exodus, where God’s “first-born son” (Ex 4:22), Israel, was delivered from slavery under the oppressive Pharaoh. Matthew sees this text also pointing forward, when Jesus, the eternal first-born Son (Rom 8:29), is delivered from the tyrant Herod and later brought out of Egypt (2:21) (CCC 530).

2:16 a furious rage: Extrabiblical history paints a similar portrait of Herod: he murdered his favorite wife, three of his sons, and others who threatened his throne.

2:18 A voice was heard: A citation from Jer 31:15. ● Jeremiah looks to Ramah, a city five miles north of Jerusalem, as a place of sorrow and exile. The Assyrians first devastated northern Israel in the eighth century b.c. by sweeping through the land and engulfing the city (Is 10:29; Hos 5:8); later the Babylonians conquered the southern tribes in the sixth century b.c., and Ramah became the assembly point for hauling away captives (Jer 40:1). In both cases, some Israelites were killed, and others were carried into exile. Matthew sees Bethlehem as a new city of sorrow where many are killed and the young Jesus, representing Israel, is carried away. These two sites are linked with the burial place of Rachel: one tradition puts her tomb on the outskirts of Bethlehem, where she gave birth to Benjamin in sorrow (Gen 35:17–19), while another locates it in the tribal territory of Benjamin near Ramah (1 Sam 10:2; cf. Josh 18:25).[1]

Scripture Reflection

Today’s Gospel describes Herod’s massacre of the boys of Bethlehem, his furious reaction to being deceived by the Magi. Matthew’s account of the visit of the Magi purposely juxtaposes King Herod and the mysterious magi from the east. Herod was the consummate political survivor, a canny realist who had, through threats, murder, and corruption, found his way to the top of the political ladder

While Herod was fussing around, desperately trying to maintain himself in power, figures from a distant country were blithely indifferent to politics and games of domination. They were intensely surveying the night sky, looking for signs from God. Now, as they cross the border into Herod’s country, the magi come onto Herod’s radar-screen. Who are they? Spies? And whom are they seeking? A new born king?! That is a threat. That is treason.

Under the pretense of piety, he calls the Magi to himself and inquires after the star’s first appearance, getting the time coordinate; and then he asks them to go to Bethlehem and find the exact locale. With this GPS system, he can find the king—and stamp him out.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV. 

 

[1] Curtis Mitch, “Introduction to the Gospels,” in The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: The New Testament (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010), 9.

Our Joy is Complete

Scripture Reading

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.
(1 John 1:1-4)

 

Scripture Study

1:1 the beginning: I.e., when the Christian message first reached the original readers (2:7, 24; 3:11). There is also an allusion to “the beginning” mentioned in Jn 1:1, where the reference points back to the dawn of creation, when God brought all things into being through his divine Son (1 Jn 2:13–14; 3:8). the word of life: The good news of the gospel. Its focus is the personal “Word” of the Father, Jesus Christ (Jn 1:1; Rev 19:13). See word study: Word at Jn 1:1.

1:2 with the Father: Christ embodies the eternal life (5:11) that he shares with the Father in his divinity (Jn 5:26). This means that Christ himself is “true God” (1 Jn 5:20; Jn 1:1) and that he reveals to us the mystery of God’s inner life as a Trinity (Jn 1:18).

1:3 fellowship: The interpersonal communion that believers have with God and with one another (1:6–7). It is based on a common participation in divine life that establishes us as God’s children (3:1). The apostles extend this gift to others by their preaching and sacramental ministry (1 Cor 10:16–17; CCC 425).

1:5 God is light: Means that God is infinite goodness, purity, and truth. darkness: Stands for all things evil and erroneous that are churned out by the devil (Jn 3:19–21). Fellowship with God is impossible unless believers live in the light—loving as God loves and staying pure from sin as God is pure (1 Jn 1:6–7). This black-and-white vision of the world is also shared by the Jewish authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls, who made similar contrasts between spiritual realities in terms of light and darkness.[1]

Scripture Reflection

Today we celebrate the feast of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist. St. John is, of course, a spiritual master, but he is a literary master as well. “On the evening of that first day of the week…” Easter Sunday is new creation day. On the first creation day, God had said, “let there be light,” and now on Easter day, the one who said, “I am the light of the world” has returned from the dead. And this means that everything has changed, everything has been recreated.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV. 

 

 

[1] The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: The New Testament (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010), 469.

The First Martyr

Scripture Reading
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.”
(Acts 6:8-10, 7:54-59)

 

Scripture Study

Stephen’s discourse is the longest one given in Acts. It is a summary of the history of Israel, divided into three periods—of the Patriarchs (vv. 1–16), of Moses (vv. 17–43) and of the building of the temple (vv. 44–50). It ends with a short section (vv. 51–53) where he brings his argument together.

One thing that stands out is that Stephen does not defend himself directly. He answers his accusers with a Christian vision of salvation history, in which the temple and the Law have already fulfilled their purpose. He tells them that he continues to respect the Mosaic Law and the temple, but that as a Christian his idea of God’s law is more universal and more profound, his concept of the temple more spiritual (for God can be worshipped anywhere in the world). This approach, which respects and perfects the religious values of Judaism (because it probes their true meaning and brings them to fulfillment), is reinforced by the way he presents the figure of Moses. Stephen shows Moses as a “type” of Christ: Christ is the new Moses. Small elucidations of the Greek text of the Old Testament help in this direction: expressions like “they refused” or “deliverer” (v. 35) are not applied to Moses in the books of the Old Testament, but they are used here to suggest Christ. The Israelites’ rebellious and aggressive treatment of Moses, who had a mission from God, is being repeated—much more seriously—in their rejection of the Gospel.[1]

Scripture Reflection

Martyrdom is a supreme act of bravery and of true prudence, but to the world it makes no sense. It is also an expression of humility, because a martyr does not act out of bravado or overweening self-confidence; he is a weak man like anyone else, but God’s grace gives him the strength he needs. Although martyrdom is something which happens rarely, it does show Christians what human nature can rise to if God gives it strength, and it establishes a standard, both real and symbolic, for the behavior of every disciple of Christ.

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV. 

 

 

[1] The Acts of the Apostles, The Navarre Bible (Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishers, 2005), 63–65.

The Word Became Flesh

Scripture Reading
In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God. 
All things came to be through him,
and without him nothing came to be.
What came to be through him was life,
and this life was the light of the human race;
the light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has not overcome it.
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
He was in the world,
and the world came to be through him,
but the world did not know him.
He came to what was his own,
but his own people did not accept him.

But to those who did accept him
he gave power to become children of God, 
to those who believe in his name, 
who were born not by natural generation 
nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision 
but of God.
And the Word became flesh
and made his dwelling among us,
and we saw his glory,
the glory as of the Father’s only Son,
full of grace and truth.
(John 1:1-5, 9-14)

 

Scripture Study

In the beginning: John traces the origin of the Word into eternity past, where God the Son was present with God the Father before time itself began (17:5). ● This opening verse of John is a direct allusion to the opening verse of the Bible. As in Genesis 1, the evangelist draws attention to light, darkness, life, and the spoken Word that brought all things into existence (1:1–5). It is implied that the universe, once created through the Word of God, is now being renewed through that same Word come in the flesh as Jesus Christ (1:14; Rev 21:1–5; Catechism of the Catholic Church [hereafter CCC] 241, 291). was with God: Distinguishes the Word from the Father. They are not the same Person, yet they share the same nature in the family of the eternal Godhead (17:25–26) (CCC 254–56). was God: Or, “was divine”. This is the first and clearest assertion of the deity of Jesus in the Fourth Gospel (5:18; 10:30–33; 20:28) (CCC 242).

the Word became flesh: Asserts the mystery of the Incarnation. It means that Christ, who is fully divine, eternal, and equal in being with the Father, came from heaven to earth and entered history as a man. The word “flesh” signifies all that is natural, earthly, and human (3:6; 6:63; 1 Jn 4:2) (CCC 423, 456–63). dwelt among us: The Greek means that Jesus “tabernacled” or “pitched his tent” among us (Rev 21:3). ● John is making a link between the Incarnation of Jesus and the erection of the wilderness Tabernacle in the OT (Ex 25:8–9). The Tabernacle, once the architectural expression of Yahweh’s presence in Israel, is a prophetic image of Jesus dwelling in our midst as a man. Likewise, as the Wisdom of God once tabernacled in Israel in the Torah of Moses (Sir 24:8), so Jesus is the embodiment of divine Wisdom in the flesh (1 Cor 1:24). his glory: The magnificence of God’s presence and Being once visible in the fiery cloud that indwelt the wilderness Tabernacle (Ex 40:34–35) and later the Jerusalem Temple (1 Kings 8:10–11). The glory of Christ is veiled behind his humanity and becomes visible only when he manifests it through his miracles (2:11; 11:40) (CCC 697).[1]

Scripture Reflection

“The grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all men” (Tit 2:11).  The words of the Apostle Paul reveal the mystery of this holy night: the grace of God has appeared, his gift is free; in the Child given unto us the love of God is made visible.

It is a night of glory, that glory proclaimed by the angels in Bethlehem and also by us today all over the world.  It is a night of joy, because from this day forth, and for all times, the infinite and eternal God is God with us: he is not far off, we need not search for him in the heavens or in mystical notions; he is close, he is been made man and will never distance himself from our humanity, which he has made his own.  It is a night of light: that light, prophesied by Isaiah (cf. 9:1), which would illumine those who walk in darkness, has appeared and enveloped the shepherds of Bethlehem (cf. Lk 2:9).

The shepherds simply discover that “unto us a child is born” (Is 9:5) and they understand that all this glory, all this joy, all this light converges to one single point, that sign which the angel indicated to them: “you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger” (Lk 2:12).  This is the enduring sign to find Jesus.  Not just then, but also today.  If we want to celebrate Christmas authentically, we need to contemplate this sign: the fragile simplicity of a small newborn, the meekness of where he lies, the tender affection of the swaddling clothes.  God is there.

With this sign the Gospel reveals a paradox: it speaks of the emperor, the governor, the mighty of those times, but God does not make himself present there; he does not appear in the grand hall of a royal palace, but in the poverty of a stable; not in pomp and show, but in the simplicity of life; not in power, but in a smallness which surprises.  In order to discover him, we need to go there, where he is: we need to bow down, humble ourselves, make ourselves small.  The Child who is born challenges us: he calls us to leave behind fleeting illusions and go to the essence, to renounce our insatiable claims, to abandon our endless dissatisfaction and sadness for something we will never have.  It will help us to leave these things behind in order to rediscover in the simplicity of the God-child, peace, joy and the meaning of life.

Let us allow the Child in the manger to challenge us, but let us also allow ourselves to be challenged by the children of today’s world, who are not lying in a cot caressed with the affection of a mother and father, but rather suffer the squalid “mangers that devour dignity”: hiding underground to escape bombardment, on the pavements of a large city, at the bottom of a boat overladen with immigrants.  Let us allow ourselves to be challenged by the children who are not allowed to be born, by those who cry because no one satiates their hunger, by those who do have not toys in their hands, but rather weapons.

The mystery of Christmas, which is light and joy, questions and unsettles us, because it is at once both a mystery of hope and of sadness.  It bears within itself the taste of sadness, inasmuch as love is not received, and life discarded.  This happened to Joseph and Mary, who found the doors closed, and placed Jesus in a manger, “because there was no place for them in the inn” (v. 7).  Jesus was born rejected by some and regarded by many others with indifference.  Today also the same indifference can exist, when Christmas becomes a feast where the protagonists are ourselves, rather than Jesus; when the lights of commerce cast the light of God into the shadows; when we are concerned for gifts but cold towards those who are marginalized.

Yet Christmas has essentially a flavor of hope because, notwithstanding the darker aspects of our lives, God’s light shines out.  His gentle light does not make us fear; God who is in love with us, draws us to himself with his tenderness, born poor and fragile among us, as one of us.  He is born in Bethlehem, which means “house of bread”.  In this way he seems to tell us that he is born as bread for us; he enters life to give us his life; he comes into our world to give us his love.  He does not come to devour or to command but to nourish and to serve.  Thus there is a direct thread joining the manger and the cross, where Jesus will become bread that is broken: it is the direct thread of love which is given and which saves us, which brings light to our lives, and peace to our hearts.

The shepherds grasped this in that night.  They were among the marginalized of those times.  But no one is marginalized in the sight of God and it was precisely they who were invited to the Nativity.  Those who felt sure of themselves, self-sufficient, were at home with their possessions; the shepherds instead “went with haste” (cf. Lk 2:16).  Let us allow ourselves also to be challenged and convened tonight by Jesus.  Let us go to him with trust, from that area in us we feel to be marginalized, from our own limitations.  Let us touch the tenderness which saves.  Let us draw close to God who draws close to us, let us pause to look upon the crib, and imagine the birth of Jesus: light, peace, utmost poverty, and rejection.  Let us enter into the real Nativity with the shepherds, taking to Jesus all that we are, our alienation, our unhealed wounds.  Then, in Jesus we will enjoy the flavor of the true spirit of Christmas: the beauty of being loved by God.  With Mary and Joseph we pause before the manger, before Jesus who is born as bread for my life.

Contemplating his humble and infinite love, let us say to him: thank you, thank you because you have done all this for me.

– Pope Francis, Nativity of the Lord, 12.24.2016

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV. 

 

 

[1] Curtis Mitch, “Introduction to the Gospels,” in The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: The New Testament (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010), 162.

He Is Faithful

Scripture Reading
The favors of the LORD I will sing forever;
through all generations my mouth shall proclaim your faithfulness.
For you have said, “My kindness is established forever”;
in heaven you have confirmed your faithfulness.

“I have made a covenant with my chosen one,
I have sworn to David my servant:
Forever will I confirm your posterity
and establish your throne for all generations.”

“He shall say of me, ‘You are my father,
my God, the rock, my savior.’
Forever I will maintain my kindness toward him,
and my covenant with him stands firm.”Top of Form

Bottom of Form

(Psalm 89:2-3,4-5,27,29)

 

 

Scripture Study

 

Psalm 89 The community laments the defeat of the Davidic king, to whom God promised kingship as enduring as the heavens (Ps 89:2–5). The Psalm narrates how God became king of the divine beings (Ps 89:6–9) and how the Davidic king became king of earthly kings (Ps 89:20–38). Since the defeat of the king calls into question God’s promise, the community ardently prays God to be faithful to the original promise to David (Ps 89:39–52).

89:3–5 David’s dynasty is to be as long-lasting as the heavens, a statement reinforced by using the same verbs (establish, stand) both of the divine love and loyalty and of the Davidic dynasty and throne, cf. Ps 89:29–30.[1]

89:19–29. It was God who chose the king (v. 19), anointed him (v. 20) and promised to give him strength to deal with his enemies (vv. 21–24) and a realm stretching from the Mediterranean to the Euphrates and the Tigris (vv. 24–25). He also promised that he would be a Father to his son the king and would give him a line of descendants that endured forever (vv. 26–29; cf. 2 Sam 7:13; Ps 2). In the book of Revelation St John applies the words of v. 27 to Jesus risen from the dead when he calls him “the first-born of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth” (Rev 1:5).[2]

 

Scripture Reflection

 

The covenant with David incorporated the Davidic kingship into the eternal structure of God’s reign, but the temporal career of the people subjected it to all the fluctuations and uncertainties of human history. The portrayal of the messiah in the power of his enemies, rejected and scorned, his life cut short, has another counterpart in the passion narrative of the Gospels. The psalm read as Scripture on Maundy Thursday is a powerful witness that the very cosmic reign of God is involved in what is happening on that day; and it makes it very clear how much the outcome depends on and reveals the faithfulness of God. While the psalm contains no resolution of the dilemma, it clearly speaks of an appeal to the faithfulness of God.

– James Mays

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV. 

 

 

[1] James Gavigan, Brian McCarthy, and Thomas McGovern, eds., Psalms and the Song of Solomon, The Navarre Bible (Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishers, 2003), 304.
[2] Donald Senior, John J. Collins, and Mary Ann Getty, eds., The Catholic Study Bible, 2nd Ed.: Notes, 2nd ed., vol. 2 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), 793.

The Baptist Arrives

Scripture Reading
When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child
she gave birth to a son. 
Her neighbors and relatives heard
that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her,
and they rejoiced with her. 
When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child,
they were going to call him Zechariah after his father,
but his mother said in reply,
“No. He will be called John.” 
But they answered her,
“There is no one among your relatives who has this name.” 
So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called. 
He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,”
and all were amazed.
Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed,
and he spoke blessing God.
Then fear came upon all their neighbors,
and all these matters were discussed
throughout the hill country of Judea.
All who heard these things took them to heart, saying,
“What, then, will this child be?
For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.”
(Luke 1:57-66)

 

Scripture Study

1:59. Circumcision was a rite established by God under the Old Covenant to mark out those who belonged to his chosen people: he commanded Abraham to institute circumcision as a sign of the Covenant he had made with him and all his descendants (cf. Gen 17:10–14), prescribing that it should be done on the eighth day after birth. The rite was performed either at home or in the synagogue, and, in addition to the actual circumcision, the ceremony included prayers and the naming of the child. With the institution of Christian Baptism the commandment to circumcise ceased to apply. At the Council of Jerusalem (cf. Acts 15:1ff), the apostles definitively declared that those entering the Church had no need to be circumcised.

1:60–63. By naming the child John, Zechariah complies with the instructions God sent him through the angel (cf. Lk 1:13).

1:64. This miraculous event fulfils the prophecy the angel Gabriel made to Zechariah when he announced the conception and birth of the Baptist (Lk 1:19–20). St Ambrose observes: “With good reason was his tongue loosed, because faith untied what had been tied by disbelief” (Expositio Evangelii sec. Lucam, in loc.).[1]

Scripture Reflection

Today’s Gospel reflects on the absolutely pivotal figure of John the Baptist. It’s fair to say that you cannot really understand Jesus without understanding John, which is precisely why all four evangelists tell the story of the Baptist as a kind of overture to the story of Jesus. John sums up Israel, and without the Israelite background, the story of Jesus becomes opaque.

The story of John’s birth brings his parents, Zechariah and Elizabeth, into focus. Both are strongly priestly personages. Elizabeth is a descendant of the family of Aaron, the first priest of Israel, and Zechariah was a practicing temple priest.

What’s important for our purposes is that John was of very priestly stock. So why, when we first hear of him in his adult life, is he out in the desert and not in the temple? Well, there was a long prophetic tradition that criticized the temple for its corruption. In John’s time, the temple was mired in very messy, vile, and violent politics. So what is he doing in the desert? He is offering what the temple ought to be offering but wasn’t, due to its corruption, namely, the forgiveness of sins.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV. 

 

[1] Saint Luke’s Gospel, The Navarre Bible (Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishers, 2005), 39–40.

Our Magnificat

Scripture Reading

“My heart exults in the LORD,
my horn is exalted in my God.
I have swallowed up my enemies;
I rejoice in my victory.”

“The bows of the mighty are broken,
while the tottering gird on strength.
The well-fed hire themselves out for bread,
while the hungry batten on spoil.
The barren wife bears seven sons,
while the mother of many languishes.”

“The LORD puts to death and gives life;
he casts down to the nether world;
he raises up again.
The LORD makes poor and makes rich,
he humbles, he also exalts.”

“He raises the needy from the dust;
from the dung heap he lifts up the poor,
To seat them with nobles
and make a glorious throne their heritage.”
(1 Samuel 2:1, 4-5, 6-7, 8)

 

Scripture Study

2:1, 3, 9 Hannah appeals to a God who maintains order by keeping human affairs in balance, reversing the fortunes of the arrogant, who, like Peninnah, boast of their good fortune at the expense of those like Hannah who receive less from the Lord. Hannah’s admission places her among the faithful who trust that God will execute justice on their behalf.

2:10 The reference “his king … his anointed” recalls the final sentence of the Book of Judges and introduces the kingship theme that dominates the Books of Samuel.[1]

Scripture Reflection

The song of Hannah is a psalm in praise of God for his saving action among his people; the book of Samuel ends (2 Sam 1:51) with another psalm extolling divine intervention through the dynasty of David. Both songs contain similar elements, but Hannah’s, even though it ends by referring to the king and his anointed, concentrates more on the specifics of God’s actions: it stresses his preference for the weak, the hungry, the barren and the needy over those who have plenty. The Magnificat (Lk 1:46), which takes its inspiration from this passage, tells us that in the fullness of time God will intervene in a definitive way. All disciples, in reflecting on the blessings bestowed upon them, should make this prayer one of their own by humbly coming before God and saying, “My heart exults in the Lord, my Savior, for he has done great things for me.”

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV. 

 

 

[1] Donald Senior, John J. Collins, and Mary Ann Getty, eds., The Catholic Study Bible, 2nd Ed.: Notes, 2nd ed., vol. 2 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), 334.