For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government
shall be upon His shoulder; and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor,
the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.
He shall feed His flock like a shepherd;
and He shall gather the lambs with His arm,
and carry them in His arms, and gently lead those that are with young.
Come unto Him, all you who labor, come unto Him all who are burdened, and He will give you rest. Take his yoke upon you, and learn of Him, for He is meek and lowly of heart, and you shall find rest unto your souls.
Rejoice greatly! Shout for joy. Behold, your King comes to you; He is the righteous Savior, and He shall speak peace and bring Joy to the World.
“Jesus, the Light of the World, as we celebrate your birth, may we begin to see the world in the light of understanding you give us. As you chose the lowly, the outcasts, and the poor to receive the greatest news the world had ever known, so may we worship you in meekness of heart. May we also remember our brothers and sisters less fortunate than ourselves in this season of giving. Amen.”
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom
a light has shone.
You have brought them abundant joy
and great rejoicing,
as they rejoice before you as at the harvest,
as people make merry when dividing spoils.
For the yoke that burdened them,
the pole on their shoulder,
and the rod of their taskmaster
you have smashed, as on the day of Midian.
For every boot that tramped in battle,
every cloak rolled in blood,
will be burned as fuel for flames.
For a child is born to us, a son is given us;
upon his shoulder dominion rests.
They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero,
Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.
His dominion is vast
and forever peaceful,
from David's throne, and over his kingdom,
which he confirms and sustains
by judgment and justice,
both now and forever.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this!
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus
that the whole world should be enrolled.
This was the first enrollment,
when Quirinius was governor of Syria.
So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town.
And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth
to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem,
because he was of the house and family of David,
to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
While they were there,
the time came for her to have her child,
and she gave birth to her firstborn son.
She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger,
because there was no room for them in the inn.
Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields
and keeping the night watch over their flock.
The angel of the Lord appeared to them
and the glory of the Lord shone around them,
and they were struck with great fear.
The angel said to them,
"Do not be afraid;
for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy
that will be for all the people.
For today in the city of David
a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.
And this will be a sign for you:
you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes
and lying in a manger."
And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel,
praising God and saying:
"Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests."
In turning on the light of the Christmas tree, we wish for the light of Christ to be in us. A Christmas without light is not Christmas. Let there be light in the soul, in the heart; let there be forgiveness to others; let there be no hostilities or darkness.... Let there be the beautiful light of Jesus. This is my wish for all of you, when you turn on the light of the Christmas tree.
I give to you my warmest wishes, peace and happiness. If you have something dark in your soul, ask the Lord for forgiveness. Christmas is a great opportunity to cleanse the soul! Do not fear, the priest is merciful, forgiving all in the name of God, because God forgives everything. May there be light be in your hearts, in your families, in your cities. And now, with this wish, let us turn on the light.
Gather your family and friends as darkness falls tonight. If you have decorated your Christmas tree, have a ceremonial lighting of it. If not, you might want to light several candles. Use this blessing to bring peace and good cheer to those gathered:
In turning on the light of the Christmas tree,
we wish for the light of Christ to be in us.
Let there be light in the soul, in the heart;
let there be forgiveness to others;
let there be no hostilities or darkness.
Let there be the beautiful light of Jesus.
May there be light be in our hearts, in our families, in our cities.
And now, with this wish, let us turn on the light.
“When the song of the angels is stilled, when the star in the sky is gone, when the kings and princes are home, when the shepherds are back with the flocks, then the work of Christmas begins: To find the lost, to heal those broken in spirit, to feed the hungry, to release the oppressed, to rebuild the nations, to bring peace among all peoples, to make a little music with the heart. And to radiate the Light of Christ, every day, in every way, in all that we do and in all that we say. Then the work of Christmas begins.”
The Baptism of the Lord
God our Father, giver of life,
your Son immersed himself in the human condition.
By becoming one with us
he made it possible for us to become one with you.
By Baptism you free us from sin,
and empower us with your Spirit.
As we strive to live as members of Christ’s Body,
lead us steadily along the path of holiness.
Cleanse us from the sins that still stain us.
Enliven the flame of faith within us.
Keep us attentive to your Word.
We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Sunday, January 12, 2020
Today’s Readings: Isaiah 42:1–4, 6–7; Psalm 29:1–2, 3–4, 3, 9–10 (11b); Acts 10:34–38; Matthew 3:13–17. The baptism John performed was a sign of the new era to come, but John himself could not bring about that new era. That power belonged to God’s Son. Recognizing this, John does not want to baptize the one who is so much greater than he, but Jesus insists. Despite the power he has, Jesus acts humbly. He enters into solidarity with the sinners he has come to save.
By submitting to John’s baptism, Jesus “fulfills all righteousness”—that is, he carries out God’s plan of salvation, a plan foretold in passages such as in our First Reading. God speaks through Isaiah to declare that he will grasp the hand of his servant, whom he has chosen for a special purpose. In the Second Reading, we again hear this language of election as Peter speaks of Jesus as God’s anointed one.
In the ancient world, priests, prophets, and kings were anointed to show that God chose them for that role. The title Christ is from the Greek word for “anointed one.” Messiah is the Hebrew term. The descent of God’s Spirit upon Jesus and the words pronounced by God at Jesus’ baptism reveal that Jesus is God’s chosen one.
At our Baptism, we were incorporated into Christ’s Body, empowered by God’s Spirit, and anointed to act like Christ as priests, prophets, and kings. God calls us to worship, to proclaim the Gospel, and to work alongside his Son until he brings about the fullness of his kingdom.
This Week and Beyond
The Ministry of Jesus
The cycle of readings for Sundays and weekdays reflects the wisdom of the Catholic Church. During Ordinary Time we are led steadily through the ministry of Jesus, teaching by teaching, story by story. On Sundays we also work steadily through a letter of the New Testament. The entire first half of our liturgical celebrations are thus grounded on the life of Christ and the teaching of the Apostles. The wisdom of having such fixed readings is this: we do not get to decide what we hear from God. We do not get to ignore some aspects of Jesus’ ministry and concentrate our attention on others. We do not get to skip a letter that makes us uncomfortable. We are challenged and consoled, chastened and uplifted, by the entirety of the Gospel. In the weeks ahead, listen for what God is speaking to you. You may hear something new, something you would never have heard on your own.
Saturday, January 25
The Conversion of St. Paul
Those of us who were baptized as infants might yearn for a moment such as St. Paul’s in which God becomes suddenly, dramatically, and unmistakably present. We should remember, however, that Paul’s new faith came from somewhere. He knew what Christians believed. His familiarity with Christ was the basis for his conversion. Those of us who were raised with the knowledge of Christ may also have experienced moments of wonderful transcendence in our journey toward God, but those moments came from somewhere: they arose from our daily study, prayer, and effort to live more faithfully as God’s children. Today’s Readings: Acts 22:3–16 or Acts 9:1–22; Psalm 117:1bc, 2; Mark 16:15–18.
Sunday, February 2
Presentation of the Lord
On the Feast of the Epiphany, we heard a story from Matthew’s Gospel account in which Gentiles, represented by the Magi, followed a star’s light to pay homage to the infant Jesus. The word epiphany comes from the Greek word meaning “to reveal.” Luke’s Gospel contains a different story of an epiphany. He tells how Simeon, guided by God’s spirit, praises God for allowing him to see the Christ child, God’s instrument of salvation. His famous prayer, the Nunc Dimittis, is part of the Church’s Night Prayer.
The liturgy for this feast day includes a blessing of candles. Your parish may invite you to bring a candle to be blessed or to take one after Mass. Set this candle in a suitable place in your home. Take a moment to light the candle and pray each evening, repeating the words of Simeon and praising God for revealing his light and glory to you. Today’s Readings: Malachi 3:1–4; Psalm 24:7, 8, 9, 10; Hebrews 2:14–18; Luke 2:22–40.
Monday, February 3
In the Gospel reading for today, Jesus shows such power over evil that people are frightened of him. Our Lord shares this extraordinary power with his Church. As we celebrate the Optional Memorial of St. Blaise today, we celebrate the healing, protection, and peace that comes to us from God. If you do not know anything about St. Blaise, do a little research about him. Thank God for the many ways and the many people who reveal his saving love. Today’s Readings: 2 Samuel 15:13–14, 30; 16:5–13; Psalm 3:2–3, 4–5, 6–7; Mark 5:1–20.
And now God says to us what he has already said to the world as a whole through his grace-filled birth: “I am there. I am with you. I am your life. I am the gloom in your daily routine. Why will you not bear it? I weep your tears – pour out yours to me, my child. I am your joy. Do not be afraid to be happy, for ever since I wept, joy is the standard of living that is really more suitable than the anxiety and grief of those who think they have no hope. I am the blind alleys of all your paths, for when you no longer know how to go any farther, then you have reached me, foolish child, though you are not aware of it. I am in your anxiety, for I have shared it by suffering it. And in doing so, I wasn’t even heroic according to the wisdom of the world. I am in the prison of your finiteness, for my love has made me your prisoner. When the totals of your plans and of your life’s experiences do not balance out evenly, I am the unsolved remainder. And I know that this remainder, which makes you so frantic, is in reality my love, that you do not understand. I am present in your needs. I have suffered them and they are not transformed but not obliterated from my heart… This reality – incomprehensible wonder of my almighty love – I have sheltered safely in the cold stable of your world. I am there. It is Christmas. Light the candles. They have more right to exist than all the darkness. It is Christmas. Christmas that lasts forever.
“God, our Creator, we offer this humble prayer on Christmas Day. We come to worship with a song of thanks in our hearts—a song of redemption, a song of hope and renewal. We pray for joy in our hearts, hope in our God, love to forgive, and peace upon the earth. We ask for the salvation of all our family members and friends, and we pray your blessings on all people. May there be bread for the hungry, love for the unlovable, healing for the sick, protection for our children, and wisdom for our youth. We pray for the forgiveness of and abundant life in Christ. Holy Spirit, fill our hearts with your love and power. In the name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.” —