Reflections for Christmas Season

Feast of the Holy Family

 

The Whole Family

 

God our Father,

you entrusted your Son to Joseph and Mary,

who readily accepted all that came into their lives.

They responded with humility and faithfulness

to the future you envisioned for them.

Help us imitate their fidelity

to you and to each other.

Favor us with wisdom, goodness, and peace.

Strengthen your love within us, within our homes,

and within our faith communities

so that we may embrace all that comes into our lives

and welcome the future you envision for us

and for the whole human family.

We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Inspiring Holiness

Today’s Readings: Genesis 15:1–6; 21:1–3 or Sirach 3:2–6, 12–14; Psalm 105:1–2, 3–4, 5–6, 8–9; Hebrews 11:8, 11–12, 17–19 or Colossians 3:12–21; Luke 2:22–40. Although we use the word holy to refer to someone who is good or pious, the term literally means that someone or something is “set apart” for God. God set Abraham apart by making him the father of countless descendants. However, did God choose Abraham because Abraham was good, or did God’s promises call forth goodness from Abraham?

When it comes to Mary and Joseph, it may seem obvious that they were good and pious, but Jesus’ parents must have also grown in holiness as they faced the unique task of raising God’s Son. God also called forth holiness in Simeon and Anna when he inspired them to prophesy about the child Jesus. Jesus, too, though set apart by his divine nature, also “grew and became strong” as God called forth holiness from him.

In what ways is God calling forth holiness from us? Perhaps we must care for aging parents or work with a difficult sibling or child. Perhaps we are struggling to treat a member of Christ’s body with compassion, humility, or patience. In such moments, God calls forth holiness from us. When we allow that goodness to flow forth, we inspire holiness in others. By God’s grace and the examples of holiness that we offer each other, we become more fully the holy family of God.

 

This Week at Home

Monday, December 28

Feast of the Holy Innocents

Herod shed the blood of others in order to protect his reign. Jesus shed his own blood in order to bring others into his reign. One viciously protected himself and his power, while the other readily surrendered it. Each day we, too, act in ways that are ultimately death-dealing or life-giving. What must we do to make sure that each day we turn away from darkness and toward the light and life of Christ? Today’s Readings: 1 John 1:5—2:2; Psalm 124:2–3, 4–5, 7b–8; Matthew 2:13–18.

 

Tuesday, December 29

Stepping into the Light

While fulfilling the requirements of the Jewish Law, Jesus’ parents encounter Simeon, who prophesies that God’s love incarnate has illuminated the world. When confronted by the light of Christ, however, people too often prefer the darkness. We keep walking in our self-righteousness, greed, or anger. Spend some time reflecting on Jesus’ commandment to love one another. To whom can you show greater love this week? Today’s Readings: 1 John 2:3–11; Psalm 96:1–2a, 2b–3, 5b–6; Luke 2:22–35.

 

Wednesday, December 30

Favor

God favored the prophets Simeon and Anna with insight into the child Jesus. God especially favored his Son, who grew in wisdom and strength. God likewise favors those who follow his Son, bestowing upon them knowledge, victory over evil, and eternal life. St. John exhorts us to cling to God’s favor and resist favoring the things of the world. What particular favor could you do for someone as a way of celebrating the favor that God has shown us all? Today’s Readings: 1 John 2:12–17; Psalm 96:7–8a, 8b–9, 10; Luke 2:36–40.

 

Thursday, December 31

Choosing Faith

We speak of our faith as a gift, but we must choose to accept this gift. In both readings for today, we hear that some people did not accept God’s gift of grace and truth in Jesus. As we try to understand why people abandon their faith, we gain insight by reflecting on our moments of doubt. What circumstances have challenged your faith? Bring your reflections into a prayer for those who are struggling in similar ways. Today’s Readings: 1 John 2:18–21; Psalm 96:1–2, 11–12, 13; John 1:1–18.

 

Friday, January 1

Mary, Mother of God

The blessing that Aaron gave the Israelites was incarnated in Jesus. God now blesses us by filling our hearts with the Spirit of his Son. As Jesus’ mother, Mary physically bore that blessing within herself, rightly earning the title “Mother of God.” Mary emerged from humble origins to be the most revered woman in the Church. Make a list of all the titles for Mary that you can think of. Choose one or two of them, and learn why that title came to be used for our Lady. Today’s Readings: Numbers 6:22–27; Psalm 67:2–3, 5, 6, 8; Galatians 4:4–7; Luke 2:16–21.

 

Saturday, January 2

St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen

“Let what you heard from the beginning remain in you.” John the Baptist prepared people to follow and remain with Jesus. St. Basil and St. Gregory helped the Church to remain steadfast in faith by giving brilliant and compelling testimony about Jesus. What testimony have you received about Jesus that helps you remain with him? Today’s Readings: 1 John 2:22–28; Psalm 98:1, 2–3ab, 3cd–4; John 1:19–28.

 

Feast of the Baptism of the Lord

 

Priests, Prophets, Kings

 

Loving Father,

at our Baptism we were anointed in Christ’s name

to be priests, prophets, and kings.

Our mission is his.

Help us to worship you, Lord God,

and to offer our whole lives to you.

Embolden us to share your love and salvation.

Empower us to seek your kingdom of justice and peace.

When the light of our faith wavers,

and our white garments become stained and torn,

cleanse us and renew your Spirit within us.

Guide us each day along the way of your Son

so that we, your beloved children,

may be pleasing to you in all that we do.

We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Our Mission

Today’s Readings: Isaiah 55:1–11; Isaiah 12:2–3, 4bcd, 5–6; 1 John 5:1–9; Mark 1:7–11 or Isaiah 42:1–4, 6–7; Psalm 29:1–2, 3ac–4, 3b, 9–10; Acts 10:34–38; Mark 1:7–11. Jesus, in his humanity, had to discern how to best offer his life to God. He drew inspiration from the promises God had made to Israel and, through Israel, to all people—promises of prosperity, justice, and peace. Jesus may have especially identified with the mysterious servant spoken of by the prophet Isaiah. This servant bravely brings God’s salvation to everyone. As John the Baptist urged people to prepare for the next stage of salvation, his words would have resonated with Jesus, who was baptized as a sign of his commitment to the mission that was taking shape within him.

Our Baptism immerses us into the life of Christ, into his earthly ministry, his sacrificial death, and his union with God the Father. As members of Christ’s body, we ask ourselves, “What is my mission? For what good work has God’s Spirit descended upon me?” Perhaps God is calling us to spend time with someone who is struggling. Perhaps our mission is to change an unhealthy work environment. Our mission might be to address injustice in our community. In all these ways and more, we, God’s beloved children, participate in the mission of Christ. In fulfilling our mission we, too, will hear God declare that he is well pleased with us.

 

This Week and Beyond

The Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

During Ordinary Time this year we will hear most often from the Gospel of Mark. However, the Gospel passage for the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time is always from John. Matthew, Mark, and Luke present Jesus’ identity through the lens of his ministry, but John’s focus is mostly on Jesus’ identity as God’s divine Son.

         The Christmas season is filled with feast days that highlight Jesus’ divinity. The passages from John’s Gospel that we hear on the Second Sundays in Ordinary Time transition us from an emphasis on Jesus’ identity to his public ministry. As we accompany Jesus in his ministry, today’s passage reminds us to stop and spend time with the Lord so as to discover and rediscover all that he is.

 

Gospel/Ignatian Contemplation

Popularized by St. Ignatius of Loyola, Gospel contemplation is a way to pray with the Scriptures. It works best with passages in which there is some action, such as a healing. Because Mark’s Gospel is filled with short passages in which people are doing something, it is well suited for Gospel contemplation.

         To begin, read the passage you have chosen several times. Note the people, setting, and any dialogue. Let the scene take ever clearer shape in your mind. Then imagine that you are there, in the story. You might be one of Jesus’ disciples, a person in the crowd, or someone who seeks healing. Notice who is with you, what you say and do, and, most especially, how you interact with Jesus and how he interacts with you. Gospel contemplation is one way to meet our Lord in our sacred texts. It might be helpful for those who are hesitant to try it to remember that the Gospels were written so that we, like generations before us, may encounter Christ and find salvation in him.

 

The Gospel of Mark

Since it contains very little teaching and few parables, the Gospel of Mark is the shortest and most fast-paced of our four Gospel accounts. It is also the darkest. The shadow of the cross looms from the first chapter as we hear Jesus begin his ministry right after John the Baptist has been arrested (1:14). Jesus’ first miracle is casting out a demon, a symbol of the evil he must confront (1:21–26). Chapter 2 consists entirely of stories in which people challenge Jesus and object to his or his disciples’ actions. By chapter 3 people are already plotting his death (3:6). As the Gospel continues, Jesus will face opposition from his family, the villagers of his hometown, and his disciples.

         The portrait of Jesus that emerges from this threatening narrative is a Jesus who struggles and suffers. He is the messiah, but he is a suffering messiah. “Suffering messiah” is a contradiction, an oxymoron. No one expected the messiah, God’s chosen one, to suffer and be killed. Christians today are so familiar with the story of Jesus’ passion and death that we forget how shocking it was, how horrible and horrifying. St. Mark reminds us.

         As we move through the Gospel of Mark and hear how Jesus is challenged, misunderstood, ridiculed, and physically attacked, we’re reminded that true discipleship has costs. Seeking the reign of God brings us into opposition with others who either don’t understand how we’re trying to live or who downright reject the kingdom of God that we seek. Jesus knows this. He has been through it. He now stands with us as we continue striving for his kingdom, confronting evil in all its forms until at last he raises us up to life with him in his kingdom forever.