Dec 16-21: 3rd Week of Advent- Reflections

Dec 16 Monday: Matt: 21: 23-27: 23 And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” 24 Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you a question; and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 The baptism of John, whence was it? From heaven or from men?” And they argued with one another, “If we say, `From heaven,’ he will say to us, `Why then did you not believe him?’ 26 But if we say, `From men,’ we are afraid of the multitude; for all hold that John was a prophet.” 27 So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things. USCCB reflections:

The context: After casting out the animal-merchants and moneychangers from the Temple immediately after the Palm Sunday procession, Jesus started teaching in the Temple courts. Hence, the chief priests and elders of the people approached Jesus, questioning his authority in entering the city in a triumphal procession, allowing the children to acclaim him, curing the sick, casting out merchants and money-changers and teaching in the Temple area. It was a trap. If Jesus claimed that his authority was Divine, as the Messiah, he would be charged with blasphemy. If he claimed that his authority was human he would be arrested as a mad zealot damaging the simple Faith of the people in the Temple and what it stood for. Since Jesus did not want to risk his life and mission a few days ahead of time, he silenced them by asking a challenging counter-question about John the Baptist and his message – was this from God or man? Was this Divine or human? If they answered Divine, the questioners would be asked to explain why they did not accept John’s message and his witness-bearing that Jesus was the Messiah. If they answered human, they would have to face the anger of the crowd who had accepted John as a prophet. Hence, they kept silent opting for a shameful self-humiliation. Life message: In religious matters we should not ask the question whether our stand is safe, politically correct, or useful. Instead, we need to stand for truth with the courage of our Christian convictions even if it costs our life. (Fr. Tony) ( L/19

Dec 17 Tuesday: Mt 1:1-17: 1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. 2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, 3 and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, 4 and Ram the father of Ammin’adab, and Ammin’adab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, 5 and Salmon the father of Bo’az by Rahab, and Bo’az the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, 6 and Jesse the father of David the king. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uri’ah, 7 and Solomon the father of Rehobo’am, and Rehobo’am the father of Abi’jah, and Abi’jah the father of Asa, 8 and Asa the father of Jehosh’aphat, and Jehosh’aphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzzi’ah, 9 and Uzzi’ah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezeki’ah, 10 and Hezeki’ah the father of Manas’seh, and Manas’seh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josi’ah, 11 and Josi’ah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon. 12 And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoni’ah was the father of She-al’ti-el, and She-al’ti-el the father of Zerub’babel, 13 and Zerub’babel the father of Abi’ud, and Abi’ud the father of Eli’akim, and Eli’akim the father of Azor, 14 and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eli’ud, 15 and Eli’ud the father of Elea’zar, and Elea’zar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, 16 and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ. 17 So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations. USCCB reflections:
The context: Starting with a genealogy was the Jewish way of beginning a biography because the Jews gave importance to the purity of the lineage which made them part of God’s Chosen People. For a noble Jew, the line must be traceable back through five generations, and for a Jewish priest traceable back to Aaron. Matthew presents Jesus’ human ancestry, indicating that salvation history has reached its climax with the birth of the Son of God through Mary by the working of the Holy Spirit. The Jewish genealogies followed the male line. Hence, Joseph, as the husband of Mary, was the legal father of Jesus, and the legal father was on a par with the real father regarding rights and duties. Thus, it is through Joseph, his legal father, that Jesus became the descendant of David. Since the Jews generally married within their clan, the early Fathers of the Church believed that Mary also belonged to David’s family. As a legal son of David, Jesus is the fulfillment of prophecies. The genealogy of Jesus Christ in today’s Gospel is carefully arranged into three groups of fourteen generations each. The three groups are based on 1) the rise of Israel to a great kingdom under David and Solomon, 2) the fall of the nation in the Babylonian exile and 3) the raising of the nation after the exile. The three groups symbolically represent the creation of man in God’s image, the loss of man’s greatness in Adam’s sin and the regaining of greatness through Christ Jesus.
Life messages: 1) We need to accept and support, lift up and correct the bad members of our family, acknowledging the truth that every family has some black sheep. Jesus’ genealogy mentions a harlot named Rahab, an adulteress named Tamar and a Moabite Gentile woman named Ruth. We need to remember that God can bring good out of the worst persons and circumstances. 2) We need to appreciate our membership in the Divine family of God by Baptism and behave as holy children of a Holy God. (Fr. Tony) ( L/19

Dec 18 Wednesday: Mt 1:18-25: 18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit; 19 and her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; 21 she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel” (which means, God with us). 24 …25 USCCB reflections:
The context: Today’s Gospel focuses on the story of the Virgin Birth, which is at the heart of our Christmas celebrations. It focuses also on the person and role of St. Joseph. In today’s Gospel, Matthew sees in the passage from Isaiah one of the most descriptive and definite prophecies foretelling that the future Messianic King, Christ, will be born as a descendant of David. In order for Jesus to fulfill this promise, Joseph had to, and willingly did, accept Jesus as his son, making Jesus a descendant of David because Joseph was a descendant of David. Matthew makes it clear that Jesus was not the biological child of Joseph. But because Joseph was the husband of Mary at the time Jesus was born, Jesus was legally the son of Joseph and, thus, a descendant of David. Luke tells us of Mary’s obedience (Luke 1:38), and Matthew shows us Joseph’s obedience. Luke tells the story of the angel’s appearance to Mary (Luke 1:26-38), but Matthew tells us only that the child was from the Holy Spirit.
God’s message through His angel: This is the first of three occasions on which an angel appears to Joseph in a dream. The angel commands Joseph to take Mary as his wife. Mary’s role is to bear a son, and Joseph’s role is to name him. By naming him, Joseph makes Jesus his son and brings him into the house of David. Joseph’s hallmark is obedience — prompt, simple, unspectacular obedience. Joseph’s obedience allows Jesus to be adopted as a true Son of David; it is Mary’s free consent to the will of God that allows Jesus to be born Son of God. In the end, Joseph takes Mary as his wife, in spite of his fears, and he claims her son as his own by naming him. In spite of his earlier decision to divorce this woman quietly, Joseph nurtured and protected and watched over and loved both Mary and her child.
Life messages: 1) Like Joseph, we need to trust in God, listen to Him and be faithful. Like Joseph and Mary, we are called to be faithful, and to trust in God. Let us talk to Him and listen to Him speaking through the Bible. Let us try to imitate Joseph and Mary, the humblest of the humble, the kindliest of the kindly, and the greatest-ever believers in God’s goodness and mercy and welcome Jesus into our hearts and lives not only at Christmas but all year long. (Fr. Tony) ( L/19

Dec 19 Thursday: Lk 1:5-25: 5 In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. …. 16 And he will turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” 18 And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” 19 And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel, who stand in the presence of God; and I was sent to speak to you, and to bring you this good news. 20……25 USCCB reflections:
The context: We recall two advents and two angelic messages during the Advent season, namely, the advent of John the Baptist and the advent of Jesus. The first was preceded by the Archangel Gabriel’s informing Zechariah the priest that a son whom he was to name John would be born to him and his barren, aged wife. The second is preceded by the Archangel Gabriel’s message to Mary, a virgin betrothed to Joseph, asking her consent to become the mother of Jesus. Today’s Gospel describes how Zechariah got the Divine message From the Archangel Gabriel in the Holy of Holies in the Temple of Jerusalem while Zechariah was offering incense.
Zechariah was one of the 1800 priests serving the Temple of Jerusalem. They were divided into 24 groups of 75 each. Thirty priests of each group were to serve the Temple for worship services each day and only one of them got the rare chance of offering incense inside the Holy of Holies. It was while performing this priestly function that Zechariah received the vision of the angel and was given the message about his having a son in his old age. Zechariah was given a temporary punishment of muteness for his lack of Faith in God’s message delivered by Gabriel.
Life messages: 1) We should not take our small misfortunes as big tragedies. We should imitate Zechariah who remained optimistic, continuing in prayer and service in the Temple. 2) We need to get rid of the barrenness of our heart, cleanse it daily, liberate it from evil attachments and prepare it for the rebirth of Jesus. 3) We need to be good parents and grandparents, offering incessant prayers for our children and grandchildren. (Fr. Tony) ( L/19

Dec 20 Friday: Lk 1:26-38: 26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 And Mary said to the angel, “How shall this be, since I have no husband?” 35 And the angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. 36 And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing will be impossible.”38 …. USCCB reflections:
The context:  Today’s Gospel describes the story of the Annunciation, explaining how God began to keep the promise He had made to King David through the prophet Nathan, that David’s descendant would rule over the world as its Messiah.
The Archangel Gabriel’s salutation to Mary: “Hail, full of grace,” reminds us of God’s words to Moses at the burning bush (Ex 3:12), and the angel’s salutation to Gideon, (Jgs 6:12).  Mary is described as “full of grace”, filled with God’s favor and graciousness.  She is to be the new Ark, a tent and temple.  God will be literally and physically in her, and thus she will be the greater House God promised to David. Mary’s question, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” is natural.  That is why Gabriel reminds Mary, “Nothing is impossible with God.”  God will “empower” her (“the Spirit will come upon you“) and “protect” her (“overshadow you“).  Luke’s narrative points out that the child will not only be a distant grandson of David — he will be God’s own Son.  “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David.” Mary does not require confirmation but responds in Faith.  She agrees to carry out the Word Gabriel has addressed to her.

Life messages: 1) We need to be humble instruments in the hand of God, trusting in His power and goodness.  St. Augustine reminds us that God Who created us without our permission cannot save us without our active cooperation.  Hence, let us cooperate in the fulfillment of God’s plan for us with Mary’s trusting Faith and humility.  2) Like Mary who brought God to us as Jesus our Savior, it is our duty to carry Jesus and bring him to the lives of others around us through love, mercy, forgiveness and service. “Let the soul of Mary be in each one of you to magnify the Lord.  Let the spirit of Mary be in each one to exult in Christ.” (St. Ambrose).  3) We should treasure these words of the Gospel and use them often, for example, practicing the Christian custom of saying the Angelus every day and reflecting on the five Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary. (Navarre Bible Commentary). (Fr. Tony) ( L/19

Dec 21 Saturday: (St. Peter Canisius, Priest) : Lk 1:39-4539 In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, 40 and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, …45 USCCB reflections:
The context: The mystery of the Incarnation comes to ordinary people living ordinary lives, who have the willingness to respond to God’s call and the openness and generosity to do God’s will. Luke, in today’s Gospel, tells us how two seemingly insignificant women met to celebrate the kindness and fidelity of God.    In the Gospel, one definition of discipleship is to listen to God’s word and then carry it out. Mary did both, to become the most perfect disciple.   The incident also shows us how sensitive Mary was to the needs of Elizabeth, her older cousin, who had miraculously become pregnant in her old age.
Mary’s visit to Elizabeth. There is a saying, “He (she) who is on fire cannot sit on a chair.”  Mary, carrying Jesus and filled with the fire and empowering of the Holy Spirit, hurried to the mountain country where Elizabeth lived, thereby conveying the Holy Spirit to her cousin and her child.  Like all good Jews, Mary was prompted in everything she did by her commitment to God’s word in her life.
The paradox of blessedness.  Blessedness confers on a person both the greatest joy and the greatest task in the world.  Nowhere can we see the paradox better illustrated than in Mary’s life.   Mary was granted the blessedness and privilege of being the mother of the Son of God.  Yet, that very blessedness was to be a sword to pierce her heart:  one day she would see her Son hanging on a cross.  So, to be chosen by God is often both a crown of joy and a cross of sorrow.  God does not choose us to give us a life of ease and comfort, but in order to use us for His purposes.

Life messages:   1) We should recognize the real presence of Emmanuel (God Is with Us) and say “yes” to Him:  The Visitation of Mary reminds us that, through his holy ministry, Christ continues to be present among his people.  Let us recognize and appreciate the truth that the same Christ “dwells among us” in the Bible, in the Sacraments, in the praying community and in our souls.2) We should convey Jesus to others as Mary did to Elizabeth.  We can make a real difference in the lives of others today by carrying Jesus to them.   For that, we must be filled with the spirit of Christ, allowing his rebirth within us.  Then Jesus will enable us to share his love with all whom we encounter, by offering them humble and committed service, unconditional forgiveness and compassionate caring.  (Fr. Tony) ( L/19