Dec 30- Jan 4: Daily Reflections

Dec 30 Monday (St. Egwin)         : Luke 2:36-40, There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher; she was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years from her virginity, 37 and as a widow till she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 And coming up at that very hour she gave thanks to God and spoke of him to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. 39 And when they had performed everything according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him. USCCB video:

The context: Today’s Gospel presents Anna the prophetess who greeted the Baby Jesus as the Redeemer when Joseph presented Mary and the Infant in the Temple for the purification of the mother and for the “redemption” of the Baby Jesus.
Anna and her testimony: Anna was an eighty-four-year-old widow who spent her days in the Temple in fasting and prayer, waiting for the promised Messiah. She was rewarded with the joy of seeing her Redeemer as a Baby. In her excitement she praised God and introduced the Infant to others around her as the expected Messiah.
The Child Jesus’ growth in wisdom and the favor of God: Commenting on the last sentence of today’s Gospel St. Bede says: “Our Lord Jesus Christ, as a Child clothed in the fragility of human nature, had to grow and become stronger. But, as the eternal Word of God, he had no need to become stronger or to grow. Hence, he is rightly described as full of wisdom and grace.”
Life message:  The Holy Spirit uses ordinary men and women with simple Faith as His instruments to bear witness to Christ, his ideals and teachings. Let us cooperate with the Spirit in everything. ( L/20

Dec 31 Tuesday (Optional Memorial St. Sylvester, Pope)
Jn 1: 1-18: 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God; 3 all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came for testimony, to bear witness to the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness to the light. 9 The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not. 11 He came to his own home, and his own people received him not. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father. 15 (John bore witness to him, and cried, “This was he of whom I said, `He who comes after me ranks before me, for he was before me.'”) 16 And from his fullness have we all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known. USCCB video homily:
The context and the content: Bible scholars generally agree that the Prologue (1:1-18) of John’s Gospel is a hymn, the overall purpose of which is to highlight the historical and theological significance of Jesus’ origins as “Word,” “true light,” and the “only Son.” The Navarre Bible commentary summarizes the main teachings in the prologue thus: 1) the Divinity and Eternity of the Word; 2) the Incarnation of the Word and His manifestation as man; 3) the part played by the Word in creation and in the salvation of mankind; 4) the different ways in which people react to the coming of the Lord — some accepting him with Faith, others rejecting him; 5) finally, John the Baptist as witness-bearer to the presence of the Word in the world.
The significance of the text: (Verses 6-9) introduce John the Baptist in a manner that clearly distinguishes him from Jesus – “John himself was not the Light, but he came to testify to the Light. The true Light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world…” Some scholars maintain that the author of the Gospel may be making such a forceful differentiation in order to counter a sect claiming that John the Baptist was the Light and the Messiah, and not simply the one testifying to the Light.  In all he did and said, the Baptist always bore witness to Jesus and Jesus’ messianic identity: “John testified to Him and cried out, saying, ‘The One Who is coming after me ranks ahead of me because He existed before me'”(John 1:15).   John 1:19-28 is an Advent and Christmas text that calls us to remember the origins and purposes of Jesus and His coming with the kind of devotion that challenges us to be witnesses for Jesus.  John the Baptist demonstrates what it means to bear witness to the true Light coming into the world.
Life messages: 1) We need to bear witness to Christ the Light: By Baptism we become members of the family of Christ, the true Light of the world.  Jesus said:  “You are the light of the world.”  Hence, our mission as brothers and sisters of Christ and members of his Church is to reflect Christ’s Light to others just as the moon reflects the light of the sun.  2) It is especially important during the Christmas season that we reflect on Christ’s unconditional love and forgiveness.  There are so many people who live in darkness and poverty, and who lack real freedom.  There are others who are deafened and blinded by the cheap attractions of the world.  Also, many feel lonely, unwanted, rejected, and marginalized.  All these people are waiting for us to reflect the light of Christ and to turn their lives into experiences of joy, wholeness and integrity. ( L/20

Jan 1 Wednesday (Mary the Mother of God) 
Introduction: Since we celebrate the Feast of Mary, the Mother of God on New Year’s Day, may I take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy and Peaceful New Year?  I pray that the Lord Jesus and His Mother Mary may enrich your lives during the New Year with an abundance of Divine blessings.  Today’s Feast of Mary, the Mother of God is a very appropriate way to begin a new year, reminding us to rely on the powerful intercession of our Heavenly Mother. The Church also observes the World Day of Peace on this day and invites us to pray specially for lasting peace in the world throughout the New Year. Usccb video: Scripture lessons summarized: Today’s first reading gives us the beautiful Divine blessing from the book of Numbers for the New Year, and the Responsorial Psalm (Ps 67) begs for that blessing. In the second reading, Paul reminds the Galatians and us that God’s Son has become one of us through Mary and that it is through Him that we have become the children of God. Today’s Gospel describes how the shepherds spread to all their neighbors the Good News surrounding the birth of Jesus which the angel had revealed to them, and how Mary treasured “all these things” in her heart.  The Gospel also tells us that on the day of His Circumcision, the Child was given the name Jesus that had been chosen by God Himself.
Traditional belief and Church doctrine: We honor Mary primarily because God honored her by choosing her to become the mother of Jesus, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, when He took on human flesh and became man, as stated in the Bible. The angel said to Mary: “You are going to be the mother of a Son and you will call Him Jesus, and He will be called the Son of the Most High.”  After the angel had appeared to her and told her that she was to be the mother of Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary visited Elizabeth. At Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! Why should this great thing happen to me, that my Lord’s mother comes to visit me?” [Lk 1:42-43]. Hence, the Council of Ephesus affirmed in AD 431 that Mary was truly the Mother of God (Theotokos), and in AD 451, the Council of Chalcedon affirmed the Divine Motherhood of Mary as a dogma, an official doctrine of the Holy Catholic Church.
Life messages: 1) Let us strive to be pure and holy like our Heavenly Mother. All mothers want their children to inherit or acquire their good qualities. Hence, let us honor Mary, our Heavenly Mother, by practicing her virtues of Faith, obedience, purity and humble service. 2) Let us make the New Year meaningful by having everyday a) some noble thing to dream, b) something good to do, and c) Someone to love, the first Person being Jesus. 3) Let us sanctify every day of the New Year: a) by offering every morning, all the activities of the day for God’s glory, thus transforming them into prayers, b) by asking for the anointing and strengthening of the Holy Spirit to do good to others and to avoid evil, c) by remaining faithful to our family prayers and Bible reading at night, d) by asking God’s pardon and forgiveness for our sins committed during the day and e) seeking God’s special protection during the sleep. Before we sleep, let us say, “Good night, Lord,” repeating Jesus’ last words from the cross, “Father, into Your hands I commend my spirit.” ( L/20
Jan 2 Thursday (St. Basil the Great) : Jn 1:19-28: 19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed, he did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 They said to him then, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, `Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” 24 Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. 25 They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” 26 John answered them, “I baptize with water; but among you stands one whom you do not know, 27 even he who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” 28 This took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing. USCCB video:
The context: The news reached the central Jewish religious authorities in Jerusalem that one John, the son of a Jewish priest, was preaching repentance and renewal of life to the Jews and inviting them to receive the baptism of repentance meant only for Gentiles. Hence, the Sanhedrin sent a delegation of experts to Bethany on the eastern bank of river Jordan (different from the Bethany near Jerusalem, where Lazarus lived), to discover whether John was claiming to be the expected Messiah or his forerunner Elijah, the prophet, and to ask why he encouraged the Chosen People to receive the baptism of repentance.
John’s witnessing mission: John frankly declared in all humility that he was not Elijah nor the expected Messiah nor even one of the Old Testament prophets reincarnated. Later, Jesus referred to him as “a lamp “He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light (John 5:35). In the spiritual life, the ideal is to become invisible, and our role as Christians is to become salt, yeast, grain, and light.  But John claimed that he was the forerunner of the real Messiah and that his mission was to prepare the lives of the Jews to receive the expected Messiah and to bear witness to him when he should appear in public. John also explained to them that he was baptizing the Jews with water because they must be made holy through repenting of their sins and renewing their lives if they were to receive the most Holy Messiah in their midst.
Life messages:   1) As Catholic Christians, we believe in the coming of Jesus our Lord and Savior on our altars during each Eucharistic celebration. Hence, we, too, need to repent of our sins and ask God’s pardon and forgiveness on a daily basis if we wish to receive Jesus into our hearts and lives sacramentally.
2) We, too, need to renew our lives with the help of our Lord Jesus living within us, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, so that He may radiate His love, forgiveness and mercy to all around us( L/20

Jan 3 Friday: (Most Holy Name of Jesus; St. Gregory Nazianzen) ): Jn 1: 29-34: (29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 … 34 USCCB video:
The context:  The central theme of today’s Gospel is a challenge to live like the Lamb of God and to die like the Lamb of God. The Gospel passage presents two themes, namely, John’s witness to Jesus and Jesus’ epiphany and identification by John as the “Lamb of God.” Today’s Gospel is a personal and corporate call to us to become witnesses to the Lamb of God. John the Baptist gave testimony to Jesus by pointing out that He was the Lamb of God (vv. 29, 36); a man who was before me (vs. 30); the one on whom the Holy Spirit remained (v. 33); and the Son of God (vs. 34). Lamb of God is the most meaningful title given to Jesus in the Bible.   John’s introduction probably brought five pictures of the “lamb” to the minds of his Jewish listeners.  1) The Lamb of yearly Atonement (Scapegoat): (Lv 16:20-22).  Two lambs were brought to the Temple on the Day of Atonement.  Lots were cast, and the high priest slowly led one to the altar to be killed as a sin offering for the people. Then he placed both his hands on the head of the other goat and confessed the sins of Israel and transferred them to that scapegoat.  It was then sent into the forest to be killed by some wild animal.    2) The Lamb of Daily Atonement (Ex. 29:38-42; Numbers 28:1-8). This was the lamb sacrificed on the “Black Altar” of the Temple every morning and evening to atone for the sins of the Jews.  3) The Paschal Lamb (Ex. 12:11ss.).  This was the lamb whose blood saved the firstborn of the Jewish families in Egypt from the “Angel of destruction” as well as the Paschal Lamb killed every year on the Passover Feast.  4) The Lamb of the Prophets. The prophets portrayed one Lamb Who, by His sacrifice, would redeem His people: “The gentle lamb led to the slaughterhouse” (Jer 11:19), “like a lamb to the slaughter” (Is 53:7).  Both refer to the sufferings and sacrifice of Christ.  5) The Lamb of the Conquerors. This was the image of the horned lamb on the Jewish flag at the time of Maccabaean liberation war, used as a sign of conquering majesty and power.
Life messages:  We need to live and die like the Lamb of God.
(1) Living like a lamb means: a) leading a pure, innocent, humble, selfless life, obeying Christ’s commandment of love; b) appreciating the loving providence and protecting care of the Good Shepherd in his Church; c) eating the Body and drinking the Blood of the Good Shepherd and deriving spiritual strength from the Holy Spirit through Sacraments and prayers.
(2) Dying like a sacrificial lamb means: a) sacrificially sharing our blessings of health, wealth and talents with others in the family, parish and community; b) bearing witness to Christ in our illness, pain and suffering; c) offering our sufferings for the salvation of souls and as reparation for our sins and those of others( L/20

Jan 4 Saturday (St. Elizabeth Ann Seton) : John 1:35-42:  35 The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples; 36 and he looked at Jesus as he walked, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!”  37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 Jesus turned, and saw them following, and said to them, “What do you seek?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?”  39 He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying; and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.  40 One of the two who heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.  41 He first found his brother Simon, and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ).  42 He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him, and said, “So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter). USCCB video
In Mathew’s Gospel, Jesus called the fishermen Andrew and his brother Simon from their fishing boat. But John the Evangelist gives a slightly different story. According to him, Andrew and he (John son of Zebedee) were disciples of John the Baptist. John the Baptist wanted them to join the true Messiah, Jesus, as His disciples. So, one day when Andrew and John (according to tradition) were standing with their master, John the Baptist, Jesus happened to pass in front of them. John the Baptist promptly introduced Jesus to them as the Lamb of God. It was natural for Andrew and John to guess what their master John the Baptist wanted them to do.  So, they followed Jesus. Since Sabbath rest was about to begin when travel was forbidden, Jesus cordially invited them to come and stay with Him and learn more about his life and mission till the Sabbath was over.
When the Sabbath rest with Jesus was over Andrew and John went home. Andrew was so fascinated with Jesus and his contact with him the previous day that he promptly told his brother Simon about Jesus: “We have found the Messiah.” Without wasting time Andrew brought his brother to Jesus. Jesus surprised Simon by calling him by his name, Simon, and changing that Hebrew name to the Greek name Cephas or Peter meaning rock and accepting him as His disciple.
 Life message: 1) We need to be missionaries like Andrew. Just as a day’s contact with Jesus transformed Andrew into a missionary, leading his brother to Jesus, we are expected to experience Jesus in our lives by Bible reading, personal prayers and sacramental life and acts of charity. Once we experience Jesus personally, we too must start leading others to the same experience of Jesus as their Lord and Savior, enabling them to surrender their lives to Jesus, too.