Gospel of Luke 1:46-56
Our local priest pointed out something interesting at Mass on Friday evening; he said that we had the annunciation of two births over these couple of days and now we await on the birth of the Baptist, Dec 23rd and Jesus Dec 25th.
In the days in-between the annunciations and the births, we have Mary visiting Elizabeth. This meeting of the two mothers is something beautiful; of the two children in the womb something miraculous. The genuine love and respect for each other is evident, the motherly care of each towards their children comes to the fore.
Today we have the Magnificat, when Mary gives glory to God and thanks him for the mercy he has shown. The festival of Christmas is such a human story. It is wonderful in it's simplicity!
image from unbornwordoftheday.com
Gospel of Luke 1:39-45 Reflection;
In today's Gospel we have Mary going to Zechariah's house and visiting her cousin Elizabeth. We have a sequence of events worth considering; Mary greets Elizabeth (speaks), Elizabeth hears the greeting (listens), Elizabeth's child, John the Baptist, leapt in her womb and then Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit.
This type of sequence appears in other parts of the Bible; take Mark 16:15 where Jesus tells the disciples 'Go out to the whole world; proclaim the gospel to all creation.'
During our day-to-day encounters we hear many people speak. It is up to us to listen to what is being said and then contemplate within ourselves the source (is God telling us something more than just the words say?). Will we rejoice as Elizabeth did and allow the Holy Spirit, through us, to proclaim God's love in our lives to others?
First Reading: Isaiah 7:10-14
Gospel: Luke 1:26-38
In today's first reading Isaiah tells us that a maiden shall give birth and his name shall be called Emmanuel, God is with us. Then the psalm says "Let the Lord enter, he is the king of glory!"
Finally the gospel is the Annunciation, when the angel visits Mary and asks her to bear the child of God.
The expectancy is rising. The Lord is coming. God is about to enter the world.
When you think of it, how could the world ever be the same again after such an event?
God has come among us! He who is without beginning has walked on earth. If that doesn't change things, then what does!
image source: vimeo.com
Gospel of Luke 1:5-25 Reflection;
In today's gospel we have the angle Gabriel coming to Zechariah and announcing the birth of John the Baptist.
John is the other great person in advent. Along with Jesus there is something mysterious about his birth. Like so many men of the Old Testament he and Jesus have divine intervention at their birth.
Like so many of us Zechariah doubts the world of God. For this Zechariah is made dumb until the child is born.
The whole surroundings of the birth of Jesus are mysterious. Perhaps Zechariah is made dumb to stop him talking about all that is going on.
When the Lord works directly in our hearts we should keep quiet until we know what it is he is really trying to teach us. In the silence we have time to think and ponder on what God is doing in our lives.
Elizabeth was not struck dumb. She gave credit to God immediately saying, "the Lord has done this for me" referring to being pregnant after years of no children.
Elizabeth, unlike Zechariah did not need time to think of what was going on. She knew the work of God when she saw it!
image source: onlineministries.creighton.edu
Gospel of Matthew 1:18-24 Reflection;
Matthew tells the story of how Jesus came to be born. The birth is surrounded in mystery and the direct action of God. Matthew sees this as a reflection of the divine intervention of God in the life of Israel in the Old Testament; the Holy Spirit is involved, there are dreams and portents, the same as was present in Old Testament births of prophets.
Matthew is setting the scene that the birth of someone special is about to take place. The words of the prophet have to be fulfilled; his very name means "God is with us."
The reader is left with this question. Who shall this child turn out to be?
Gospel of Matthew 1:1-17 Reflection;
As we move into the second half of advent, the readings change and become more about who Jesus is as opposed to his coming. Matthew gives a genealogy of Jesus from the time of Abraham right down to his birth.
Genealogies were used to show a person's status and in this case Matthew was showing the Jesus was the direct descendant of Abraham, "our father in faith." Such a claim was important because Abraham was the father of the Jews and Jesus was the founder and leader of the new Jewish people, the ones to whom the messiah had come.
Matthew is showing the continuity of how Jesus fulfills all the conditions of the Old Law. The Christian church was beginning the process of separation from the Jews and they were being driven out of the synagogues. Matthew wanted to show the young Church and us how Jesus was related the whole way down through his ancestry to Abraham and David.
images from: pgfracing.com &
Feast of St John of the Cross
Still among the most widely read of all the great mystics St John was born in Spain in 1542 and became a Carmelite friar at the age of 25. He was a friend of Theresa of Avila and she encouraged him to undertake a reform of the Carmelite order.
However, it is for his writings and spiritual wisdom that John is best known. Three of his books have come down to us; the Dark Night of the Soul, the Ascent of Mount Carmel and the Spiritual Canticle.
While these books are definitely not for the beginner in the spiritual life they contain much wisdom and insight that even a lay person can understand.
One thing John teaches, which may not be very popular today, is that if we are to make real progress in the spiritual life then we must suffer greatly.
Are we to seek pain? No. But we are to accept all the little trails of life that are sent to us and to do so graciously. The breaking of self will would be a good place to start!
First Reading Isaiah 40:25-31 Reflection;
Today's reading from Isaiah, in prophecy, Jesus calls attention to himself: "To whom could you liken me and who could be my equal?" he says.
Later Isaiah says that God is an everlasting God who made all things. And finally he says that those who hope in the Lord renew their strength.
These readings from Isaiah are full of the mystery and promise of a God who saves, a God who intervenes directly in our lives and who protects and strengthens us.
I often wonder if when Jesus met the disciples on the road to Emmaus, were these the sort of prophesies from the Old Testament that he mentioned.
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