O Adonai or O Lord and Ruler
O Adonai (Exod 3:14) and Ruler of the house of Israel (Matt 2:6; Micah 5:1; 2 Sam 5:2), You appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush (Exod 3:2) and on Mount Sinai gave him Your Law (Exod 20). * Come, and with an outstretched arm redeem us (Jeremiah 32:21).
Jeremiah 23:5-8; Matthew 1:18-24
Faith and expectation fill today’s scripture. Faithful expectation is a central advent theme. In Jeremiah and Joseph, we have persons of great faith; faith in their God in the midst of the circumstances in which they found themselves. They are great examples for us as we confront the circumstances of our individual life, our life as a nation or as a global community. We all need a bit of advent’s faithful expectation.
Today a shift in emphasis begins in Advent and the readings. From the First Sunday of Advent until December 16 our focus has been on the Second Advent (Coming) of Christ at the end of time. Today we prepare to celebrate Jesus’ First Advent – His Incarnation and birth. For the next few days we will be reading from the two Gospels with Jesus’ infancy narratives – Matthew and Luke. Both evangelists have important ideas to share, each in his own way. Beginning today we also use the “O Antiphons” for the Gospel Acclamation.
Antiphon "O Sapientia" (O Wisdom)
By CVHS Madrigals at 2018 Golden State Choral Competition
O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodisti,
attingens a fine usque ad finem fortiter,
suaviter disponensque omnia:
veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.
▪ Pope Francis marked the 3rd World Day of the Poor on 17 November by celebrating Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica for the poor people of Rome and beyond. The hope of the poor shall not perish forever, (Ps 9) was the theme chosen for this day. In His homily the Pope said “the poor are valuable in the eyes of God because they do not speak the language of self: they do not support themselves on their own, by their own strength; they need someone to take them by the hand. The poor remind us how we should live the Gospel: like beggars reaching out to God. The poor facilitate our access to heaven,” he said, “they are our treasure, the treasure of the Church. For the poor reveal to us the riches that never grow old, that unite heaven and earth, the riches for which life is truly worth living: the riches of love”. This celebration was followed by a lunch with the poor (around 1500) in the Paul VI Hall.
Numbers 24:2-7, 15-17a; Psalm 25:4-5ab, 6 and 7bc, 8-9; Matthew 21:23-27
At first glance, the Psalm and the Gospel seem incongruous. But how many people are living that incongruity? We pray the psalm, God teach me your ways. But when it comes down to it, we doubt our faith and doubt the authority of those teachings. The priests ask on whose authority Jesus is teaching. When he insinuates that he is teaching by God’s authority, they are more concerned with politics and appearances than they are with the true teaching.
Isaiah 35:1-6a, 10; James 5:7-10; Matthew 11:2-11
There is a two-fold ending to this Gospel reading. Jesus relies on John’s familiarity with the messianic texts, especially the verses we have heard in the First Reading. The blind, the mute, the leper are healed. The dead are raised and the poor have the “good news” preached to them. The proof is in the putting of the hopeful verses into reality. John will be comforted by the report his disciples give him. As they are departing, Jesus speaks to crowds about this person, John. They had gone out to see him and listen to his calling. They might have had certain expectations and even suspicions. John was found to be strong, dedicated and living what he believed. He was not a trembling reed, but a true prophet of whom Scripture announced. Of all the prophets and indeed of all born the natural way, John is the greatest. Then Jesus takes the opportunity to confound, yet invite His listeners.
Sir 48:1-4, 9-11; Mt 17:9a, 10-13
John the Baptist by Michael D. O’Brien
Today’s readings continue to suggest the importance of preparation. Matthew’s Gospel recalls John the Baptist who gave his life preaching the good news of Jesus and our need to repent of our sins and prepare ourselves to receive Jesus’ presence, love, and forgiveness. Sirach holds up Elijah as the great prophet who calls us to repentance, healing, and restoration.
One theme from the readings that strikes me is how communal the repentance, healing, restoration, and preparation seem to be. Even in the Psalm the refrain is “make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved” (emphasis added). Sirach sees Elijah restoring “the tribes of Jacob.” Preparing to receive Jesus involves repentance and healing.
Is 48:17-19; Mt 11:16-19
Life today often seems like a brief interlude between rushing and waiting. We rush to airports and wait; we go shopping and wait in lines; we rush between classes to eat lunch and wait in lines; we even wait in line to receive communion! Yet we wait because we know we will catch the plane, get the gift, or have lunch. Our expectations are ultimately fulfilled. That is the reward for our waiting. The essence of waiting is in the hope fulfilled and that is the central theme of advent: a faithful God fulfills his promise to an expectant people.
Isaiah 41:13-20; Matthew 11:11-15
Jesus tells us “Whoever has ears ought to hear” (Mt 11:15) at the end of the Gospel today. So what are we hearing? Are we even listening?
Today I hear Jesus saying that John the Baptist is the greatest person born of woman, but even the least of the Kingdom is greater than he. (Mt 11:11-12) John the Baptist testified to the imminence of the kingdom of God. Jesus is telling him, his disciples, the people in the crowd around him and, most of all, us that the kingdom is here and now and we are all called to work for the kingdom. Yet Jesus says that the kingdom suffers violence and that the violent are taking it by force” (Mt 11:12). So what are we to do?
Is 40:25-31; Mt 11:28-30
To get the whole picture of what Jesus means today in His invitation to us, we need to consider how oxen are yoked together in Palestine. Two animals, not one, pull a very heavy load together. When Jesus invites us, “Shoulder My yoke and learn from me…,” He, therefore, is not giving His yoke to us. Jesus is sharing His yoke with us. Who says that Jesus is passing His burden to us? Who says that Jesus wants us to carry His burden for Him? Who says that Jesus commands us to pull the load alone? Whoever says so is gravely mistaken.
Isaiah 40:1-11; Matthew 18:12-14
Comforting embrace by Koro Arandia
Today’s readings from Isaiah tell us to Look Up, Look Ahead, Believe and Have Hope. The voice in the desert of our lives is crying out “Prepare the way of the Lord,” and promises that although “All flesh is grass” and we change and eventually die, the Word of the Lord is eternal. As the Psalm sings, the Lord “comes with power” and he rules us “with his constancy.” In both the selection from Isaiah and the Gospel from Matthew, we have the image of God as our nurturing, loving Shepherd, protecting and saving us.