This Week’s Liturgy Calendar.
The Season of Advent.
Sunday 23rd December: The 4th Sunday of Advent (c).
Today is the last Sunday of Advent. As we gather, we reflect on whether we are truly ready for this great feast.
The first reading comes from the Prophet Micah. The promise is given that Bethlehem will be the birthplace of the Shepherd of Israel.
In our second reading, from the Letter to the Hebrews, we reminded that instead of offering services, Jesus offers himself, dedicating himself to do God’s will – a model for all believers.
The Gospel passage presents the story of the Visitation. Our Lady sets out on a long journey to share the news of her pregnancy with her relative Elizabeth who is herself expecting a baby.
Monday 24th December: Advent Feria by Date.
David, the greatest of the kings of Israel, is reminded that his house and sovereignty will always last – as a spiritual kingdom. He had made the mistake of thinking that God’s presence depended on the building of a temple.
After John’s birth, Zechariah makes his great prayer of praise, hope and thanksgiving – what we now call ‘The Benedictus’ said each day in the Prayer of the Church.
Tuesday 25th December: The Nativity of the Lord.
At the first Mass of Christmas, we hear again from the Prophet Isaiah. A child born to us will bring us light and peace from God.
In the second reading from St. Paul’s letter to Titus, we are reminded that the coming of Jesus was God’s gift of grace to all people. It is a reminder to us of what is expected of us if we are to enjoy the salvation won for us by Christ.
In the Gospel, the powerful words ring out – ‘Today a Saviour has been born to us.’ This is the Good News of today so let us give glory and thanks to God.
The readings at the ‘Dawn Mass’ mirror those above. Isaiah encourages the people as they return home from exile. God will make them new through the coming of the Messiah.
In the Letter to Titus, Paul reminds us how God never tires of being good. His Son was born as our Saviour. We are reborn in Baptism. God’s love keeps making us new and leads us to eternal life. All this happens to shows us the compassion of God.
The shepherds go to Bethlehem in the Gospel passage to see the Saviour and then tell others of what they had heard and seen. That same role is ours – to make God known and seen in our world today through bringing Christ to birth in our lives.
In the first reading of the ‘Day Mass’, God announces liberation to his people in captivity.
The letter to the Hebrews reminds us how God has often spoken to people, but since the coming of his Son, Jesus, we can see what God means ands who God is.
The powerful prologue of St. John’s Gospel speaks to us of the mystery of Jesus – he is the image of the Father, his Word become a man, his light in our darkness, he is God living among us.
Wednesday 26th December: Feast of St. Stephen.
Stephen was the first martyr to shed his blood for Christ. His zeal and integrity annoyed many and as a result he was stoned to death for witnessing to his newfound faith. One of the witnesses to his death was Saul, the future apostle Paul.
Thursday 27th December: Feast of St. John.
John, like his brother James, was a fisherman when Our Lord called him. He is often referred to as ‘the beloved disciple’ of Jesus. He was the only one of the twelve who was at the foot of the cross when Jesus died along with Mary, the mother of Jesus. He lived to a great age, suffering persecution and exile but not martyrdom. His Gospel, the Book of Revelation and his three letters are much more reflective but he is above all else a herald of the new life of grace brought to humanity by Christ.
Friday 28th December: Feast of the Holy Innocents.
Herod the Great had a huge influence on Judah, building many cities and palaces. He was also a very violent and unscrupulous person. He was afraid of any kind of threat to his position. When he learned of the birth of the new king, he was worried and so tried to eliminate all possible candidates around Bethlehem. It was only after his death that Joseph brought Mary and Jesus back to Nazareth from Egypt where they had fled for safety.
The feast has been kept since at least the fifth century
Saturday 29th December: Christmas Octave by Date.
During the Christmas Octave, the first readings come from the First Letter of St. John. This is one of three letters, written to encourage unity in the early Church, in which there were many divisions. The letter is very positive and loving in its tone. We can be sure that we are in God only when we are living the same kind of life as Christ lived.
The Gospel passage presents us with the first part of lovely story of the Presentation in the Temple. Simeon, who like the whole people of Israel, has been waiting for the Messiah, recognises his arrival in the person of Jesus.