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1 December 7, nd Sunday of Advent (Cycle B) Gospel reading Mark 1:1-8 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God. As it is written in Isaiah the prophet: Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way. A voice of one crying out in the desert: Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths, John the Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. People of the whole Judean countryside and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins. John was clothed in camel s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He fed on locusts and wild honey. And this is what he proclaimed: One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. Notice that the Gospel of Mark does not begin with the infancy narratives. Mark is the oldest and the shortest of the four gospels and his work is summarized in the first verse: The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God. The entire gospel is devoted to establishing Jesus identity. Mark is not concerned with the childhood of Jesus but with his identity and mission in the world. Each year, the second Sunday of Advent is dedicated to John the Baptist, the last of the great Jewish prophets. Today s passage anticipates the appearance of the adult Jesus, his preaching, healing and ministry among the people. The prophets of Israel were seldom accepted by priests and kings, because of their faithfulness to God that transcended their obedience to religious and political authorities. John the Baptist appeared as one of them preaching outside the official world of his time. In Mark s Gospel John has one function: to point to Jesus as the Messiah. Through the life-giving baptism with the Holy Spirit, Jesus will create a new people of God. But first he identifies himself with the people of Israel in submitting to John's baptism of repentance and in bearing on their behalf the burden of God's decisive judgment. The clothing of John recalls the austere dress of the prophet Elijah described in 2 Kings 1:8. Although Jesus will be baptized by John, it is clear that John understands his subordinate role in the Jesus event. Through the life-giving baptism with the Holy Spirit, Jesus will create a new people of God. 1. How can I make better prepare for the celebration of Christmas even if my family is going through financial difficulties? Explain. 2. Am I aware that I am not the messiah, but simply one who announces his coming? Have I ever tried to be the center of my family s Christmas celebration? Suggested readings: Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraphs 422; 515; ;

2 December 14, rd Sunday of Advent (Cycle B) Gaudete Sunday: Rejoice! Gospel reading John 1:6-8, A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to testify to the light. And this is the testimony of John. When the Jews* from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to him to ask him, who are you? He admitted and did not deny it, but admitted, I am not the Christ. So they asked him, What are you then? Are you Elijah? And he said, I am not. Are you the Prophet? He answered, No. So they said to him, Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us? What do you have to say for yourself? He said: I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, Make straight the way of the LORD, as Isaiah the prophet said. Some Pharisees were also sent. They asked him, Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ or Elijah or the Prophet? John answered them, I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie. This happened in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing. *Throughout the gospel, Jews does not refer to the Jewish people, but to the hostile authorities, both Pharisees and Sadducees. Today s reading from the Gospel of John parallels last week s passage from Mark. Both anticipate the coming of Jesus Christ in the person and ministry of John the Baptist. The Baptist was sent with a mission from God just as Jesus was. His mission was to prepare the way of the Lord as Isaiah the prophet had announced. All the important Jewish groups (priests, Levites and Pharisees) wanted to know about John s identity and he answered them with a testimony about the Messiah, the one who is coming after me. John is not the Christ, nor the expected Elijah, nor the prophet mentioned in Deuteronomy 18:15, 18, but the voice of one crying in the desert. This section constitutes the introduction to the gospel proper. It develops the major theme of testimony in four scenes: John's negative testimony about himself; his positive testimony about Jesus; the revelation of Jesus to Andrew and Peter; the revelation of Jesus to Philip and Nathanael. The Gospel according to John frequently uses the theme of light and darkness. John the Baptist came to testify to the light; the Light that Jesus was for the world at his coming. John the Baptist is clear about who he is: he is not the Messiah, nor Elijah returned to earth (Malachi 3:23), nor a prophet like Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15, 18). John is the herald, the one coming before the Messiah to prepare his ways. At the end of the first century there were serious tensions between church and synagogue. 1. Am I willing to be a witness to my faith in Jesus as the Christ no matter the cost? 2. Am I living in the light and trying to bring light to those around me? Suggested readings: Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraphs 575;

3 December 21, th Sunday of Advent (Cycle B) Gospel reading Luke 1:26-38 The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you. But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end. But Mary said to the angel, How can this be, since I have no relations with a man? And the angel said to her in reply, 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. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren, for nothing will be impossible for God. Mary said, Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word. Then the angel departed from her. Since the second century Luke has been seen as the beloved physician (Colossians 4:14) who accompanied Paul from Troas to Philippi. Luke s narrative of the birth of Jesus is very different from Matthew s. Here the emphasis is on Mary, Elizabeth and Zechariah, not on Joseph. The story does not mention the Magi. Instead, it includes the shepherds from the nearby fields, consistent with Luke s interest in the poor and the marginalized from society. The particular focus of the announcement to Mary of the birth of Jesus is on Jesus identity as the Son of God. When Mary objects that she has had no sexual relationships, the sign given to her in confirmation of the angel s words is the pregnancy of her aged relative Elizabeth. If a woman past the childbearing age could become pregnant, why, the angel implies, should there be doubt about Mary's pregnancy, for nothing is impossible for God. The announcement to Mary of the birth of Jesus is parallel to the announcement to Zechariah of the birth of John. In both the angel Gabriel appears to the parent who is troubled by the vision and then told by the angel not to fear. The particular focus of the announcement of the birth of Jesus is on his identity as Son of David and Son of God. According to Luke, the virginal conception of Jesus took place through the Holy Spirit, the power of God. Mary is blessed among women not because of something she has done but because of God s choice of her for a special role in the plan of salvation. Mary s spiritual motherhood is shared by all those who make the same faithful response she did. 1. How open am I to God s life within me? Even when God seems to ask the impossible? 2. What do the words, Do not be afraid say to me today? What fears do I need to surrender to God? Suggested readings: Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraphs 332; ; 497; 697; 2617; 2677.

4 December 28, 2008 Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (Cycle B) Gospel reading Luke 2:22-40 When the days were completed for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, just as it is written in the Law of the Lord, Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord, and to offer the sacrifice of a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons, in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord. Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying: Now Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel. The child s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him, and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted and you yourself a sword will pierce so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. There was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer. And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were waiting the redemption of Jerusalem. When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him. The Lucan account of Jesus presentation in the temple depicts Mary and Joseph as devout Jews, faithful observers of the religious law concerning circumcision and the presentation of the first-born to the Lord (Exodus 13:15). Luke mixes two different ceremonies in this passage: the presentation of the first-born and the ritual purification of the mother forty days after giving birth (Leviticus 12:1-8). According to the Mosaic Law, the woman who gave birth to a boy was unable for forty days to touch anything sacred or to enter the temple area by reason of her legal impurity. At the end of this period she was required to offer a year-old lamb as a burnt offering and a turtledove or young pigeon as an expiation of sin, but a poor couple was permitted to bring only two pigeons or doves. The narrative also emphasizes the faithfulness of Simeon and Anna. They represent the hopes and expectations of faithful and devout Jews who at this time were looking forward to the restoration of God's rule in Israel. The birth of Jesus brings these hopes to fulfillment. The emphasis of the story is on the presentation of Jesus in the temple, where he will be recognized as the promised Savior of Israel. Simeon and Anna are faithful, humble Israelites waiting in the temple for the revelation of God s salvation. Simeon announces universal salvation, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and also the necessity of suffering, including Mary s, in the mission of the Messiah. 1. How do you remain faithful when some situations seem to be hopeless? 2. In what areas do you need to grow, become strong and be filled with wisdom, like the child Jesus was? Suggested readings: Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraphs 149; 529; 583; 618; 713.

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