Prepare in the wilderness a way for the Lord
The call to repentance lies at the heart of the Advent season. Like the people in today’s readings, we, too, are called to a change of heart, as we long for a better world where injustice will cease.
Today’s First Reading is full of hope and consolation for a nation weary of suffering. God is seen by the prophet Isaiah both as a warrior who fights for his people, and as a shepherd who nourishes and guides them to rest.
The Psalm reveals God’s inner ways and intentions; he is a God of peace, mercy, faithfulness and justice, who longs to help us.
One of the themes of Advent is that of looking forward to the second coming of Jesus. St Peter advises us to wait patiently. We are to live in a way worthy of our Christian calling; living lives that please God as we allow his peace to fill us. (Second Reading)
The Gospel underlines how radical John the Baptist was in his calling, just like the Old Testament prophets. His focus was on the need to repent, for people to change their world view and live accordingly. In this way, they will be more open to the teachings of Jesus, so that ‘the glory of the Lord shall be revealed’ (Isaiah 40: 5).
This week, we might ask for the grace of trust, and to receive the deep love of God into our hearts. God is offering us new life in Christ, empowering us to be his instruments for change in a world torn apart by self-serving actions and fear. Perhaps we can make this our prayer:
‘Lord, make us channels of your peace and justice. Amen.’
Waiting for the Lord
As we begin another liturgical year, we focus on the coming of Christ. We wait for his coming in our own lives; we wait for his coming at Christmas; and we await his second coming.
In the First Reading, the exiles, freshly returned from Babylon, plead with God to return to them to help them rebuild their land. They are weary with waiting for him.
The psalmist too pleads with God, ‘the shepherd of Israel’, to come once again to help, protect and show his power.
In the opening words of his letter to the Corinthians, Paul thanks God for all the graces they have received. He is confident that God will keep them faithful while they wait for the Lord Jesus Christ to be fully revealed (Second Reading).
In the Gospel, Jesus clearly warns his disciples to stay awake, to be on their guard, to be like the doorkeeper … ever alert, because he does not know when his master will return.
Let us enter this new season with confidence, knowing that the Lord will give us, and our world, the graces we need, because ‘God is faithful’.
As royal shepherd, Christ is leading us into the Kingdom of his Father
Today’s solemnity of Christ the King ends the Church’s liturgical year on a high point. Perhaps, after the year we have had, we need, more than ever, its full title: ‘Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe’.
So that God ‘may be all in all’ (Second Reading), Christ is, indeed, king over the whole universe.
Though we may have felt – and perhaps still feel – ‘scattered, during the mist and darkness‘ of 2020, God keeps the flock always in view (First Reading) and will show us where to rest. We are not abandoned.
Rather, the care of the one, true, kingly shepherd means we really shall want for nothing (Psalm).
The call of this Shepherd King is heard in the Gospel, inviting us to a share, both in his service of others, especially to the very least, and in his very life.
This week, let’s try to be open to that call and respond with joyful and generous hearts.
‘Well done, good and faithful servant!’
This Sunday marks both the last week of Ordinary Time and the penultimate Sunday of the liturgical year, as we prepare for the Feast of Christ, King of the Universe, next Sunday. Today’s readings, like those of last week, continue to remind us that we need to be prepared for the end of time, an event which the authors of the New Testament thought was imminent.
The First Reading from Proverbs suggests that we should embody all the qualities of ‘the perfect wife’ as seen through the eyes of the author. She is industrious and diligent, not just for her family but also for the poor and the needy.
The Psalm also extols the virtues of family life and blesses those who fear – or are in awe of – the Lord.
In the Second Reading, St Paul tells us that the Day of the Lord will come when we least expect it, ‘like a thief in the night’. We should remain wide awake in anticipation of the Lord’s coming.
In the Gospel, the parable of the talents reminds us to use the gifts and talents we have for the benefit of others. Everyone has been given at least one talent, and it is our duty to use it in the service of society.
This week, I might spend some time reflecting on how best I can use the talents I have been entrusted with, so that when the time comes, I can also be called a ‘good and faithful servant’.
Stay Awake! Be Ready!
As we draw near to the end of the liturgical year, the readings are concerned with the end of time when Christ Jesus will return again and God’s kingdom will reign. We are reminded to stay awake,
to be ready to notice when and where God is present among us now.
The First Reading describes the beauty of Wisdom who seeks to comfort, strengthen and console those who look for her help in troubles and anxiety.
When God may seem distant, we cry out to the Lord with the Psalmist. We recall with praise the glory and strength that has helped us, and rejoice in the shelter of his loving presence.
The Second Reading tells us we can be quite sure that those who have died are risen with Jesus, so that we can be comforted by this hope, for them and for ourselves. At the end, we will all be with the Lord forever.
The Lord Jesus will come again but we must be patient, keeping the flame of our love and faith alive in our hearts. We may tire of waiting for him, but must be ready to wake up quickly to answer his call. We do not know the day or hour of his coming (Gospel).
This week I pray to stay awake, ready to notice the presence of the Lord. In keeping close to him, I may lead others to a sense of the hope and faith we have, both in joy and when our lives are difficult.
Think of the love that the Father has lavished upon us!
The feast of All Saints celebrates the true life in Christ that we are all called to live.
The First Reading is a vision of the heavenly realm. It reminds us of the community of Saints who have gone before us, those inspirational people who embodied their love of Christ through their words and deeds.
The Psalm celebrates a vision of the world vibrant with the reality of God’s presence in creation and his people. We are blessed when we are able to see the Lord throughout the whole of creation.
In St John’s letter, we are encouraged to think of the love that has been lavished upon us by being called God’s children. This is a truth that we need to pause and ponder upon to let it truly transform how we see ourselves and each other. (Second Reading)
Today’s Gospel is Jesus’s teaching on the Beatitudes: a teaching that finds holiness both in the depths of human experience of loss, poverty and persecution, and in the expressions of compassion in response towards these sufferings. The lives of the Saints and of countless others have been transformed by their deep truth.
These teachings speak to the difficult realities of our times too. Many live in poverty, or are innocent victims of war; many mourn lives cut short by the Covid virus; others are persecuted for their beliefs. Let us hold all of these members of our human family in our prayer this coming week and pray for each other, that we may awaken to our true selves as lavishly loved children of God.
‘Love your neighbour as yourself’
In today’s readings, through the strength that Christ gives us and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we celebrate with joy the great commandment of Love.
In the First Reading, we see some of the details of the Law of Moses that highlight the nature of God, his relationship with his people, and the way he wants us to live. Israel, as the chosen people, are to demonstrate kindness and concern for others, the same qualities that their compassionate God displays towards them.
With the Psalmist, we are invited to give expression to our love of God and to recognise that no single word can convey all that God means to us. He is our source of strength; without him we can do nothing.
This first letter of Paul to the Thessalonians is the earliest preserved Christian document. We hear of the joyful faith of this small Christian community – a fruit of the Holy Spirit. Their approach to faith is attracting attention, and acts as an inspiration to many. (Second Reading).
In the Gospel, Jesus tells us that it is impossible to separate love of God, of self, and of other people. Jesus’s own life is a demonstration of such all-consuming love in practice. He tells us that these three facets of love and of faith cannot be separated: they sum up the entire biblical story.
This week, I express gratitude to the Lord for the many gifts of his wondrous love in my life. I ask that I may have the sensitivity to love as God loves; forever finding new ways of expressing my love, especially in my dealings with the poor, the lonely, and the dispossessed.
‘Give to God what belongs to God’
Today’s readings concentrate on God as ruler over all the world.
The First Reading teaches us about the relationship between God and Cyrus, one of the most powerful earthly rulers. Even though Cyrus did not know God, God works through him, giving Cyrus all that he needs to help accomplish God’s plans.
The Psalm is a song full of praise for the Lord, who is ‘above all gods’, and who will judge fairly. The psalmist calls us to speak of the Lord’s greatness and glory throughout the world, and to pay him worship and honour.
In the Second Reading, St Paul gives thanks to God and prays for the Christian community in Thessalonica. Chosen and loved by God, the community – aided by the power of the Holy Spirit, and strengthened by its faith and hope in God – continues in its work.
The Gospel message is that we belong completely to God and are therefore called to offer God our entire selves. Jesus is aware that the Pharisees and Herodians are trying to trip him up when they ask if Jewish people should pay taxes to the Romans. Although he confirms that this is reasonable, at the same time he also affirms that our first duty is to serve God, and to give God what is due.
This week, maybe we can pray for the rulers and leaders of our world, particularly during these difficult times, asking that God will work through them towards justice and peace. We ask too that the Holy Spirit will guide each of us in how we can serve God best.
Come to the Wedding!
Images of banquets and feasting, of hospitality and generosity abound in this week’s readings.
In the First Reading, the prophet Isaiah tells how God will prepare a banquet of rich food for all peoples. He will remove their sadness so that all will rejoice in the saving hand of God.
The Psalm echoes the theme of the care that God, as shepherd, has for all his people. It ends with an image of a banquet and generous hospitality.
St Paul, in the Second Reading, has utter confidence that God will give him strength as he faces hardship in prison. This is revealed through the generosity of others, who will be amply rewarded.
The Gospel from St Matthew offers us yet another parable of the Kingdom. The messianic banquet is offered to all, Jews and Gentiles – though some refuse and are rejected. All of us, good and bad alike, have only to respond to the invitation.
The wedding feast is not just a heavenly banquet: the Kingdom is in the here and now. What invitations, in the banquet of life, will come my way this week?
‘Let me sing the song of his love for his vineyard’
This week’s readings remind us that the Lord of the vineyard is the God of hosts, the master of creation and the giver of all gifts.
The texts invite us to reflect on both the Lord’s giving of such gifts and on our acceptance of them.
We, the beneficiaries, are totally dependent upon the one giving (Psalm).
And God gives to us too, so that we can respond in a way worthy of praise (Second Reading).
As we read and ponder, we see that, sometimes, the gifts are met with unproductivity (First Reading); at other times they are even misused (Gospel).
This week, let’s pray that the God of peace, who has already promised to be with us, may find in us a ‘noble’ and ‘virtuous’ response.