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A reading from the Book of Sirach
(Chapter 3:2-6, 12-14)
 
The Book of Sirach was written about two hundred years before the birth of Jesus when male patriarchy was much more common than it is today when we are moving—though too slowly—towards equality between the sexes. Thus, the author of this book writes mainly about honoring the father and hardly at all about honoring the mother in the family. Here are some of the main points:
 
“God sets a father in honor over his children; a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons.” That’s about it for the mother. The rest of the reading focuses on fathers: “Whoever honors his father atones for sins…. Whoever honors his father is gladdened by children and, when he prays, is heard…. Whoever reveres his father will live a long life.” Then, the writer offers advice on how to care for an aging father, but nothing for the mother: “My son, take care of your father when he is old…. Even if his mind fails, be considerate of him, revile him not all the days of his life; kindness to a father will not be forgotten.” Sirach does have one other line for mothers: “He who obeys his father brings comfort to his mother.”
 
Most of us have heard this reading many times and perhaps have not thought much about gender inequality, because that is the way it was when this book was written. But we should remember that it is still that way, and worse, for millions of women throughout the world, even some in our own society.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 128:1-2, 3, 4-5)
 
“Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.” The expression “fear the Lord” in the Bible does not mean a haunting, dominating, cringing fear of God’s punishment. It means respect, honor, recognition of God’s power, and openness to hearing God’s word.
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Colossians
(Chapter 3:12-21)
 
Paul has some beautiful words for these people whom he loved dearly: “Brothers and sisters, put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love that is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts.” May those words guide our family lives and all of our relationships.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew
(Chapter 2:13-15)
 
Matthew is the only evangelist who tells the story of the magi, the flight to Egypt to escape the evil king Herod, and the eventual return to Israel—not to Judah but to Galilee. What does all this mean? First of all, who are these magi? They are not Jews, nor are they kings, but probably astrologers. More importantly, they represent the whole world outside of Israel. Their appearance means that Jesus has come for everyone.
 
What about Herod, the evil king? He is afraid that this baby might one day challenge him or his successors, so he tries to kill Jesus. In a dream, Joseph finds out about this plan. An angel tells him, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him. Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt, and stayed there until the death of Herod.” Why Egypt? “That what the Lord had said through the prophet (Hosea) might be fulfilled, Out of Egypt I called my son.” Moses was called out of Egypt to save his people. Jesus is considered the new Moses as well as the new David, a real king. Matthew tells us this so that we may know that these promises have been fulfilled in Jesus who has come to save his people.
 
Then, after Herod has died, Joseph has still another dream in which an angel says, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel.” But Herod’s son, Archelaus, is now the ruler, so Joseph does not go back to Judea but to Nazareth in Galilee. There, Jesus would grow up among Jews and gentiles, again foreshadowing his ministry to all people.
 
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
 
Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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Meditation on John 1:1-5
 

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.

He was in the beginning with God.

All things came to be through him,
and without him nothing came to be.
What came to be through him was life,
and this life was the light of the human race;
the light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has not overcome it.

The light shines on in the darkness.
 
The darkness may surround you,
but the darkness will not overcome the light.
The darkness may be your constant companion,
but it need not overcome you.
It need not be your life.
Seek the light. Seek it all around you, within you.
Let it be your lifelong partner, your protector, your energy, your salvation.
The light, the light within you and all around you, will help you overcome the darkness.
The darkness will try to surround you, take over your life,
and penetrate your very being,
but it need not destroy you.
The light will always shine, out there, somewhere.
Seek the light wherever you can find it,
and always look within, past the darkness, to the Spirit of Light that lives within you.
Yes! The Spirit of Light is your greatest gift to lead you out of the darkness.
Seek the gift. Rejoice in the gift. Live in the gift. Banish the darkness.
Live in the Light of the Spirit
 
—Bill Ayres
 
Scripture passage from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. All Rights Reserved.
 
Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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All-powerful God,
Your eternal Word took flesh
when the Virgin Mary placed her life at your service.
Lift our minds and hearts in watchful hope
to hear the voice which announces
the coming of Jesus in glory.
May we be open to the Holy Spirit as Mary was,
that we too may make Christ present to our hurting world.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

 
Adapted from Waiting With Joy: Weekly Reflections on the Sunday Readings, Advent, Year A, by Sr. Donna Ciangio, OP; © RENEW International.

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A reading from the book of the Prophet Isaiah
(Chapter 7:10-14)
 
Ahaz was the ruler of the kingdom of Judah at a time when Judah and other small nations were allied against the Assyrian Empire which was more powerful and certainly brutal. But Ahaz refused to be true to the coalition, so some of the nations that should have been his partners turned against him. While Judah was under attack from two directions, “The Lord spoke to Ahaz, saying: Ask for a sign from the Lord your God…. But Ahaz answered “I will not ask! I will not tempt the Lord.” This was a phony excuse designed to mask Ahaz’s lack of faith. Isaiah told him, “Is it not enough for you to weary people, must you also weary my God? Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin will conceive and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel”—a promise that Judah, the nation of David, would endure—in spite of its enemies and in spite of Ahaz.
 
Isaiah never tells us who the virgin is nor who the child is, except to say that his name will be Emmanuel which means “God with us.” The prophesy was fulfilled, not in Ahaz’s time but more than six centuries later with the birth of Jesus, the Messiah.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 24:1-2, 3-4, 5-6)
 
“Let the Lord enter; he is the king of glory.” Today, and every day, let us ask God to enter ever more deeply in our minds and hearts.
 
A reading from Saint Paul’s Letter to the Romans
(Chapter 1:1-7)
 
The Rome of Paul’s time was large for its time though not as large as it would become. That’s why it was necessary for him to introduce himself properly as an important apostle. That is why he referred to himself as “Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God.” It is “the gospel about his Son, descended from David according to the flesh, but established as Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness through resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.” These are Paul’s credentials, and he wants to make sure everyone knows who he really is. This was especially important, because Christians were being arrested and martyred every day. If they were risking their lives, they needed to know that Paul and his message about God, Jesus was the real deal.
 
We do not risk our lives or suffer for the faith as the martyrs in Rome did, but we need to remember that our forebears in faith suffered and many do today.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew
(Chapter 1:18-24)
 
This gospel passage focuses on Joseph, a troubled man with a critical decision to make. Mary had not yet lived with Joseph, but she was pregnant. How? By whom? What should he do?
 
Matthew is the only evangelist who tells this story: “This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.” Then Joseph had a dream in which the angel of the Lord said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins…. “When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.”
 
Each of us has difficult decisions to make throughout our lives, usually without the help of angels in our dreams. Praying and asking for counsel from family or friends can help, and then asking the Holy Spirit to guide us can lead us to the best decisions in troubling times.
 
Image courtesy of FreeBibleImages.org.
 
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
 
Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
ever faithful to your promises and ever close to your Church:
The earth rejoices in hope of the Savior’s coming
and looks forward with longing
to his return at the end of time.
Prepare our hearts and remove the sadness
that hinders us from feeling the joy and the hope
that Christ’s presence will bring.
For he is Lord forever and ever.
Amen.

 
Adapted from Waiting With Joy: Weekly Reflections on the Sunday Readings, Advent, Year A, by Sr. Donna Ciangio, OP; © RENEW International.

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