Weekday Gospel Reflection

December 29

Luke 2:22-35 - Word English Bible

22 When the days of their purification according to the law of Moses were fulfilled, they brought him up to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, "Every male who opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord"), 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, "A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons."

25 Behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. 27 He came in the Spirit into the temple. When the parents brought in the child, Jesus, that they might do concerning him according to the custom of the law, 28 then he received him into his arms, and blessed God, and said,

29 "Now you are releasing your servant, Master,
according to your word, in peace;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation,
31 which you have prepared before the face of all peoples;
32 a light for revelation to the nations,
and the glory of your people Israel."

33 Joseph and his mother were marveling at the things which were spoken concerning him, 34 and Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary, his mother, "Behold, this child is set for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which is spoken against. 35 Yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed."

Luke present the Holy Family as observant Jews fulfilling the Law in the Temple. There, they encounter Simeon, the Spirit-filled man. He announced this child as the promised One who would bring about the Day of Judgment (when the nation would be saved). He prayed to see the Messiah and the Spirit assured him that his prayer would be answered. [2:25-26] His Canticle was a prayer of thanks and proclamation. The child he held in his arms brought him God's peace. For this Simeon gave thanks. But this child was salvation of the nation [2:30] who would return honor to God's people [2:32]. At the same time, the non-Jews would witness his rising [2:31]. He would enlighten them with God's wisdom [2:32]. His blessing upon the them included a prophecy for Mary that dovetailed Gabriel's proclamation at the Annunciation; her child would be great and would cause social upheaval, causing her pain but revealing the true intentions of others.

Image if you were Simeon. What would you say to the Father if you held Jesus in your arms?

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December 30

Luke 2:36-40 - Word English Bible

36 There was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher (she was of a great age, having lived with a husband seven years from her virginity, 37 and she had been a widow for about eighty-four years), who didn't depart from the temple, worshiping with fastings and petitions night and day. 38 Coming up at that very hour, she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of him to all those who were looking for redemption in Jerusalem.

39 When they had accomplished all things that were according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth. 40 The child was growing, and was becoming strong in spirit, being filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him. 41 His parents went every year to Jerusalem at the feast of the Passover.

Luke continued the Presentation in the Temple with the introduction of Anna the prophetess. Such figures were uncommon in the Hebrew scriptures, but not in the early Church. But notice Anna had another charism besides prophecy; she was a widow, living a life of prayer and spiritual disciple. The early church also had groups of spirit-filled widows. Anna recognized the Christ-child and proclaimed his presence among the people.

Luke concluded the scene with the return of the Holy Family to Nazareth and a note on the growth of Jesus in the Spirit.

How do you exercise your Spirit-given gifts? How do they help you grow closer to God?

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December 31

John 1:1-18 - Word English Bible

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him. Without him was not anything made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness hasn't overcome it. 6 There came a man, sent from God, whose name was John. 7 The same came as a witness, that he might testify about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but was sent that he might testify about the light. 9 The true light that enlightens everyone was coming into the world.

10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, and the world didn't recognize him. 11 He came to his own, and those who were his own didn't receive him. 12 But as many as received him, to them he gave the right to become God's children, to those who believe in his name: 13 who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. 14 The Word became flesh, and lived among us. We saw his glory, such glory as of the one and only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.15 John testified about him. He cried out, saying, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me has surpassed me, for he was before me.'" 16 From his fullness we all received grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses. Grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has seen God at any time. The one and only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him.

There is so much to explore in John's prologue. In reflection of the season, let's focus on 1:14-18. We can begin with a simple question: why did the Son of God come as a human being? Why was the "Word made flesh?" John's answer was one of revelation. The Word came to show the world God's "grace and truth." Grace was God's steadfast love. The Hebrew word for this concept was "hesed," the same love he showed to the Israelites at Mt. Sinai when he gave them his covenant. This self giving love was a gift that defined Israel as the Chosen People. This love was the activity that made the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob the living God. Grace or hesed revealed the kind of God the Jews worshiped.

Truth was God's faithfulness. His love was not conditional or capacious. It was dependable. Believers could rely on God to be there for them. One of God's titles was the "Rock." He would not abandon his people.

Taken together, "grace and truth" spoke to the very heart of the "God" concept. God loved his with a dynamic, faithful concern. Anything outside of "grace and truth" would be dead. Anything within "grace and truth" would be fullness beyond measure, grace upon grace, life in the Spirit. The One who could give people God's grace and truth would be the person closest to God, "in the bosom of the Father." This person was Jesus, the Christ.

How was your Christmas? How attuned were you to "Word made flesh?"

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January 2

John 1:19-28 - Word English Bible

19 This is John's testimony, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, "Who are you?"

20 He declared, and didn't deny, but he declared, "I am not the Christ."

21 They asked him, "What then? Are you Elijah?"

He said, "I am not."

"Are you the prophet?"

He answered, "No."

22 They said therefore to him, "Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?"

23 He said, "I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, 'Make straight the way of the Lord,'as Isaiah the prophet said."

24 The ones who had been sent were from the Pharisees. 25 They asked him, "Why then do you baptize, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?"

26 John answered them, "I baptize in water, but among you stands one whom you don't know. 27 He is the one who comes after me, who is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I'm not worthy to loosen."28 These things were done in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

In John's gospel, religious leaders engaged the Baptist in a dialogue about his identity and his mission. He answered them emphatically in the negative; no, he was neither the Christ nor any of the prophetic figures the people expected. Instead he was the enigmatic image of the desert town crier found in Isaiah 40:3; he prepared the people for the coming Christ; that was his mission and the reason he baptized. And he was not worthy to even serve the Messiah as a house slave.

John the Baptist came as a prophet, to change lives and witness to the definitive act of God on earth.

How do you act like John? How do you encourage others to change their ways and point them to Jesus?

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January 3

John 1:29-34 - Word English Bible

29 The next day, he saw Jesus coming to him, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, 'After me comes a man who is preferred before me, for he was before me.' 31 I didn't know him, but for this reason I came baptizing in water: that he would be revealed to Israel." 32 John testified, saying, "I have seen the Spirit descending like a dove out of heaven, and it remained on him. 33 I didn't recognize him, but he who sent me to baptize in water, he said to me, 'On whomever you will see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.' 34 I have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God."

John's gospel shifted from the identity of the Baptist and his mission to the question of the Messiah. Who was he? In this passage, he pointed to the One greater than himself; the Christ was the sacrificial Lamb of God who received the Spirit. In other words, the evangelist John defined the role of God's Son in terms of the Suffering Servant from Second Isaiah and through the dynamic movement of the Spirit. The Christ would suffer and, through that suffering, would pour out the Spirit onto his followers.

Greatness in the eyes of God is not a matter of wealth, power or possessions. It is a matter of service and a willingness to follow the Spirit. Both are not accomplished in large bursts of emotion, but in the small, everyday acts of faith we perform for God and others.

How do you recognize the Christ in your daily activities?

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January 4

John 1:35-42 - Word English Bible

35 Again, the next day, John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and he looked at Jesus as he walked, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God!" 37 The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. 38 Jesus turned, and saw them following, and said to them, "What are you looking for?"

They said to him, "Rabbi" (which is to say, being interpreted, Teacher), "where are you staying?"

39 He said to them, "Come, and see."

They came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day. It was about the tenth hour. 40 One of the two who heard John, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. 41 He first found his own brother, Simon, and said to him, "We have found the Messiah!" (which is, being interpreted, Christ. 42 He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him, and said, "You are Simon the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas" (which is by interpretation, Peter).

What are you looking for?

One of the more interesting differences that sets the gospel of John from the others was the way Jesus gained followers. In Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus called his disciples directly, while, in John, he gathered them through "word of mouth" advertising. One friend told another, creating a "buzz" about the man. When they saw Jesus themselves, they knew what they were looking for. They had found the Messiah.

Who did you tell about Jesus this week?

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January 5

John 1:43-51 - Word English Bible

43 On the next day, he was determined to go out into Galilee, and he found Philip. Jesus said to him, "Follow me." 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, of the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael, and said to him, "We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, wrote: Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph."

46 Nathanael said to him, "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?"

Philip said to him, "Come and see."

47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and said about him, "Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!"

48 Nathanael said to him, "How do you know me?"

Jesus answered him, "Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you."

49 Nathanael answered him, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are King of Israel!"

50 Jesus answered him, "Because I told you, 'I saw you underneath the fig tree,' do you believe? You will see greater things than these!" 51 He said to him, "Most certainly, I tell you, hereafter you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man."

Can anything good come from (fill in the blank)? Come and see.

Unlike the "word of mouth" invitation we find in John 1:35-42, this time Jesus invited someone himself (Philip) who invited his friend, Nathaniel to see Jesus. Nathaniel responded with incredulity based on origin. Can anything good come from that backwater hamlet of Nazareth? How could Philip answer? Come and see for yourself.

Nathaniel encountered the Lord and came to faith simply because of divine sight. Jesus saw where the man sat and knew the man's heart. But, more importantly, he came to trust Jesus because of where that sight led: a vision of open heavens and angels mediating the relationship between Father and Son, a vision of revelation about the Son of Man.

Can anything good come from the forgotten places? Come and see, then you might know how Jesus sees you.

Can you see yourself through eyes of Jesus?

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January 6 (where Epiphany is celebrated on another day)

Mark 1:7-11 - Word English Bible

7 John preached, saying, "After me comes he who is mightier than I, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and loosen. 8 I baptized you in water, but he will baptize you in the Holy Spirit."

9 In those days, Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 Immediately coming up from the water, he saw the heavens parting, and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 A voice came out of the sky, "You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."

In these verses from Mark, John the Baptist proclaimed his message about the Christ and exercised his ministry by baptizing the faithful, especially Jesus of Nazareth. The evangelist then presented a vision of the Trinity, the Son rising out of the water (foreshadowing his own Resurrection), the Spirit descending upon him and the Father declaring his relationship with his Son.

Like John, we are to point to the Christ. Like Jesus, we see the Trinity revealed in our baptism; we also see our status as children of the Father, for we follow his Son and possess the Spirit.

We are Christians when we live in the Trinity and proclaim the Christ. How have you been a Christian today?

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January 7

John 2:1-11 - Word English Bible

1 The third day, there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee. Jesus' mother was there. 2 Jesus also was invited, with his disciples, to the wedding. 3 When the wine ran out, Jesus' mother said to him, "They have no wine."

4 Jesus said to her, "Woman, what does that have to do with you and me? My hour has not yet come."

5 His mother said to the servants, "Whatever he says to you, do it." 6 Now there were six water pots of stone set there after the Jews' way of purifying, containing twenty gallons apiece. 7 Jesus said to them, "Fill the water pots with water." So they filled them up to the brim. 8 He said to them, "Now draw some out, and take it to the ruler of the feast." So they took it. 9 When the ruler of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and didn't know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the ruler of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, "Everyone serves the good wine first, and when the guests have drunk freely, then that which is worse. You have kept the good wine until now!" 11 This beginning of his signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

In a small community at the time of Jesus, weddings were regional affairs. They celebrated not only a wedding, but the union of two clans. The focus was not only on the bride and groom, but on the patriarchs of the clans.

Within the wedding, the job of the "master of ceremonies" (i.e., the "head waiter" in this story) was a position of honor and power. The MC controlled the invitation list, the order and flow of the ceremony, and seating arrangements. Since, the MC might be the family's representative (i.e., accountant, lawyer, and economic negotiator all rolled into one), the position might be paid.

Invited to the party, Jesus and his mother should have been minor characters, but they move to center stage because of a problem: a wine shortage. This was a critical situation, because the honor of the bride and groom, the patriarchs of the two clans joined by the union, and the headwaiter were at stake. The mother of Jesus stepped in to save the day. [1-3]

Jesus objected to his mother's request; the "hour" (referring to the time of his death) was to be the time of revelation and faith, but his mother wanted a miracle now! So, Jesus gave in. [4-6]

The six stone jars were connected to Jewish ritual washings. Such washings made the person clean, "kosher." Many scholars have put an emphasis upon the number of jars, "six," which represented an unfulfilled state in the time of Jesus. The number "six" conveyed a message. Judaism lacked its Messiah and the Kingdom he represented. Jesus used the jars (representing the tradition of Judaism) to reveal a taste of God's kingdom. In this sense, Jesus completed and transformed the traditions of Judaism. His action completed what was missing.

The water turned wine has many meanings. God's kingdom was to be a feast with endless wine and merriment. Water has a baptism motif, while wine is Eucharistic. Both foreshadow the water and blood (wine) that flow from Jesus' side at his death. Even nature of the new wine (the new revelation of Jesus) is superior to that of the old wine that ran out (the old revelation of Law and the prophets). All these meanings have one source: Jesus. [7-10]

Now we can see the importance of verse 11. The sign in Cana was the first revelation of Jesus in John's gospel and the first opportunity for faith from his followers. The sign revealed the Kingdom and its Messiah.

What signs do God use to reveal himself in your life? How does he use them? How do these signs help your prayer life to grow?

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