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December 26, 2013

St. Stephen

Acts 6: 8-10; 7: 54-59

Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and others of those from Cilicia and Asia, stood up and argued with Stephen.  But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

The Gift of Giving

All that I have and all that I am is a gift from God. All my talents and abilities, my family and friends, my experiences and growth, my life and faith—all these God has given to me. So, what should I do with all the gifts I have received?

At the end of the Spiritual Exercises, after having reflected on all the ways God has offered us abundant gifts and love, Ignatius encourages us to respond by offering these gifts and this love back to God.  Rather than holding on desperately to what we have and using our gifts solely for our own benefit, by offering our gifts and ourselves back to God, we allow God to guide us and our gifts towards greater love and service for others.

Today, we celebrate the feast of Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr.  In the reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we hear of Stephen’s gifts of preaching and “working great wonders and signs.”  What a wonderful example of someone who handed over his gifts so that the Holy Spirit could work through him!  Even in his final words, Stephen continues to offer himself to God.

During this Christmas season, as we continue to rejoice in gratitude for the wonderful gift of the Incarnation, maybe we can take some time to reflect on the many gifts we have received and offer them  to God.

—Thomas Bambrick, S.J. is a Jesuit scholastic in First Studies, studying philosophy at Fordham University, New York.

Prayer

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty
my memory, my understanding
and my entire will,
all I have and
call my own.
You have given all to me
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours
do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and grace,
that is enough for me.

—St. Ignatius of Loyola

(Click here to download this prayer card.)

 


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December 25, 2013

THE NATIVITY OF THE LORD

John 1: 1-18

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 into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

(John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”)From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

Significance and Obscurity

One of the greatest wonders of the feast we celebrate today is the fact that an event of such great significance took place in almost total obscurity. Just think: the most momentous event in our history—the incarnation of God as a human person—took place in an insignificant country, completely unobserved by the powers of the world at that time. While nations and economic leaders went about their business of directing the world, the world’s true governor was born in their midst.

The most momentous events often go unnoticed when they take place. But they produce world-altering consequences in their wakes. So it is with the daily conversions which take place in our souls. The internal struggle that takes place within us often goes unnoticed by those around us. God’s attempt to speak to our souls and draw them toward Himself is like a “Little Bethlehem.”

There, in the quiet of our souls, the most momentous events transpire. While others may not be aware of these moments of conversion within our hearts, they definitely experience the effects as the Gospel takes root and transforms the ways we live. May the Spirit of Christ dwell richly within our hearts this Christmas!

—Kevin Dyer, SJ, Regis Jesuit High School

Prayer

“Normally Christmas seems to be a very noisy season, yet it would do us good to celebrate Christ’s birth with a little silence, to hear the Lord’s nearness and tenderness.”

—Pope Francis at the Angelus on December 14, 2013.


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December 24, 2013

2 Samuel 7: 1-5. 8b-12. 14a. 16

When King David was settled in his palace, and the LORD had given him rest from his enemies on every side, he said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God dwells in a tent!”  Nathan answered the king, “Go, do whatever you have in mind, for the LORD is with you.”  But that night the LORD spoke to Nathan and said: “Go, tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD: Should you build me a house to dwell in? “‘It was I who took you from the pasture and from the care of the flock to be commander of my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you went, and I have destroyed all your enemies before you.

And I will make you famous like the great ones of the earth. I will fix a place for my people Israel; I will plant them so that they may dwell in their place without further disturbance. Neither shall the wicked continue to afflict them as they did of old, since the time I first appointed judges over my people Israel.

I will give you rest from all your enemies. The LORD also reveals to you that he will establish a house for you.  And when your time comes and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins, and I will make his Kingdom firm. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. Your house and your Kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever.”’

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

A Building Like No Other

Who isn’t able to identify with King David? His weaknesses and his strengths are ours. He defeated Goliath; yet he is also the one who killed Uriah. His moments of special blessing by the Lord seem equally matched by his ability to forget the Lord’s favor and act on his own, woefully mistaken initiative. In today’s reading, he impulsively offers to build a house of dwelling for the Lord—a worthy and noble initiative. But it is not the initiative which God wants. God will build his own dwelling place and God doesn’t need David to do it.

In this season of Christmas, we see the culmination of God’s plans to build Himself a dwelling. He doesn’t use timber or stone, but human flesh. He dwells in a human person, Jesus the Christ. In so doing, God has saved the world and given all of us wandering, stumbling fools—sons of David—the hope that one day we might all dwell in the fullness of God’s presence. Come Lord Jesus!

—Kevin Dyer, SJ, Regis Jesuit High School

Prayer

People of God, do not be afraid.

Today you know that the Lord will come,

and in the morning you shall see God’s glory!

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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December 23, 2013

St. John Kanty

Malachi 3: 1-4. 23-24

See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness.

Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years. They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, my special possession on the day when I act, and I will spare them as parents spare their children who serve them. Then once more you shall see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

It’s All for Us!

Who is that messenger preparing the way of the Lord in today’s first reading from the prophet Malachi? Who is that new Elijah who will “turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers”?  The Christ whose coming we anticipate during the Advent season and whose birth we celebrate in our Christmas festivities is in a very true sense ourselves! We are the ones and the only ones who as members of his body, that is,  the extension of Christ through space and time, can be for our world what he was for his. May the Lord, I pray, through His Spirit guide us in getting behind the tinsel, gift exchanges, and holiday hype to ponder the sacred reality –about ourselves—that we celebrate this Advent season.

—Fr. Jack Dister, S.J. resides at Colombiere Center, the Jesuit retirement community in Clarkston MI.

Prayer

O Emmanuel, ruler and lawgiver,

Desire of the nations,

Savior of all people:

Come and set us free, Lord our God!

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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December 22, 2013

Isaiah 7: 10-14

Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, saying, Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven. But Ahaz said, I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.Then Isaiah said: “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

Air and Life

Is God with us or not?  That’s one of our most basic human questions, especially in hard times: is God with us or are we all alone out here? It’s Israel’s constant question, as the people wandered in the desert, facing thirst and famine: is the Lord among us or not? It’s the doubt in King Ahaz’s mind as he confronted the Assyrian invasion.  So God promises him to send a king, named God with us.

We can look around at our world this year and see a lot that troubles us: conflicts in the Middle East that don’t seem to be getting any better, the economy struggles with unemployment, violence continues in our cities. So, is this God who comes to save us with us or not?

Let’s look around us. Do we see people sometimes rise above the sad temptation to selfishness and reach out to help the poor and people in need? Do we see some people trying to reconcile with one another, forgiving those who have hurt them? Do we know people who have been able to overcome sin in some area of their lives, and turn to a new way of life? Do we see families welcoming new life like Mary and Joseph did?

Let’s look inside ourselves. Do we hear a quiet voice—a gentle tug in our hearts—that guides us in life, that leads us to love other people, to give our lives in service to others, and to live life as a mission, with a purpose?  Do we feel a steady strength supporting us and helping us to do the right in difficult moments of self-doubt or temptation?

God is with us, the Spirit of the risen Jesus, saving us in each moment. It’s like the air that surrounds us, though we often don’t notice it, until suddenly we feel a gentle breeze or a gust of wind.

—Fr. Tim Howe, SJ, is president of St. Xavier High School, in Cincinnati, OH.

Prayer

O Ruler of all nations,

the only joy of every human heart,

O Keystone of the might arch of humankind:

Come and save all those you fashioned from the dust!

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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December 21, 2013

Luke 1: 39-45

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

The Time is Now

During Advent we attempt to take some time away from the hustle and bustle of our lives (and the pre-Christmas shopping season) and spend time renewing our commitment to prayer and to Christ. This renewal prompts us to help others encounter Jesus and engage more fully in God’s Kingdom.

In today’s Gospel we see in Mary a wonderful example of freely giving our time and talents. When Mary heard that her cousin Elizabeth was pregnant, she ‘traveled to the hill country in haste.’ She did not complain that she had work to do, shopping to finish, meals to prepare, or another email to write. She did not say that she would go after she got her work done or when it was convenient for her. She immediately left her home, chores, and family to be present to a person in need. Mary’s loving response to a friend in need causes me to think about how I give of myself during this busy time of the year.

As the Advent season ends and I hope for the joy of Christmas, am I being present to family members or friends that need companionship and support? Do I spend some time in prayer and thanksgiving? Do I remember that Christmas is about Jesus and not about the cards, presents, decorations, or food? Do I actively look for Jesus in myself and those I meet? Do I encourage others to encounter Jesus during the holiday season?

—Brother John Moriconi, S.J., a noted mandolinist, is provincial’s secretary for the Chicago-Detroit Jesuit Province.

Prayer

O radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light,

sun of justice:

Come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death!

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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December 20, 2013

Luke 1: 26-38

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “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 holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

Let the King of Glory Enter

Let us come into a time of prayer reverently seeking the face of God. How do we give God glory, this mysterious Creator/Creating God of the earth, its fullness, the world, and all who dwell in it?

It is a bit of a struggle to give constant praise and glory if I think of that as bowing before an entity outside myself, unconnected to myself. I find myself thinking “Is this all there is to do? It’s boring!”  I have tried to be pious in that way with mixed results. I have prayed and then went about my plans for the day or week disconnected from my prayer.

I have given God greater glory in acknowledging God’s indwelling in me and all creation and savoring being a part of God’s plan. Life is more meaningful in seeing God’s will unfold in ordinary days and letting the Lord enter each moment.  The Incarnation is ongoing. Only in Christ can God be given full glory and God enters into our humanity in Jesus and remains Christ Incarnate.

Let us contemplate Mary’s yes to the indwelling of God within her and Jesus born of her.  Let the Lord enter us.  What are you being called to say yes to in your life that will birth new life in Christ?

As we end this reflection, be with the Lord and give glory to God transcendent and imminent.

—Janet Lehane is Assistant Director of the Spirituality Program for Adults at St. Ignatius High School, Cleveland OH.

Prayer

O Key of David, O royal power of Israel,

controlling at your will the gate of heaven:

Come, break down the prison walls of death

for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death. Lead your captive people into freedom!

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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December 19, 2013

Luke 1: 5-25

In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years.

Once when he was serving as priest before God and his section was on duty, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense. Now at the time of the incense-offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him. But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.’ Zechariah said to the angel, ‘How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.’ The angel replied, ‘I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. But now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur.’

Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah, and wondered at his delay in the sanctuary. When he did come out, he could not speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He kept motioning to them and remained unable to speak. When his time of service was ended, he went to his home.

After those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she remained in seclusion. She said, ‘This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favourably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people.’

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

Fear and Faith

“I have to see it to believe it.” How often have I said (or thought) these words! And usually because I’m afraid—afraid I’ll look foolish, afraid I’ll be disappointed, or even afraid what it will mean if my belief or wish comes true. All too often I allow my fears to guide me away from seeing and acting with belief, trust, and hope.

In his guidelines for the discernment of spirits, St. Ignatius teaches us that fear does not generally come from God. When we sense that we are afraid, we need to go to that fear in ourselves, try to find where it is coming from, and then refuse to act or make a decision out of that fear. Instead, we should always strive to act in a way that draws us deeper into faith, hope, and love.

In today’s Gospel, Zechariah chooses to let his fear guide him. Even though the angel Gabriel appears before him and offers him the very thing for which he and Elizabeth have been praying and more, Zechariah refuses to believe. Rather than accept with faith the “joy and gladness” that the angel foretells, Zechariah insists that he has to see it in order to believe it.

Sometimes, maybe we have to believe in order to see. Maybe we need to let go of our fears that usually lead only to despair and suffering, and choose to see with the eyes of faith.

Do you believe that God is at work in you and in your life? How can you let go of your fears so that you may see and respond with faith to how God is already working in you and in the world around you?

—Thomas Bambrick, S.J. is a Jesuit scholastic in First Studies, studying philosophy at Fordham University, New York.

Prayer

O Flower of Jesse’s stem, you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples:

rulers stand silent in your presence;

the nations bow down in worship before you.

Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid!

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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December 18, 2013

Matthew 1: 18-25

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:“ Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

In Joseph’s Shoes

I can imagine myself in Joseph’s shoes… or maybe slippers, as he awakes, gets out of bed and considers what he just dreamed. First of all, was that just a dream or was it really the voice of an angel? More important, I already know what needs to be done. I am a compassionate guy and I am going to take care of this situation in a manner which does not draw undue attention to Mary’s indiscretion. It is the right thing, what society demands and what my religion requires. I must end this relationship now.

But what is this voice I am hearing? Why would I even consider doing anything but what I have already planned? Why is my heart not quite comfortable with the plan? This whole situation is too disappointing and too painful. I feel sorry for Mary, but what about me? What if this is God talking to me? What if this is God’s invitation to my special role in salvation history? I am just going to have to trust and jump in one direction or another. I will answer the simple question, “What does love require?”

—David McNulty is the Provincial Assistant for Advancement, Chicago-Detroit Province Jesuits

Prayer

O Sacred Lord of ancient Israel who showed
yourself to Moses in the burning bush,
who gave him the holy law on Mount Sinai:
Come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free!

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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December 17, 2013

Matthew 1: 1-17

An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Aram, and Aram the father of Aminadab, and Aminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David.

And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah,and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Salathiel, and Salathiel the father of Zerubbabel, and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.

So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

Then … and Now

Today’s Gospel is what I jokingly refer to as the “begat” Gospel, because of the Biblical translations that read “Abraham begat Isaac, Isaac begat Jacob,” etc. It is easy to gloss over the text and tune out the many unfamiliar names of the Old Testament figures presented in this genealogy. But this is not merely a footnote to Matthew’s Gospel.  This is where he starts. Why? What does this brief history have to do with Christ?

Matthew’s Gospel was written for Jewish Christians and takes great care to connect Jesus’ life and teachings to the Jewish tradition. In presenting Jesus as the son of Abraham and the son of David, Matthew acknowledges Jesus as the fulfillment of salvation history, and the Messiah that had been promised. By beginning with the genealogy, Matthew firmly roots Jesus at the center, connecting the tradition of the past, with his teachings for the future.

As disciple of Christ, we are challenged to hear the messages of the prophets and ask ourselves how we should respond in today’s context. We are urged to make our world a more just and peaceful place, in both our local and global communities. We are missioned to go out into the world and spread the good news about Jesus.  We are invited to co-labor with him in building the Kingdom of God on earth.

The Old Testament recounts the many ways our Jewish ancestors prepared for the coming of the Messiah. With Christmas just 8 days away, we prepare our hearts for His coming.  How will we welcome Him into our world and our lives?

—Lauren Gaffey is Director of Programs and Administration at Charis Ministries. Founded in 2000, Charis Ministries reaches those in their 20s and 30s nationwide, nurturing their faith through retreats based in Ignatian spirituality. www.charisministries.org

Prayer

O Wisdom, O holy word of God,

you govern all creation

with your strong yet tender care:

Come and show your people the way to salvation!

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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December 26, 2013

St. Stephen

Acts 6: 8-10; 7: 54-59

Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and others of those from Cilicia and Asia, stood up and argued with Stephen.  But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

The Gift of Giving

All that I have and all that I am is a gift from God. All my talents and abilities, my family and friends, my experiences and growth, my life and faith—all these God has given to me. So, what should I do with all the gifts I have received?

At the end of the Spiritual Exercises, after having reflected on all the ways God has offered us abundant gifts and love, Ignatius encourages us to respond by offering these gifts and this love back to God.  Rather than holding on desperately to what we have and using our gifts solely for our own benefit, by offering our gifts and ourselves back to God, we allow God to guide us and our gifts towards greater love and service for others.

Today, we celebrate the feast of Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr.  In the reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we hear of Stephen’s gifts of preaching and “working great wonders and signs.”  What a wonderful example of someone who handed over his gifts so that the Holy Spirit could work through him!  Even in his final words, Stephen continues to offer himself to God.

During this Christmas season, as we continue to rejoice in gratitude for the wonderful gift of the Incarnation, maybe we can take some time to reflect on the many gifts we have received and offer them  to God.

—Thomas Bambrick, S.J. is a Jesuit scholastic in First Studies, studying philosophy at Fordham University, New York.

Prayer

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty
my memory, my understanding
and my entire will,
all I have and
call my own.
You have given all to me
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours
do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and grace,
that is enough for me.

—St. Ignatius of Loyola

(Click here to download this prayer card.)

 


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December 25, 2013

THE NATIVITY OF THE LORD

John 1: 1-18

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 into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

(John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”)From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

Significance and Obscurity

One of the greatest wonders of the feast we celebrate today is the fact that an event of such great significance took place in almost total obscurity. Just think: the most momentous event in our history—the incarnation of God as a human person—took place in an insignificant country, completely unobserved by the powers of the world at that time. While nations and economic leaders went about their business of directing the world, the world’s true governor was born in their midst.

The most momentous events often go unnoticed when they take place. But they produce world-altering consequences in their wakes. So it is with the daily conversions which take place in our souls. The internal struggle that takes place within us often goes unnoticed by those around us. God’s attempt to speak to our souls and draw them toward Himself is like a “Little Bethlehem.”

There, in the quiet of our souls, the most momentous events transpire. While others may not be aware of these moments of conversion within our hearts, they definitely experience the effects as the Gospel takes root and transforms the ways we live. May the Spirit of Christ dwell richly within our hearts this Christmas!

—Kevin Dyer, SJ, Regis Jesuit High School

Prayer

“Normally Christmas seems to be a very noisy season, yet it would do us good to celebrate Christ’s birth with a little silence, to hear the Lord’s nearness and tenderness.”

—Pope Francis at the Angelus on December 14, 2013.


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December 24, 2013

2 Samuel 7: 1-5. 8b-12. 14a. 16

When King David was settled in his palace, and the LORD had given him rest from his enemies on every side, he said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God dwells in a tent!”  Nathan answered the king, “Go, do whatever you have in mind, for the LORD is with you.”  But that night the LORD spoke to Nathan and said: “Go, tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD: Should you build me a house to dwell in? “‘It was I who took you from the pasture and from the care of the flock to be commander of my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you went, and I have destroyed all your enemies before you.

And I will make you famous like the great ones of the earth. I will fix a place for my people Israel; I will plant them so that they may dwell in their place without further disturbance. Neither shall the wicked continue to afflict them as they did of old, since the time I first appointed judges over my people Israel.

I will give you rest from all your enemies. The LORD also reveals to you that he will establish a house for you.  And when your time comes and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins, and I will make his Kingdom firm. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. Your house and your Kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever.”’

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

A Building Like No Other

Who isn’t able to identify with King David? His weaknesses and his strengths are ours. He defeated Goliath; yet he is also the one who killed Uriah. His moments of special blessing by the Lord seem equally matched by his ability to forget the Lord’s favor and act on his own, woefully mistaken initiative. In today’s reading, he impulsively offers to build a house of dwelling for the Lord—a worthy and noble initiative. But it is not the initiative which God wants. God will build his own dwelling place and God doesn’t need David to do it.

In this season of Christmas, we see the culmination of God’s plans to build Himself a dwelling. He doesn’t use timber or stone, but human flesh. He dwells in a human person, Jesus the Christ. In so doing, God has saved the world and given all of us wandering, stumbling fools—sons of David—the hope that one day we might all dwell in the fullness of God’s presence. Come Lord Jesus!

—Kevin Dyer, SJ, Regis Jesuit High School

Prayer

People of God, do not be afraid.

Today you know that the Lord will come,

and in the morning you shall see God’s glory!

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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December 23, 2013

St. John Kanty

Malachi 3: 1-4. 23-24

See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness.

Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years. They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, my special possession on the day when I act, and I will spare them as parents spare their children who serve them. Then once more you shall see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

It’s All for Us!

Who is that messenger preparing the way of the Lord in today’s first reading from the prophet Malachi? Who is that new Elijah who will “turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers”?  The Christ whose coming we anticipate during the Advent season and whose birth we celebrate in our Christmas festivities is in a very true sense ourselves! We are the ones and the only ones who as members of his body, that is,  the extension of Christ through space and time, can be for our world what he was for his. May the Lord, I pray, through His Spirit guide us in getting behind the tinsel, gift exchanges, and holiday hype to ponder the sacred reality –about ourselves—that we celebrate this Advent season.

—Fr. Jack Dister, S.J. resides at Colombiere Center, the Jesuit retirement community in Clarkston MI.

Prayer

O Emmanuel, ruler and lawgiver,

Desire of the nations,

Savior of all people:

Come and set us free, Lord our God!

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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December 22, 2013

Isaiah 7: 10-14

Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, saying, Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven. But Ahaz said, I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.Then Isaiah said: “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

Air and Life

Is God with us or not?  That’s one of our most basic human questions, especially in hard times: is God with us or are we all alone out here? It’s Israel’s constant question, as the people wandered in the desert, facing thirst and famine: is the Lord among us or not? It’s the doubt in King Ahaz’s mind as he confronted the Assyrian invasion.  So God promises him to send a king, named God with us.

We can look around at our world this year and see a lot that troubles us: conflicts in the Middle East that don’t seem to be getting any better, the economy struggles with unemployment, violence continues in our cities. So, is this God who comes to save us with us or not?

Let’s look around us. Do we see people sometimes rise above the sad temptation to selfishness and reach out to help the poor and people in need? Do we see some people trying to reconcile with one another, forgiving those who have hurt them? Do we know people who have been able to overcome sin in some area of their lives, and turn to a new way of life? Do we see families welcoming new life like Mary and Joseph did?

Let’s look inside ourselves. Do we hear a quiet voice—a gentle tug in our hearts—that guides us in life, that leads us to love other people, to give our lives in service to others, and to live life as a mission, with a purpose?  Do we feel a steady strength supporting us and helping us to do the right in difficult moments of self-doubt or temptation?

God is with us, the Spirit of the risen Jesus, saving us in each moment. It’s like the air that surrounds us, though we often don’t notice it, until suddenly we feel a gentle breeze or a gust of wind.

—Fr. Tim Howe, SJ, is president of St. Xavier High School, in Cincinnati, OH.

Prayer

O Ruler of all nations,

the only joy of every human heart,

O Keystone of the might arch of humankind:

Come and save all those you fashioned from the dust!

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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December 21, 2013

Luke 1: 39-45

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

The Time is Now

During Advent we attempt to take some time away from the hustle and bustle of our lives (and the pre-Christmas shopping season) and spend time renewing our commitment to prayer and to Christ. This renewal prompts us to help others encounter Jesus and engage more fully in God’s Kingdom.

In today’s Gospel we see in Mary a wonderful example of freely giving our time and talents. When Mary heard that her cousin Elizabeth was pregnant, she ‘traveled to the hill country in haste.’ She did not complain that she had work to do, shopping to finish, meals to prepare, or another email to write. She did not say that she would go after she got her work done or when it was convenient for her. She immediately left her home, chores, and family to be present to a person in need. Mary’s loving response to a friend in need causes me to think about how I give of myself during this busy time of the year.

As the Advent season ends and I hope for the joy of Christmas, am I being present to family members or friends that need companionship and support? Do I spend some time in prayer and thanksgiving? Do I remember that Christmas is about Jesus and not about the cards, presents, decorations, or food? Do I actively look for Jesus in myself and those I meet? Do I encourage others to encounter Jesus during the holiday season?

—Brother John Moriconi, S.J., a noted mandolinist, is provincial’s secretary for the Chicago-Detroit Jesuit Province.

Prayer

O radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light,

sun of justice:

Come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death!

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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December 20, 2013

Luke 1: 26-38

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “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 holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

Let the King of Glory Enter

Let us come into a time of prayer reverently seeking the face of God. How do we give God glory, this mysterious Creator/Creating God of the earth, its fullness, the world, and all who dwell in it?

It is a bit of a struggle to give constant praise and glory if I think of that as bowing before an entity outside myself, unconnected to myself. I find myself thinking “Is this all there is to do? It’s boring!”  I have tried to be pious in that way with mixed results. I have prayed and then went about my plans for the day or week disconnected from my prayer.

I have given God greater glory in acknowledging God’s indwelling in me and all creation and savoring being a part of God’s plan. Life is more meaningful in seeing God’s will unfold in ordinary days and letting the Lord enter each moment.  The Incarnation is ongoing. Only in Christ can God be given full glory and God enters into our humanity in Jesus and remains Christ Incarnate.

Let us contemplate Mary’s yes to the indwelling of God within her and Jesus born of her.  Let the Lord enter us.  What are you being called to say yes to in your life that will birth new life in Christ?

As we end this reflection, be with the Lord and give glory to God transcendent and imminent.

—Janet Lehane is Assistant Director of the Spirituality Program for Adults at St. Ignatius High School, Cleveland OH.

Prayer

O Key of David, O royal power of Israel,

controlling at your will the gate of heaven:

Come, break down the prison walls of death

for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death. Lead your captive people into freedom!

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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December 19, 2013

Luke 1: 5-25

In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years.

Once when he was serving as priest before God and his section was on duty, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense. Now at the time of the incense-offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him. But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.’ Zechariah said to the angel, ‘How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.’ The angel replied, ‘I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. But now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur.’

Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah, and wondered at his delay in the sanctuary. When he did come out, he could not speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He kept motioning to them and remained unable to speak. When his time of service was ended, he went to his home.

After those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she remained in seclusion. She said, ‘This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favourably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people.’

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

Fear and Faith

“I have to see it to believe it.” How often have I said (or thought) these words! And usually because I’m afraid—afraid I’ll look foolish, afraid I’ll be disappointed, or even afraid what it will mean if my belief or wish comes true. All too often I allow my fears to guide me away from seeing and acting with belief, trust, and hope.

In his guidelines for the discernment of spirits, St. Ignatius teaches us that fear does not generally come from God. When we sense that we are afraid, we need to go to that fear in ourselves, try to find where it is coming from, and then refuse to act or make a decision out of that fear. Instead, we should always strive to act in a way that draws us deeper into faith, hope, and love.

In today’s Gospel, Zechariah chooses to let his fear guide him. Even though the angel Gabriel appears before him and offers him the very thing for which he and Elizabeth have been praying and more, Zechariah refuses to believe. Rather than accept with faith the “joy and gladness” that the angel foretells, Zechariah insists that he has to see it in order to believe it.

Sometimes, maybe we have to believe in order to see. Maybe we need to let go of our fears that usually lead only to despair and suffering, and choose to see with the eyes of faith.

Do you believe that God is at work in you and in your life? How can you let go of your fears so that you may see and respond with faith to how God is already working in you and in the world around you?

—Thomas Bambrick, S.J. is a Jesuit scholastic in First Studies, studying philosophy at Fordham University, New York.

Prayer

O Flower of Jesse’s stem, you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples:

rulers stand silent in your presence;

the nations bow down in worship before you.

Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid!

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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December 18, 2013

Matthew 1: 18-25

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:“ Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

In Joseph’s Shoes

I can imagine myself in Joseph’s shoes… or maybe slippers, as he awakes, gets out of bed and considers what he just dreamed. First of all, was that just a dream or was it really the voice of an angel? More important, I already know what needs to be done. I am a compassionate guy and I am going to take care of this situation in a manner which does not draw undue attention to Mary’s indiscretion. It is the right thing, what society demands and what my religion requires. I must end this relationship now.

But what is this voice I am hearing? Why would I even consider doing anything but what I have already planned? Why is my heart not quite comfortable with the plan? This whole situation is too disappointing and too painful. I feel sorry for Mary, but what about me? What if this is God talking to me? What if this is God’s invitation to my special role in salvation history? I am just going to have to trust and jump in one direction or another. I will answer the simple question, “What does love require?”

—David McNulty is the Provincial Assistant for Advancement, Chicago-Detroit Province Jesuits

Prayer

O Sacred Lord of ancient Israel who showed
yourself to Moses in the burning bush,
who gave him the holy law on Mount Sinai:
Come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free!

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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December 17, 2013

Matthew 1: 1-17

An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Aram, and Aram the father of Aminadab, and Aminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David.

And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah,and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Salathiel, and Salathiel the father of Zerubbabel, and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.

So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

Then … and Now

Today’s Gospel is what I jokingly refer to as the “begat” Gospel, because of the Biblical translations that read “Abraham begat Isaac, Isaac begat Jacob,” etc. It is easy to gloss over the text and tune out the many unfamiliar names of the Old Testament figures presented in this genealogy. But this is not merely a footnote to Matthew’s Gospel.  This is where he starts. Why? What does this brief history have to do with Christ?

Matthew’s Gospel was written for Jewish Christians and takes great care to connect Jesus’ life and teachings to the Jewish tradition. In presenting Jesus as the son of Abraham and the son of David, Matthew acknowledges Jesus as the fulfillment of salvation history, and the Messiah that had been promised. By beginning with the genealogy, Matthew firmly roots Jesus at the center, connecting the tradition of the past, with his teachings for the future.

As disciple of Christ, we are challenged to hear the messages of the prophets and ask ourselves how we should respond in today’s context. We are urged to make our world a more just and peaceful place, in both our local and global communities. We are missioned to go out into the world and spread the good news about Jesus.  We are invited to co-labor with him in building the Kingdom of God on earth.

The Old Testament recounts the many ways our Jewish ancestors prepared for the coming of the Messiah. With Christmas just 8 days away, we prepare our hearts for His coming.  How will we welcome Him into our world and our lives?

—Lauren Gaffey is Director of Programs and Administration at Charis Ministries. Founded in 2000, Charis Ministries reaches those in their 20s and 30s nationwide, nurturing their faith through retreats based in Ignatian spirituality. www.charisministries.org

Prayer

O Wisdom, O holy word of God,

you govern all creation

with your strong yet tender care:

Come and show your people the way to salvation!

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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