Dec 28-Jan 2: Dec 28 Monday (Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs): https://www.franciscanmedia.org/holy-innocents/ Mt 2:13-18: 13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night, and departed to Egypt, 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt have I called my son.” 16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, was in a furious rage, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: 18 “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they were no more.” USCCB video: https://youtu.be/-Kn7aqDe8lA?list=PLpTzvCOJa7DAAsw34PxZGDqnI_bBKNWa9; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/
This Mass commemorates the deaths of all of those innocents killed by the order of Herod the Great in his fruitless pursuit of the “newborn king of the Jews,” as well as the deaths of the untold numbers of innocent babies slaughtered today by abortion.
The context: Herod the Great had been made the king of Judea by the Roman Empire although he was not even a Jew. His father was an Idumean, and his mother was an Arab. This cruel king was kept in power mainly by the Roman army. He brutally executed all suspected rivals to his throne including his wife, brother and two brothers-in-law. No wonder he was terrified at the news that a rival king, a descendant of King David, had been born somewhere in Bethlehem, for this child could someday claim to be the legitimate king of Israel and Judea! Herod’s anger intensified when he realized that the Magi had not returned to his royal palace to report the whereabouts of the Child Jesus. Matthew says that the slaughter of the Innocents was in fulfillment of a prophecy of the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice is heard in Ramah, lamenting and weeping bitterly; it is Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.” Ramah was a hill near Bethlehem and the burial place of Rachel, the wife of the patriarch Jacob. The Jews believed that she wept bitterly from her tomb when the Jews were taken as slaves by the Assyrians and later when Herod massacred the babies.
Life message: We need to raise our voice against the 21st century massacre of the Innocents: As in other advanced countries, the cruel massacre of the innocents continues in North America by state-permitted abortion. While Herod killed at the most a hundred children, nearly four thousand unborn babies are slaughtered in the United States every day. They are killed because, like the infants of Bethlehem, they are inconvenient. Children are sacrificed also for the most powerful king of the twenty-first century, Science. Babies are killed in their embryo stage to harvest their “stem cells” for medical experiments intended to heal the illnesses of their parents and grandparents. Along with prayer, let us do everything in our power to stop this brutal murder of the helpless babies. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) 2020
Dec 29 Tuesday (St. Thomas Becket, Bishop, Martyr): (https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-thomas-becket); https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/ Lk 2:22-35: The context: Today’s Gospel presents the head of the Holy Family, Joseph, faithfully obeying God’s law given through Moses concerning the purification of the mother and the redeeming of the child by presenting Mary and the Baby Jesus in the Temple. The events recounted are those we traditionally celebrate on February 2nd with the Feast of Presentation of Jesus. We celebrate them today in order to group all the events of Christ’s infancy within the Octave of Christmas. Today (and on February 2nd), we celebrate a combined feast, commemorating the Jewish practice of the purification of the mother after childbirth and the presentation of the child in the Temple. It is known as the Hypanthe feast or Feast of the Purification of Mary (by the offering two pigeons in the Temple); the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord (by prayers and, “five shekels to a member of a priestly family” (Nm 18:15-16; NAB; Note on Lk 22:22), to redeem or buy back the firstborn male child from the Lord); and the Feast of Encounter (because the New Testament, represented by the Baby Jesus, encountered the Old Testament, represented by Simeon and Anna). On February 2nd we celebrate these events as a formal ending of the Christmas season. On February 2, we also celebrate the Feast of Candlemas (because candles are blessed then for liturgical and personal use).
Purification and redemption ceremonies: The Mosaic Law taught that, since every Jewish male child belonged to Yahweh, the parents had to “buy back” the child (“redeem” him), by offering lambs or turtledoves as a sacrifice in the Temple. In addition (Numbers 18:15), every mother had to be purified after childbirth by prayers and an offering made to God in the Temple. Joseph kept these laws as an act of obedience to God.
The encounter with Simeon and Anna: By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the old, pious and Spirit-filled Simeon and Anna had been waiting in the Temple for the revelation of God’s salvation. Simeon recognized Jesus as the Lord’s Anointed One, and in his prayer of blessing, he prophesied that Jesus was meant to be the glory of Israel and a light of revelation to the Gentiles. While he blessed Mary, he warned that her Child was “was born for the fall and the rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against … that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed,” while “a sword will pierce through your own soul also” (Lk 2:34-35; RSV 2 Catholic). Simeon was prophesying both the universal salvation that would be proclaimed by Jesus and the necessity of suffering in the mission of the Messiah.
Life message: 1) Every Holy Mass in which we participate is our presentation. Although we were officially presented to God on the day of our Baptism, we present ourselves and our dear ones on the altar before God our Father through our Savior Jesus Christ at every Holy Mass. Hence, we need to live our daily lives with the awareness both that we are dedicated people consecrated to God, and that we are obliged to lead holy lives. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) 2020.
Dec 30 Wednesday: Luke 2:36-40, There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher; she was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years from her virginity, 37 and as a widow till she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 And coming up at that very hour she gave thanks to God and spoke of him to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. 39 And when they had performed everything according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him. USCCB video: https://youtu.be/j2NFFlcgSh0?list=PLpTzvCOJa7DAAsw34PxZGDqnI_bBKNWa9; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/
The context: Today’s Gospel presents Anna the prophetess who greeted the Baby Jesus as the Redeemer when Joseph presented Mary and the Infant in the Temple for the purification of the mother and for the “redemption” of the Baby Jesus.
Anna and her testimony: Anna was an eighty-four-year-old widow who spent her days in the Temple in fasting and prayer, waiting for the promised Messiah. She was rewarded with the joy of seeing her Redeemer as a Baby. In her excitement she praised God and introduced the Infant to others around her as the expected Messiah.
The Child Jesus’ growth in wisdom and the favor of God: Commenting on the last sentence of today’s Gospel St. Bede says: “Our Lord Jesus Christ, as a Child clothed in the fragility of human nature, had to grow and become stronger. But, as the eternal Word of God, he had no need to become stronger or to grow. Hence, he is rightly described as full of wisdom and grace.”
Life messages: 1)The Holy Spirit uses ordinary men and women with simple Faith as His instruments to bear witness to Christ, his ideals and teachings.
2) We need praying Annas in all our parishes to offer prayers for all the members of our parish families. Let us cooperate with the Spirit in everything. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) 2020
Dec 31 Thursday:Year end reflections:
1) This is a day to thank our loving, protecting, strengthening, guiding, and providing God for giving us an extension to our life till the year-end for all His blessings showered on us throughout this year.
2) This is the last day of the year to evaluate our life in the past year.
- a) Did we return the love we received from our family members, co- workers, friends and neighbors? Did we practice the new and the greatest commandment given by Jesus: “Love others as I have loved you”?
- b) Was I a barren fig tree in the Lord’s orchard by not practicing any virtues, or a grapevine producing bitter fruits of hatred, jealousy, prejudice and intolerance?
- c) Was I able to control my evil tendencies, sinful habits and dangerous addictions, relying on the power of the Holy Spirit living within me and invoking His assistance every day?
- d) Did I try to see the presence of Jesus within me and within everyone who came in contact with me? Did I try to honor and respect each of them?
- e) Was I grateful to God who extended my life to see another year, who blessed me with bodily and mental health and who healed me from my illnesses?
- f) Did I find time every day to listen to God by reading and meditating on a portion of the Bible? Did I talk to Him in personal and family prayers?
- g) Did I realize the truth that the gift of time is God’s precious gift, and one hour wasted or misused a day is 15 days wasted or misused in the passing year for which I am accountable?
3) This is a day of seeking God’s pardon and forgiveness for our sins and failures and a day to prepare working promises for the New Year, resolving not to fall into the same sinful habits.
4) Year end is the day to offer our life to God on the altar and pray for extra strength and divine assistance and daily fresh anointing of the Holy Spirit every day of the New Year. (LP)
Dec 31 Thursday: Jn 1:1-18: 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God; 3 all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came for testimony, to bear witness to the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness to the light. 9 The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not. 11 He came to his own home, and his own people received him not. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father. 15 (John bore witness to him, and cried, “This was he of whom I said, `He who comes after me ranks before me, for he was before me.'”) 16 And from his fullness have we all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known. USCCB video homily: https://youtu.be/j2NFFlcgSh0?list=PLpTzvCOJa7DAAsw34PxZGDqnI_bBKNWa9 ; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/
The context and the content: Bible scholars generally agree that the Prologue (1:1-18) of John’s Gospel is a hymn, the overall purpose of which is to highlight the historical and theological significance of Jesus’ origins as “Word,” “true Light,” and the “Only-begotten Son,” thus tracing his genealogy to God Himself.” The Navarre Bible commentary summarizes the main teachings in the prologue thus: 1) the Divinity and Eternity of the Word; 2) the Incarnation of the Word and His manifestation as man; 3) the part played by the Word in creation and in the salvation of mankind; 4) the different ways in which people react to the coming of the Lord — some accepting him with Faith, others rejecting him; 5) finally, John the Baptist as witness-bearer to the presence of the Word in the world.
The significance of the text: (Verses 6-9) introduce John the Baptist in a manner that clearly distinguishes him from Jesus – “John himself was not the Light, but he came to testify to the Light. The true Light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world…” Some scholars maintain that the author of the Gospel may be making such a forceful differentiation in order to counter a sect claiming that John the Baptist was the Light and the Messiah, and not simply the one testifying to the Light. In all he did and said, the Baptist always bore witness to Jesus and Jesus’ messianic identity: “John testified to Him and cried out, saying, ‘The One Who is coming after me ranks ahead of me because He existed before me'”(John 1:15). John 1:19-28 is an Advent and Christmas text that calls us to remember the origins and purposes of Jesus and His coming with the kind of devotion that challenges us to be witnesses for Jesus. John the Baptist demonstrates what it means to bear witness to the true Light coming into the world.
Life messages: 1) We need to bear witness to Christ the Light: By Baptism we become members of the family of Christ, the true Light of the world. Jesus said: “You are the light of the world.” Hence, our mission as brothers and sisters of Christ and members of his Church is to reflect Christ’s Light to others, just as the moon reflects the light of the sun. 2) It is especially important during the Christmas season that we reflect on Christ’s unconditional love and forgiveness. Very many people live in spiritual darkness and poverty and lack real freedom. There are others who are deafened and blinded by the cheap attractions of the world. Still others feel lonely, unwanted, rejected, useless, and marginalized. All these people are waiting for us to reflect the light of Christ and to turn their lives into experiences of joy, wholeness and integrity. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
Jan 1 Friday (New Year Day: Mary the Mother of God):Lk 2: 16-21: (https://blog.franciscanmedia.org/franciscan-spirit/the-solemnity-of-mary-mother-of-god) & https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/
Introduction: Since we celebrate the Feast of Mary, the Mother of God on New Year’s Day, may I take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy and Peaceful New Year? I pray that the Lord Jesus and His Mother Mary may enrich your lives during the New Year with an abundance of Divine blessings. Today’s Feast of Mary, the Mother of God is a very appropriate way to begin a new year, reminding us to rely on the powerful intercession of our Heavenly Mother. The Church has, since 1968, also observed a yearly World Day of Peace; this year, 2021, marks the 53rd celebration. On this day, the Church invites us to pray specially for lasting peace in the world throughout the New Year. USCCB video: https://youtu.be/Vc68p6Fk6bU?list=PLpTzvCOJa7DAFrAB3rgpm4xC_YNYqc0xt
Scripture lessons summarized: Today’s first reading gives us the beautiful Divine blessing from the book of Numbers for the New Year, and the Responsorial Psalm (Ps 67) begs for that blessing. In the second reading, Paul reminds the Galatians and us that God’s Son has become one of us through Mary, and that it is through Jesus that we have become the children of God. Today’s Gospel describes how the shepherds spread to all their neighbors the Good News surrounding the birth of Jesus which the angel had revealed to them, and how Mary treasured “all these things” in her heart. The Gospel also tells us that on the day of His circumcision, the Child was given the name Jesus that had been chosen by God Himself.
Traditional belief and Church doctrine: We honor Mary primarily because God honored her by choosing her to become the mother of Jesus, the Incarnate Second Person of the Holy Trinity, Who remained God, when He took on human flesh and became Man, as stated in the Bible. The angel said to Mary: “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call His Name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High…” [Lk 1:31-32a; RSV 2 Catholic] After the angel had appeared to her and told her that she was to be the mother of Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary visited Elizabeth. At Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the Mother of my Lord should come to me? (Lk 1:42-43; RSV 2 Catholic). Hence, the Council of Ephesus affirmed in AD 431 that Mary was truly the Mother of God (Theotokos), and in AD 451, the Council of Chalcedon affirmed the Divine Motherhood of Mary as a dogma, an official doctrine of the Holy Catholic Church.
Life messages: 1) Let us strive to be pure and holy like our Heavenly Mother. All mothers want their children to inherit or acquire their good qualities. Hence, let us honor Mary, our Heavenly Mother, by practicing her virtues of trusting Faith, obedience to the word of God, purity and humble and committed service. 2) Let us make the New Year meaningful by having everyday a) some noble thing to dream, b) something good to do, and c) Someone to love, the first-person being Jesus. 3) Let us sanctify every day of the New Year: a) by offering every morning, all the activities of the day to God for His glory, thus transforming them into prayers, b) by asking for the anointing and strengthening of the Holy Spirit to do good to others and to avoid evil, c) by remaining faithful to our family prayers and Bible reading at night, d) by asking God’s pardon and forgiveness for our sins committed during the day and e) by seeking God’s special protection during sleep. Before we sleep, let us say, “Good night, Lord,” repeating Jesus’ last words from the cross, “Father, into Your hands I commend my spirit.” Fr. Tony(https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
Jan 2 Saturday (St. Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen, Bishops and Doctors of the Church): (https://mycatholic.life/saints/saints-of-the-liturgical-year/2-january-saints-basil-the-great-and-gregory-nazianzen-bishops-and-doctors-memorial/) Jn 1:19-28: 19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed, he did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 They said to him then, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for 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 the prophet Isaiah said.” 24 Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. 25 They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” 26 John answered them, “I baptize with water; but among you stands one whom you do not know, 27 even he who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” 28 This took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing. USCCB video: https://youtu.be/tWAj8whE_WA?list=PLpTzvCOJa7DAFrAB3rgpm4xC_YNYqc0xt ; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/
The context: The news reached the central Jewish religious authorities in Jerusalem that one John, the son of a Jewish priest, was preaching repentance and renewal of life to the Jews and inviting them to receive the baptism of repentance meant only for Gentiles. Hence, the Sanhedrin sent a delegation of experts to Bethany on the eastern bank of river Jordan (different from the Bethany near Jerusalem, where Lazarus lived), to discover whether John was claiming to be the expected Messiah or his forerunner Elijah, the prophet, and to ask why he encouraged the Chosen People to receive the baptism of repentance.
John’s witnessing mission: John frankly declared in all humility that he was not Elijah nor the expected Messiah nor even one of the Old Testament prophets reincarnated. Later, Jesus referred to him as “a lamp “He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light (Jn 5:35). In the spiritual life, the ideal is to become invisible, and our role as Christians is to become salt, yeast, grain, and light. But John claimed that he was the forerunner of the real Messiah, and that his mission was to prepare the lives of the Jews to receive the expected Messiah and to bear witness to him when he should appear in public. John also explained to them that he was baptizing the Jews with water because they must be made holy through repenting of their sins and renewing their lives if they were to receive the most Holy Messiah in their midst.
Life messages: 1) As Catholic Christians, we believe in the coming of Jesus our Lord and Savior on our altars during each Eucharistic celebration. Hence, we, too, need to repent of our sins and ask God’s pardon and forgiveness on a daily basis if we wish to receive Jesus into our hearts and lives sacramentally. 2) We, too, need to renew our lives with the help of our Lord Jesus living within us, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, so that He may radiate His love, forgiveness and mercy to all around us(https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20. (https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-gregory-nazianzen; & https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-gregory-nazianzen)