Sunday, December 31, 2017

Homily for Today

Good morning my brothers and sisters in Christ. I trust that your spirits are still shining as holy families during this very special liturgical time frame.

Today's Feast of the Holy Family and the readings that we have just heard are both in perfect harmony with the Season of Christmas. Both examples teach us to respect and love one another in perfect union. The family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, Abraham and Sirah, both lived righteous lives in the eyes of the Lord God.

As we have heard from the First Reading, the Word of the Lord came to Abraham in a vision. Today, the Word of the Lord comes to us through the Church, the priests, the Church Sacraments, Tradition, and through the readings of the Holy Scriptures. Therefore, as God came to His loved ones in the days of Holy Bible according to His past Divine Plan, He comes to us today according to His present Divine Plan for us.

As today's First Reading revealed to us, Abraham and Sarah were childless and advanced in age. They were concerned that whatever they possessed, it would be handed down to a slave as their heirs. But, God told Abraham that this was not so. If he was to look up in the sky at all the stars, God promised that his descendants would be as many as those shining lights.

Abraham believed the Word of God that was fulfilled and his faith made him righteous in the eyes of the Lord. It is the same with us. After having received the Sacrament of Baptism through faith in Jesus Christ, if we believe and obey the teachings of the Holy Catholic Church that were instituted by our Lord on earth, then our Sacramental living faith makes us righteous in the eyes of God.

Through the faith of Abraham began the progressive growth of God's chosen people. Once, God's chosen people was limited to the Jewish Nation. But now, since the glorious resurrection of Christ, it has been extended to all the Gentiles of every nation, that including us. Therefore, as God's children, Abraham is our spiritual father.

In a way, all of us are spiritual parents. The priest, when he baptizes an infant or a new convert, a transformation takes place within the person. Being born again, the new convert becomes a new creation of the godly seed. As such, the priest becomes the spiritual father of those that he baptizes.

The parents, when God blesses them with the gift of a new baby or an adopted child, the parents are not just biological or adoptive parents. They are also the spiritual parent of the new baby or the adopted child, being responsible for its upbringing in the living faith.

To remain righteous in the eyes of God, the priest has to obey God by ministering to his new spiritual children and equally, the parents have to obey God by teaching the Word of God to their children. This is a big responsibility, one that protects the holiness of the spiritual family.

By obeying God in our living faith, we are assured of His ongoing blessings. Abraham and Sarah had their child because they believed and obeyed. Because the priests believe and obey, their ministries continue generation after generation, some of the newly baptized spiritual children becoming priests. Because the parents believe and obey, their children will raise their children in the living faith, this increasing the number of spiritual children to the original parents. Everyone is rewarded according to his work.

As Abraham believed in faith and set out for a place where he was to receive his inheritance, not knowing where he was going, we are also called to walk in blind faith, not knowing where God's Divine Will will lead us. Being moved by the Holy Spirit, we answer our calling, doing God's work, and trust in the Lord to provide what is best for our spiritual growth. While we do not know what tomorrow holds for us, our faith, hope and trust tell us that this is the best thing to do to remain in favour with God as holy families.

As Abraham had his faith tested when God asked him to sacrifice his only son Isaac, we are also tested by God. Sometimes God allows things to happen in our lives so He can test our love for Him, our perseverance, our faith in the blessed hope to come or even for the purpose of sanctifying us in the fruit of the Holy Spirit. In the end, it makes us all better children of God, shining holy families.

When listening to today's Reading from the Gospel of Luke, we heard how Mary and Joseph also had to obey God. As the parents of Jesus, they were not exempted from their spiritual obligations to the Jewish law. As you have been commanded by Jesus to present your children to be baptized, Mary and Joseph also had to present Jesus at the Temple to the Lord, offering the necessary sacrifice that was required by law.

As we heard today, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. He was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel. Through the Holy Spirit, it had been revealed to Simeon that he would not die until such time as he had seen the Messiah. Guided to the Temple by the Holy Spirit, Simeon finally experienced God's promise when he saw Mary and Joseph with Baby Jesus. Holding Jesus in his hands, he praised God.

When Simeon told Mary and Joseph what had been revealed to him about baby Jesus, His parents were amazed. Now, in the Temple, there lived an 84 years old widow by the name of Anna who was a prophet. She spent her days worshipping and fasting, praying day and night. At the moment when Mary and Joseph were finished with Simeon, Anna came and began to praise God and to speak about the Child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

As we can appreciate, the experience that Mary and Joseph enjoyed by the presences of Simeon and Anna were blessings of God. In the same way, we as spiritual parents are also blessed by God. Our experiences may not be as outstanding as the ones enjoyed by Mary and Joseph. Nevertheless, we are still blessed in many ways through our spiritual children.

If we are to open our hearts, our eyes and our ears, surely, the Holy Spirit will guide us regarding the need of our spiritual children. When we see a child that has a God given talent in music, we are to encourage this talent for the glory of God. When we are told by someone to start teaching our children how to pray at an early age, we should view this as someone who is speaking as God's instrument to ensure that we will have holy children. In many ways, the Holy Spirit moves daily in our lives, sometimes even speaking through our children for our own spiritual benefit. We should always keep our hearts, our eyes and our ears open!

United in respect and love, as family members, we should all strive to be holy children of God who live in holy families. As Mary and Joseph, Abraham and Sirah, all placed their faith in the Lord God, we also should place our faith in the Lord God. For it is He who is the provider of all good things.

Today, the Lord God reminded us that He loves us. He reminded us that He wants us to be holy families, living by the example of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Through today's readings, the Lord God reminded us that He blesses those who obey Him and live their faith in Christ.

May God's Words be sealed in our hearts so we may never forget our spiritual responsibility towards others, our loved ones, our relatives, our neighbours, our co-workers, and even the strangers, so we may all share in the joy of being holy families in Christ.

Prayers and Reflection

Lord Jesus, you are my hope and my life. May I never cease to place all my trust in you. Fill me with the joy and strength of the Holy Spirit that I may boldly point others to your saving presence and words of eternal life.

 Jesus, you were a small child in your Mother’s arms. You were a baby who needed the protection of Joseph. You felt their goodness and love. Today I want to celebrate this love of your family. I want to enter into this love and bring it also to my own family. I believe and trust that you will help me in this.

 Lord, thank you for sanctifying family life by your presence. I want to discover you more in my family and those around me. Help me to accompany my loved ones in their moments of both joy and sorrow. You are with us, Lord. Help us to be your apostles.

 Do you know the favor of the Lord?
Do you know the favor of the Lord? After Jesus' birth, Mary fulfills the Jewish right of purification after childbirth. Since she could not afford the customary offering of a lamb, she gives instead two pigeons as an offering of the poor. This rite, along with circumcision and the redemption of the first-born point to the fact that children are gifts from God. Jesus was born in an ordinary home where there were no luxuries. Like all godly parents, Mary and Joseph raised their son in the fear and wisdom of God. He, in turn, was obedient to them and grew in wisdom and grace. The Lord's favor is with those who listen to his word with trust and obedience. Do you know the joy of submission to God? And do you seek to pass on the faith and to help the young grow in wisdom and maturity?
The Holy Spirit reveals the presence of the Savior of the world
What is the significance of Simeon's encounter with the baby Jesus and his mother in the temple? Simeon was a just and devout man who was very much in tune with the Holy Spirit. He believed that the Lord would return to his temple and renew his chosen people. The Holy Spirit also revealed to him that the Messiah and King of Israel would also bring salvation to the Gentile nations. When Joseph and Mary presented the baby Jesus in the temple, Simeon immediately recognized this humble child of Bethlehem as the fulfillment of all the messianic prophecies, hopes, and prayers. Inspired by the Holy Spirit he prophesied that Jesus was to be "a revealing light to the Gentiles". The Holy Spirit reveals the presence of the Lord to those who are receptive and eager to receive him. Do you recognize the indwelling presence of the Lord with you?
The 'new temple' of God's presence in the world
Jesus is the new temple (John 1:14; 2:19-22). In the Old Testament God manifested his presence in the "pillar of cloud" by day and the "pillar of fire" by night as he led them through the wilderness. God's glory visibly came to dwell over the ark and the tabernacle (Exodus 40:34-38). When the first temple was built in Jerusalem God's glory came to rest there (1 Kings 8). After the first temple was destroyed, Ezekiel saw God's glory leave it (Ezekiel 10). But God promised one day to fill it with even greater glory (Haggai 2:1-9; Zechariah 8-9). That promise is fulfilled when the "King of Glory" himself comes to his temple (Psalm 24:7-10; Malachi 3:1). Through Jesus' coming in the flesh and through his saving death, resurrection, and ascension we are made living temples of his Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). Ask the Lord to renew your faith in the indwelling presence of his Spirit within you. And give him thanks and praise for coming to make his home with you.
Mary receives both a crown of joy and a cross of sorrow
Simeon blessed Mary and Joseph and he prophesied to Mary about the destiny of this child and the suffering she would undergo for his sake. There is a certain paradox for those blessed by the Lord. Mary was given the blessedness of being the mother of the Son of God. That blessedness also would become a sword which pierced her heart as her Son died upon the cross. She received both a crown of joy and a cross of sorrow. But her joy was not diminished by her sorrow because it was fueled by her faith, hope, and trust in God and his promises. Jesus promised his disciples that "no one will take your joy from you" (John 16:22). The Lord gives us a supernatural joy which enables us to bear any sorrow or pain and which neither life nor death can take way. Do you know the peace and joy of a life surrendered to God with faith and trust?
The Holy Spirit renews our hope in the promise of God
Simeon was not alone in recognizing the Lord's presence in the temple. Anna, too, was filled with the Holy Spirit. She was found daily in the temple, attending to the Lord in prayer and speaking prophetically to others about God's promise to send a redeemer. Supernatural hope grows with prayer and age! Anna was pre-eminently a woman of great hope and expectation that God would fulfill all his promises. She is a model of godliness to all believers as we advance in age.
Advancing age and the disappointments of life can easily make us cynical and hopeless if we do not have our hope rightly placed. Anna's hope in God and his promises grew with age. She never ceased to worship God in faith and to pray with hope. Her hope and faith in God's promises fueled her indomitable zeal and fervor in prayer and service of God's people.
Our hope is anchored in God's everlasting kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy
What do you hope for? The hope which God places in our heart is the desire for the kingdom of heaven and everlasting life and happiness with our heavenly Father. The Lord Jesus has won for us a kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17). The Holy Spirit gives hope to all who place their trust in the promises of God. God never fails because his promises are true and he is faithful. The hope which God places within us through the gift of the Spirit enables us to persevere with confident trust in God even in the face of trails, setbacks, and challenges that may come our way.
Is there anything holding you back from giving God your unqualified trust and submission to his will for your life? Allow the Lord Jesus to flood your heart with his peace, joy, and love. And offer to God everything you have and desire - your life, family, friends, health, honor, wealth, and future. If you seek his kingdom first he will give you everything you need to know, love, and serve him now and enjoy him forever.

Sunday, 31 December 2017 The Holy Family - Feast

Book of Genesis 15:1-6.21:1-3.
The word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: "Fear not, Abram! I am your shield; I will make your reward very great."
But Abram said, "O Lord GOD, what good will your gifts be, if I keep on being childless and have as my heir the steward of my house, Eliezer?"
Abram continued, "See, you have given me no offspring, and so one of my servants will be my heir."
Then the word of the LORD came to him: "No, that one shall not be your heir; your own issue shall be your heir."
He took him outside and said: "Look up at the sky and count the stars, if you can. Just so," he added, "shall your descendants be."
Abram put his faith in the LORD, who credited it to him as an act of righteousness.
The LORD took note of Sarah as he had said he would; he did for her as he had promised.
Sarah became pregnant and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time that God had stated.
Abraham gave the name Isaac to this son of his whom Sarah bore him.

Psalms 105(104):1b-2.3-4.5-6.8-9.
Give thanks to the LORD, invoke his name; make known among the peoples his deeds!
Sing to him, sing his praise,
proclaim all his wondrous deeds.

Glory in his holy name;
rejoice, O hearts that seek the LORD!
Look to the LORD in his strength;

seek to serve him constantly.
Recall the wondrous deeds that he has wrought,
his portents, and the judgments he has uttered.

You descendants of Abraham, his servants,
sons of Jacob, his chosen ones!
He remembers forever his covenant

which he made binding for a thousand generations.
Which he entered into with Abraham
and by his oath to Isaac.

Letter to the Hebrews 11:8.11-12.17-19.
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; he went out, not knowing where he was to go.
By faith he received power to generate, even though he was past the normal age--and Sarah herself was sterile--for he thought that the one who had made the promise was trustworthy.
So it was that there came forth from one man, himself as good as dead, descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sands on the seashore.
By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was ready to offer his only son,
of whom it was said, "Through Isaac descendants shall bear your name."
He reasoned that God was able to raise even from the dead, and he received Isaac back as a symbol.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 2:22-40.
When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, Mary and Joseph took Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord,
just as it is written in the law of the Lord, "Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,"
and to offer the sacrifice of "a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons," in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.
Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the holy Spirit was upon him.
It had been revealed to him by the holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Messiah of the Lord.
He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him,
he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying:
Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word,
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you prepared in sight of all the peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel."
The child's father and mother were amazed at what was said about him;
and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, "Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted
(and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed."
There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage,
and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.
And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.
When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth.
The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Prayers and Reflection

Lord our God, with the birth of your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, your glory breaks on the world. As we celebrate his first coming, give us a foretaste of the joy that you will grant us when the fullness of his glory has filled the earth.

Lord, thank you for this Christmas day. I believe that you became a little child to redeem me and show me the Father’s love. I love you. Your birth shows the depth of your love for me. I choose to recommit myself today to be a Christian in love with you.

Jesus, thank you for this Christmas day. I know it may be busy, but I also know it is very beautiful. It is beautiful because you are here, Lord. Thank you for being here this Christmas day. I want to love you as Mary did. I want to bring your grace and glory to those around me.

Have you read the news today?
Have you read the news today - the "good news" of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and son of Mary who was born for us and for our salvation. The word gospel literally means good news! Jesus' birth in Bethlehem fulfilled the prophecy that the Messiah would descend from David and be born in David's city, Bethlehem (Isaiah 9:6-7, 11:1-2; Micah 5:2-4).
The first to hear the good news of the savior's birth were not the rulers and religious leaders of Israel who were robed in riches and power. The angels first came to those who were humble and ready to receive the newborn king who was born in poverty and was now lying in a manger made for animals. Just as God had chosen and anointed David, a lowly shepherd of Bethlehem to become the shepherd king of Israel, so Jesus, likewise chose the path of humility and lowliness in coming to Israel as the good shepherd king who would lay down his life for their sake and salvation. After the angels had sung their hymn of glory in the presence of the shepherds, the shepherds made haste to adore the newborn king and sing their hymn of glory as well.
Many of the early church fathers have written hymns and homilies in praise of the Incarnation. John the Monk, an 8th century writer, in his Hymn of the Nativity, sings of the great exchange in the mystery and wonder of the Incarnation - God becoming man in order to bring man to heaven:
Heaven and earth are united today, for Christ is born! Today God has come upon earth, and humankind gone up to heaven. Today, for the sake of humankind, the invisible one is seen in the flesh. Therefore let us glorify him and cry aloud: glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace bestowed by your coming, Savior: glory to you! Today in Bethlehem, I hear the angels: glory to God in the highest! Glory to him whose good pleasure it was that there be peace on earth! The Virgin is now more spacious than the heavens. Light has shone on those in darkness, exalting the lowly who sing like the angels: Glory to God in the highest! Beholding him [Adam] who was in God’s image and likeness fallen through transgression, Jesus bowed the heavens and came down, without change taking up his dwelling in a virgin womb, that he might refashion Adam fallen in corruption, and crying out: glory to your epiphany, my Savior and my God! [Stichera (hymn) of the Nativity of the Lord]
Why was it necessary for the Word of God to become flesh? We needed a savior who could reconcile us with God. Throughout the ages Christians have professed the ancient Nicene Creed: "He became man for our sake and for the sake of our salvation." The eternal Word became flesh for us so he could offer his life as an atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world through the shedding of his blood on the cross. The Word became flesh to show us the infinite love and tender mercy of God for us sinners. 

In the feast of Christmas we celebrate present realities - Jesus Christ our redeemer who reigns in heaven and who also lives and reigns in our hearts through the gift and working of the Holy Spirit. And we commemorate past events - the birth of the newborn Messiah King and his manifestation to Israel and to the gentile nations. We thank and bless God for the way in which he has saved us from the power of sin and the curse of death and destruction by sending his son to ransom us and give us pardon and abundant life through the gift and working of the Holy Spirit. Today we celebrate the birthday of our King and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
God wants to fill our hearts anew with joy and gratitude for the greatest gift he could possibly give us - his beloved Son Jesus. What can we give thanks for in this great feast of the Incarnation? We can praise and thank God our Father for the fact that the Son of God freely and joyfully assumed a human nature in order to accomplish our salvation in it. Jesus came to release the captives from slavery to sin and to open the gates of paradise once again. This day the Holy Spirit invites us to make haste - as the shepherds of Bethlehem did - to adore Jesus our King and Messiah. The Lord Jesus Christ is our eternal good shepherd who guides and cares for us unceasingly and who gives us abundant everlasting life and union with the triune God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
This day the whole community of heaven joins with all believers of good will on earth in a jubilant song of praise for the good news proclaimed by the angels on Christmas eve: Behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people, for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:10-11).
The joy of Christmas is not for a day or a season. It is an eternal joy, a joy that no one can take from us because it is the joy of Jesus Christ himself made present in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who dwells within us (see Romans 5:2-5). The Lord gives us a supernatural joy which no pain nor sorrow can diminish, and which neither life nor death can take away. Do you know the joy of your salvation in Jesus Christ?

Christmas (Mass of the day)

Image result for christmas religious

Book of Isaiah 52:7-10.
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings glad tidings, Announcing peace, bearing good news, announcing salvation, and saying to Zion, "Your God is King!"
Hark! Your watchmen raise a cry, together they shout for joy, For they see directly, before their eyes, the LORD restoring Zion.
Break out together in song, O ruins of Jerusalem! For the LORD comforts his people, he redeems Jerusalem.
The LORD has bared his holy arm in the sight of all the nations; All the ends of the earth will behold the salvation of our God.

Psalms 98(97):1.2-3ab.3cd-4.5-6.
Sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done wondrous deeds;
His right hand has won victory for him,
his holy arm.

The LORD has made his salvation known:
in the sight of the nations he has revealed his justice.
He has remembered his kindness and his faithfulness
toward the house of Israel.

All the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation by our God.
Sing joyfully to the LORD, all you lands;
break into song; sing praise.

Sing praise to the LORD with the harp,
with the harp and melodious song.
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
sing joyfully before the King, the LORD.

Letter to the Hebrews 1:1-6.
Brothers and sisters: In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets;
in these last days, he spoke to us through a son, whom he made heir of all things and through whom he created the universe,
who is the refulgence of his glory, the very imprint of his being, and who sustains all things by his mighty word. When he had accomplished purification from sins, he took his seat at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
as far superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
For to which of the angels did God ever say: "You are my son; this day I have begotten you"? Or again: "I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me"?
And again, when he leads the first-born into the world, he says: "Let all the angels of God worship him."

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint 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 to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be
through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race;
the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
A man named John was sent from God.
He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.
He was not the light, but 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 to be through him, but the world did not know him.
He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him.
But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name,
who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man's decision but of God.
And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father's only Son, full of grace and truth.
John testified to him and cried out, saying, "This was he of whom I said, 'The one who is coming after me ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.'"
From his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace,
because while the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
No one has ever seen God. The only Son, God, who is at the Father's side, has revealed him.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Homily for Today

Welcome my brothers and sisters in Jesus to today's celebration of the Holy Mass that commemorates the Fourth Sunday of Advent. In three days, we will unite again to celebrate the coming of the Light of God into the world. Today, we will review the fulfillment of God's promise of the coming Heavenly Kingdom through Christ. Of His Kingdom there will be no end.

Beginning with today's First Reading [2 Sam. 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16] from the Second Book of Samuel, we heard that when David was king over the Jewish people, God had brought peace to his land. Through King David, God had delivered the nation from all its enemies. 

In appreciation for the greatness of the Lord God's victory over His enemies, king David went to the prophet Nathan, expressing his concern that while he was living in a beautiful wooden house of cedar, the Lord God dwelled in a tent. Now, a tent might have been suitable for God when His people were moving around because of persecution. But now that their home had been established and their victory had been secured, surely, God deserved something better than a tent.

Hearing king David's concern for a dwelling place for God, the prophet Nathan told him that God was with him. As such, he should do whatever his heart calls him to do so God may have his rightful place among His people. But, God had other plans! That night, He spoke to Nathan, telling him to give a message to His servant king David.

In a way, God's words went like this: "Oh yea, are you, king David really going to build a house for Me, your God, to live in? Who took you from the field where you were a shepherd who followed the sheep to place you as a prince over Israel? Have I not been with you everywhere you went? Did I not destroy your enemies before your eyes?"

What God was implying was that no human being could build a house that could hold God? A house is not good enough. An eternal Kingdom is better. And no one but God could build an eternal Kingdom!

Considering king David's love for God and his righteous heart that desired to provide the best for the Lord, God made a promise to king David.

In simple words, God said, "I will raise your name like the name of the great prophets so it will be remembered forever. I will personally select a place for My people and I will firmly establish them so they may live in their own place. No one will ever force them to move or oppress them again as has been happening since the days when judges were appointed over the people. The people will find rest from their enemies."

God continued by saying that He would bless king David with children. And after king David has died, from his offspring, God would establish His Kingdom.

At this point, it is important to note that God is referring to someone who will descend from king David. The Kingdom that will be established will be "His" Kingdom (with a capital H). God continued by saying that He would be a Father to Him, and He shall be a Son to Him. To clarify this, the Heavenly Father was talking about being a Father to Jesus and Jesus being a Son to Him.

God finished by saying that through Him, through Jesus, king David's family tree and His Kingdom shall be remembered forever by the Lord. The throne of king David shall be established forever. 

Keeping in mind other contents of the Holy Scriptures, when we summarize what God had just said, we heard of His promise that at the coming of Jesus, God would establish His Heavenly Kingdom. The Kingdom would be establish at that time, not later in time, not 1,000 years later or 2,000 years later, but at the time of the coming of Jesus as the Messiah, as God incarnated.

During today's Second Reading [Rom. 16:25-27] from the Book of Romans, we heard Saint Paul tell us that God is able to strengthen us in the Spirit of Truth. Through the words (the gospel) of St. Paul, God makes known to us His mysteries. God spiritually disposes the minds of the believers who hear the proclamation of Jesus, He Who revealed God's mystery that was kept secret for centuries and which has now been revealed. This knowledge and understanding of the Divine wisdom of God's mysteries through Christ was made known to all (the Gentiles) according to the Divine Will of God, to bring everyone in obedience to God through faith in Christ. For the eternal glory belongs to Jesus Christ.

In other words, St. Paul was saying, listen to and obey the words of Jesus Christ. For through Jesus, the salvation of mankind has come to all, the Jewish nation and the Gentiles. The Kingdom of God has come on earth as it is in Heaven. It is not a Kingdom that can be seen but rather a spiritual Kingdom. [Jn. 18:36] God's Kingdom is among you. [Lk. 17:20-1] Through Jesus, you will find the complete fulfillment of God's promises to the prophets.
[In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, Christ, the Son of God made man, is the Father's one, perfect, and unsurpassable Word. In him he has said everything; there will be no other word than this one. (Catholic Catechism # 65)]
How did all this come to pass? Today's last Reading from the Gospel of Luke [Lk. 1:26-38] answers that question.

God sent an angel called Gabriel to a small town in Galilee called Nazareth. The angel appeared to a virgin called Mary who was engaged to be married to Joseph, a descendant of the house of David.

According to the Rheims, 1582 A.D. English translation of the Latin Vulgate Version of the Holy Bible, the angel said to Mary, "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women." [Lk. 1:18] Imagine an angel appearing to you and saying those words. Surely, you will answer, "What?" Being human as we are, but free from all traces of sins, the Blessed Virgin Mary was also confused and wondered what kind of greeting she was receiving. 

Then the angel said to Mary, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God." To find "favour with God' means that the grace of God is with you. It also means that God has chosen you. Continuing, the angel said, "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." 

In response to the words of the angel Gabriel, Mary said, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" By now, the Blessed Virgin Mary must have really been confused. An angel appeared to her. He tells her that she will have a Son when she is a virgin. He tell her that her Son will inherit the throne of David when the Jewish people no longer has any kings ruling over them. And he tells her that her Son's Kingdom will be eternal. In other words, thinking worldly, it was like saying that the Son of Mary would never die so that He could rule eternally over His Kingdom.

After all, were the people of the Jewish nation not waiting for a worldly Kingdom to come? That was their understanding of God's prophetic Words. God never said that He would establish an earthly Kingdom but rather an eternal Kingdom.

To add to all these impossibilities, the angel said to Mary that she would become pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit and that her Son will be holy, He being the Son of God.

As a sign to the Blessed Virgin Mary that all this was truthful, the angel announced that her cousin Elizabeth who was in her old age would also conceive a son, she presently being six months pregnant.

Hoping against all hopes, the Blessed Virgin Mary, submitted herself to the Divine Will of God and answered, "Here I am, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word." After all nothing was impossible to Almighty God. The Blessed Virgin Mary, as a young Jewish girl, was very familiar with the Scriptures. She knew of all the great things that God had done for her people, how He freed them from slavery, how He divided the Red Sea, how He brought them to the Promised Land, etc...

Then the angel departed.

Today's Readings revealed to us that there will be no end to the Kingdom of Jesus. In three days, Christmas Day will descend upon us. On that day, we will commemorate the arrival of Jesus in the world as the promised Messiah to establish His Divine Kingdom in fulfillment of God's promises.

As we continue to celebrate the Holy Mass, let us remember that the Lord Jesus is with us, here and now, having established His spiritual Kingdom on earth on the Day of Pentecost. May we remember that by partaking in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist in the visible Body of Christ, we are participating in a great feast that is taking place in the invisible Kingdom of God on earth.

Prayer and Reflection for Today

Heavenly Father, you offer us abundant grace, mercy, and forgiveness through your Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. Help me to live a grace-filled life as Mary did by believing in your promises and by giving you my unqualified 'yes' to your will and plan for my life. 

Heavenly Father, you have given Mary to us as our Blessed Mother. Thank you. I know that she constantly intercedes on our behalf and that you listen to her prayer. I am confident in your mercy and love. You are guiding me home to spend eternity with you. I place all my trust in you. I offer you my weak, but grateful love in return.

Lord, I have remembered through this meditation that you are the one guiding my life and all of history. I need to be mindful that you always intend good for me, even if it is painful and purifying. So I should never be afraid of your hand in my life.  I believe and trust in you my Lord, but increase my faith, hope and love.

Reflection for Today;

Does the proclamation of the Gospel fill you with joy and hope?
Does the proclamation of the Gospel message fill you with joy and hope? When the Lord comes to redeem his people he fills us with his Holy Spirit, the source of our joy and hope in the promises of God When God made a covenant with David as King over Israel he made a promise to David and to his descendants that David's dynasty would endure forever through the coming of the Messiah King (2 Samuel 7:16). This King would establish an everlasting kingdom of peace and security for his people. We often think of peace as the absence of trouble. The peace which the Messiah brings cancels the debt of sin and restores our broken relationship with God our heavenly Father.
The new era of salvation begins with the conception and birth of Jesus
We see the fulfillment of God's unfolding plan of redemption in the events leading up to the Incarnation, the birth of the Messiah King. The new era of salvation begins with the miraculous conception of Jesus in the womb of Mary. This child to be born is conceived by the gracious action of the Holy Spirit upon Mary, who finds favor with God (Luke 1:28). This child will be "great" and "Son of the Most High" and "King," and his name shall be called "Jesus" (Luke 1:31-32), which means "the Lord saves." "He will save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21). The angel repeats to Mary, the daughter of the house of David, the promise made to King David: "The Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end" (2 Samuel 7:12-16, Isaiah 9:6-7, Luke 1:32-33).
Mary is a true hearer of the Word of God
How does Mary respond to the word of God delivered by the angel Gabriel? She knows she is hearing something beyond human capability. It will surely take a miracle which surpasses all that God has done previously. Her question, "how shall this be, since I have no husband" is not prompted by doubt or skepticism, but by wonderment! She is a true hearer of the Word and she immediately responds with faith and trust.
Mary's prompt response of "yes" to the divine message is a model of faith for all believers. Mary believed God's promises even when they seemed impossible. She was full of grace because she trusted that what God said was true and would be fulfilled. She was willing and eager to do God's will, even if it seemed difficult or costly. Mary is the "mother of God" because God becomes incarnate when he takes on flesh in her womb. When we pray the Nicene Creed we state our confession of faith in this great mystery: "For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven; by the power of the Holy Spirit, he became incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and was made man".
God gives us the grace to say "yes" to his will and to his transforming work in our lives 
What is the key that unlocks the power and grace of God’s kingdom in our personal lives? Faith and obedience for sure! God gives us grace and he expects us to respond with the same willing obedience and heartfelt trust as Mary did. When God commands he also gives the help and means to respond. We can either yield to his grace or resist and go our own way. Do you believe in God's promises and do you yield to his grace?

Fourth Sunday of Advent

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2nd book of 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?
"Now then, speak thus to my servant David, 'The LORD of hosts has this to say: 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. And if he does wrong, I will correct him with the rod of men and with human chastisements;
Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever.'"

Psalms 89(88):2-3.4-5.27.29.
The favors of the LORD I will sing forever;
through all generations my mouth shall proclaim your faithfulness.
For you have said, “My kindness is established forever”;
in heaven you have confirmed your faithfulness.

“I have made a covenant with my chosen one,
I have sworn to David my servant:
Forever will I confirm your posterity
and establish your throne for all generations.”

“He shall say of me, 'You are my father,
my God, the Rock, my savior.'
Forever I will maintain my kindness toward him,
and my covenant with him stands firm.”

Letter to the Romans 16:25-27.
Now to him who can strengthen you, according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret for long ages
but now manifested through the prophetic writings and, according to the command of the eternal God, made known to all nations to bring about the obedience of faith,
to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 1:26-38.
In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin's name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said, "Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you."
But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.
Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end."
But Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?"
And the angel said to her in reply, "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 called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;
for nothing will be impossible for God."
Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word." Then the angel departed from her.

Copyright © Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, USCCB 

Commentary of the day : 

Byzantine Liturgy 
Akathist hymn to the Mother of God (7th century) 

“Hail, favored one”

An archangel was sent from heaven to say to the Mother of God: "Rejoice!" And beholding Thee, O Lord, take bodily form, he was amazed and with his bodiless voice he stood crying to her such things as these:

Rejoice, Thou through whom joy will shine forth:
Rejoice, Thou through whom the curse will cease!
Rejoice, recall of fallen Adam:
Rejoice, redemption of the tears of Eve!
Rejoice, height inaccessible to human thought:
Rejoice, depth undiscernible even for the eyes of angels!
Rejoice, for Thou art the throne of the King:
Rejoice, for Thou bearest Him who beareth all!
Rejoice, star who make the Sun appear:
Rejoice, womb of the Divine Incarnation!
Rejoice, Thou through whom creation is renewed:
Rejoice, Thou through whom we worship the Creator!
Rejoice, O Bride Unwedded!

Seeing herself to be chaste, this holy one said boldly to Gabriel: "The marvel of thy speech is difficult for my soul to accept. How canst thou speak of a birth from a seedless conception?" And she cried: "Alleluia!"

Seeking to know knowledge that cannot be known, the Virgin cried to the ministering one: "Tell me, how can a son be born from a chaste womb?" Then he spoke to her in fear, only crying aloud thus:

Rejoice, initiate of God's ineffable will:
Rejoice, assurance of those who pray in silence!
Rejoice, beginning of Christ's miracles:
Rejoice, crown of His dogmas!
Rejoice, heavenly ladder by which God came down:
Rejoice, bridge that conveyest us from earth to heaven!
Rejoice, wonder of angels sounded abroad:
Rejoice, wound of demons bewailed afar!
Rejoice, thou Who ineffably gavest birth to the Light:
Rejoice, thou Who didst reveal Thy secret to none!
Rejoice, thou Who surpassest the knowledge of the wise:
Rejoice, thou Who givest light to the minds of the faithful!
Rejoice, O Bride Unwedded!

The power of the Most High then overshadowed the Virgin for conception, and showed Her fruitful womb as a sweet meadow to all who wish to reap salvation, as they sing: "Alleluia!"

Sunday, December 17, 2017

New Novenas and More

Well a couple of Christmas Novenas are available. One from Prayer More Novenas they are in day 2 so you can catch up quickly and do not forget to participate in their advent retreat!
The second Novena is from EWTN and is a beautiful Novena as well and easy to catch up on!
 Let's take time for these Novenas and prepare for the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. Take care and God Bless!

Homily for Today

May I welcome you all to the Lord's house of Worship on this beautiful day. With the approach of Christmas Day, how appropriate it is for all of us to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour.

When I first read today's First Reading, [Is. 61:1-2a, 10-11] I recognized God's prophetic and symbolic language that was being spoken through the great Prophet Isaiah.

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me." In these Words, we hear those of the Lord Jesus who was sent by God the Father for the salvation of mankind.

"He, God the Father, has sent Jesus to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour."

The Heavenly Father sent His only begotten Son Jesus to bring the good news regarding the approach of the eternal Kingdom. Through Christ, the invisible Kingdom of God was about to be instituted on earth and in Heaven.

The glorious Kingdom of God which Jesus, the King of kings, reigns over at present, had its beginning in Jerusalem when the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples on Pentecost Day. [Lk. 24:18, 33, 47-9; Acts 1:3-4, 2:1-5] The invisible Kingdom of God that has its Divine Throne in Jerusalem is manifested through the Sacraments of the visible Holy Catholic and apostolic Church that has its seat in Rome and that possesses the Keys to the Kingdom of God. Both, the invisible Kingdom of God and the visible Catholic Church form the glorious Mystical Body of Christ that includes all the past and present saints who are found in Heaven and on earth.

Jesus came to proclaim liberty to the captives, to release the prisoners. When Adam chose to disobey God, he fell from the grace of the Lord. Consequently, he and all his descendants inherited the sinful nature. God's Kingdom in the Garden of Eden had been corrupted and taken over by the fallen angel Satan who elevated himself as the present prince of the physical world. To correct this, to free those who were captives of Satan, prisoners of his grip, the Heavenly Father sent His only beloved Son to reclaim the Heavenly Kingdom. As the rightful King of the Divine and eternal Heavenly Kingdom, God reinstated His reign through Christ who is the Lord incarnated.

In God's love, the brokenhearted once more had the opportunity to inherit the Heavenly Kingdom of God through the Sacraments of the holy Catholic Church. Through the Sacrament of Baptism, God's children could now receive the gifts of the new heart and spirit, both being protected by the indwelling Holy Spirit. Through this Sacrament, God's children would be made righteous for all the sins committed prior to their Baptism. This righteousness would be maintained through the Church Sacrament of Reconciliation. Finally, to receive their salvation, God's children would have the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, the Living Bread.

Proclaiming the year of the Lord's favour, we should all rejoice in the Lord. He has provided us with the means to inherit our salvation, not because of our works, but because of His infinite grace. By the grace of God the Father, the power of the Holy Spirit and the sacrifice of Jesus as the perfect Lamb of God, our souls find salvation through the Church Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Holy Eucharist.

On the last day of this world, when will take place the resurrection of all the physical bodies, at the twinkle of an eye, the physical bodies of those of us who are saved will be transformed. Suddenly, we will be changed in the glorious image and likeness of the resurrected Christ.

Indeed, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland and a bride adorns herself with her jewels, God is progressively clothing us with the glorious garments of salvation. He has already covered us with the robe of righteousness through the Sacrament of Confession. And He has already covered us with the robe of eternal life through the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.

As the earth brings forth its shoots and a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, the Lord God is causing righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations. We, God's children from all over the world, are the branches that receive life from the Tree of life, Christ Himself. As new creations who belong to the Kingdom of God, as living stones, we are called to shine as lights in the world. How gracious the Lord has been towards us!

During today's Second Reading, [1 Thess. 5:16-24] we were told to always rejoice, to pray without ceasing, to give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for us. We should always rejoice because God has done great things for us as previously mentioned. We should always pray to secure our daily communion with the Lord God. We should always give thanks because all things come from God for the purpose of our sanctification as His children. We should do this in the Name of Jesus because it is through Christ, the only Mediator between God and man, that we receive our salvation.

Then, we are told not to quench the Spirit. To quench the Spirit means to choke the Holy Spirit to the point that we can no longer hear His inspirations in our hearts. Jesus gave us the indwelling Holy Spirit to sanctify us. Through the Spirit of God, we learn to respect the words of the prophets because in the Holy Scriptures we find the promises of God the Father. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we have the ability to test everything, perceiving what is good so we may hold fast to it. We have the ability to perceive what is evil so we may abstain from it. The Holy Spirit is our Teacher, our Guide, our Comforter, the source of Divine knowledge, understanding and wisdom.

Through the Spirit of the God of peace, it is God Himself who sanctifies us entirely, soul, spirit and body. It is by His power through the Church Sacraments that we keep our soul and body sound and blameless until the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Lord who calls us is faithful and He will keep His promises [Jer. 31:31, 33; Ezek. 11:19-20; 18:31, 36:26-7] as long as we genuinely and persistently strive to walk our living faith in Christ.

During today's Gospel Reading, [Jn. 1:6-8, 19-28]we heard that God had sent John the Baptist as a witness to announce the coming of the Light that is found in Jesus Christ. John the Baptist testified that he was the voice crying in the wilderness, telling all to prepare themselves for the coming of the Lord. Proclaiming a baptism of repentance by water, John testified that the year of the Lord's favour had now arrived.

John also testified that he was not worthy to untie the thong of His sandal of the one who was coming after him. So great was the Divine Presence of the Lord, the King of kings, that John the Baptist felt unworthy to even untie the thong of His sandal. These words echo the spiritual attitude that we should embrace towards the greatness of the Lord Jesus.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, today's heavenly message through the reading of the Holy Scriptures is one of servitude. We are called to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour. In a few days, Christmas Day will arrive upon us. Christmas Day is a special day that commemorates the year of the Lord's favour.

As the Lord God commands us today through the words of the great Prophet Isaiah in the Book of Isaiah, the words of St. Paul in the First Letter to the Thessalonians and the words of John the Baptist in the Gospel of John, we are to prepare ourselves to commemorate with great joy the special year of the Lord's favour. To do so, we must repent of our sins so that we may once more become righteous in the eyes of the Lord at His coming. The Lord God invites each and everyone of us to remember during the next few days to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation so that on Christmas Day, we may receive the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, the Living Bread, our assurance of salvation through Christ. May we all prepare ourselves accordingly so that on Christmas Day, we will all celebrate with great joy in righteousness the year of the Lord's favour.

Prayers and Reflection

Lord Jesus, make me a herald of your word of truth and grace. Help me to be a faithful witness of the joy of the Gospel and to point others to you as John did through his testimony.

 Father in heaven, my heart desires the warmth of your love. My mind is searching for the light of your word. I long for the coming of Christ our Savior. Through this short, intimate encounter with you, I seek to grow in my love for you. You are my strength, my light, my peace, my joy, my life.

 Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of death.

Reflection as always from Kairos please take a look at their site when you get a chance. God Bless!

Do you know the favor of the Lord?
Do you know the favor of the Lord? Every 50 years the people of Israel were commanded to celebrate a Year of Jubilee - a year of favor by the Lord (Leviticus 25:10-12). God did not want his people to forget all the blessings and favors he had shown them over the years. Isaiah prophesied in a year of Jubilee that God would send his anointed one to bring his people back from their time of exile (Isaiah 61). The anointed one would bring good news (the same word as "gospel") - news of freedom for those who were oppressed by sin, darkness, despair, and brokenness (Isaiah 61:1-2).
John humbly recognized that his calling came from God and not from man
When John the Baptist announced the imminent coming of God's Anointed One, the Messiah, the religious leaders questioned his authority to speak so boldly in God's name. They asked him bluntly, "Who are you?" and "What do you say about yourself?" They wanted to know if he was really sent by God. Did he claim to be the Messiah or one of the great prophets who was expected to return and announce the Messiah's arrival (see Malachi 4:5, Deuteronomy 18:15)? John had no doubt and no mistaken identity about his call and mission. In all humility and sincerity he said he was only a voice bidding people to get ready for the arrival of the greatest Ruler of all, God's anointed King and Messiah.
John's identity and our identity is derived from God's Son - Jesus Christ
John the Baptist bridges the Old and New Testaments. He is the last of the Old Testament prophets who points the way to the Messiah. He is the first of the New Testament witnesses and martyrs. He is the herald who prepares the way for Jesus and who announces his mission to the people: Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world! (John 1:29). John saw from a distance what the Messiah would come to accomplish - our redemption from slavery to sin and our adoption as sons and daughters of God, our heavenly Father. Do you recognize who you are in Christ? The Lord Jesus has come to restore us to friendship with God and he has made us citizens of heaven - his everlasting kingdom of peace and justice.
Do you point others to Jesus Christ - the one true Lord and Savior of the world?
John was the greatest of the prophets, yet he lived as a humble and faithful servant of God. He pointed others to Jesus, the true Messiah and Savior of the world. The Christian church from the earliest of times has given John many titles which signify his mission: Witness of the Lord, Trumpet of Heaven, Herald of Christ, Voice of the Word, Precursor of Truth, Friend of the Bridegroom, Crown of the Prophets, Forerunner of the Redeemer, Preparer of Salvation, Light of the Martyrs, and Servant of the Word. Do you point others to Jesus Christ by the example and witness of your life?

Third Sunday of Advent

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Book of Isaiah 61:1-2a.10-11.
The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners,
To announce a year of favor from the LORD and a day of vindication by our God, to comfort all who mourn;
I rejoice heartily in the LORD, in my God is the joy of my soul; For he has clothed me with a robe of salvation, and wrapped me in a mantle of justice, Like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem, like a bride bedecked with her jewels.
As the earth brings forth its plants, and a garden makes its growth spring up, So will the Lord GOD make justice and praise spring up before all the nations.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 1:46-48.49-50.53-54.
Mary said: "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
For he has looked with favor on his lowly servant;
from this day all generations will call me blessed.

The Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.

He has filled the hungry with good things;
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel ,
remembering his promise of mercy,

First Letter to the Thessalonians 5:16-24.
Rejoice always.
Pray without ceasing.
In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.
Do not quench the Spirit.
Do not despise prophetic utterances.
Test everything; retain what is good.
Refrain from every kind of evil.
May the God of peace himself make you perfectly holy and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body, be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The one who calls you is faithful, and he will also accomplish it.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 1:6-8.19-28.
A man named John was sent from God.
He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.
He was not the light, but came to testify to the light.
And this is the testimony of John. When the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites (to him) to ask him, "Who are you?"
he admitted and did not deny it, but admitted, "I am not the Messiah."
So they asked him, "What are you then? Are you Elijah?" And he said, "I am not." "Are you the Prophet?" He answered, "No."
So they said to him, "Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us? What do you have to say for yourself?"
He said: "I am 'the voice of one crying out in the desert, "Make straight the way of the Lord,"' as Isaiah the prophet said."
Some Pharisees were also sent.
They asked him, "Why then do you baptize if you are not the Messiah or Elijah or the Prophet?"
John answered them, "I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize,
the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie."
This happened in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.