Reading I 1 Samuel 1:20-22, 24-28 - Samuel's birth
Reading II 1 John 3:1-2,21-24 - We are children of God
Gospel Luke 2:41-52 - The boy Jesus in the Temple
Key Passage Jesus went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. (Luke 2:51a)
Adults: How would you have reacted if you were Mary and Joseph finding Jesus in the Temple?
Kids: What do you think it was like for Jesus to be in the Temple for three days without his parents?READ MORE
Twelve is an awkward age. An adolescent feels grown up in some ways, but is still immature in many others. The Gospel of today offers a glimpse into Jesus’ life at this age. As a devout Jewish family, Joseph and Mary make their annual pilgrimage to the temple in Jerusalem. Jesus obediently accompanies them. But in the temple, in his “Father’s house,” he is sidetracked. He stays behind to engage with the teachers and priests. When his parents finally find him, Mary tells him how worried they were and asks why he stayed behind. Jesus explains why he stayed in the temple all along. Though they do not understand his response, Mary and Joseph do not criticize or punish their son. Though he likely wanted to continue to debate with the scholars in his Father’s house, Jesus chose to obey and return with them to Nazareth. The family is able to resolve this awkward and potentially disagreeable situation by respecting each other and showing each other care and concern. To use Saint Paul’s words, they have put on “heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another” (Colossians 3:12-13). They have “put on love, that is, the bond of perfection” (3:14).
How can the Holy Family be a model for your family?READ MORE
January 1 is New Year’s Day to most of the world, but in the Catholic Church it is also the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. This is a relatively new title for the day. Older Catholics will remember that we used to call January 1 the Feast of the Circumcision.
Circumcision may not seem like much to have a feast about. But the day commemorated an event in the life of Jesus, just as we have days for his conception, birth, presentation in the temple, baptism, transfiguration, death, and resurrection. Luke specifically mentions the circumcision of Jesus (2:21). It took place, according to the custom, on the eighth day after his birth. That is why the feast commemorating the event fell on the eighth day of Christmas. It just happened to be New Year’s Day. The same passage from Luke says Jesus then received his name. That is why the old calendar celebrated the Most Holy Name of Jesus on the Sunday between the feasts of the Circumcision and the Epiphany. (If no Sunday intervened, the feast occurred on January 2.)READ MORE
Too small. Too young. Too immature. God has a habit of choosing people whom others find wanting. Micah tells of an entire town, Bethlehem, that was judged “too small to be among the clans of Judah” (Micah 5:1). Though it was “O little town of Bethlehem,” God chose it for the birthplace of our Lord. After all, it was also the birthplace of David, immature himself, the youngest of Jesse’s sons, overlooked by his own father. But he became king and from his line was born the Savior of the world. No observer in Judah would have guessed that Mary and Elizabeth—one young and a virgin, the other old and thought to be barren—would be chosen to bear the Son of God and his herald. But Mary and Elizabeth accepted their roles immediately and recognized God’s work in each other. “Blessed are you among women,” Elizabeth immediately greets Mary, “and blessed is the fruit of your womb” (Luke 1:42). Blessed indeed, for as Hebrews says, “we have been consecrated through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10). Truly, “now his greatness shall reach to the ends of the earth” (Micah 5:3).
As we approach Christmas, can you find God’s grace in someone you’ve overlooked?READ MORE
Number of Candles: The Advent Wreath traditionally holds four candles which are lit, one at a time, on each of the four Sundays of the Advent season. Each candle represents 1,000 years. Added together, the four candles symbolize the 4,000 years that humanity waited for the world’s Savior—from Adam and Eve to Jesus, whose birth was foretold in the Old Testament. Some Advent wreath traditions also include a fifth white “Christ” candle, symbolizing purity, that is lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Many circular wreaths can incorporate a white candle by adding a pillar candle to the wreath center.
The 4th Sunday of Advent symbolizes Peace with the “Angel’s Candle” reminding us of the message of the angels: “Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men.”
Prayer for the fourth week of Advent: God of our longing, be with us during these final days of Advent. May we walk in the light of Your love as we await the coming of Jesus, Your Son, the One Who is and Who is to come, in Your name we pray. Amen.READ MORE
Reading I Micah 5:1-4a - Restoration through the messiah
Reading II Hebrews 10:5-10 - The second covenant
Gospel Luke 1:39-45 - The visit to Elizabeth
Key Passage Elizabeth said, “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.” (Luke 1:45)
Adults: When was it hardest for you to trust in God's plan for you, as Mary did? What can help you at such times?
Kids: When is it hardest for you to obey a parent or teacher? What can help you obey with more trust?READ MORE
Reading I Zephaniah 3:14-18a - Promise of a savior
Reading II Philippians 4:4-7 - Joy and peace
Gospel Luke 3:10-18 - John calls the people to justice
Key Passage Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say,Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. (Philippians 4:4–5)
Adults: What might John the Baptist challenge you to do differently in your life?
Kids: Do you have extras that you can share with others this week?READ MORE
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel...we sing during Advent, pleading for God to come to us, for “Emmanuel” means “God with us.” But today’s readings deliver a more joyful message: God is already here! “The Lord, your God, is in your midst,” we hear in the first reading, “a mighty savior” (Zephaniah 3:17). “Among you is the great and Holy One of Israel,” we sing in the responsorial psalm (Isaiah 12:6). “The Lord is near,” Paul testifies (Philippians 4:5). In the Gospel, John the Baptist attests that the one to follow is greater than he, for “he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Luke 3:16). As baptized Christians, we have already received the Holy Spirit. God is already with us. So we can already witness to God’s presence, and we do this through our actions. “What should we do?” John is asked three times in the Gospel. He tells inquirers to share with those in need, to treat others fairly, and to be content with what they have. Paul sums it up when he tells the Philippians to make their kindness known to all. Truly, we rejoice today. God is here, brought into our midst in our kindness to our brothers and sisters in need.
What can you do this week to bring God into the world?READ MORE
The Third Sunday of Advent is called Gaudete (Rejoice) Sunday. The term Gaudete refers to the first word of the Entrance Antiphon, "Rejoice". Rose vestments are worn to emphasize our joy that Christmas is near. On this day we celebrate that our waiting for the birth of Jesus on Christmas day is almost over. Rose is a liturgical color that is used to signify joy, so we light the single pink candle on the third Sunday of Advent. The 3rd Sunday of Advent symbolizes Joy with the “Shepherd’s Candle” reminding us of the Joy the world experienced at the coming birth of Jesus.
December 17 marks the beginning of the O Antiphons, the seven jewels of our liturgy, dating back to the fourth century, one for each day until Christmas Eve. These antiphons address Christ with seven magnificent Messianic titles, based on the Old Testament prophecies and types of Christ. The Church recalls the variety of the ills of man before the coming of the Redeemer.
Prayer for the third week of Advent: “Incline your ear to our prayers, O Lord, and make bright the darkness of our minds by the grace of your visitation. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.”
Reading I Baruch 5:1-9 - Jerusalem consoled
Reading II Philippians 1:4-6, 8-11 - Gratitude and hope
Gospel Luke 3:1-6 - John the Baptist
Key Passage “John went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” (Luke 3:3)
Adults: In what areas of your life do you need God's forgiveness right now? What Advent practice would assist you in expressing your repentance?
Kids: What do you want to ask God to forgive you for? What can you do during Advent to show you are sorry?READ MORE
We are given Advent each year as a time to prepare. But the readings today remind us that it is also a time of hope and promise. Listen to the first reading: “Jerusalem, take off your robe of mourning and misery; put on the splendor of glory” (Baruch 5:1). Between this sentence and the next, Baruch used “glory” and “splendor” five times. He imagines looking over Jerusalem and seeing mountains laid low, deserts populated with trees, and the faithful streaming in. The start of John the Baptist’s ministry echoes a similar trek: the Exodus from Egypt. John went into the desert where the word of God came to him. Leaving the desert, he crossed over the Jordan River. Crossing over from slavery to freedom in the Exodus was a sign of God’s providence. Crossing over from sin to forgiveness through repentance became a sign of John’s baptism. Advent is the time to prepare. Heed Isaiah’s words, John’s words: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths” (Luke 3:4). Let us answer this call, so that with God’s grace we can cross over from desolation to salvation.
How can you make straight the paths for Jesus’ coming?READ MORE
We tend to think of Advent as a time to prepare for Christ’s coming as a baby in a manger, the “just shoot” foretold by prophets like Jeremiah in the first reading. But today’s Gospel reminds us that it is also time to prepare for a different coming of the Lord: his return at the end of time. Jesus speaks of frightful events that will occur at that time, warning his disciples to be vigilant, not to let “the anxieties of daily life” distract them (Luke 21:34). How appropriately timed, for over the next few weeks we will face countless sources of anxiety as we prepare for Christmas. These anxieties can easily overwhelm us and make it difficult, if not impossible, to prepare for Christ’s coming in any way. Let us heed what Saint Paul wrote when exhorting the Thessalonians to prepare for Christ’s return: “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all” (1 Thessalonians 3:12). If we increase in love for other, we prepare ourselves for Christ’s coming into the world, whether two thousand years ago, at the end of time, or right now, in our hearts.
How can you show your love for others this Advent?READ MORE
Reading I Jeremiah 33:14-16 Restoration of Jerusalem
Reading II 1 Thess. 3:12–4:2 Plea for growth in holiness
Gospel Luke 21:25-28, 34-36 Coming of the son of man
Key Passage Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man. (Luke 21:36)
Adults: What have been the strengths of your prayer life? What habit of prayer could you strengthen during this Advent season?
Kids: What prayers will you say each day and each week during Advent?READ MORE
Normally when we hear this selection from John’s Gospel it’s on Good Friday in the lengthy account of the Passion of Our Lord. When just these few verses are excerpted—featuring Pilate’s initial questioning of Jesus—we really get a sense of how obsessed Pilate is with the possibility that Jesus is a king. It is a tendency among political leaders, no matter the size of their “kingdom,” to put their highest priority on retaining their power. Jesus was said to be a king and so Pilate saw him as a potential threat to his power. But Pilate misunderstood. As Jesus tells Pilate, he did not come to seize power. He came instead to testify to the truth. This is what distinguishes God’s kingdom from any kingdom of this world. It is not obsessed with power. It does not need to be. “His dominion is an everlasting dominion,” we hear in the first reading (Daniel 7:14). “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” the beginning and the end and everything in between (Revelation 1:8). Every kingdom of this world is temporary; God’s kingdom is eternal.
How can you build God’s kingdom without grasping for power over others?READ MORE
Reading I Daniel 7:13-14 - Daniel's vision of one like the Son of man
Reading II Revelation 1:5-8 - Praise to Jesus Christ
Gospel John 18:33b-37 - The blood and water
Key Passage To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (Revelation: 1:5b–6)
Adults: In what ways is Jesus the ruler of your life?
Kids: How can you show that you honor Jesus as the king of your life?READ MORE
The images that begin today’s Gospel are dramatic and frightening: “the sun will be darkened...the stars will be falling from the sky...the powers in the heavens will be shaken” (Mark 13:24 -25). They echo what we hear from Daniel in the first reading, of “a time unsurpassed in distress” (Daniel 12:1). Many times we may have felt the same way about the world today. Wars, genocide, natural disasters, mass shooting, rising sea levels—sometimes it feels as though the end of the world is right around the corner. But in between the scary images in today’s readings and the warning that no one knows the day or the hour, there is a note of reassurance. The Son of Man will come in power and glory, overcoming the darkness, overcoming evil. Whatever horrible things may be happening in the world, Christ our Light is stronger. Jesus Christ, both priest and victim, “offered one sacrifice for sins,“ transcending space and time, conquering sins everywhere and anytime, past, present and future (Hebrews 10:12). We live with the assurance of God’s only Son coming again in glory, for the reign of God will have no end.
How can you bring the light of Christ to the world today?READ MORE
Reading I Daniel 12:1-3 - Daniel's conclusion to the apocalypse
Reading II Hebrews 10:11-14, 18 - Christ's eternal sacrifice
Gospel Mark 13:24-32 - The Second Coming
Key Passage Jesus said, “Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come.” (Mark 13:33)
Adults: What would you be doing differently in your life if you truly believed you would meet Christ soon?
Kids: What would you do for others today if you thought you would not have another chance to do it?READ MORE
Reading I 1 Kings 17:10-16 - Elijah and the widow
Reading II Hebrew 9:24-28 - The sacrifice of Jesus
Gospel Mark 12:38-44 - Hypocrisy of the scribes, and the widow's mite
Key Passage Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” (Mark 12:43–44)
Adults: What are you willing to give out of love for God thatwould be a hardship for you?
Kids: What would you be willing to give up for someoneelse?READ MORE
The readings today provide us with two models of faith and generosity. The widow in the first reading is in dire straits. She and her son have no food but a handful of flour and a little oil. “When we have eaten it, we shall die,” she tells Elijah heartbreakingly (1 Kings 17:12). Yet she will share the last of what she has with this stranger who makes promises on behalf of his foreign god. Elijah has such strong faith in the Lord that he promises this pagan woman that God would make sure that she would not run out of food. The widow’s generosity, sharing the very last of what is keeping her alive, is rewarded. In the Gospel, Jesus lauds the same kind of generosity. Another unnamed widow takes center stage. She gives “all she had, her whole livelihood” to the temple, to the Lord (Mark 12:44). Her faith and generosity are lauded. But the ultimate model of faith and generosity is Jesus. He is faithful to his Father’s will. He gives his very life to save humankind. As we hear in the second reading, “Once for all he has...take(n) away sin by his sacrifice” (Hebrews 9:26).
How are you a model of faith and generosity to others?READ MORE
Today Mark invites us to put ourselves in the shoes of the scribe who asks Jesus, “Which is the first of all the commandments?” (Mark 12:28). As the commandments are instructions of how a faithful person should act, the scribe was basically asking Jesus what one principle above all should guide his actions. Unlike most religious authorities who came to Jesus with questions, he was not trying to trick him or test him or find something that could be used against him. One can tell from the way he responded to Jesus’ answer that he sincerely wanted to know which of the 613 precepts of the Jewish law was paramount. Jesus responds by quoting the passage from Deuteronomy that we hear in the first reading, “You shall love the Lord your God,” as well as Leviticus, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12;30, 31). It was not enough to state just the first. The scribe wanted just one, but he got two. A few days ago we celebrated the Solemnity of All Saints, recognizing those who put their faith into action, living lives that serve as models for us. Today we are the scribe, being told by Jesus the way to act, the way to live.
How do you put your love of God and neighbor into action?READ MORE
Reading I Deuteronomy 6:2-6 The Great Commandment
Reading II Hebrews 7:23-28 Jesus, the eternal high priest
Gospel Mark 12:28b-34 The Greatest Commandment
Key Passage [The scribe] asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’” (Mark 12:28–30)
Adults: Why is love of neighbor as important as love of God?
Kids: When do you show that you love God and your neighbor with your whole heart?READ MORE