Daily Readings for Mass.
(Liturgical Calendar for Ireland, 2019)

12 December, 2019. Thursday of Advent, Week 2

Our Lady of Guadalupe (Opt. Mem.); St Finnian, bishop (Opt. Mem.)

1st Reading: Isaiah 41:13-20

The Lord says to his people, "Do not fear, for I will help you"

For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, "Do not fear, for I will help you." Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you insect Israel! I will help you, says the Lord; your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel. Now, I will make of you a threshing sledge, sharp, new, and having teeth; you shall thresh the mountains and crush them, and you shall make the hills like chaff. You shall winnow them and the wind shall carry them away, and the tempest shall scatter them. Then you shall rejoice in the Lord; in the Holy One of Israel you shall glory.

When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the Lord will answer them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys; I will make the desert a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. I will put in the desert the cedar, the acacia, the myrtle, and the olive; I will set in the desert the cypress, the plane and the pine together, so that all may see and know, all may consider and understand, that the hand of the Lord has done this, the Holy One of Israel has created it.

Responsorial: Psalm 144:1, 9-13

R./: The Lord is kind and merciful; slow to anger, and rich in compassion

I will give you glory, O God my King,
 I will bless your name for ever.
How good is the Lord to all,
 compassionate to all his creatures. (R./)

All your creatures shall thank you, O Lord,
 and your friends shall repeat their blessing.
They shall speak of the glory of your reign
 and declare your might, (R./)

O God to make known to men your mighty deeds
 and the glorious splendour of your reign.
Yours is an everlasting kingdom;
 your rule lasts from age to age. (R./)

Gospel: Matthew 11:7-15

John the Baptist was great, but those in the kingdom are even greater

As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: "What did you go out into the desert to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written, 'See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.' Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John came; and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. Let anyone with ears listen!"

BIBLE

The role of John the Baptist

John's disciples came to Jesus with a question. From his prison he sent two of them to ask, "re you he who is to come, or must we look for another?" Jesus points them to what they had heard and seen him do, miracles of grace which clearly indicated that he was the awaited Messiah, the Christ. After they had left he gave the testimony about John that we have just read, and it is high praise indeed.

What Jesus said about John was intended not only to praise him, but for the people's profit, to revive their memory of John's ministry, which had been well attended, but which was in danger of being forgotten. He reminded them of John's merits "What did you go out into the desert to see?" John had preached in the desert, and despite the inconvenient location the people flocked in crowds to him. If his preaching was worth taking such trouble to hear it, surely it was worth taking some care to recollect it. Jesus puts it to them, "What did ye go out to see?" He notes how John was a firm, resolute man, not a reed shaken with the wind -- who would bow to pressure. He was not wavering in his principles but was remarkable for his steadiness in face of Herod's rage.

An ascetical prophet

John was an ascetical, self-denying man, who cared little for wealth or luxury. Was he a man clothed in soft garments? If so, the crowds would not have gone out into the desert to see him, but gone to the royal court to admire the latest fashions. What they went out to see was a man clothed in camel's hair, with a leather belt about his loins, living a starkly simple lifestyle in tune with the desert where he lived.

The stark doctrine he preached there was about the need for repentance. A genuine preacher must not look like a fashionable celebrity. John's appearance was rough and simple, but his message had vigour and thatís why people flocked to hear him.

This man was a prophet, Jesus said, and more than a prophet. John said of himself that he was not the expected Messiah; but Jesus declared that he was more than a prophet. He was the great forerunner who prepared people's hearts to receive the Gospel of Jesus. John saw Jesus' day coming like the day dawning, when he pointed to him and said, 'Behold the Lamb of God!'

Jesus ends his assessment of John with a solemn call to attention: "Whoever has ears to hear, listen!" which suggests, "If John is the Elijah whose return is promised in prophecy, then a great revolution is near, the Messiah is at the door, and the world will shortly be surprised by a happy change, for God's kingdom is very near at hand."


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