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

22 December, 2019.
4th Sunday of Advent (A)

Introduction

Advent is soonending, so our celebration of the birth of Christ is now quite close. We reverence that great event, worshipping God who was made flesh to bring us to glory.

Penitential Rite

As we prepare ourselves to celebrate God's generous love for us, let reflect on how ready we are to respond to this.(pause)
Lord Jesus, you came to gather the nations into the peace of God's kingdom … You come in word and sacrament to strengthen us in holiness … You will come in glory with salvation for your people…

Opening Prayer

ICEL 1998)
Eternal God,
in the psalms of David,
in the words of the prophets,
in the dream of Joseph
your promise is spoken.
At last, in the womb of the Virgin Mary
your Word takes flesh.

Teach us to welcome Jesus, the promised Emmanuel,
and to preach the good news of his coming,
that every age may know him
as the source of redemption and grace.

Grant this through him whose coming is certain, whose day draws near:
your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever.

1st Reading: Isaiah 7:10-14

King Ahaz is invited to trust, by the sign of Emmanuel (God-with-us)

Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, saying, “Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.”

Then Isaiah said: "Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.

Responsorial: Psalm 23: 1-6

R./: Let the Lord enter; he is king of glory

The Lord's is the earth and its fullness,
 the world and all its peoples.
It is he who set it on the seas;
 on the waters he made it firm. (R./)

Who shall climb the mountain of the Lord?
 Who shall stand in his holy place?
The man with clean hands and pure heart,
 who desires not worthless things. (R./)

He shall receive blessings from the Lord
 and reward from the God who saves him.
Such are the men who seek him,
 seek the face of the God of Jacob. (R./)

2nd Reading: Romans 1:1-7

This introduction to Paul's major epistle gives the earliest Christian beliefs about Jesus

Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name, including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ, To all God's beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Gospel: Matthew 1:18-24

The virginal conception of Jesus is revealed to his foster-father, Joseph

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

All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: "Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel," which means, "God is with us."

When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife.

BIBLE

What's in a name?

What can it tell about the person who owns it? Not much, unless it happens to be a well-chosen nick-name. Names like Helen, Sharon or Jason are useful for distinguishing various members of a family; but they don't say much about the people themselves. A name seldom tells about the personality or life-work of the one who carries it. With some Biblical names it is different. For instance, Abraham meant "Father of a great people" (Gen. 17:5) and Moses meant "Rescued from the Waters" (Ex. 2:10.) Above all, our blessed Lord has names which tell us everything about him: "Jesus" means "God saves," "Christ" means "God's Anointed Messiah" and the name "Emmanuel" in today's Gospel, means "God in our midst."

How important is Jesus, really, for our religious belief? Be honest. Ask the man-in-the-street what Christianity all about, and what's the usual answer? Something to do with loving your neighbour; keeping the law; going to church on a Sunday? Not often will there be a direct mention of Jesus Christ, who is at the very centre of our faith. Ghandi once said, If you Christians took your Christ to heart, the whole world would be Christian.

Our Bridge-builder (Pontifex) Nowadays, one of the most positive trends is in building up community, sharing efforts and projects with others, seeking out ways find common ground with long-term enemies. In a word, bridge-building and reconciliation with our fellow human beings. The greatest bridge-builder of all, who spans the gulf between us and God, is Jesus Christ. (High-Priest: Pontifex.) "No man has ever seen God; the Only-Begotten Son, who is closest to the Father's heart, has made him known" (Jn. 1:18.)

He shares our Lot. At Christmas we will concentrate on the simplicity and poverty of Our Lord's birth: how human he was, born of a young woman, not in luxurious comfort, but in the discomfort of a stable. That shows him as one of us, the human side of "Emmanuel." This gospel however mentions the divine origin of Jesus. Although he has a human mother, he has not a human father, but was conceived in Mary by the power of God. This unique way of coming into life, with God as father, and the virgin Mary as mother, underlines who Jesus truly is: both God and man, one of ourselves and yet one with the eternal God.

St. Joseph's Faith. If this mystery seems deep to us, it must have been baffling for St Joseph. Close to Mary as he was, and yet seeing her pregnant without any action on his part, Joseph could only accept in faith what God's messenger told him, that the child was in Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit. With great patience and humility, Joseph accepted the part for which God had chosen him, as human foster-father to the Saviour. This faithful acceptance is just what is required of each of us, when Christ comes into our lives, as "God-with-us.


Our God-with-us

One of the best human instincts is to build up community, to share efforts and projects with others, seeking to find common ground with those who disagree with us. In a word, bridge-building with our fellow human beings. The greatest bridge-builder of all, who spans the gulf between us and God, is Jesus Christ. "No man has ever seen God; the Only-Begotten Son, who is closest to the Father's heart, has made him known" (Jn. 1:18.)

He shares our life experience. At Christmas we will concentrate on the simplicity and poverty of Our Lord's birth: how human he was, born of a young woman, not in luxurious comfort, but in the discomfort of a stable. That shows him as one of us, the human side of "Emmanuel." This gospel however mentions the divine origin of Jesus. Although he has a human mother, he has not a human father, but was conceived in Mary by the power of God. This unique way of coming into life, with God as father, and the virgin Mary as mother, underlines who Jesus truly is: both God and man, one of ourselves and yet one with the eternal God.

If this mystery seems deep to us, it must have been baffling for St Joseph. Close to Mary as he was, and yet seeing her pregnant without any action on his part, Joseph could only accept in faith what God's messenger told him, that the child was in Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit. With great patience and humility, Joseph accepted the part for which God had chosen him, as human foster-father to the Saviour. This faithful acceptance is just what is required of each of us, when Christ comes into our lives, as "God-with-us.

Moments of crisis reveal aspects of ourselves we don't often see. They can show where our real self lies. Do we react defensively or aggressively out of self-concern, or are we able to see beyond ourselves to the care of others? Usually crisis also puts our faith to the test; are we really convinced about God's care and support for us?
What did king Ahaz believe in? He could not or would not rely on God in the great political turmoil of his life. He put his trust in his military security. Is our faith much the same? Do we trust only the range of our own power and resources, and turn to the true God only as an extra insurance, a vague source of possible help in a crisis? But such faith is inadequate. Real faith is relying on God's invisible presence with us, not just in those moments when human presence and support fails. Real faith accepts the reality of God in the strong as well as the weak moments of life. True faith sees God as a dimension of all our experience, the Emmanuel.

The promise that God is with us was not for Isaiah's time only, it is for our own. Even now the sign of that continuing presence is a young woman and her child, the Virgin Mary and her son Jesus. For Joseph the unexpected pregnancy of Mary was not a sign to confirm his trust either in her or God, it was a contradictory sign. In the hours of his darkness he found the enlightening Spirit of God, the Spirit who teaches us not to judge by what our eyes see or by what our ears hear (cf. Is 11:3.) This gospel shows us that the signs God gives are not always the ones we would choose for ourselves. He gives signs for those who are willing to take on the darkness of doubt in openness and sincerity.

It is in our experiences and our encounters with those who reflect Christ and his gospel that we find signs of God to confirm our faith. "No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, ever at the Father's side, who has revealed him" (Jn 1:1-18.)

It is in our experiences and our encounters with those who reflect Christ and his gospel that we find signs of God to confirm our faith. "No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, ever at the Father's side, who has revealed him" (Jn 1:1-18.)

BIDDING PRAYERS

Introduction: Let us bring our prayers to the Lord, the King of Glory.

  1. That God may bless our Pope with wisdom, love and courage (quiet pause). Lord, hear us.
  2. That all bishops and priests may be generous in serving our people (quiet pause). Lord, hear us.
  3. That all Christians may prepare their hearts for by reflection and prayer (quiet pause). Lord, hear us.
  4. That this Christmas may bring peace where there is hatred and war (quiet pause). Lord, hear us.
  5. That bereaved, ill and lonely people may be find comfort and support (quiet pause). Lord, hear us.

Prayer for the dead: For those who have gone before us in faith (especially N and N),  that they may share in Christ's resurrection from the dead (quiet pause). Lord, hear us.

Conclusion: O God, yours is the earth and its fullness, bless your people by hearing the prayers we make, through Christ our Lord. Amen.


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