Scripture Readings for Mass
(Liturgical Calendar for Ireland 2018)

31 December 2017. The Holy Family

1st Reading: Genesis 15:1-6; 21:1-3

Abraham and Sarah are given a child as a reward for their faith

 After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, "Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great."  But Abram said, "O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?"  And Abram said, "You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir."  But the word of the Lord came to him, "This man shall not be your heir; no one but your very own issue shall be your heir."

 He brought him outside and said, "Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them." Then he said to him, "So shall your descendants be."  And he believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness.

The Lord dealt with Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah as he had promised.  Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the time of which God had spoken to him.  Abraham gave the name Isaac to his son whom Sarah bore him.

2nd Reading: Hebrews 11:8, 11-12, 17-19

The outcome of the faith of Abraham and Sarah

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going.

 For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.  By faith he received power of procreation, even though he was too old - and Sarah herself was barren - because he considered him faithful who had promised.  Therefore from one person, and this one as good as dead, descendants were born, "as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore."

 By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac. He who had received the promises was ready to offer up his only son,  of whom he had been told, "It is through Isaac that descendants shall be named for you."  He considered the fact that God is able even to raise someone from the dead - and figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.


Gospel: Luke 2:22-40

Jesus' future is foretold in the Temple. He grows up in the care of Mary and Joseph

When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, "Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord"), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, "a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons."

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, "Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel." And the child's father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, "This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed — and a sword will pierce your own soul too."

There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. When they had finished everything required by 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 favour of God was upon him.


OR:

1st Reading: Book of Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14

The Lord honours a father above his children

The Lord honours a father above his children,
and he confirms a mother's right over her children.
Those who honour their father atone for sins,
and those who respect their mother are like those who lay up treasure.
Those who honour their father will have joy in their own children,
and when they pray they will be heard.
Those who respect their father will have long life,
and those who honour their mother obey the Lord;
My child, help your father in his old age,
and do not grieve him as long as he lives;
even if his mind fails, be patient with him;
because you have all your faculties do not despise him.
For kindness to a father will not be forgotten,
and will be credited to you against your sins

2nd Reading: Colossians 3:12-21

Living as children of God

As God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and never treat them harshly. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is your acceptable duty in the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, or they may lose heart.

Gospel: Luke 2:22-40

Jesus' future is foretold in the Temple. He grows up in the care of Mary and Joseph

When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, "Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord"), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, "a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons."

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, "Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel." And the child's father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, "This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed — and a sword will pierce your own soul too."

There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. When they had finished everything required by 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 favour of God was upon him.

BIBLE

Christian Homes

(José Antonio Pagola)

Today there's much talk of crisis in the institution of the family. Certainly the crisis is serious. But though we see many changes in family practice, and some predict the death of traditional forms of the family, no one seriously predicts the disappearance of the family itself. On the contrary, history seems to teach us that in difficult times the bonds of family life become stronger. Abundance can separate people. Crisis and want can unite them. Since we seem to be heading into difficult times, there are many who foresee a new rebirth of the family.

The desire of many Christians to imitate the Family of Nazareth has favored the ideal of a family bound together in  harmony and happiness. And yes, we need to promote the authority and responsibility of parents, the obedience of their children, family dialogue and solidarity. Without these values the family fails. But not every family responds to the call of God's reign as taught by Jesus. There are families open to the service of society, and those that are selfish, withdrawn into themselves. There are authoritarian families, and ones where children and parents learn to dialogue.  Some families train children in selfishness, while others teach them solidarity.

In light of the serious economic crisis of our times, the family can be a school of un-solidarity in which family selfishness is made the criterion that shapes the social behavior of its children. On the contrary, the family could be  where a child comes to know that we have a common Father, and that the world doesn't end at the walls of our home. We can't celebrate the Holy Family without raising the issue of faith. Will our homes be where the next generation hears the Gospel's call to universal fraternity, the defense of the weak, and seeking a more just society; or will they become  schools of indifference, inhibition and selfish passivity in the face of other people's problems?


Family life

This feast presents the family life of Jesus, Mary and Joseph as a lifestyle to meditate and to imitate. We call them the holy family but that does not mean that they did not have problems and issues to resolve and overcome. To put it another way, as each of us has to carry a cross, so also the holy family had to carry the cross. Their trials and tribulations are suggested in the Gospels. We can easily imagine the anguish of both Mary and Joseph when Mary conceived Jesus "before they came to live together". We even learn that Joseph was planning to divorce Mary privately, before the angel intervened in a dream to assure him it was the work of God.

The actual birth of Jesus took place in a some shelter for animals, since no proper lodging was available to them in Bethlehem. Then the family had to flee as refugees to Egypt because Jesus' life was in danger from king Herod, in much the same way as refugees from war-torn countries have been flocking to Europe to save their lives. Much later when Jesus was twelve years old Mary and Joseph suffered the awful experience of losing him for three days; and when eventually they found him, his unsatisfactory answer was that he "had to be about his Father's business." But then he returned with them to Nazareth and was obedient to them. We do not hear any more about Joseph so we presume that he died before Jesus began his public ministry. At Joseph's demise the holy family suffered the grief of all families, at bereavement and final separation.

The public ministry of Jesus must have taken its toll on Mary in various ways. At his presentation in the Temple as an infant, the saintly old Simeon predicted that a sword of sorrow would pierce Mary's soul. We can imagine one such occasion was as we read of the occasion when Jesus returned to Nazareth and his cousins came to take him by force, thinking him out of his mind (Mark 3:21). She must have  similarly been hurt by the taunt against Jesus: "He is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners" (Luke 7:34). And she worried at the growing hostility of the Jewish authorities who were determined that Jesus must die. The saddest moment of all came when Mary watched her son die on the cross.

What sustained the family of Nazareth through all of these trials and crosses? The answer is love for each other and trust  God. We can see Jesus' love for his mother when he was dying on the cross and gave her into the care of his closest disciple John, with the memorable words, "Woman behold your son," and to the beloved disciple, "Behold your mother." (John 19:26-27).

What holds families together also in times of difficulty is love, trust and forgiveness. It is love which triumphs in the end, even if sometimes it may have to take the form of "tough love" and honest talking. When discipline needs to be imposed, if it is not given in love it is rejected as abuse. If ever our families fail in any way, it is because of a lack of love on someone's part. Whenever families are successful, it is because they are places where love is highly prized. A major threat facing families nowadays is simply that we don't spend enough time together. We are so busy working, socialising, on our IPads and androids, or watching TV that we have less and less time to talk to each other.

Once there was a successful solicitor who lived far away from her elderly, widowed father. Months had passed since she had seen him and when her father phoned to ask when she might visit, the daughter detailed a long list of reasons that prevented her from taking the time to see him, court schedules, meetings, new clients and so on. Eventually the father asked, When I die, will you come to my funeral? The daughter was indignant. "Dad, I can't believe you've asked that. Of course, I'll come!" To which he answered, "Good. Forget the funeral and come now. I need you more now than I will then." She got the message and began to see him regularly after that.

Just as the holy family survived all its crises through their love for each other and their trust in God, we pray during this Mass that our families will hold together through all their difficulties -- with sincere love for each other and trust in God.


A Renewed Journey

(from Gordon Linney: "Thinking Aloud. A new year and a renewed journey")

All through the nativity story we have met people making decisions about how they should react to what is going on: Joseph remained faithful to Mary; an innkeeper turned the couple away; the Wise Men avoided Herod on their homeward journey.

What took place in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago changed the course of human history, impacting on people's lives ever since, and we in our day have to decide how to react. The things that find special expression at Christmas such as love, generosity, kindness and compassion are shown to have real and lasting value. That makes for hopeful living as we face a new year with all its uncertainties.

We cannot pretend that the Christmas season or carols or shopping or office parties or Christmas anything spelled happiness for everybody. All sorts of shadows cross our paths at this time of year, including the thought of loved ones who have died, or of children and grandchildren we would love to have close but who are continents away. Others will be facing redundancy or desperately looking for somewhere to live.

Faith does not cancel out the harsh realities of life but it equips us to meet and overcome them. Hans Küng describes God as one who “does not make empty promises for the hereafter, nor trivialise the present darkness, futility and meaninglessness, but who himself in the midst of darkness, futility and meaninglessness invites us to the venture of hope.” Christmas may be over but for people of faith it's time to set out to meet a new year believing that the journey is worthwhile.


Greamaithe le chéile sa ghrá

Na rudaí is mó a cheanglaíonn teaghlaigh le chéile is iad grá agus maithiúnas. Béidh an bhua ag an ghrá sa deireadh, fiú amháin más mór é uaireanta a theaspáint i bhfoirm "grá dian" agus caint oscailte, macánta chun locht a chur i gceart. Nuair is gá ordú a chur i bhfeidhm, mura ndéantar é i slí grámhar, ba féidir go ndiúltófar é mar mhí-úsáid. Má tá mí-áth ar ár dteaghlaigh ar bhealach ar bith, is cosúil gur c#uis le sin ná easpa grá ar chuid an duine. Nuair a oibríonn saol an teaghlaigh go maith, is íontach an bhúa é. Ach bagairt mhór do theaghlaigh an lá atá inniu ann nach gcaithimid go leor ama ag labhairt le chéile. B'fhéidir go bhfuil muid ró-ghnóthach ag obair, ar an ghuthán, ag cearrbhachas ar ár IPads agus ár smartphones, nó ag breathnú ar Netflix agus teilifís. Ar féasta an Teaghlaigh Naofa, d'fhéadfaimis ár dtosaíochtaí a athnuachaint agus beagán níos mó ama a chaitheamh i gcaidreamh leo siúd is gaire dúinn.