Christmas, January 7th (after Epiphany)

In today’s First Reading the apostle John warns believers to test the spirits to see if the are from God before trusting them. Not every spirit or every inspiration is necessarily a good one, and one way to test a spirit is to see if it stands the test of time. If some impulse or inspiration changes radically, another spirit has come into play.

One way in which the Church knows it is united in the same Spirit with which it was founded is by Tradition: the teachings of the Church, teachings that come from the teachings Our Lord himself gave to the apostles, must logically have a continuity that endures. In today’s Gospel Our Lord begins his public ministry preaching the same message as John, whose mission is drawing to a close: “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” He proclaims the “Gospel of the Kingdom” and, in that same Spirit, so do we. If some spirit enters into us that contradicts that Spirit and that Gospel we can be sure it does not come from God, as well as any spirit that makes us lose faith in Our Lord.

Let’s ask Our Lord today to help us follow his Spirit: the Holy Spirit.

Readings:1 John 3:22–4:6; Psalm 2:7bc–8, 10; Matthew 4:12–17, 23–25.


Christmas, January 5th

In today’s First Reading John the Evangelist describes the bond of love between Christians as brotherhood. Good friends consider each other as brothers and sisters, even if they share no blood ties, and the sad case of Cain that John mentions today shows how evil it is when a brother turns on another. Christ, becoming man, became our brother, and he gives us the example to follow: he laid down his life for brothers and sisters who appreciated it, as well as for those who didn’t. John urges us today not only to see fellow Christians, but all of humanity as our brothers and sisters, deserving of our compassion and help, whether spiritual or material. This is the true measure of whether we love God.

In today’s Gospel the Lord begins to call his disciples to a new level of brotherhood: some are blood brothers, such as Peter and Andrew, James and John, but they also forge bonds of brotherhood with Our Lord and their fellow apostles as Our Lord’s ministry of love starts to spread. The greatest way we can help a brother or sister is to help him or her understand and achieve the purpose of their life: to be loved by God and to love in return. We may not always start by inviting them to consider becoming Christ’s disciple, but we know that’s the best direction they can take.

Cain was jealous of his brother Abel’s relationship with God, and that jealously led to murder. The true measure of our love for God is whether we love our brothers and sisters. Let’s examine our hearts today and expunge any trace of Cain.

Readings: 1 John 3:11–21; Psalm 100:1b–5; John 1:43–51.

Christmas, January 4th

In today’s Gospel we see that John the Baptist’s knows his part of the mission is concluding, since he has testified to the Son of God and baptized him. His mission is fulfilled because he has pointed the way to the reason for which the Lord called him to be a prophet: to prepare the way for Our Lord. He doesn’t point to himself, nor did he ever; today he points to Our Lord and two of his disciples not only begin to follow Our Lord, but introduce him to Simon Peter as well. These three disciples will become Our Lord’s apostles, sent out to the whole world to bring others to him.

In today’s First Reading John the Evangelist explains that when we are baptized (“begotten”) we take sides (and if you were baptized as a baby, your parents helped you take the right side: the winning one). We can choose the side of the Lord and his righteousness (a life of grace), or we can side with the Devil in rebellion and iniquity (a life of sin). In this struggle you must take a side. Both Johns remind us who the winner is: Our Lord, who by coming as the Lamb of God not only comes to take away the sins of the world, but to destroy the works of the Devil and reveal what keeps us faithful to God: a life not given over to sin.

Let’s look upon the Lamb of God today and ask him to show us what side we’re on. We can change sides, for better or for worse.

Readings: 1 John 3:7–10; Psalm 98:1, 7–9; John 1:35–42.

Christmas, January 3rd

In today’s First Reading John the Evangelist describes our justification, the grace we receive at Baptism, as “righteousness.” Without that first unmerited grace of baptism all our other acts of righteousness would not be possible: through that grace our sins are taken away. Our fundamental understanding of the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity is that he is the Son, begotten, not made, by the Father. God wants us to be his sons and daughters as well, and we become his children through baptism, the start of a new life of grace, a new life meant to grow and become more and more beautiful because we grow to be more and more like God, modeling our lives after God the Son’s.

In today’s Gospel John the Baptist has a moment like he did thirty years earlier, in his mother’s womb, when Mary came (with Jesus in her womb) to visit  Elizabeth and John. John leaped in his mother’s womb, but now, thirty years later, he can point to Jesus and testify he is the Lamb of God. Unlike the other evangelists, John speaks of what John the Baptist experienced upon baptizing Our Lord, not the baptism itself. Through the descent of the Spirit at Baptism John the Baptist recognized Jesus as the Son of God, and we see the connection between baptism and becoming children of God.

The Spirit also descended upon us at our baptism, ushering in a new life. Let’s thank Our Lord today for the gift of that new life by modelling our lives more and more like his.

Readings: 1 John 2:29–3:6; Psalm 98:1, 3cd–6; John 1:29–34.


Holy Family, Cycle A

In today’s Gospel we see Our newborn Lord living the same travails of his people, and so many peoples, suffering persecution and slavery. Like his ancestors, Jesus and his family are forced to go to Egypt, but this time is different, because the future liberator does not fall into slavery there, and returns from exile to Israel in a new Exodus, a recurring theme of the prophets. He also lived, as many of his fellow Jews of the time, away from Israel in the diaspora, and even when he returned home he could not live in his native Bethlehem, but in Nazareth. Despite the travail of his first years of earthly life, the evil designs of Herod ultimately fail, and in their darkness the light of the Savior, fulfilling prophecies despite the dire events that cost innocent lives, shone ever more brightly.

Today’s feast is not only about Our Lord’s exile and return to Israel. It is about what makes a holy family. Mary welcomed life as part of God’s plan, and Joseph, despite some initial confusion, took Mary as his wife because the Lord revealed it was his will. The Holy Family supported each other when times became tough; not everyone in a family can contribute equally, but, as the First and Second Readings remind us today, everyone, through their virtue, contributes to the well-being of their parents, their siblings, and beyond. A family that sticks together can face any trial, and the key to that is prayer. As Fr. Patrick Peyton used to preach, “The family that prays together, stays together.” Joseph, when faced with hard decisions, listened to what the Lord had to say through angels and dreams, and his decisions were shaped by what God wanted. Mary’s whole life was a fiat to the plans of God. Our infant Lord couldn’t be in better hands.

Let’s pray that all families today, especially those in difficulty, be united in God. Through prayer and virtue let’s pray that they strengthen their existing bonds of love and restore those broken by trial.

Readings: Sirach 3:2–6, 12–14; Psalm 128:1–5; Matthew 2:13–15, 19–23. See also Holy Family, Cycle C.