Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A January 26, 2020

First Reading
Isaiah 8:23-9:3

The people in darkness have seen a great light.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 27:1,4,13-14
The Lord is our refuge, our light, our salvation.

Second Reading
1 Corinthians 1:10-13,17
Paul urges the community at Corinth to be united as people baptized in Christ’s name.

Gospel Reading
Matthew 4:12-23
Jesus begins to preach in Galilee and calls his first disciples. (shorter form Matthew 4:12-17)

Gospel MT 4:12-23 OR 4:12-17

When Jesus heard that John had been arrested,
he withdrew to Galilee.
He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea,
in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali,
that what had been said through Isaiah the prophet
might be fulfilled:
Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,
the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles,
the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light,
on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death
light has arisen.

From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say,
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers,
Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew,
casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen.
He said to them,
“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
At once they left their nets and followed him.
He walked along from there and saw two other brothers,
James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John.
They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets.
He called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father
and followed him.
He went around all of Galilee,
teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom,
and curing every disease and illness among the people.

or

When Jesus heard that John had been arrested,
he withdrew to Galilee.
He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea,
in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali,
that what had been said through Isaiah the prophet
might be fulfilled:
Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,
the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles,
the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light,
on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death
light has arisen.

From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say,
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Background on the Gospel Reading

Today’s Gospel describes the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. In the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke (called the Synoptic Gospels), Jesus’ public ministry begins after his baptism by John the Baptist and after his retreat to the desert where he was tempted by the devil. When Jesus returns from the desert, he hears that John has been arrested.

The first part of today’s Gospel places Jesus’ ministry in the context of the writings of the prophet, Isaiah. Matthew wants to show that Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophecies given to the people of Israel, and he refers to Isaiah to do so. Isaiah says that the Messiah will begin his ministry in Galilee, the land of the Gentiles. When Jesus begins to preach in Galilee, Matthew points to his ministry as a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, proof that Jesus is the Messiah.

When Jesus called his first disciples, the Gospel tells us that the fishermen (Peter and Andrew, James and John) dropped everything to follow Jesus immediately. Yet this Gospel tells us little about the prior experience that the fishermen had of Jesus. Did they know him? Had they heard him preach? What kind of person must Jesus have been to invoke such a response? We can imagine that Jesus was a powerful presence to elicit a response as immediate and complete as these first disciples gave.

The Gospel concludes with a description of the ministry that Jesus begins in Galilee. Jesus inaugurates the Kingdom of God with his work. He teaches in the synagogue and preaches the kingdom. His ability to cure people’s diseases and illness is a sign of the kingdom. In Jesus’ ministry, we already begin to see the Kingdom of God among us.

Family Connection

Today’s Gospel tells us little about the background of these fishermen, their work, and their families. In today’s Gospel, we are simply told that James and John left their father, Zebedee, in the boat and followed Jesus.

Some details about the families of these first followers of Jesus are found later in Matthew’s Gospel, however. In Matthew 8:14-15 for example, Jesus goes to the home of Peter and heals his mother-in-law of a fever. Matthew 20:20-28 relates how the mother of the sons of Zebedee (James and John) approaches Jesus with the request that her sons be given places of honor in Jesus’ kingdom. These brief references suggest that the first disciples’ separation from their families may not have been as complete as the verses in today’s Gospel might lead us to believe. Matthew points out the separation because he wants to show that Christian discipleship can require a change in our lives and even our family relationships.

Perhaps the message for us today is to balance the radical call to be a follower of Jesus with the challenge to be “fishers of men” even within our own families. Creating this balance may require that we change some of the priorities of our own family life.

As a family, detail the activities of a typical day. Discuss together what priorities are reflected in this daily schedule. How does your family respond when your daily plans are interrupted or must be changed? Together read today’s Gospel, Matthew 4:12-23. Reflect together on the example of the first disciples who dropped everything to follow Jesus. Ask: Does our family schedule give evidence that we put God first in our family life? What might we do to better reflect that God is our priority?

Pray together that your family will always give evidence that God comes first in your family life. Pray today’s Psalm or the Lord’s Prayer.

Sources: Loyola Press; Sunday Readings

Third Sunday of January – January 19, 2020

Feast of Sto. Niño

First Reading
Isaiah 9:1-6
The Lord will grant peace and rejoicing to his people through the child who shall be called Prince of Peace.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 97:1-6
The Lord is King, let the many isles be glad.

Second Reading
Ephesians 1:3-6, 15-18
God loves us and has made us his adopted children in Christ.

Gospel Reading
Matthew 18:1-5, 10
Whoever welcomes a child in his name, welcomes him.

Gospel MT 18:1-5, 10
The disciples approached Jesus and said,
“Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?”
He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said,
“Amen, I say to you,
unless you turn and become like children,
you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven.
Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.
And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me. 

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones,
for I say to you that their angels in heaven
always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.”

Reflection (from a recorded Homily of His Eminence Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle)
The Church in the Philippines has a special permission to reserve one Sunday just to celebrate the child Jesus—the Santo Niño. The readings give us an opportunity to get to know Jesus as a child. By getting to know Jesus as a child hopefully we will also get to know ourselves better as children. Hopefully too, we’ll get to know a little better what Jesus meant when he made being a child condition for entering the kingdom of heaven, and also a condition for being great in the kingdom of heaven.

In the gospel, Jesus says if any one wants to enter the kingdom of heaven, he needs to be humble, like a little child. Using that expression of Jesus, we learn that being a child means being humble. Being a child doesn’t mean belonging to a certain age bracket, it means being humble. Who is the humble one? Who is the child? The humble one, the child, is someone who recognizes that he or she is in need of others. The humble one knows one’s incompleteness, one’s neediness. The humble one has shed off all pretensions of self-reliance, of self-sufficiency. The child in the eyes of Jesus is someone who does not get embarrassed, who does not get insulted to say with joy, with conviction, “I cannot complete myself. I need to rely; I need to depend on someone greater than I. I need to depend on others in order to be made whole.” That is humility. That is being a child. We see this exemplified in Jesus himself. Jesus’ being a child did not end with his so-called finding in the temple, as if he then led his hidden life, then grew up and lost his being a child. If being a child means belonging to a particular age bracket, then the childhood of Jesus ended.

But when we look at a child, being a child from the perspective of humility, the way Jesus does in the gospel today, then we can say Jesus was a child, is a child even up to now. Childhood, for Jesus is a perpetual state. It is his identity. He is son. And as son, especially in the Gospel of John, we see him totally dependent on the Father. He would even say, “I do only what I see the Father doing. I do not do anything of my own accord.” Every moment of his life, he enjoyed being dependent on God. That is being a child. Even in the poignant scene of the Agony in the Garden, Jesus was still a child. He had no one to run to. He expressed his needs to his friends. He was in need of comfort. Imagine the Son of God going to Peter, John, and James, literally begging them to spend time with him. He was in need and he was not embarrassed to accept that he was a child in need. He needed friends, he needed other people, more so, he needed the Father. At the end of his life on the cross he breathed his last by saying, “into your hands, Father, I commend my spirit.” That is humility.

Now we understand why being a child, being a humble, is a prerequisite for entering the Kingdom of heaven. For why will you desire to enter heaven if you don’t need God? Heaven will be the farthest thing from your mind. Why will I Need to go to the Father if I don’t need the Father? The greatness of the children in the kingdom of God is precisely because they need God. They are great because they have a great need for God, and they realize that God, through other people, through creation, completes them. These children are meant for the kingdom and they are great citizens of the kingdom of God because they are the ones who really need God. Jesus is the child, and that’s why he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. It is significant that the Santo Niño, the holy child, is always depicted as a king—robed like a king, with a crown, and very often with a globe. The one who will rule the world in the kingdom of heaven is a child, and he even declares that those who are children like him, in humility, in dependence on God, will be great as well in the kingdom of heaven.

Every age of humanity has its illusions—its favorite illusions. One of the illusions of our age is the illusion of being self-reliant, self-made. We even give awards to men and women who have proven their worth by being self-reliant. Dependence is not considered a virtue in our contemporary age. I used to sing the song “people who need people are the luckiest people in the world,” but I guess it is no longer sung these days. People who need people these days are not the luckiest people. They are scorned, they are considered as irritants, etc.

Part of the significance of the feast of the Santo Niño is for us to recover this important part of the life of Jesus: for us to be at home in our incompleteness, to even rejoice that we are incomplete. Because of our incompleteness we have a complete need for God—who will work through creation, who will care for us through nature, who will care for us through other people. By being a child, and being at peace in being a child once more, we can shed off all illusions all pretensions, all pride and find peace in others, peace in God—whom we all need.

Let me now go to a second point. In the gospel Jesus also says that whoever welcomes a child in his name, welcomes him. He also adds, “let no one despise these little ones, these children.” Whoever despises one of these little ones who depend on God, “Beware!” Jesus says. Their angels, their guardians, will see what you have done to them and will surely protect them. After all, they depend on God’s protection. This is reminiscent of what Jesus himself said in Matthew 25—the famous last judgment scene where Jesus tells the people, “whatever you do, or fail to do to the least of your brothers and sisters, you did it or you failed to do it to me.” There is this identification that Jesus makes with the least, with the humble, the hungry, the thirsty, the poor, the prisoners, the sick. These are all people who need other people, and these are people who need God’s protection. They need God to rule in their lives. And Jesus identifies himself with them.

The feast of the Santo Niño does not only enable us to understand Jesus more as a child. It also helps us to develop the spirit of communion and solidarity with other “children.” And by being in solidarity with other “children”—the humble ones of God—we will be in deeper communion with Jesus Christ. I know it is not easy to welcome the needy and the beggars. When people come begging, parang ang sarap pagtabuyan kasi nasa isip natin, “Naku pag binigyan ko to mababawasan pa yung nasa akin.” Every beggar is perceived as a subtraction of what I possess. When needy people come to us, we get irritated. Lalo na yung, pabalikbalik na dumarating, nagpapahayag ng kanilang mga pangangailangan. Yan man ay pang pinansyal, yan man ay pangkabuhayan, yan man ay problema, Minsan ang sarap sarap sabihin sa kanila, “pwede ba ha, ayusin nyo na yan, tumayo na kayo sa sarili nyo ha. Huwag nyo na ‘kong puntahan.”

It is not always easy to welcome needy people. It’s also not easy to welcome children—the real children. In society, many children are seen as burdens of their families. So they’re put to work right away, so that they can be productive, so that they can be independent! Children, whose very nature is to be dependent, are being deprived of this wonderful stage of their lives where they can rely on the care, the concern that other people could give and that would develop their trust. But nowadays, no!Kailangan madaliin na sila’y makatayo sa sariling paa, sila ay makatrabaho na. At sa halip na sila ang umasa, ang nangyayari ngayon, iba pang mga magulang ang umaasa sa kanilang mga anak. We have seen cases of children who are abused that way—children who are put to work either as beggars, or parts of syndicates who will sell wares or be pickpockets. Why? They need to sustain the vices of their parents. Para may pang-inom si tatay, kailangan magtrabaho ang bata, para may pang-bingo si nanay, kailangan magtrabaho ang bata.

It is not always easy to welcome such children. Instead of solidarity, the tendency is to shut –off our eyes and we don’t welcome them. When we don’t welcome them, we are one step closer to despising and rejecting them. But Jesus makes it very clear that when you despise the humble ones of the world, when you reject them, when you don’t welcome them, you don’t welcome him too. You don’t welcome Jesus. This feast is also an invitation for us to be welcoming.

Let me make a proposal. For us to be more welcoming towards the humble ones of the world, we can set our minds to this thought: when we welcome those who are in need, we are actually welcoming, not only Jesus, but ourselves. One way to discover our true selves is by welcoming those who are in need, because the face of every person in need is my own face. I am also in need. They are not the only ones in need. When a beggar comes to you, don’t think yourself as the wealthy one who can share. With that beggar, you are also a beggar. If I can only see myself in the face of every beggar, I will not reject anyone—unless I’m willing to reject myself. In every child that is abused, if I can see my face also in need of caring and not abuse, then maybe I would be more caring, more welcoming, because I see myself in every child.

This feast of the Santo Niño is a powerful feast, for us all to be children, building a community, a solidarity, a communion in common neediness, in common dependence on God. A communion incomplete, being poor—being beggars. This celebration of the Santo Niño—at a time when our world seems to be treading through uncertain moments, uncertain times and the future looks bleak—is the time for us to be children once again, like Jesus. To be children unto one another and to be children together. Let us enjoy the company of our fellow children cared for by our loving Father, with Jesus to guide us. Let this feast of the Santo Niño be a renewal not only in getting to know Jesus, but getting to know ourselves and renewing our solidarity with other children and the humble ones of God.

Source: http://www.msp.org.ph/homilies.do?id=16662

The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, Cycle A Sunday, January 12, 2020

First Reading
Isaiah 42:1-4,6-7
The servant of the Lord shall bring justice to all.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 29:1-2,3-4,9-10
The Lord will give peace to the people.

Second Reading
Acts of the Apostles 10:34-38
God anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit.

Gospel Reading
Matthew 3:13-17
The Spirit of God comes upon Jesus as he is baptized by John.

Gospel MT 3:13-17

Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan
to be baptized by him.
John tried to prevent him, saying,
“I need to be baptized by you,
and yet you are coming to me?”
Jesus said to him in reply,
“Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us
to fulfill all righteousness.”
Then he allowed him.
After Jesus was baptized,
he came up from the water and behold,
the heavens were opened for him,
and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove
and coming upon him.
And a voice came from the heavens, saying,
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

Background on the Gospel Reading

The baptism of Jesus is attested to in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The account that appears in Matthew is the only one to include the dialogue between Jesus and John, however. Another difference in Matthew’s presentation of this event is the announcement made by the voice from heaven, which says, “This is my beloved son . . .” In Mark and Luke, this voice addresses itself to Jesus: “You are my beloved son . . .”

The baptisms that John performs prefigure Christian Baptism. John baptizes for repentance from sin. In accepting this baptism, Jesus unites himself with all sinners even though he is sinless. In Matthew’s Gospel, John the Baptist distinguishes his practice of baptism from the Baptism that the Messiah brings: “I am baptizing you with water . . . He will baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3:11).

The baptism of Jesus is another manifestation of Christ, another epiphany. Christ’s baptism inaugurates his mission. In an analogous way, our Baptism inaugurates our mission as Christians.

This Sunday marks a transition from the Christmas season to Ordinary Time. In a way, today’s feast is the high point of the Christmas season. Before Jesus’ birth, angels announced to Mary and to Joseph who Jesus would be. At his birth, the shepherds and the Magi recognize Jesus as the Messiah. At his baptism, Jesus accepts that he is God’s son and inaugurates that mission.

Family Connection

At Jesus’ baptism, God affirms his Son’s mission for salvation. God announces his pleasure with Jesus and, in Matthew’s Gospel, announces to all that, “This is my beloved Son” (Matthew 3:17). With this affirmation, Jesus is able to resist the temptations described next in Matthew’s Gospel and to begin his public ministry. As family members, we can support one another in our Christian living by affirming the importance of each person in our eyes and in God’s. Confident that through our Baptism we too were made children of God, we can resist temptation and share in Christ’s mission.

Gather as a family to read today’s Gospel, Matthew 3:13-17. Recall that God’s message about Jesus was meant for us, “This is my beloved Son.” It was also an affirmation for Jesus about his role in God’s plan.

Place each family member’s name on a slip of paper and put the names in a bowl. Invite each person in the family to choose another family member’s name and to prepare a message for that person, affirming their importance in God’s eyes and in your family life. Pray together that your family will continue to support one another in your baptismal promises to be disciples of Jesus and then invite each person to read aloud the message they prepared. Conclude by praying together the Lord’s Prayer.

Sources: Loyola Press; Sunday Readings

Epiphany of the Lord Sunday, January 5, 2020

First Reading
Isaiah 60:1-6
Jerusalem shall be a light to all nations.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 72:1-2,7-8,10-11,12-13
Every nation on earth shall worship the Lord.

Second Reading
Ephesians 3:2-3a,5-6
Gentiles are coheirs in the promise of Christ.

Gospel Reading          
Matthew 2:1-12
The Magi seek out Jesus and do him homage.

Gospel MT 2:1-12

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea,
in the days of King Herod,
behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying,
“Where is the newborn king of the Jews?
We saw his star at its rising
and have come to do him homage.”
When King Herod heard this,
he was greatly troubled,
and all Jerusalem with him.
Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people,
He inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea,
for thus it has been written through the prophet:
And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
since from you shall come a ruler,
who is to shepherd my people Israel.

Then Herod called the magi secretly
and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance.
He sent them to Bethlehem and said,
“Go and search diligently for the child.
When you have found him, bring me word,
that I too may go and do him homage.”
After their audience with the king they set out.
And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them,
until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.
They were overjoyed at seeing the star,
and on entering the house
they saw the child with Mary his mother.
They prostrated themselves and did him homage.
Then they opened their treasures
and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod,
they departed for their country by another way.

Background on the Gospel Reading

The visit of the Magi occurs directly before the story of the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt. Matthew’s Gospel tells a version of Jesus’ birth that is different than the one in Luke. Of the actual birth of Jesus, Matthew tells us little more than, “When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod  ” The story of the census is found only in Luke’s Gospel, but we hear about the visit of the Magi only in Matthew’s Gospel.

We know little about the Magi. They come from the East and journey to Bethlehem, following an astrological sign, so we believe them to be astrologers. We assume that there were three Magi based upon the naming of their three gifts. The Gospel does not say how many Magi paid homage to Jesus. In Matthew’s Gospel, they represent the Gentiles’ search for a savior. Because the Magi represent the entire world, they also represent our search for Jesus.

We have come to consider the gifts they bring as a foreshadowing of Jesus’ role in salvation. We believe the meaning of the gifts to be Christological. Gold is presented as representative of Jesus’ kingship. Frankincense is a symbol of his divinity because priests burned the substance in the Temple. Myrrh, which was used to prepare the dead for burial, is offered in anticipation of Jesus’ death.

The word Epiphany means “manifestation” or “showing forth.” Historically several moments in Christ’s early life and ministry have been celebrated as “epiphanies,” including his birth in Bethlehem, the visit of the Magi, his baptism by John, and his first miracle at Cana.

Family Connection

The tradition of giving gifts at Christmas is thought by some to be rooted in the gift giving of the Magi. In many cultures, gifts are not exchanged at Christmas, but rather on the feast of the Epiphany. Whenever you exchange your Christmas gifts, take some time to reflect on this tradition of gift giving at Christmas. Think of the best gift you have received. What was it? What made it special? Was it the gift itself, the thought that went into it, or the person who gave it to you?

Read today’s Gospel, Matthew 2:1-12. The gifts of the Magi—gold, frankincense, and myrrh—have come to be understood as symbols of Christ’s royalty, divinity, and eventual suffering and death. They are special because in giving them, the Magi acknowledge who Jesus was to be: our Savior. We pray that we will acknowledge Jesus as Savior in all that we do and say. Conclude by singing together “We Three Kings.”