The First Reading is from the Book of Leviticus. In this brief passage, the writer reminds his fellow Israelites of their call to live a holy life. This is the command given to us by God through Moses: “Be holy, for I the Lord, your God, am holy.” A life of holiness is manifested through acts of love, mercy and kindness, particularly towards those who have hurt us. It also shows us the way to share in God’s holiness: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
The First Reading comes from the Book of Sirach. In today’s verses, Sirach instructs the people of Israel to trust in God and keep his commandments, for they will be saved by doing so. Before man are life and death, good and evil, Sirach says, whichever he chooses shall be given him. Our salvation, and life itself, are certainly blessings from God. Choosing to follow the ways of the Lord leads to these blessings. In other words, obedience to God’s law as the road that leads to life, and rejection of his commandments as the way that leads to death.
In the First Reading from the prophet Isaiah, the people of Israel who had been taken into exile have just returned. Their land is devastated, and their religious life is in chaos. To please God, they need to practice a religious piety that leads them “to share their bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and homeless, clothe the naked.” They also need to “remove from their midst false accusations and malicious speech.” These are all concrete ways in which we flavor the earth with God’s goodness and allow the light of God to shine through us.
The First Reading is from the Prophet Malachi. In this passage, we hear a warning that a special messenger will come from God with great power and He will “purify the sons of Levi” with His message and His dedication and “then the sacrifice of Judah and Jerusalem will please the Lord.” Malachi speaks about a “messenger” who will come to prepare a way for the Lord, who will in turn cleanse his Temple of sinful practices so that worthy worship can once again be offered. Christians saw the messenger as John the Baptist who prepared the way for Jesus and who in time would cleanse the Temple of beggars and sellers.
The First Reading is from the Prophet Isaiah. The prophet blamed the defeat of the two provinces of Zebulum and Nephtali on the people of Israel. He considered it to be God’s punishment for their unfaithfulness and wickedness in abandoning God in favor of riches from trade. Isaiah seeks to offer words of hope and consolation to a people experiencing the darkness of oppression. “A new light will shine on a people living in a land of gloom.”
The First Reading is from the Prophet Isaiah. When commenting on the Book of Isaiah, scholars speak of three Isaiahs. Today’s reading is taken from second Isaiah, a prophet during Israel’s time in exile. Isaiah speaks of an unknown mysterious Servant who would one day unite the people of God. This Servant would restores Israel. He would be a light to the nations and brings back salvation to all the world. Christians have always understood Jesus and his mission to be the fulfillment of that messianic prophecy.
In the solemnity of the Epiphany (an appearance or a showing) of Christ to all humanity, the First Reading is from the Prophet Isaiah. God is about to bring a New Dawn to Israel. All the Nations will be drawn to the city bearing all kinds of gifts. This prophecy will be fulfilled when Jesus invites all people to come into his light. The Magi are the first Gentiles to respond to Jesus’ invitation.
In the feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the First Reading is taken from the Book of the Prophet Sirach. This reading is a commentary on the fourth commandment: ‘Honor your father and your mother.’ The Prophet Sirach gives us his idea of the ideal family, with all the responsibilities, honors and benefits that are bestowed on each member. Sirach lists the rewards that come with such respectful conduct: atonement for one’s sins, gift of offspring, answer to prayers, and a long life.
In the fourth Sunday of Advent, the First Reading is from the Prophet Isaiah. We have the familiar story about the Prophet's confrontation with King Ahaz of Judah. Isaiah tells Ahaz to ask God for a sign so that God can show him that he is with him. Ahaz says he will not tempt the Lord. Even though Ahaz refuses to ask God for a sign, Isaiah says that God will give a sign: “The virgin will conceive a child and give him the name Emmanuel (God-with-us).” The essence of this story is that God's plan will triumph in spite of mankind's refusal to cooperate.
In the third Sunday of Advent, the First Reading is from the Prophet Isaiah. The people of Israel are in exile because of their infidelity to their covenant with God. But God’s prophet announces the good news that their time of exile is about to end. The prophet is describing the joy that will come over the people of Israel who have been patient and didn't give up hope while waiting for deliverance from captivity in Babylon. God will lead his people through the desert and back to the Promised Land.
In the Second Sunday of Advent the First Reading comes from the Prophet Isaiah. The prophet has just announced the imminent destruction of the kingdom of Judah and its center, Jerusalem, with its temple. Disillusioned with King Ahaz, a contemporary of Isaiah, the prophet assures his people that God will raise up a faithful King who will rule his people with the mind and heart of God. With the help of the divine gifts, the future King will rule in a way that is pleasing to God. This new King will come from the ‘stump of Jesse’ (David’s father). This prophesy could only be filled by the Anointed One of God, Jesus Christ.
In the first Sunday of Advent, the First Reading is from the Prophet Isaiah. The prophet lives at a time when Israel is divided into two kingdoms that were threatened by the powerful Assyrians. Isaiah is a prophet in the Southern Kingdom of Judah. During his ministry, when there prevail either wars or rumors of war, the people and the Kings fail to listen to and follow the ways of God. Isaiah’s prophecy suggests that conflicts between nations will continue, but God will be the one who will judge and impose terms. Ultimately, “Walking in the light of the Lord” means God’s people, gathered from all nations, will live in accord with God’s word.
In the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, the First Reading is from the Second Book of Samuel. In today’s short reading, we have the third accounts of the anointing of David as King of Israel. He was anointed by the elders of Israel for three reasons. First, all the tribes of Israel are descended from the same ancestors. Second, David under Saul’s reign showed strength and wisdom on the role of the military commander. Finally, God gave David the role of shepherd king responsible for watching over the flock, protecting them from predators and the role of military commander who leads his people in battle, fighting against their enemies. David agrees to rule with justice, and the people promise loyalty.
The First Reading is from the Prophet Malachi. Malachi is writing in the fifth century before Christ to a community with very lax morals. In this reading, Malachi speaks in frightening terms of the imminent “Day of the Lord.” There was much corruption and unfaithfulness to God. The message here is that all humanity must eventually take sides to choose "good" or "evil" because "a Day is coming" when there will be a reckoning and all must be judged.
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