Welcome Back to Banquet of the Word!
Join us every week for background on this Sunday readings.
Our mission is simple: We want to help everyone in “pew-land” get more out of mass.
The book of Isaiah is often called “the Fifth Gospel.” Isaiah can be divided into 2 main parts.
- Chapters 1-39: The book of judgment. (God’s people aren’t listening. They’re worshipping idols.)
- Chapters 40-66: The book of consolation. (God is ever-loving. He will never tire from trying to save his people. He will save those who turn back.) We’re in this part today – the first 6 verses of chapter 60.
Isaiah 60: 1-6
(The 1st Reading is Old Testament. It always links to the Gospel.)
Today we hear a beautiful, poetic reading that truly “consoles.” Isaiah wrote this after Babylon was ruined. He “dreams” a bit here, and reminds the people that with the birth of Christ (which, of course, hadn’t happened yet when this was written), salvation would come, too. Dark as it was at the time, this is cause for celebration. In the reading, Christ is equated to images of light and shining radiance. We see the harmony that is to be once Christ comes and we all become one with Him (at the end of time):
This reading prophesies the gospel. As you listen, picture the 3 kings traveling to Bethlehem:
“Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you. See, darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds cover the peoples; but upon you (3 kings) the LORD shines, and over you (the star) appears his glory. Nations shall walk by your light, and kings by your shining radiance. Raise your eyes and look about; they all gather and come to you: your sons come from afar, and your daughters in the arms of their nurses. Then you shall be radiant at what you see, your heart shall throb and overflow…”
Psalm 72: Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.
(The Psalm is a “response” to what we heard in the 1st Reading)
From Christianity.com: “This psalm belongs to Solomon in part, but to Christ more fully and clearly. Solomon was both the king and the king’s son, and his father wanted the wisdom of God to be in him. Although Solomon’s reign came to an end, Christ’s never will. You’ll hear “father/son” language in the first verse…
O God, with your judgment endow the king,
and with your justice, the king’s son;
He shall govern your people with justice
and your afflicted ones with judgment.
Justice shall flower in his days,
and profound peace, till the moon be no more.
May he rule from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth.
EPH 3:2-3A, 5-6
(The 2nd Reading usually comes from Paul’s letters).
Paul makes 2 points in this letter: 1) The fullness of God’s mystery has not been fully revealed until now, (when God revealed it to Paul), and 2) The mystery says that Gentiles – not just Jews – share in the salvation God offers. The 2nd point about the Gentiles having access to salvation? This really gob-smacked the Church. For centuries, gentiles were outsiders – unclean and unfit to experience God’s promises. Paul still “lowers the bomb” with gentleness, knowing it might sting his audience a little.
“You have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for your benefit,
namely, that the mystery was made known to me by revelation. It was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: That the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and co-partners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”
Gospel: Matthew 2: 1-12
(The Gospel is the highest point of the Liturgy of the Word. That’s why we stand.
We are about to hear from and be instructed by Christ Himself.)
Remember how our psalm talked about Solomon’s kingship, and how it eventually ended? Jesus is seen here as “the new Solomon.” Only HIS kingship never ends.
Today, the magi come to Jerusalem to see the Christ Child – the three kings, or the three “wise men.” But when King Herod heard this, he became irate. “What? Someone else is being praised in MY kingdom? I’ll have none of that, for I am the only King!” The city of Jerusalem was right behind him on this, the reading tells us.
Herod gathered the chief priests and elders. “What say you?” he asked. The chief priests answered with an Old Testament verse in which a prophet foretold this would happen: “And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you (Bethlehem) shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.” King Herod hears this, does not like it, and calls the magi to him. “Go find the child, and send word of where I can find him. I want to pay him a visit too…” Now of course Herod doesn’t want to pay him homage, he wants to kill Jesus. He just needs Jesus’ location. (Sounds like a great CSI episode, doesn’t it?)
The kings travel to Bethlehem, guided by the great star. They arrive, pay homage, and then – because those fantastic, always-on-their-toes angels were doing their jobs well – the Holy Family left on another route. Why? They had been warned to do so in a dream, and they listened.
As we embark on a New Year, let us be like the 3 kings – let us be wise, let us walk by His light, let us pay close attention to our dreams – and however else the Lord speaks to us – and let us pay him homage day after day after day.
Happy New Year!