05Jan 05 January, 2020. Second Sunday of Christmas

Prayer (ICEL 1998)

God most high,
your only Son embraced the weakness of our flesh
to give us the power to become your children;
your eternal Word chose to dwell among us,
that we might live in your presence.
Grant us a spirit of wisdom
to know how rich is the glory you have made our own,
and how great the hope to which we are called
in Jesus Christ, your Word made flesh,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
in the splendour of eternal light,
God for ever and ever.

First Reading: Sirach 24:1-2, 8-12

In praise of the wisdom that God has revealed to us

Wisdom praises herself,
and tells of her glory in the midst of her people.
In the assembly of the Most High she opens her mouth,
and in the presence of his hosts she tells of her glory:
“Then the Creator of all things gave me a command,
and my Creator chose the place for my tent.
He said, “Make your dwelling in Jacob,
and in Israel receive your inheritance.”
Before the ages, in the beginning, he created me,
and for all the ages I shall not cease to be.
In the holy tent I ministered before him,
and so I was established in Zion.
Thus in the beloved city he gave me a resting place,
and in Jerusalem was my domain.
I took root in an honored people,
in the portion of the Lord, his heritage.

Second Reading: Ephesians 1:3-6, 15-18

We are God’s adopted children, through his only Son, Jesus

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love.

He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints.

Gospel: John 1:1-18

The eternal Son of God has become human for our sakes, full of grace and truth

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.'”) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

May your words, O Lord, be in my thoughts, on my lips, and in my heart. May they guide my life and keep me near to you.

The Word Became Flesh

In a scene called Christ in the House of His Parents, the 19th-century English painter John Everett Millais depicted Jesus as a boy of about eight or ten, helping  in Joseph’s carpentry workshop. In an accident, Jesus had gashed his finger so badly that his blood streamed down, while his mother tended to the wound. Though it’s an imaginary incident, it portrays well what John means in his Gospel today, that the Word truly became flesh.

The Fourth Gospel opens with a sublime statement about the origins of Jesus: “In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God.” It goes on to affirm that the Word became flesh for us. By becoming one of ourselves we might expect the Incarnate Word of God to share the same emotions as ourselves, and indeed he did. In the stories that follow, we read how Jesus showed his love to various people, to Martha, Mary and Lazarus, to his disciple John and to the rich young man who wanted to follow him. Equally, he shared our experience of distress. He could shed tears at times of loss and crisis, such as when his friend Lazarus died and before he publicly entered Jerusalem, knowing that the city would reject and execute him. The Gospels also tell how Jesus enjoyed social occasions and was a guest at so many dinners that his critics called him a glutton and a drunkard. He felt a strong empathy for people who suffered, and when they were hungry he provided the food that they needed. Like all of us, he needed companionship with others, so on several occasions he took Peter, James and John into his special confidence. When exhausted he could fall asleep, even in the stern of a boat being tossed by the wind and waves. He felt intense fear just before his passion, and openly admitted to his followers how troubled he felt in his soul. In his agony he prayed “Father let his cup pass me by.” When the Word became flesh, he joined us on so many levels.

He dwelt among us, fully, passionately. He didn’t just come to live a quiet life. He “pitched his tent among us” and shared the full range of our human experience, in order to draw us near to God. He was so much in touch with outsiders that his critics called him a friend of tax-collectors and sinners. To show his compassion for lepers, he physically touched them, laid hands on them, even at the risk of becoming ritually impure. Because he was a man of the people he spent most of his time among those who needed him most, and they were welcome in his company.

This Word became flesh to make the Eternal Father known to all of us. He came to let us know the Father. Indeed, he is God’s personal message to us. How can we know the Father? Through Jesus who is “the way, the truth and the life.” He is our surest way to the Father. To know the invisible God, we must link up with Jesus, think of him often, and identify with him as children of God.

One Response

  1. Pádraig McCarthy

    I like the Irish version of this gospel reading because to me, it conveys a dynamic impression of “Word”:
    “Bhí an Briathar ann i dtús báire
    agus bhí an Briathar in éineacht le Dia,
    agus ba Dhia an Briathar.”
    Not “focal”, which I might have used, but “Briathar” – the verb! It’s closer to the Hebrew understanding, where “Word” (Dabar) is not just a spoken fact but also an action which brings about effect. God spoke the word, and there was light. God’s word does not return to heaven without bringing about what it was spoken for.
    When it comes to “The Word was made flesh”, it uses a somewhat startling word:
    “Agus rinneadh feoil den Bhriathar
    agus chónaigh sé inár measc.”
    Yes – “feoil” the word we would use for meat! It conveys the human reality of our flesh, and the “incarnate” nature of Jesus, fully human and fully divine. The reality of the child born in Bethlehem.
    The Greek of John 1:14 has the word “sarx”, flesh. It’s the same Greek word in John 6 where Jesus speaks of eating his flesh.
    “Incarnation” is incredible; a scandal to the world – how could a woman give birth to a child who is God? If this is the same kind of flesh as you and I are, what does it say about the kind of reverence we are called to have for each human being?
    For this Year of the Word of God, and for the Sunday of the Word of God on 26 January: see the website of the Catholic Biblical Federation:

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