Monday, 9 December 2019 : Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 1 : 26-38

In the sixth month, the Angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth. He was sent to a young virgin, who was betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the family of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.

The Angel came to her and said, “Rejoice, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” Mary was troubled at these words, wondering what this greeting could mean. But the Angel said, “Do not fear, Mary, for God has looked kindly on you. You shall conceive and bear a Son, and you shall call Him Jesus. He will be great, and shall rightly be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the kingdom of David, His ancestor; He will rule over the people of Jacob forever, and His reign shall have no end.”

Then Mary said to the Angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” And the Angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, the Holy Child to be born of you shall be called Son of God. Even your relative Elizabeth is expecting a son in her old age, although she was unable to have a child; and she is now in her sixth month. With God nothing is impossible.”

Then Mary said, “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me as you have said.” And the Angel left her.

Saturday, 23 November 2019 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Clement I, Pope and Martyr, and St. Columban, Abbot (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Abbots or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

1 Maccabees 6 : 1-13

When king Antiochus was making his way through the upper regions of Persia, he received news about Elymais, a city renowned for its wealth in silver and gold. They kept in the wealthy temple of their city golden armour, breastplates and weapons, left there by the Macedonian king, Alexander, the son of Philip, the first sovereign of the Greeks.

So Antiochus went there. But the inhabitants came out armed against him when they learnt of his intention, so his attempt to take the city failed. He had to turn back; and he returned much embittered to Babylon. While he was still in Persia, it was reported to him that the armies sent to Judea had been defeated. They told him that although Lysias had gone with a strong army, he had to flee before the Jews, who had been strengthened with the weapons and the abundant booty taken from the neighbouring armies.

He heard, too, that the Jews had destroyed the abominable idol he had erected on the altar in Jerusalem; and had rebuilt the Temple walls to the same height as before; and had also fortified the city of Beth-zur. When he received this news, he was terrified and deeply upset. He fell sick and became greatly depressed because things had not turned out the way he had planned.

So he remained overcome by this terrible anguish for many days. He felt he was dying, so he called his friends and said to them, “Sleep has fled from my eyes and I am greatly crushed by my anxieties. And I keep on asking why such grief has come upon me – I who was generous and well-loved when in power – and now I am so discouraged.”

“Now I remember the evils I did in Jerusalem, the vessels of gold and silver that I stole, the inhabitants of Judea I ordered to be killed for no reason at all. I now know, that because of this, these misfortunes have come upon me; and I am dying of grief in a strange land.”

Friday, 22 November 2019 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

1 Maccabees 4 : 36-37, 52-59

Then Judas and his brothers said : “Our enemies are defeated, so let us go up and purify the Holy Place and consecrate it again.” And all the army assembled and went up to Mount Zion.

On the twenty-fifth day of the month of Chislev, in the year one hundred and forty-eight (in the year 164 B.C.) they arose at dawn and offered the sacrifice prescribed by the Law on the new altar of holocausts which they had built. It was precisely at that same time and date that the pagans had profaned it before; but now they consecrated it with songs, accompanied by zithers, harps and cymbals. All the people fell prostrate and blessed Heaven that had given them happiness and success.

They celebrated the consecration of the altar for eight days, joyfully offering holocausts and celebrating sacrifices of thanksgiving and praise. The front of the Temple was adorned with crowns of gold and shields; and the gates and the rooms had been restored and fitted with doors. There was no end to the celebration among the people; and so profanation of the Temple by the pagans was forgotten.

Finally, Judas, his brothers and the whole assembly of Israel agreed to celebrate the anniversary of the consecration of the altar annually for eight days, from the twenty-fifth of the month of Chislev, in high festivity.

Thursday, 21 November 2019 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Zechariah 2 : 14-17

Sing and rejoice, o daughter of Zion, for I am about to come, I shall dwell among you,” says YHVH. “On that day, many nations will join YHVH and be My people, but My dwelling is among you.”

The people of Judah will be for YHVH as His portion in His holy land. He will choose Jerusalem again. Keep still in YHVH’s presence, for He comes, having risen from His holy dwelling.

Wednesday, 20 November 2019 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

2 Maccabees 7 : 1, 20-31

It happened also that seven brothers were arrested with their mother. The king had them scourged and flogged to force them to eat the flesh of a pig which was prohibited by the Law.

More than all of them, their mother ought to be admired and remembered. She saw her seven sons die in a single day. But she endured it even with joy for she had put her hope in the Lord. Full of a noble sense of honour, she encouraged each one of them in the language of their ancestors. Her woman’s heart was moved by manly courage, so she told them :

“I wonder how you were born of me; it was not I who gave you breath and life, nor I who ordered the matter of your body. The Creator of the world Who formed man in the beginning and ordered the unfolding of all creation shall in His mercy, give you back breath and life, since you now despise them for the love of His laws.”

Antiochus thought she was making fun of him and suspected that she had insulted him. As the youngest was still alive, the king tried to win him over not only with his words, but even promised to make him rich and happy, if he would abandon the traditions of his ancestors. He would make him his Friend and appoint him to a high position in the kingdom.

But as the young man did not pay him any attention, the king ordered the mother to be brought in. He urged her to advise her son in order to save his life. After being asked twice by the king, she agreed to persuade her son. She bent over him and fooled the cruel tyrant by saying in her ancestral language : “My son, have pity on me. For nine months I carried you in my womb and suckled you for three years; I raised you up and educated you until this day.”

“I ask you now, my son, that when you see the heavens, the earth and all that is in it, you know that God made all this from nothing, and the human race as well. Do not fear these executioners, but make yourself worthy of your brothers – accept death that you may again meet your brothers in the time of mercy.”

When she finished speaking, the young man said, “What are you waiting for? I do not obey the king’s order but the precepts of the Law given by Moses to our ancestors. And you who have devised such tortures against the Hebrews, shall not escape the hands of God.”

Tuesday, 19 November 2019 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

2 Maccabees 6 : 18-31

Eleazar, one of the prominent teachers of the Law, already old and of noble appearance, was forced to open his mouth to eat the flesh of a pig. But he preferred to die honourably than to live in disgrace, and voluntarily came to the place where they beat him to death. He spat out bravely the piece of meat, as should be done by those who do not want to do things prohibited by the Law, even to save their life.

Those in charge of this impious banquet took him aside, since they had known him for a long time, and tried to convince him to pretend to be eating the meat, but in reality, to eat something allowed by the Law and prepared by himself. In this way, he could escape death, and be treated with humanity for the sake of their long-time friendship.

But he preferred to make a noble decision worthy of his age, of his noble years, of his shining white hair, and of the irreproachable life he had led from childhood. Above all, showing respect for the holy laws established by God, he answered that he would rather be sent to the place of the dead. And he added, “It would be unworthy to pretend at our age, and to lead many young people to suppose that I, at ninety years, have gone over to the pagan customs. If I led them astray for the sake of this short life I would bring disgrace to my old age.”

“Even if I could now be saved from mortals, I cannot – whether living or dead – escape from the hands of the Almighty. I prefer to bravely sacrifice my life now, as befits my old age. So I shall leave an excellent example to the young, dying voluntarily and valiantly for the sacred and holy laws.” Having said this, he gave himself over to death.

Those who escorted him considered his words foolishness, so their previous gentleness turned into harshness. When he was almost at the point of death, he said groaning, “The Holy Lord, Who sees all, knows that though I could have saved myself from death, I now endure terrible sufferings in my body. But in my soul, I suffer gladly because of the respect I have for Him.”

In his death, he left a noble example and a memorial of virtue and strength, not only to the young but to the whole nation.

Monday, 18 November 2019 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Peter in Vatican and the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of a Basilica)

1 Maccabees 1 : 10-15, 41-43, 54-57, 62-64

From their descendants there came a godless offshoot, Antiochus Epiphanes, son of king Antiochus, who had been held as hostage in Rome. He became king in the one hundred and thirty-seventh year of the Greek era, in the year 175 B.C..

It was then that some rebels emerged from Israel, who succeeded in winning over many people. They said, “Let us renew contact with the people around us for we had endured many misfortunes since we separated from them.”

This proposal was well-received and some eagerly went to the king. The king authorised them to adopt the customs of the pagan nations. With his permission, they built a gymnasium in Jerusalem in the pagan style. And as they wanted to be like the pagans in everything, they made artificial foreskins for themselves and abandoned the Holy Covenant, sinning as they pleased.

Antiochus issued a decree to his whole kingdom. All the people of his empire had to renounce their particular customs and become one people. All the pagan nations obeyed and respected the king’s decree, and, even in Israel, many accepted the imposed cult. They offered sacrifices to idols and no longer respected the Sabbath.

On the fifteenth day of the month of Chislev, in the year one hundred and forty-five, in the year 167 B.C., Antiochus erected the “abominable idol of the invaders” on the altar of the Temple. Pagan altars were built throughout the whole land of Judea; incense was offered at the doors of their houses and in the squares.

There wicked men tore up the books of the Law they found and burnt them. They killed anyone they caught in possession of the book of the Covenant and who fulfilled the precepts of the Law, as the royal decree had ordered. But in spite of all this, many Israelites still remained firm and determined not to eat unclean food. They preferred to die rather than to make themselves unclean with those foods prohibited by the Law that violated the Holy Covenant. And Israel suffered a very great trial.

Alternative reading (Mass for Dedication of the Basilicas)

Acts 28 : 11-16, 30-31

After three months, we boarded a ship that had spent the winter at the island. It belonged to an Alexandrian company, and carried the figurehead of Castor and Pollux as insignia. We sailed for Syracuse, staying there for three days; and, after circling the coast, we arrived at Rhegium.

On the following day, a south wind began to blow, and, at the end of two days, we arrived at Puteoli, where we found some of our brothers, who invited us to stay with them for a week. And that was how we came to Rome. There, the brothers and sisters had been informed of our arrival, and came out to meet us as far as the Appian Forum and the Three Taverns.

When Paul saw them, he gave thanks to God and took courage. Upon our arrival in Rome, the captain turned the prisoners over to the military governor, but permitted Paul to lodge in a private house, with the soldier who guarded him.

Paul stayed for two whole years, in a house he, himself, rented, where he received, without any hindrance, all those who came to see him. He proclaimed the kingdom of God, and taught the truth about Jesus Christ, the Lord, quite openly and without any hindrance.