The liturgical year begins with First Sunday of Advent, which starts four Sundays before Christmas (December 25). In this Liturgical year, 2017, Circle A, the Church meditates on the Gospel of Matthew and uses it for most of Sunday readings (St. Luke for Circle B and St. Mark for Circle C). St. John, who appears several times in the Liturgy of the Word of almost all three years, is offered in a special way during the time of the Lord's Passion.
Year A -Meditating on the Gospel of Matthew*
About Matthew and his Gospel
Jesus chose one of the unlikeliest of men to be his apostle, Matthew the much hated tax-collector who worked for the Roman Empire (Matthew 9:9). Unlike most of the other apostles who were skillful fishermen, Matthew was skilled with the pen and with
giving an account of facts and figures. Matthew the evangelist wrote some 1068 verses while the evangelist Mark wrote some 661 verses. Matthew wrote his gospel sometime in the last quarter of the first century, likely between 85 and 105 AD.
Matthew's gospel is placed first in the canon of the New Testament, not because it was written first, some of Paul's letters and the Gospel of Mark were written before, but because it is a bridge between the Old and New Testament.
Matthew focuses on the substance of Jesus' teaching. His account of Jesus' teaching is arranged in five sections which focus on the kingdom of God: (1) the Sermon on the Mount or the Law of the Kingdom comprise chapters 5-7; (2) his missionary instructions to his disciples on the duties of the leaders of the kingdom in chapter 10; (3) the Parables of the Kingdom in chapter 13; (4) the themes of "greatness" and "forgiveness" in the kingdom in chapter 18; and (5) the "coming of the King" in chapters 24-25.
Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew
In his Gospel, Matthew convinced the Jews that Jesus is their Messiah King, the Anointed One, the Christ, the Son of God and founder of the kingdom of God. Matthew's account uses the word "kingdom" 50 times, and the "kingdom of heaven" 32 times. Matthew also shows Jesus' authority over nature by his miracles, his authority over sin by forgiving sins, and his authority over death by his resurrection
The Gospel of the Jews
Matthew writes as a Jew to his fellow Jews to present to them the evidence for Jesus' claim to be the King of the Jews. He quotes extensively from the Old Testament prophets to show how Jesus fulfilled all that was spoken about the Messiah who would come to establish the reign [or kingdom] of God. He frequently writes, "as it is written in the prophet..." or "this was done to fulfill what was spoken by the prophets..." Nine times Matthew refers to Jesus as the "son of David". The prophets had fortold that the Messiah would be a direct descent of David. Matthew's gospel begins with the genealogy of Jesus, tracing him back to David, King of Israel, and then to Abraham, the first Jew. Matthew traces Jesus' lineage through Joseph, his foster father, rather than through Mary, his biological mother [as Luke's account does]. Matthew, the observant Jew, notes that according to Jewish genealogy, the father's lineage counted legally for royalty.
The Meaning of the Liturgical Year
• The Liturgical Year celebrates the Mystery of Christ
By preaching the Church “announces” “the whole mystery of Christ” (CD 12) and with the Liturgy it “celebrates it presenting the sacred memory (SC 102). In such a way it makes present today “the unfathomable treasure of Christ” (Eph 3, 8 ff; cf. 1, 18; 2, 7): his signs of salvation, with which the faithful come into contact in order to draw from it the grace of salvation. The Liturgical Year which has its “source” and its “summit” in the Paschal Mystery is articulated into five “periods of time” which have a special relationship with the diverse moments of the Mystery of Christ (SC 10; LG 11). Therefore, they follow a progressive order: Advent and Christmas; Lent and the Passover or Easter; Ordinary Time.
• Time of Advent and of Christmas
Advent is a time of preparation with a twofold characteristic: it recalls the first coming of the Son of God in humility and pre- announces the second coming in glory: it is a time of active waiting, of expectation, of desire, of prayer, of evangelization, of joy. Christmas is a time of joyful contemplation of the Mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God and of his first manifestations, who has come for our salvation “man among men”. During this time Mary is particularly celebrated as “Mother of God”.
• Time of Lent and of Passover or Easter
Lent is a time of preparation the purpose of which is to guide to a more intense and gradual participation in the Paschal Mystery. During this time the catechumens are accompanied through the various degrees of Christian initiation, and the faithful through the living memory of Baptism and Penance. The Passover or Easter is the summit of the Liturgical Year, from which all the other parts draw their efficacy of salvation, it is the fulfilment of the redemption of humanity and of perfect glorification of God: it is the destruction of sin and of death, communication of resurrection and of life.
• Ordinary Time
During this long period of time, which has a first stage between Christmas Time and Lent, and develops more extensively from Pentecost to the following Advent, is a global celebration of the mystery of Christ, which is taken up again and deepened in many of its particular aspects.
Already, we can say that Sundays – “The Day of the Lord” – are the “Weekly Passover or Easter” and therefore, a living grafting into the central nucleus of the mystery of Christ throughout the whole year; but then the Weeks (33 and 34) develop through an intense and continued recourse to the Bible the deepening of small cycles of the mystery of Christ, offering these to the meditation of the faithful in order that this may become a stimulus to the action in the Church and in the world.
Liturgies celebrated during the different seasons of the liturgical year have distinctive music and specific readings, prayers, and rituals. All of these work together to reflect the spirit of the particular season. The colors of the vestments that the priest wears during the liturgy also help express the character of the mysteries being celebrated.
White, the color of joy and victory, is used for the seasons of Easter and Christmas. It is also used for the feasts of Our Lord, for feasts of Mary, the angels, and for saints who are not martyrs. Gold may also be used on solemn occasions.
Red (the color of blood) is used on days when we celebrate the passion of Jesus on Passion Sunday and Good Friday. It is also used for the birthday feasts of the apostles and evangelists and for the celebrations of martyrs. Red (the color of fire) recalls the Holy Spirit and is used on Pentecost and for the sacrament of Confirmation.
Green, seen everywhere in plants and trees, symbolizes life and hope and is used during Ordinary Time.
The colors violet or purple in Advent help us to remember that we are preparing for the coming of Christ. Lent, the season of penance and renewal, also uses the colors violet or purple.
Rose may be used on the Third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, and on the Fourth Sunday of Lent, Laetare Sunday. It expresses the joy of anticipation for Christmas and Easter, respectively.
*insert from http://www.rc.net/wcc/readings/matthew.htm