Friday - Christmas Time
1) Opening prayer
Lord our God,
today’s innocent martyrs
bore witness to you
not by proclaiming your name in words
but by laying down their lives for you,
even though they were not aware of it.
We pray to you on their feast
that we may bear witness to you
both by the words we speak
and the way we live what we believe in.
May we do so in the full awareness
of what we are doing.
We ask you this through Christ our Lord.
2) Gospel Reading – Matthew 2, 13-18
After they had left, suddenly the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, 'Get up, take the child and his mother with you, and escape into Egypt, and stay there until I tell you, because Herod intends to search for the child and do away with him.'
So Joseph got up and, taking the child and his mother with him, left that night for Egypt, where he stayed until Herod was dead. This was to fulfil what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: I called my son out of Egypt.
Herod was furious on realising that he had been fooled by the wise men, and in Bethlehem and its surrounding district he had all the male children killed who were two years old or less, reckoning by the date he had been careful to ask the wise men.
Then were fulfilled the words spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: A voice is heard in Ramah, lamenting and weeping bitterly: it is Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted because they are no more.
• The Gospel of Matthew, written around the years 81 and 90, is concerned with showing that in Jesus the prophecies were fulfilled. Many times it is said: “All that happened in order that what had been said by the Lord would be fulfilled…” (cf. Mt 1, 22; 2, 17.23; 4, 14; 5, 17; etc.). This because those to whom the Gospel of Matthew was addressed are the communities of the converted Jews who were living a profound crisis of Faith and of identity. After the destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70, the Pharisees were the only group of Jews which had survived. In the 80’s, when they began to reorganize themselves, the opposition between the Pharisee Jews and the Christian Jews grew. These ended by being excommunicated from the Synagogue and separated from the people of the Promises. The excommunication made the problem of identity even more acute. They could no longer frequent their Synagogues. And they were assailed by doubt: Is it that we have made a mistake? Who are the true People of God? Is Jesus truly the Messiah?
• It is for this group which is suffering much that Matthew writes his Gospel, as a Gospel of consolation to help them overcome the trauma of the separation, as a Gospel of revelation to show that Jesus is the true Messiah, the new Moses in whom the promises are fulfilled, as a Gospel of the new practice to teach the road of how to attain the new justice, greater than the justice of the Pharisees (Mt 5, 20).
• In today’s Gospel we see the great concern of Matthew. He consoles the community which is persecuted showing that Jesus also was persecuted. He reveals that Jesus is the Messiah, in fact, for two times he insists in saying that the prophecies are fulfilled in him; and besides, he suggests that Jesus is the new Messiah, because like Moses, he also is persecuted and has to flee. He indicates a new way, suggesting that they have to do like the Magi who knew how to avoid the vigilance of Herod and returned to their home, taking another way.
4) Personal questions
• Herod gave the order to kill the children of Bethlehem. The Herod of today continues to kill millions of children. They starve to death, because of lack of nutrition, of sickness, because of abortion. Today, who is Herod?
• Matthew helps to overcome the crisis of faith and of identity. Today, many live a profound crisis of faith and of identity. How can the Gospel help to overcome this crisis of faith?
5) Concluding Prayer
Our help is in the name of Yahweh,
who made heaven and earth. (Ps 124,8)