Suggestions Welcome for Novena Prayers and Readings

More than 50 people joined for the first night of the Novena for Our Country that we are sponsoring together with St. Augustine and St. Francis Xavier. The novena is being said nightly via Zoom at 5 PM through next Tuesday. For more information, see the “Invitation to Novena for Our Country”. Don’t worry if you missed the first night, you are welcome to join in.

As I mentioned last night, I have received wonderful suggestions for prayers and readings for upcoming nights of the novena. I encourage you to keep emailing them to me, [email protected] This has truly been a communal effort in a time that certainly needs one, and I see my role for this novena as primarily being editor.

Format
Please make your suggestions based on the following format:

A. Entrance Antiphon: Short scripture verse

B. Opening Prayer: Collects from the Roman Missal are appropriate; as well as the several suggestions from the Book of Common Prayer (1928 and 1976)

C. Reading: Most suggestions to date have been from Fratelli Tutti chapter 5. We will use these until Thursday. Other ideas welcome. We have had one from Bishop Curry, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church and one from St Pope John Paul 2nd. Please give enough text to supply some background.

C. Scripture response: Keep it short and simple.

D. Concluding Prayer: People have been very creative.

E. Final Blessing: This is the only part that will be said by a priest.

I have included the readings until Thursday below, but you can send prayers whether they fit these readings or not for future use. There will be a special emphasis on Mary for Saturday.

Let us support each other in this most difficult and dangerous time.

I remain
In Christ,
Fr. Bill Smith

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Baptism of the Lord – Responding to God’s Call

The Baptism of Christ, Grigory Gagarin, c. 1840–1850

Fr. Smith’s Commentary on the First Reading
Isaiah 55:1–11
January 10, 2021

Advent / Christmastide is the season of Isaiah as we continue reading the book of Isaiah in all its manifestations. This week, we will examine the conclusion of the writings of Isaiah of Babylon. He addressed the Jewish leaders exiled in Babylon after the final destruction and abandonment of Jerusalem in 586 BC. This was after Babylon itself was conquered in 539 BC by Cyrus, the Assyrian king. Cyrus offered the Jews in Babylon return to Jerusalem if they rebuilt it and functioned as their colonial administration. Isaiah of Babylon—usually called second Isaiah as he was the second person to use this name—is a man of notable talent who provides political commentary, a theology of history, eloquent exhortations to Justice, and much else. Yet we must remember that he is also a propagandist for the LORD. He sought to convince people to take up this invitation and return to Jerusalem and rebuild Jewish life. In this passage today, he reviews his best arguments and reveals a lesson for us in the here and very now.

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Mary, Mother of God – Homily (Fr. Smith)

On behalf of Msgr. LoPinto, Fr. Gribowich, and of course myself, I would like to express our best wishes as we close out the calendar year 2020 and pray for 2021. It is comforting to do this not only as Christians but as Catholics. In our tradition this is the “Octave of Christmas.” As the name suggests Octave means 8 and reflects the Latin way of counting. It means however a week and is a way of marking very special feasts. There were once many Octaves but now they have been reduced to two: Christmas and Easter. The Octave of Christmas has celebrated many things over the years. Some of us may remember when it was the feast of the circumcision of our Lord. But Pope St. Paul 6th realized that it should be dedicated to Mary. An octave is an echo of Jesus major interventions into history and Mary is the most perfect echo of Jesus’ incarnation.  Of all the possibilities of recognizing Mary’s special connection to the Incarnation he chose “Mary, the Mother of God.” Let us look at why and another Gospel selection before returning to the Gospel chosen today and a more pertinent lesson.

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Epiphany – Making Justice Our Aim

The Magi Journeying (Les rois mages en voyage), James Tissot, 1886-1894 (Brooklyn Museum)
(About this Image)

Fr. Smith’s Commentary on the First Reading
Feast of the Epiphany
Isaiah 60:1–6
January 3, 2021

The first reading for the feast of the Epiphany is standard and doesn’t change every year. You may find previous commentaries for 2019 (Jan. 6, 2019) and 2020 (Jan. 5, 2020). As Isaiah speaks today of light and salvation, it is a perfect selection for Epiphany. It also, as we have seen over the years, contains many images and thoughts which give it a certain complexity. Reviewing it every year reveals what I have learned about the First Testament over the previous year and how it can be applied to our immediate situation.

There are some elements which however are central and constant. Three people used or were given the name Isaiah. A more complete background of the three Isaiahs may be found in the commentary for December 13, 2020. Let us however review the highlights. First Isaiah lived in Jerusalem and was an active prophet between roughly 700 and 695 BC., second Isaiah lived in Babylon after the people had been brought into captivity around 540 BC and third Isaiah had returned to Jerusalem and wrote around 515 BC.

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Solemnity of the Holy Family – Trusting and Laughing with the Lord

Simeon and Anna Praise the infant Jesus, Arent de Gelder, c. 1700, Mauritshuls (The Haugue)

Fr. Smith’s Commentary on the First Reading
Solemnity of the Holy Family
Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14
December 27, 2020

The theme of barrenness is prominent throughout both testaments. We see it for the with Sarah in today’s reading. However, in Genesis alone, there is Rebecka and Rachael. We need also remember Samson’s mother and Hannah in Judges and 1 Samuel. In the New Testament, there is most famously Elizabeth and in Christian legend, Anne the mother of Mary. We can look at this sentimentally as a feeling of loss but in the ancient Mid-East, especially in the Old Testament, this was a serious problem on many levels.

First spiritually, people did not believe in an afterlife and eternity would be through one’s children and further progeny. In today’s reading the LORD tells Abram that he is his “Shield” and that his reward will be very great. Abram’s response might seem to us ungrateful or even rude “O Lord GOD, what will you give me, for I continue childless (Ge 15:2.) Indeed, he continues: “See, you have given me no offspring, and so one of my servants will be my heir.” (Ge 15:3)

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4th Sunday of Advent – The Gift of Ourselves to Him

The Annunciation, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, c. 1660, Hermitage

Fr. Smith’s Commentary on the First Reading
Fourth Sunday of Advent
2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8B-12, 14A, 16
December 20, 2020

Today’s reading from Samuel seems very pious. No doubt David is sincere in his desire to show respect, but the LORD is aware that there is another motive as well. This section is quite subtle and has much to teach us

Let us remember the situation, after Moses, about 1350 BC, the Hebrews were a loose coalition of tribes with similar religious beliefs and a shared dietary code. They desired to be as independent as possible but often needed to unite to fight a common enemy. At this time, they would determine a leader – a war chief – who world organize an army and lead it until they won or lost. This leader was called a judge. This system was like the confederations around them.

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2nd Sunday of Advent – Wanting Nothing More Than to Know and Love Us

John the Baptist, Alexandre Cabanel, 1849, Musée Fabre (France – Montpellier)

Fr. Smith’s Commentary on the 1st Reading
Second Second of Advent
Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11
December 6, 2020

Today, we read the opening of what has come to be known as “Second Isaiah,” the writings of the second person to use the name Isaiah: Yahweh is salvation. The first as we have seen many times was an 8th century BC prophet, “Isaiah of Jerusalem”. Despite being a prophet, he was well connected to the king and his court. The Isaiah from whom we read today, “Isaiah of Babylon,” wrote from the community of exiled Jewish leaders in Babylon sometime after 539 BC. Despite the difference of time and place they share similar ideas. The first is the nature of the call itself.

Our passage opens with:

Comfort, give comfort to my people,
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her
that her service is at an end,

(Is 40:1–2b)
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