December 22
(from the book: Where is the Child? by Fr. R. Marcos (Makati: St Pauls); 

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First Reading: 1 Samuel 1:24-28

[In those days, Hannah brought Samuel with her,] along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine, and presented him at the house of the Lord in Shiloh. After they had slaughtered the bull, they brought the child to Eli. Then Hannah spoke up: “Excuse me, my lord! As you live, my lord, I am the woman who stood here near you, praying to the Lord.  I prayed for this child, and the Lord granted my request.  Now I, in turn, give him to the Lord; as long as he lives, he shall be dedicated to the Lord.” Then they worshiped there before the Lord.

A. Short Background on the First Reading

1. At this time in Israel’s consciousness, women were not treated at par with the men. A woman was only worth the children she brings into the world. Hannah’s husband Helkanah had a second wife, Peninah. Peninah has borne her husband several children. Thus, one can just imagine the joy of Helkanah who is once again a father in his wife Hannah. But more surpassing is the gladness in Hannah’s heart. The Lord has removed her shame of being fruitless. The Lord has given her the joy of being a mother, and in this sense, made of her a valuable human being, a person of worth.

2. In families like that of Hannah and her husband, the Lord comes and chooses his servants. Here it is shown that God is the one who gives life. He is the source of hope for the hopeless. Parallel to this story would be the birth of Isaac and John the Baptist. In the offering of the couple, the husband performs the sacrifice because he is the priest of the family and therefore authorized to bring the gifts to God.  It would be only in a later period that a priestly clan would be tasked with performing the rites related to worship.

B. Reflections on the First Reading

Reflection 1: Gift for God

If someone gives you a gift, will you return it to him? Maybe not, because now that it is given to you, you own it, and you want to keep it.  In the First Reading, it may seem at first that a pious woman is performing a routine sacrifice at the temple and with her husband there present to support her. But no, something more serious is happening, since the offering is none other than their own son, their only child, God’s greatest gift to this couple’s family! Among other offerings of animals and produce, the centerpiece is the son.

Hannah and her husband had every right to be thankful to the Lord. From being a barren woman, Hannah this time passed into fertility. From being likened to the dead, she blossomed into a life-giver.  God filled her life with hope.  God filled her heart with joy.  Her husband rejoiced in her as well.

Hannah had every right to enjoy the fruit of her fecundity.  This is her son, and what mother does not aspire of spending her life seeing her child grow, mature, become independent, and found his own family? Later she would also want to experience how it is to be a grandmother surrounded by her bubbly grandchildren.

But Hannah knew in her heart that the best response to the blessing received is to use the blessing for the glory of the Lord. She was dedicating her child to God because he was from God. God has the first right to the gift he has bestowed.

We who have been gifted much, are we willing to make a return to the Lord for the blessings we receive? Do we merely delight in receiving from God’s bounty? Are we satisfied with offering to God a simple token to express our gratitude?

Reflection 2: Children of God

In ancient times, there was the practice of offering children to the Lord. In the Bible, it was the firstborn that was brought to the temple. Christianity continued this practice and in many good homes, the parents are still aware that this offering of children to God is a gesture pleasing and effective.

It is certainly the responsibility of parents to awaken in their children the love and worship of God. Piety starts at home. Faith is deepened in the company of family members who are faithful believers. Vocations, too, originate in the context of a family centered on God.

How many parents still offer their children to God when they pray?  How many parents reflect faith and fidelity to God through the fine example of their own lives?  Let us be inspired by the generous gesture of Hannah and her husband who led their son and dedicated him to the Lord’s service.

GOSPEL: Luke 1:46-56

Mary said:  “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.

“The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him. He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped Israel his servant, Remembering his mercy, According to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

Mary remained with [Elizabeth] about three months and then returned to her home.


A.            Short Background on the Gospel

1. As Mary visits her pregnant relative Elizabeth, the older woman blesses the younger. Mary does not return the blessing to Elizabeth but instead begins to praise the Lord. Mary sees herself as a poor servant of the Lord. In the Bible, it is from among the unnoticed and seemingly worthless people that God chooses spokespersons of his glory. Mary in her Magnificat extols the boundless mercy of God and foretells the revolutionary changes that God will do in history.

2. Mary’s visit to Elizabeth and Zechariah’s home becomes an occasion for an encounter between Jesus and John, both of them still in the womb of their mothers. Pope Benedict XVI writes that this encounter happens in the Holy Spirit. Even before the two offsprings were born, their missions had become clear.  John would come into the world first, to prepare the way for the Lord’s anointed.  Though Jesus is younger and would come later, it is he whose presence blesses John in the womb and causes him to leap for joy.  It is also Jesus who makes Elizabeth a person filled with the Holy Spirit.

B. Reflections on the Gospel


Reflection 1: Mary as Servant

In the annunciation, Mary called herself the handmaid of the Lord.  In this Gospel of the Magnificat, she calls herself the lowly servant. What Mary called herself in her response to the angel Gabriel, she now calls herself in her powerful song of praise.  Both self-descriptions show what Mary truly thinks of herself—she is the slave of God, a religious servant of the Lord.

The early Christians in the Roman empire were said to have come from the ranks of the poor and lowly citizens. Their sociological status was mostly that of slaves. In her Magnificat, Mary becomes the spokeswoman for all Christians, poor in worldly standards, and likewise poor in spirit.

Jesus, too, was a poor man and in his life he would be in close identification with the poor. He would manifest a love for the poor. In the beatitudes according to St. Luke, Jesus was speaking about the concretely poor, the real hungry people, the truly suffering masses. He was not praising abject poverty, but he was trying to say to them: God loves you! God wants to raise you up! God will exalt you one day!

Christmas time is a reminder of our poverty as God showed his mercy to us. Should we not also feel close to the poor around us? What are you willing to do for them?  How do you plan to reach out to the poor as Jesus and Mary did?

Reflection 2: The Anawim

It has often been said that the Magnificat is the song of the anawim, the poor of the Lord.  But are all the poor anawim? It does not seem so. Some poor people are abusive of their neighbors. Some poor people are not poor in spirit.  The anawim are, first of all, the poor who trust solely in the Lord.  They are those who trust not in material wealth or influential people, but only in the Lord’s power to help and liberate them. And because of this, their spirits are conformed to God’s.  They strive to become the children of God they were meant to truly be.

In whatever situations of poverty we find ourselves in, it is good to ask: Do I lean on God alone? Do I have God as my inspiration, as I strive to rise from the plight I now experience, believing that God wills that I rise up and recover bravely from all these?

Reflection 3: Thanking God

The liturgy suggests a confrontation between Hannah and Mary. Both are thanking God. Hannah thanks God with an offering flowing from a gift received; God has made her a mother, the mother of the future prophet Samuel. And she says, “Now I, in turn, give him to the Lord.” Samuel is a return gift, whom Hannah yields back to the Lord, so that her son will be a living connection between her and God.

Mary also thanks the Lord with the profuse freedom of her soul. “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my savior.” Jesus is not even born and yet Mary thanks God and already offers him to the Father, because she has seen for herself how God has already started his work of salvation. While still in the womb, Jesus had sanctified John in the womb of his mother Elizabeth.

The gratitude of Mary is not based on words or gifts, but on her whole life. In Mary we find a strong disposition to acknowledge the graces that God pours on her in every moment. With her gratitude is her own self-offering to the will of the Father.

We need the disposition of Mary today. We must give thanks to God with joy and praise, since he comes to save us, and all people. Like Mary, we must be willing to offer our own selves as a return gift to the Lord. At Mass, the sacrament that is both praise, sacrifice, and gratitude, let our hearts swell with thanksgiving.

6. O King of All Nations

December 22: “O King of the nations and their Desire, the Cornerstone who binds into one: come and save mankind, whom you fashioned from clay.”

There are few kings left in the world. Monarchies are not as appreciated as in the past.  Like what we do to the title “Lord,” we are not too accommodating to the idea of a “king.” We resist the idea of one who reigns over us to control us and force us to do things we do not want to do. We cringe at the thought of a monopoly of power and domination by one man or clan.

In the Bible originally, the king was a source of unity. The biblical world was always at war and so, there needed to be someone who could bring people as one and who could turn differences into gifts for each other. Today we still need a king who will unite us amidst our squabbles, divisions, jealousies, and competitions.

When Pilate questioned Jesus about his kingship, he was really asking Jesus about whose side he was on. Jesus resisted this question because he did not like labels; he shunned earthly notions of power that divide and subjugate.

Jesus is king but as one who comes as the ransom, the servant, the co-sufferer. With Jesus, we know that God is for us and he is here as the source of unity and not division, agreement and not control.=

Jesus the King seeks to serve and not to dominate, and to draw people, not conquer them. All the world’s most vulnerable people can feel at home in his presence and can identify with his life. Let us pray that we will fall under the kingship of Christ, and thus be united to him and to people around us.