On September 30, 2019, on the Feast of St. Jerome, Pope Francis declared the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time as Sunday of the Word of God. On this day he published an Apostolic Letter, Motu Proprio "Aperuit illis" which also marks the 1600 death anniversary of St. Jerome, who translated the Bible into Latin. St, Jerome said: "Ignorance of scripture is ignorance of Christ." The Sunday of the Word of God is dedicated to the celebration, study, and dissemination of the Word of God.
The Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation Dei Verbum solemnly promulgated by Pope Paul VI on November 18, 1965. Pope Francis quote Dei Verbum, 21 in his Apostolic Letter, “Aperuit illis,” “the Church has always venerated the divine Scriptures as she has venerated the Lord’s body, in that she never ceases, above all in the sacred liturgy, to partake of the bread of life and to offer it to the faithful from the one table of the word of God and the body of Christ.”
Pope Francis says in his Apostolic Letter that regular reading of sacred Scripture and the celebration of the Eucharist makes us realize that we are a single people who make a pilgrimage through history, in presence of God who speaks to us and nourishes us.
This weekends reading tells us about the importance of listening to the Word of God. In the first reading from the book of Jonah chapter 3, we see Jonah who announces God’s message. The first two chapters of Jonah describes how God responded to Jonah’s flight from His call and the mission He had assigned the prophet, exposing him to a deadly storm and an agonizing experience in the belly of a whale. At God’s second call to preach repentance in Nineveh, Jonah obeyed. Jonah had not even finished the first day of his preaching journey before the people had totally turned around – doing visible penance while asking and hoping for God’s love, reconciliation, and forgiveness. Contrary to Jonah’s expectations, the pagan peoples of the city "believed in God" and "renounced their evil behavior."
In the Gospel of John, in the first chapter, we read, the Word was God and everything came to be through Him, and in the fullness of time, Word became flesh. This weekends Gospel is from the Gospel of Mark, where we see Jesus, the Word made flesh, inviting people to repent and embrace the Kingdom of God. The kingdom of God closely connected the ancient kingdom of Israel. Even though David’s kingdom is collapsed, but it foreshadowed the glory of Christ's reign. Where Jesus is there is the kingdom of God.
Today, we have thousands and thousands of missionaries proclaim the Word of God around the world. We see in today’s Gospel reading the initial step. Jesus invited Simon, Andrew, James, and John to join him, so they can be prepared to continue his mission, preaching the Word of God. They couldn’t resist Jesus’ compelling invitation to follow as disciples. They left everything and followed Jesus. They listened to the Word of God, witnessed the miracles and grew in faith.
We all know the reception of the Holy Spirit made the disciples able to proclaim the Word of God. Pope Francis in his apostolic letter says, “The work of the Holy Spirit has to do not only with the formation of sacred Scripture; it is also operative in those who hear the word of God.”
The Pope says that Dei Verbum makes clear that “the words of God, expressed in human language, are in every way like human speech, just as the Word of the eternal Father, in taking upon himself the weak flesh of human beings, also took on their likeness” (No. 13).
Our God is one who comes to us and is with us through the Word and Sacraments and continues to guide us with the Holy Spirit. Today and every day let us find time to spend time with the Word of God.
COME AND SEE!
We live in a time of technology. Especially during this pandemic, we use technology to meet and communicate. Cell phones are handy, we can receive calls anywhere. There are so many options on a cell phone. If we have saved someone’s name and/or picture and number of the person, when they call you, it will show us the name and picture of the person calling. So you can recognize the person, and it makes it easy to respond.
How do we recognize God’s call? Last weekend we celebrated the Baptism of the Lord, the inauguration of the new exodus, the heaven was torn open and heard the Father’s voice, “This is My Beloved Son.” Jesus, the Lamb of God, called us in our baptism to be daughters and sons. The reading for this weekend gives us the opportunity to reflect on it.
In the Gospel, John the Baptist with two of his disciples and told them, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” In the Bible, the Lamb is brought to the temple on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:20-22). The Lamb was offered on the altar every morning and evening (Ex 29:38-42; Nm 28:1-8). The Paschal Lamb’s blood saved the firstborn of the Jews (Ex 12:11ss.). Isaiah talks about suffering servant. All this leads to Jesus and John introduces him, as “The Lamb of God.”
The two disciples of John followed Jesus. One of them was Andrew (1:40) and the other should be John the evangelist. Andrew went and got his brother Simon, to whom Jesus said, “You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas” — which is translated, Peter.” Cephas in Aramaic means rock. Jesus is calling Peter to be the rock and in which he is going to build the Church. It's a way of calling him to the fullness of his identity, to fulfill the mission he was created for. Jesus spoke to his heart.
In the first reading, we hear the call of Samuel. The first chapter of first Samuel describes Hannah’s prayer for a child and the birth of Samuel. Elkanah and Hannah dedicated him in his early childhood to God’s service in the Temple at Shiloh, as an apprentice to the priest Eli.
One night, God called Samuel, and Samuel thought it was his master, Eli. Twice Samuel went to Eli, and twice Eli told him to go back to sleep. The third time Eli realized what was going on and told Samuel, “Go to sleep, and if you are called, reply, Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.” It's so real, so human, so personalized, that Samuel keeps thinking that Eli is the one who's calling him. Eli is someone who knows Samuel, someone Samuel knows, a close companion in life. Samuel was able to confuse God's voice with Eli's shows just how personal and intimate God's offer of friendship was. In Hebrew ‘Shema’ is the word for hearing and listening. Listening is much more than hearing. Samuel listened to God and grew up, and the LORD was with him. God chose young Samuel instead of Eli.
The young Samuel had been called to lead and instruct God’s people and to anoint the Kings of Israel. Andrew, John, and Peter called to follow Jesus, eventually, they will be sent out to the ends of the earth. In these both calls, we can see someone to direct. For Samuel, it was Eli, a priest who trained him and for Andrew and John, it was John the Baptist, who prepared the way for the Lord and Peter, it was his brother Andrew.
We all received a call to follow Jesus. Jesus said to the two disciples, come and see. And they stayed with him the rest of that day. Do we stay with Jesus? In the Eucharist, Jesus breaks and shares with us. He wants to stay with us. Why do we want to stay with him? He wants us to follow him and make his name known and loved.
Christmas season ends with the Baptism of the Lord. Christmas told us God became one of us. Last weekend we celebrated Epiphany, the revelation of the Lord to all nations. This weekend again we celebrate God the Father who reveals his Son at baptism. We can see here all three persons of God were present. Jesus Christ, the second person of God, standing at the Jordan River. We hear the voice of the Father from heaven and the Holy Spirit descending in the form of a dove. The Baptism of the Lord tells us that Jesus is not just having human nature, he has Divine nature.
We know the Exodus story from the Old Testament, a journey from slavery to the Promised Land. In that journey, the Israelites crossed two rivers. We all know the story of crossing the Red Sea. It was the beginning of the Exodus story. At the end of the Exodus story is crossing the Jordan River and entering the Promised Land.
In the New Testament, at the Baptism of the Lord, begins the new Exodus story. John the Baptist at the Jordan River is giving the baptism of repentance. In the Book of Malachi 3:1 says, “Now I am sending my messenger- he will prepare the way before me.” Jews believed that Elijah will come to prepare the way of the Lord (3:23). John invited them for the baptism. Washing or a purification ceremony was common for Jewish people. It is called Mikveh, the pool they went to for the washing ceremony. In the Gospel, John talks about the one who is coming and inviting people to receive the baptism of repentance at the Jordan River in order to prepare the way.
Even though Jesus is sinless, and no need of repentance, Jesus chooses to be baptized to identify himself with his people, sinners, as part of the Father’s plan to save them. St. Gregory of Nazianzus says, “Perhaps he comes to sanctify his baptizer; certainly he comes to bury sinful humanity in the waters… Jesus rises from the waters; the world rises with him.”
In the Gospel reading, we see the fulfillment of the promise. A voice…with you I am well pleased: God’s acknowledgment of Jesus as his unique Son, the divinity of Christ. The presence of the Trinity at this baptism reveals Jesus' true identity and mission of Jesus. Father’s approval of Jesus is the assurance that Jesus will fulfill his messianic mission of salvation.
“This is my beloved Son” the Father’s announcement echoes several Old Testament passages. In the first reading from the book of Isaiah 42:1, 6&7, we see prophesy that the coming of God’s pleasing servant, who will rescue Israel, and he will be the light of the nation. Jesus fulfills this role as a suffering servant and light of the world (John8:12). Psalm 2:17 portrays King David as the anointed son of God. Jesus is here from the house of David, anointed by the Spirit and Father revealing Jesus' identity, “This is my beloved Son.”
The Baptism of the Lord was the inauguration of the new Exodus. Then began his ministry of the miracle at Cana, opening the eyes of the blind, healing the sick, bringing out prisoners from confinement, feeding the five thousand, instituting the Eucharist to remain with us forever, and offering on the cross, poured out blood to give us new baptism, to wash away our sins. Through his passion, death, and resurrection, he gave us the Sacraments to prepare us to go out and bring the same ministry he did.
When we walk into the Church, we used to dip the fingers of our right hands into the holy water font and bless ourselves when we came into the church. Because of the pandemic, we don’t have that opportunity. This blessing is supposed to remind us of our baptism. And so when we bless ourself with holy water, we should be thinking of the fact that we are a child of God; that we have been redeemed by the Cross of Christ; that we have been made a member of God’s family, and that we have been washed, forgiven, cleansed and purified by the blood of the Lamb and we have been sent out to bring the Good News by serving one another.
This year we had the opportunity to see the “Star of Bethlehem” or “Christmas Star.” It is an especially vibrant planetary conjunction easily visible the bright planets Jupiter and Saturn come together. Did you see it? I missed it, but saw lots of pictures and read about it.
We are celebrating the Epiphany. The Magi, astrologers from Persia, follows the star and comes to the manger in Bethlehem, the city of David. Matthew also draws upon the Old Testament story of Balaam, who had prophesied that “A star shall advance from Jacob” (Nm 24:17), though there the star means not an astral phenomenon but the king himself.
The word Epiphany means a showing or manifestation of the Lord. Magi were eager to find and adore the true King: Child Jesus and offer gifts. They were not members of the Chosen Jewish People; tradition says that they were Persians.
The Church of Nativity is the oldest church in the Holy Land. I had an opportunity to visit this church a couple of years ago. In 613, the Persians invaded the Holy Land and destroyed all the churches, except the Church of Nativity. This church has a mosaic of the Magi, who were wearing Persian-style clothes. It seems like they had respect for their countrymen. Magi were the first Gentiles who recognized the kingship of Jesus.
God’s mercy is extended to all people, everywhere. St. Bernard was an 11th-century Cistercian monk. St. Bernard said that God sent to earth a bag bulging with his mercy, a bag that, at the passion, is torn open so that our ransom pours out of it onto us. It is a small bag, but a full one: for it was a small child that was given to us, but in him dwells the fullness of the Godhead. In St. Bernard image the infant Jesus as a little bag bulging with mercy.
Where did Magi enquire first in search of the newborn king? They went to the palace. Who else is likely to be there? King Herod and his family were there. But the Magi had to come to a cave or a stable to find a poor family, with animals and perhaps a few shepherds. Magi entered the manger and saw the child Jesus with Mary. They prostrated themselves and did him homage and offered the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
The story of the Epiphany contradicts our intellectual concept. The Magi, the intellectual giants came to a stable and prostrated in adoration and offered the gifts of Gold, Incense, and Myrrh. It was a custom to have a gift when visiting a King. What was the meaning of these gifts? The gold is a gift for a king. Jesus was born in the family of David. The promise is fulfilled. Frankincense is the gift for the priest. The Latin word for priest is pontifex, which means a bridge-builder. The priest is the man who builds a bridge between men and God. Jesus opened the way for humanity to God. Myrrh, a spice used at the funeral. Jesus came to this world to die for us.
We see this episode in the first reading from the book of Isaiah. The prophet proclaims the blessing which to come to Zion, the return of her children, and the wealth of the nation. Specifically, we see Isaiah 60:6, Gentile nations bring gifts of gold and frankincense to God of Israel.
When Magi offered their the gift to Jesus, they were proclaiming Jesus was to be a true King, the perfect High Priest, and the Savior of humanity. On this Epiphany, let us take a moment to kneel down at the manger in adoration and give ourselves as a gift to Jesus.
Thank you: Thank you to everyone who took your time to decorate our Churches for Christmas; all those who donated trees, wreaths, flowers, and so on for the decoration; church cleaners, and everyone else who prepared our Churches so beautiful for Christmas! I would also like to thank musicians for the melodious music to beautify the Liturgy. Also, I would like to thank of all those who purchased gifts for our homebound, daycare and religious education families. Thank you, everyone!
Blessed New Year 2021 and Happy Feast of Holy Family and Mary, Mother of God!
Merry Christmas! This year the day after Christmas we are already celebrating the feast of the Holy Family. This feast is all about family and what makes a family holy. Young people announce when they become engaged and want to begin preparations for their wedding. They are excited, but at the same time, they have questions and concerns about the future. What makes a man a real man; what makes a woman a real woman? And we can add, what makes a child a real child? The answers are found if we look at the Holy Family.
The mission of Mary and Joseph was to bring up the child Jesus and give Him to the world. It was not an easy journey for them. They had lots of unknowns in their life. Mary was kept pondering on them. Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but they didn’t live together. According to their custom after the betrothal, they are legally married. They didn’t live together until the wedding ceremony takes place, which could be a year later. Joseph was struggling to receive Mary as a wife. Mary and Joseph followed the will of God.
In the first reading, Ben Sirach reminds the fourth Commandment, “Honor your father and mother.” We read in the book of Exodus 20:12 “Honor your father and your mother, that you may have a long life in the land the LORD your God is giving you.” Ben Sirach reminds us that those who honor their parents will gain riches and long life. In the second reading from the Colossians, St. Paul tells us about virtues in life. He describes a family code.
We see in the Gospel, Mary and Joseph took Jesus into the Temple for presentation. Presentation of the Lord is celebrated on February 2nd, but this passage is the reading for the Holy Family. We see in the book of Exodus 13:2, “Consecrate to me every firstborn; whatever opens the womb among the Israelites, whether of human being or beast, belongs to me.” According to their custom, Leviticus 12:2; 6, on the eighth-day circumcision take place and after forty days the purification and consecration take place. We see in the Gospel Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the Temple according to their custom.
When they came to the Temple, there are two people waiting for this moment: Simeon and Anna. The Holy Spirit has revealed to Simeon that he would not die until he has seen Christ. Simeon took the child into his arms and praised God by saying “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation…” Simeon tells Mary that she will suffer along with her son, Jesus, as he completes the salvific work. Anna the prophetess, who was staying at the temple in praying and fasting, come forward and thank God and spoke about this child. Simeon and Anna speak about the child, who is the consolation of Israel. They were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem and the restoration of God’s rule in Israel. The birth of Jesus brings these hopes to fulfillment. Mary was pondering on these words.
This week we embrace New Year 2021, let us ponder the Word of God and give thanks to God! On January first we got the opportunity to celebrate the feast of Mary, Mother of God. This year, we are blessed to celebrate the Year of St. Joseph. Let us ask the blessing of the Holy Family as we embrace New Year 2021.
New Year, is a time to thank for the past, a time ask blessing…
Thank you!: I would like to express my gratitude to cluster parishioners, councils and committees, organizations, parish staff, deacons, those who participated in different ministries, volunteers, and well-wishers. Especially during this time of the pandemic, your support and commitment made difference. Thank you! I pray that the Child Jesus, Mary, and Joseph may enrich our lives during the New Year with an abundance of God’s blessings.
Let us take the passage from the book of Numbers and bless each other in this New Year 2021!
The LORD bless you and keep you!
The LORD let his face shine upon
you, and be gracious to you!
The LORD look upon you kindly and
give you peace!
Blessed New Year 2021 and Happy Feast of Holy Family and Mary, Mother of God!
We are in 4th Sunday of Advent. We continue our waiting in hope, peace, joy, and love. If we look at our life, waiting is part of our daily life. Mom waits for her son or daughter to get home, children wait for their parents to spend some time with them, a wife waits for her husband or a husband waits for his wife to talk about their marriage, students wait for their grades, we wait for our friends, we wait for a change of season, and this year waiting for snow. So we all wait for something every day in our life to find out what is next. As we wait for couple more days for Christmas, I am going to jump into the theme of Christmas and wish you all a Blessed Christmas.
In the beginning, God created Adam and Eve. They were pure and holy and lived in perfect union with God. One day devil interrupted their union with God and lost their purity and holiness. Since then God was in search of human beings. He walked among Israelites and guided them through the patriarchs, prophets, and kings. Isaiah was one of the greatest prophets who appeared at a critical moment in Israel’s history. Assyria was the dominant power in the region, especially collapsed the Northern Kingdom. Isaiah made numerous prophecies of the coming of Jesus.
The first reading for Christmas midnight is from the book of Isaiah (9:1-6). Isaiah says that people who walked in the darkness, oppressed by Assyria, eventually will see the light and restoration of Israel. Prophets brought hope to the people of Israelites, but prophesy fulfilled in the birth of Emmanuel, God is with us. We read in the Gospel of Matthew 4:16, “The people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen.” Isaiah says, “For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests” (9:5). There were many titles for the baby, Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, and Prince of Peace.
For the midnight Mass, we have the account of the birth of Jesus from the Gospel of Luke. In the Roman Empire, every fourteen years the census was taken to assess the taxation and for the compulsory military service. The Jews were exempted from military service, but still, they had to do the censuses for the taxation. We see in the Gospel of Luke, there was a decree from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled. Joseph went with Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem, which is approximately 80 miles, because Joseph was from the house and family of David. The town was crowded with people because they came from all over in order to fulfill the obligation.
Mary and Joseph were looking for a place; no room is available in Bethlehem, but a manger. The word “manger” comes from the Latin word munducare which means “to eat.” Bethlehem means ‘house of bread’ and the child was laid in a manger, the place prepared out of wooden or stone for animals to be feed. At the Last Supper, Jesus himself gives us as food, the Eucharist.
The child is born, He is here!! God’s newest deed, youngest and recent deed… “Emmanuel”, God is with us!! Word made flesh but lies in the manger. He is silent. Only in the silence of our heart, we can hear that Word. The good news is announced to shepherds and angels sang: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
This Christmas, Mary Joseph is looking for a place for her son. He needs our hearts to be born. Let us invite him into our hearts, homes, our parish, and every aspect of our life. Listen to Him…!! Don’t miss Him!! I pray that each of us finds Him at this Christmas and watch his smile, listen to his whispering, and experience his love, forgiveness, and healing. And again, let us wait together with Child Jesus in our hearts for the New Year 2021. Christmas is not just on December 25th, but it should happen every day in our life.
Wish you all a Blessed Christmas!!
The third Sunday of Advent is called Gaudete Sunday, which means rejoice Sunday. Why is the Church inviting all believers to rejoice at the midpoint of Advent? Christ's coming to earth, which Advent looks forward to, is the only source of true, lasting joy. Entrance Antiphon for this weekend Mass, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near.” We light the Rose Candle, a sign of joy.
In the first reading from the book of the prophet Isaiah tells the Israelites rejoice because the prophet has been anointed by the Lord to bring the good news to the afflicted. This part of Isaiah is written while Israelites were trying to re-establish their lives in the Promised Land after the Babylonian exile. The prophet gave them comfort and promised the healing of broken hearts. He told them he is anointed to announce a year of favor. The year of favor is a jubilee year. We read in the book of Leviticus 25:10, “You shall treat this fiftieth year as sacred. You shall proclaim liberty in the land for all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you when each of you shall return to your own property, each of you to your own family.”
The prophet’s promise came to fulfillment in Jesus Christ. We see Jesus’ inaugural address of his public ministry in the Gospel of Luke 4:16-21. After reading from the prophet Isaiah, Jesus said to them, “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
In the responsorial psalm, Mary says, Almighty has done great things for me, so her soul rejoices in God. In the second reading, Paul says to Thessalonians, “Rejoice always.” He reminds them to give thanks to God ,to do good things always, and to avoid evil.
This year we are reading from the Gospel of Mark, but we have a guest today, John. We read from the Gospel of John about specific identification of John the Baptist. John testified to the light, but he was not the light. Then Gospel says John was the voice in the desert. We see in the Gospel reading, people seeking the identity of John the Baptist. Why do they want to know about him? People had great respect for him, at the same time priest and Levites had questions about him. Priest and Levites, their interest was normal, John is the son of Zacharias who was a priest. In Judaism the only qualification for the priesthood was descendent. So the priest and Levites came to find out why John is behaving in a strange way.
The people of Israel listen to John because they didn’t hear the voice of a prophet for four hundred years. So they were eager to hear him. John told them “I am not the Christ.” Then they asked him, “Are you, Elijah? In the last weekend we reading we heard about John the Baptist’s dress. “John was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist” Mark 1:6. Also, they believed that Elijah will come before Christ. So they assumed this could be Elijah. John tells them, “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘make straight the way of the Lord’”
People started following John, so the Pharisees were interested to find out his authenticity. So they question why are you baptizing? John was saying to them, the Messiah is coming, you need to cleanse as much as any Gentiles do. Normally baptism was for the Gentiles who want to convert to Judaism or those who went out of Judaism and if they want to come back to Judaism. But John was giving them the baptism of repentance to prepare the way for the Lord.
This Gaudete Sunday invites us to rejoice at the same time repent and continue to prepare our heart for Christmas and for the coming of Christ in glory.
Advent invites us to reflect on the life of Mary Immaculate…
Bernadette Soubirous at the age of 14 encountered a vision of a woman named Mary in a cave above the banks of the Gave River near Lourdes. She was a poor young girl so no one believed her, but the vision continued.
Finally, the local priest asked Bernadette to find out the name of the woman and she replied Immaculate Conception. I had the privilege to make a pilgrimage to Lourdes, France where Mary appeared. Thousands of people go to Lourdes on pilgrimage and receive many blessings.
The Immaculate Conception is a dogma based mainly on Christian tradition and theological reasoning. It was defined as a Dogma in 1854 in the Apostolic Constitution of Pope Pius IX “Ineffabilis Deus.” Mary approved it by declaring to Bernadette at Lourdes, “I am the Immaculate Conception”. The celebration of this feast existed in the church even before. Monks in Palestinian monasteries started celebrating the feast of Conception of Our Lady by the end of the 7th century. Over the years it spread to different regions. Pope Leo VI propagated the celebration in the universal church and Pope Sixtus IV approved it as a feast.
Every year during Advent we celebrate the feast of Immaculate Conception and we listen to Gospel passage angel's invitation to become Mother of God. We read in the Gospel, "Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you" (Luke 1:28). This passage tells us about the state holiness of Mary.
In the first reading from the Book of Genesis, we see the story of the creation of Adam and Eve. They were in the beautiful paradise. They were sinless, they were happy, enjoying every moment of their life. All of a sudden they lost that state of holiness. At that moment they lost the freedom and were afraid of God. We see in the first reading, God searching for Adam and Eve, asked them, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9). How many of us may have had a similar experience. When you tried to hide from your parents, they asked you out of love “where are you?” Did you recognize their love? No, you tried to tell them your excuses, isn’t it? Like all of us Adam and Eve had their own reason why they sinned.
God promised there will be a woman and her son to save the generation of Adam and Eve: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel" (3:15). Mary is the new Eve and Christ is the new Adam. In Mary, humanity responded to God. She said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).
Immaculate Conception is not about the conception of Jesus in Mary’s womb; it is about the conception of Mary in the womb of Anna. It is beautiful that we get a chance to reflect on the conception of Mary and Jesus during Advent. Let us walk with Mary in this advent season.
I take this opportunity to wish everyone the Happy Feast of Immaculate Conception, especially to Parishioners of Immaculate Conception. I would like congratulate also our Confirmation Candidates and First Reconciliation Candidates who are introduced at Immaculate Conception. Let us keep them all in our prayers.
Here is a quiz for you. You are sleeping. You are dreaming. A big lion is chasing you. You try to run away and you see a tiger coming in front of you. You turn sideways, but on every side, you turn to, you find a ferocious animal coming after you. How can you escape? The answer is: Wake up. Advent is a wake-up call.
We are in the advent season, starts the new liturgical year, year B. Pope Benedict XVI once wrote: "The purpose of the Church's year is continually to rehearse her great history of memories, to awaken the heart's memory so that it can discern the star of hope. It is the beautiful task of Advent to awaken in all of us, memories of goodness and thus to open doors of hope."
On the First Sunday of Advent reading tells us “watch.” The Romans divided the night into watches of three hours each, and there were four watches to the night. Jesus says in the Gospel, “Watch, therefore; you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning.” Just in a general sense, it is hard to watch and wait during the night time. The gatekeeper needs to be vigilant and awake when the master is coming. We see this message all the Gospels. Jesus says in the Gospel of Matthew, “Stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come” Matthew 24:42.
In the First reading prophet Isaiah speaks for his people. They were in Babylonian exile and just coming back to Promised Land. We can see all kinds of emotional feelings in this reading. On one side we see hope, at the same time we can see guilt, outrage, and asking for help. Isaiah agrees that people were not faithful. Isaiah was pleading that God will remain with them and his presence will change the people. In the second reading, St. Paul gives thanks to the Christian community in Corinth. He recognizes their faith and living out the spiritual gift. They were in watch for their faith and entering into the fellowship with Jesus.
What should we need to watch in this Advent? The first is the immediate watch and wait for the celebration of Christmas. The second is the watch and wait for the second coming of Christ. The first half of the advent readings will help us to reflect on the second coming of Christ and the second half of the advent reading will invite us to reflect on the birth of Child Jesus.
How we want to watch and wait during this time? The first watch - find time for the Lord. During the pandemic it may be hard, still can find ways to celebrate our faith. Read scripture, find time to pray every day, or attend Mass in person or virtually, and so on.
The second watch – reach out to others. St Teresa of Avila tells us, “Christ has no body now on earth, but yours; no feet, but yours. It is your eyes through which Christ’s compassion looks out to the world; your feet with which he must walk about doing good; your hands with which he blesses humanity; your voice with which his forgiveness is spoken; your heart with which he now loves.” Jesus invites us to be near and dear to others for him.
Let us be with Mary who spent time in prayer and being present to Elizabeth who was in need of help. Happy Advent!
Frederich Nietzche, the German philosopher said, “God is dead.” In 1966 Time Magazine published a cover story that asked, “Is God Dead?” Is it God dead or alive for you and me?
Only a minority will say God is dead, but lots of us live like God is dead. Our God is alive, he is with us. We celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King- King of the Universe, which marks the end of the Liturgical year A, and next Sunday, we begin First Sunday of Advent begins the liturgical year B.
The Gospel reading for this Solemnity is the conclusion of the discourse which portrays the final judgment. Even though it says it is a parable, but it really saying about the shepherd who separates righteous sheep and wicked goats. The criteria for the separation or judgment will be the deeds of mercy which has done for the least of Jesus’ brothers. Jesus told his disciples when they were commissioned and sent out, “Whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is a disciple—amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward” (10:42). Jesus, our King, identifies himself with the least of our sisters and brothers. He says, “I was hungry, thirsty, homeless, naked, sick, imprisoned.” The question for us, did we recognize him.
In the first reading from the Book of Ezekiel, portrays a shepherd who gathers his sheep. Israelites were in Babylonian exile. God told them through the prophet that God, the good shepherd, will pasture them and give them rest and bring them back. At the end of the first reading we read like this, “As for you, my sheep, says the Lord GOD, I will judge between one sheep and another, between rams and goats” (11:17). Matthew in Gospel (25:32-33) says the same thing going to happen at the judgment.
In the second reading Paul tells us that death came through Adam, but we all receive life through the risen Christ. He is the source of our strength; he is our good shepherd who offered as a ransom for our failures. He is our King who came from the house of King David.
Mother Teresa told this story in an address to the National Prayer Breakfast in 1994. “One evening several of our Sisters went out, and we picked up four people from the street. One of them was in a most terrible condition. So I told the other Sisters, ‘You take care of the other three: I will take care of this one who looks the worst.’ So I did for the woman everything that my love could do. I cleaned her and put her in bed, and there was such a beautiful smile on her face. She took hold of my hands and said two words in her language, Bengali: ‘Thank you.’ Then she died. I could not help but examine my conscience. I asked myself, ‘What would I say if I were in her place?’ My answer was simple. I would have tried to draw a little attention to myself. I would have said, ‘I am hungry, I am dying, I am in pain.’ But the woman gave me much more; she gave me grateful love, dying with a grateful smile on her face. It means that even those with nothing can give us the gift of thanks.” Happy Thanksgiving!!