Shirt over the wings: Grandma Martha was scolding her little grandson on his failure to go to church on a Sunday. “You will never get into heaven the way you are going today,” she told him.
“Well, Granny, the reason that I don’t go is I got a problem. I can’t for the life of me figure how I’m gonna get my shirt on over those wings I’ll have on my way to heaven.” “Never mind about shirts,” said the grandma. “The question in your case is how are you gonna get your hat on over those horns which the bad boys get when they are taken to hell.”
This is the first Sunday of the new liturgical year, the First Sunday of Advent. This year we return to the A cycle of readings, with the gospel focus mostly on the Gospel of Matthew. For those who read the daily readings, they are now from Year 1. The first Sunday of Advent, the ‘Sunday of Hope’ in God and His Son, Jesus Christ, through whom God has promised to save and redeem His people. Today we begin our yearly pilgrimage through the scenes and events of our history of salvation. Advent is a time for looking both backward and forward. We look backward as we prepare to celebrate the historical birth of Jesus. At the same time, we look forward to his Second Coming, as we prepare ourselves to welcome him into all areas of our lives during the Advent season.
St. Augustine had heard what sounded like a child’s voice chanting, “Pick it up, read it.” This was no children’s game, and he understood the words to be addressed to him. He picked up the book that lay on a nearby table, which contained Paul’s letters.
At this moment in his life, Augustine was at the tipping point in his conversion. Opening the book at random, he read the words quoted above from Paul’s Letter to the Romans—today’s second reading—and his transformation was complete! Those words are part of an exhortation which begins: “Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.”
In the first reading Isaiah reports his vision of all nations gathering on Mount Zion as described also by Micah (4: 1-3) using the image of a pilgrimage. In the vision of Isaiah, Judah is shown as the place to which all nations will come for “instructions in righteous living.” The result will be universal peace.
Jesus teaches us in St. Matthew’s Gospel that his coming for us will be without much or any warning at all. Jesus will come, besides business as usual for our family life, and our usual daily activity. But he will come– and he will take us!
God comes again and again in special ways throughout our lives. One of these is His annual coming at Christmas with the birth of His Son in human form. Let us prepare for it.
Every morning when we get up, let us pray, “Lord, show me someone today with whom I may share your love, mercy, and forgiveness.” Mother Teresa of Calcutta once said, "Whatever you do in your family, for your children, for your husband, for your wife, you do for Jesus." Every night when we go to bed, let us ask ourselves, “Where have I found Christ today?” The answer will be God’s Advent gift to us that day. By being alert and watchful we’ll be getting an extra gift: Christ himself. There is a saying which goes s back to St. Thomas Aquinas: "Without God, I can't. Without me, he won't."
In the first reading we have this beautiful invitation:
“Come, let us climb the LORD’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths.”
In this advent, let us focus on this invitation.
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? We celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King- King of the Universe, which marks the end of the Liturgical year. The 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.
November 23, 1927. The dirty walls of the place of execution resounded with the shout, “Viva Cristo Rey!” Blessed Miguel Pro of Mexico, a priest of the Society of Jesus, lived during a very trying time for the Mexican people. As he was waiting for the shots that would end his earthly life and begin a new life in the kingdom of Heaven, he forgave his executioners, and spreading out his arms in the form of a cross he cried out “Viva Cristo Rey!” “Long live Christ the King!” His cry gave courage and determination to people of Mexico, to restore the reign of Jesus the King in a place where Catholics were persecuted since the time of Elizabeth I of England.
Today in the Gospel two criminals were on the cross with Jesus. One recognizes Jesus as his King, and Jesus promises him Paradise. Everything changes because we are members of his kingdom. We have experienced the love of Jesus. We need to live for Christ. We need to spread this love to others. We cannot be vengeful. We cannot be people of hate. We cannot allow or support any form of prejudice or bigotry. We are the people of Jesus Christ. We cannot join those who live in a way that says, “We don’t need God.”
We do need God. We need to proclaim to others with our lives, “Jesus is your king too.” Jesus, remember us when you come into your kingdom.
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!!
I would like to take this opportunity to say “THANK YOU” to all our cluster parishioners, councils and committee members, people serving as different ministers, Cluster staff, benefactors and well-wishers…“THANK YOU!”
The END brings NEW BEGINNING…
Do you think the end of the world is near? We hear over and over again people talk about this subject. Whenever something unexpected happens we have tendency to think this direction. Do you remember the movie "2012?" The premise was that the world was going to come to an end in 2012. As Hollywood hoped, a significant number of people believed that there might be some truth to this. How many of us stopped for a moment and questioned or worried? Did anything happen so far? Every century there were predictions of end of time. There were times predicted closing date.
Jesus in the Gospel portrays for us, graphically, the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. For Jews, the destruction of these two things was equivalent to the end of the world. There were three reason behind this, because for them, the Temple was 1) dwelling place of God. In 1 King chapter 8, we see the dedication of the Temple and Lord came from heaven to dwell in the Temple. 2) It was sole place of sacrifice. Deuteronomy 12 tells that the center of worship is Jerusalem Temple. 3) Jerusalem Temple was symbol of heaven and earth. So they believed that the destruction of Jerusalem Temple is destruction of the universe, the destruction of heaven and earth.
The Temple was the joy of the People of Israel. Its stones were inlaid with jewels. The disciples marveled at it. Jesus said it would be torn down, as it was in the year 70 AD. There is a section of the Temple still standing. It’s called the Wailing Wall. People still go there and mourn the fate of the Jewish people, and the fate of all who are persecuted.
Jesus told the disciples that the Temple would be torn down because all material things come to an end sooner or later. Then the disciples asked the big question, the question that so many people want to know: When? Jesus absolutely refuses to say when the end of time will come. All he will tell us is that there are signs of the end. Jesus' point is that his true followers should not be concerned about when the end is, they should only be concerned that they are ready for end so they can be ready.
Jesus foretold many signs that would shake peoples and nations. The signs which God uses are meant to point us to a higher spiritual truth and reality of his kingdom which does not perish or fade away, but endures for all eternity. God works through many events and signs to purify and renew us in hope and to help us set our hearts more firmly on him and him alone.
How would we respond if someone prophesied that our home, land, or place of worship would be destroyed? Early Church were persecuted and they thought the Second coming of Christ is near. They talked about being prepared.
The reading wants us to reflect on being prepared. It wants us to ask ourselves, “How prepared will be for that moment when it comes?” Let us choose one aspect of our Christian life. Let us ask three question about love.
How loving are our thoughts-right now in our life? How loving are our words-right now in our life? How loving are our action-right now in our life?
We are at the end of liturgical year. Next Sunday we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King, which is the last Sunday of the liturgical year. The end brings new beginning.
First of all let me take this opportunity congratulate our St. Anthony Confirmation Candidates as they make their commitment. We, faith community with their sponsors, families, and teachers asked to make a commitment to pray for them and support you in their journey.
This week, we celebrate Veterans Day: veterans is the national day to recognize the sacrifices of our nation’s heroes. I would like to share St Ignatius of Loyola’s prayer about heart-felt generosity. It goes like this: Dear Lord, teach me to be generous; teach me to serve you as you deserve; to give and not to count the cost; to fight and not to heed the wounds; to toil, and not to seek for rest; to labor, and not to ask for any reward except that of knowing that I am doing your holy will. Amen. Veterans Day is to honor them for their love and sacrifices for our safety. Our men and women in uniform in past, present and the future, God bless you and Thank You.
The month of November is dedicated to pray for our loved ones. Every year we celebrate a Mass of remembrance to honor and to pray for those who have gone this past year. So this weekend we join with families and friends who lost their loved one.
Thirty second Sunday readings talk about resurrection. There is a story about a singing group called "The Resurrection." They were scheduled to sing at a church. They had to postpone the performance, because of a snow storm. Then the pastor fixed the outside sign to read, "The Resurrection is postponed."
The First reading and the Gospel talks about resurrection. In the first reading seven brothers with their mother are arrested and persecuted. At the time of death one told to the executioner, “you are depriving us of this present life, but the King of the world will raise us up to live again forever.” We see a amazing witness to their faith. Second Maccabees became one of the favorite books of the early Christians. They would choose Christ and his Kingdom rather than give in to the so-called modern yet pagan world of the Roman empire.
In Jesus time there were two prominent groups, such as Sadducees and Pharisees. In the Gospel, Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection. So they came up with a story and asked a question. The woman in the story married over time to seven husbands. Their question, “Now at the resurrection whose wife will that woman be?”
Although we believe in the resurrection, we often hear tribute at the funerals in which people talk about the person being united with a deceased spouse, “oh yah he or she enjoyed doing something in this world” and now, “he’s up there fishing with Uncle George” or “dancing with Mom.” We say those things; it is easy way for us to understand. Jesus might want to correct us as well as the Sadducees. Heaven, as he indicates, is going to very different from what we experience here on earth. Jesus answered their question and said, “To the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage.” Jesus added, “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; and he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive."
Our God is God of living. Let us pray for our loved ones every day, especially as we celebrate Mass of remembrance.
We are celebrating National Vocation Awareness week. We all received a call to holiness, but in different ways: as a priest, religious, married couple and family, singles, and so on. Vocation in general is openness to God’s call. How do we foster this call? One of the brochures for Vocation Awareness week talks about seven ways a family can foster vocation: 1) snuggle up and read fascinating age appropriate saints story at bed time; 2) watch a better movie as family (e.g. life a St. John Bosco); 3) Set the record straight, means tell children about real happiness, instead TV tells them what is happiness; 4) Play dress up, let children imagine being a priest or nun and play it out, 5) pray from the heart, have family prayer time and during the family prayer pray for the families, priests and nuns too; 6) Talk about vocations openly, marriage, priesthood and religious life; 7) Befriend priest and religious, invite a priest or nun at your home.
I remember in 2015, 8th grade St. Anthony students invited me as their special guest at the radio station for an interview. Their first question was, why did I became a priest? I told them the short answer is because God called me. Then I explained to them how I found out God was calling me. It was through my family, pastor, nuns, youth group and so on. Definitely I can say that the youth program called “Cherupushpa Mission League” which made a remarkable influence in making my decision. I was very much involved in this youth ministry. I was a participant at the beginning and in my high school years, I was in the leadership team under the guidance of pastor and nuns. The experience with youth ministry encouraged me in my decision making to become a priest.
These are the little steps to teach our children about vocation. Everybody is not going to be a priest or nun. It is their choice, but it our duty to teach them about different vocations and have an opportunity to talk about it and to get to know. When it comes to faith, normally we say it is their choice. But in reality, automatically they are exposed everything else, they should be exposed to faith and its traditions and roots. Then they can make the right choice. Always it starts with prayer. Let us pray for vocation. We all are called to holiness in different paths.
Today we hear the story of the little man Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus the head tax collector, had climbed a tree along the road that Jesus was walking down. He was merely curious. He wanted to see this Jesus. But then Jesus stopped under the tree and said, “Zacchaeus, come down quickly because today I must stay at your house.” Jesus didn’t intend to stay there. He was passing through Jericho. But something happened that made Him change His plans. Compassion and mercy caused to stay. At the same way was Zacchaeus’ reaction…amazing! He promised to give half his possessions to the poor and payback four times over all he had forced. Jesus cared about Him. Zacchaeus would not let the moment pass.
Jesus loved Zacchaeus- sinner and by that love Zacchaeus was transformed. Sometimes we have the temptation to withhold love from the other. For example, a husband and wife may withhold love from each other. There may be a temptation to withhold one’s love from a rebellious teenager. But just as Jesus loved Zacchaeus even though he was the worst of sinners, so we must love others in spite of their weakness. It is not easy, but let us try it. Let us receive Christ’s peace and love; at the same time let us share Christ’s peace and love to one another.