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.