Do you remember your baptism? I don’t. Once I was baptizing a baby. When I poured the water on his head in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, he turned his head and looked at me with a question “where is this coming from?” In a recent baptism, a baby was ready to jump in the baptismal font. He looked content and happy. What did you do at your baptism?
Last weekend we celebrated Epiphany, the revelation of the Lord. This weekend again we celebrate that God the Father reveals his Son: Baptism of the Lord. We can see a beautiful painting in the Gospel: the Baptism of the Lord. We can see here that all three persons of God was present. Jesus Christ, the second person of God, standing at the Jordan River. We hear the voice of the Father from heaven and Holy Spirit descending in the form of a dove.
The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord concludes Christmas and begins the meditation on the ministry of Jesus. Why baptism for Jesus? God’s love was so generous to humble him for us. The Son of God humbled Himself to such a degree that He was born in a manger. He humbled Himself accepting the baptism of John even though He was sinless. We celebrate what happened in him to us. When Jesus was baptized a voice came from heaven, "You are my beloved Son; with you, I am well pleased." The same thing happened to us on the day we were baptized. On that moment God said to us, “you are my beloved son/daughter.”
There are three effects of the Baptism. The first effect of baptism is that washes away our Original Sin. We fall again in the life and other Sacraments gives us the mercy of God, and we revisit that baptismal innocence. The second effect of baptism is an indelible mark upon the soul. Here we so closely conformed in Jesus Christ. We become adopted sons and daughters of the Father and brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ. God is the spirit, at the same time he revealed to us as a Father. So we pray the prayer Our Father… We call him Aba Father. The third effect of the baptism is that the third person of the Holy Trinity, the Holy Spirit breathed in our soul and allows us members of the mystical Body of Christ, the Church.
Every time we come into the Church, we dip the fingers of our right hands into the holy water font and bless ourselves. Why? This blessing is supposed to remind us of our baptism. And so when I bless myself with holy water, I should be thinking of the fact that I am a child of God; that I have been redeemed by the Cross of Christ; that I have been made a member of God’s family and that I have been washed, forgiven, cleansed and purified by the blood of the Lamb.
On the day of our baptism, as in St. Pope John Paul II’s writings, "We were anointed with the oil of catechumens, the sign of Christ's gentle strength, to fight against evil. Blessed water was poured over us, an effective sign of interior purification through the gift of the Holy Spirit. We were then anointed with chrism to show that we were thus consecrated in the image of Jesus, the Father's Anointed One. The candle lit from the paschal candle was a symbol of the light of faith which our parents and godparents must have continually safeguarded and nourished with the life-giving grace of the Spirit."
The baptism of Jesus reminds us of our identity. It reminds us of our mission, mission of the Church.
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. We all know that. Some of you may have a perfect family, but most families often face challenges. They had all kinds of problems in front of them. If you think you don’t know your spouse well enough, look at the Holy Family. Mary was not sure what she was doing. Joseph was struggling to receive Mary as a wife. Mary and Joseph had dreams, they didn’t exactly know what they were all about. But they followed. If you ever think that you don’t know your child, look at the Holy Family, Mary and Joseph didn’t fully understand either. We know the story of when Jesus went into the temple. On the way back, they lost him. It took three days to go back and find him. When they found Jesus in the temple, what did he say to Mary and Joseph, why are you looking for me? Three things to do as a family: pray together, love, and forgive each other. The Holy Family trusted in the Lord, and asked constantly for his guidance.
In few days we are about to say good bye to the year 2018 and getting ready to embrace the New Year 2019. Are we all prepared to embrace the New Year? Every year on January 1st we celebrate the feast of Mary, Mother of God. The Feast of Mary, is a very appropriate way to begin a new year reminding us to rely on the powerful intercession of our heavenly mother. The church observes this day also as the World Day of Peace and invites us especially to pray for lasting peace in the world throughout the New Year.
Let us take a moment to look at the Year 2018 and thank God for his many blessings. And let us pray for one another and wait for the New Year 2019! Through the intercession of Mary and Joseph, may the Child Jesus bless all of us in the Year 2019!!
Happy New Year!
Once I heard a life story of a father who had two children with special needs. They were twins and they died month apart. When Dad started to talk about his two children, his eyes would open wide and a big smile would rise on his face. He explained, God was looking down from heaven. God was holding two precious babies in his hands and was waiting in search of parents who would take care of the children with love and care. And God saw me and my wife, and gave us those two children. We took care of them. We relocated our lives for their care; one of us gave up our job to find time to spend with them.
Two thousand years ago, God the Father was searching for a mother with whom to entrust His Son, to share the Good News with His people. Every Christmas reminds us of the Good News, “God is with us.” A question to ponder, “Am I with God?”
During the American Civil War, a lady exclaimed effusively to President Lincoln: “Oh Mr. President, I feel so sure that God is on our side, don't you?” “Ma'am,” replied the President, “I am more concerned that we should be on God's side.”
Christmas reminds us of endless giving. God gave himself for us, but do we find him? At the first Christmas, we primarily see two groups of people who came to visit and adore Child Jesus. The first group was shepherds: they were not well-educated, but the message was delivered to them, they felt it in their hearts, believed it, and went to worship the newborn king. The second group of people were a well-educated group: the Magi. They studied, and they had intellectual knowledge about the appearance of the star. They followed the star and came to Child Jesus to offer gifts and to worship him.
God completed the promise he made to Adam and Eve at Christmas. The chosen people were waiting for centuries for the coming of the Messiah. He was born in Bethlehem. These last four weeks we were waiting with hope, peace, and joy to celebrate Christmas.
For us, God is us always. Once again the celebration of Christmas came.
Jesus, the miracle of love was born in a manger…
He was born to die…
Jesus’s death starts at the manger…
When he left his glory and became a vulnerable baby…
Jesus did it for us…
A gift from our Heavenly Father, Baby Jesus!!
His first coming changed history: before Christ and after Christ. It was the end of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament. Let every Christmas bring new beginnings in our Lives, Families, Church, and World. Let us adore him, praise him, and thank him. With a grateful heart let us celebrate this Christmas!
Let us kneel at the manger in adoration and sing with angels, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
I wish you all a Blessed Christmas!
I was reading a story which brought me this thought, every summer there is always some part of the highway that is being repaired. There will be signs that say, "Slow Down - Construction Ahead" and we would see road graders, gravel trucks, and a lot of men working on the highway. I always thought to myself, "What a nice highway this will be when it finished it and there is no more construction." Summer comes and goes, guess what? They are still working on it!
What about our lives? We are back again for the season of Advent, a time for waiting and preparing. The first reading from the book of Baruch, the prophet says that the hand of God will bring back the Israelites from their Babylonian exile. We know the exodus story; Moses led them back from Egypt. The Hebrews were brought into exile not just because they were weaker than their neighbors, but because they deserted the God who had formed them into His people. When they recognized their sins, and the hand of God brought them back to Promised Land.
In the Gospel, the voice of John the Baptist was heard in the whole region of Jordan, which is part of the Promised Land. John the Baptist invited everyone for the baptism of repentance. What does this mean? Even though the Israelites were in the Promised Land, still they were still in spiritual exile. John the Baptist cried out in the desert, “prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” John wasn't really talking about building a highway upon which Jesus could travel. He was really talking about the hearts of the people. He was calling people to prepare their hearts to receive Jesus so that he could walk among them and live with them.
Today we are no different from the Israelites. It is a human condition. Advent invites us to listen to the voice of John the Baptist which is an Invitation to prepare the way of the Lord for Christmas and ultimately, for his second coming.
St. Paul says in the second reading, “this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.”
As we prepare for Christmas, let us grow in the love of Christ and others. Let us recognize the need for Christ in our lives. He is the one who fills our emptiness. If our emptiness and our inadequacies are filled by Jesus Christ, then we thank God for our need for his presence. Jesus was born to die for us, and that death starts at manger. He emptied himself,
separated from his glory, and born in a manger; the first part of the death look place there. How? His love for us. Let us listen to the voice of John the Baptist to prepare the way, the way of love to receive Jesus in the manger, who is love.
The Pharisees brought the woman, caught red-handed, before Jesus for judgment, and Jesus said, "Let the person who is without sin cast the first stone." They fell silent, and then, all of a sudden, a stone came flying from the crowd. Jesus looked up, surprised and amused, and then said, "Hold it, mother? I was trying to make a point, here." This is a humorous slant to the Catholic belief that Mary was born Immaculate to lead an immaculate life.
As we begin Advent season and celebrate Feast of Immaculate Conception, it offers us an invitation to set aside our busy lives and to examine and reflect on our need for God to enter our lives and prepare home for the coming of Christ. He will come to us in the celebration of the Incarnation, in His continual coming in our daily living, and in His final coming as our Lord to judge us all and renew the Father’s creation.
We are in the Advent season, which starts new liturgical year: Year C. Pope Emeritus 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."
The four candles represent the four weeks of Advent. Their light represents Christ himself, who is the light of the world. We light the candles gradually throughout Advent because we know that the joy of salvation doesn't come fully into our lives all at once. Our lives are a journey, a relationship with Jesus that has to be constantly renewed, just as a new candle is lit each week.
In the first reading, the prophet Jeremiah was waiting and hoping for the coming of King David, who might bring security and justice to God’s people. Ultimately they were waiting and hoping for the coming of the Messiah, and Jesus came from the family of David. We have two ways of preparation: 1) preparing for Christmas and 2) preparing for the second coming of Jesus.
We are searching and waiting… Advent invites us to hope for something beyond. Advent is a season of hope. Our whole lives are an advent. As we are in preparation, let us embrace hope and become hope for others.
I take this opportunity to wish everyone a Happy Feast of Immaculate Conception, especially to Parishioners of Immaculate Conception as the Patron Saint of our parish. I would also like congratulate our Confirmation Candidates and first reconciliation candidates who are being introduced at St. Anthony and Immaculate Conception.
Dear Parishioners of Immaculate Conception: I would like to join the Parish and Finance councils and the Cemetery committee to remember the late John Wagner with a grateful heart. He put Immaculate Conception Church and cemetery as beneficiaries, and we received the gift as cash and real estate. The church received four parcels of land and the cemetery received one parcel of land. You may see an ad with Birchland Realty Inc as we are working with them. We remember John Wagner with grateful hearts for his love for our parish and the Church at large. ~Fr. Shaji
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? Today, if you look at our world, what do you think? We hear about all kinds of violence, natural calamities, and so on.
The readings assure us that our God will be with us all the days of our lives and that we will have the ongoing presence of the Holy Spirit in our midst guiding us. Next Sunday we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King, and the following Sunday marks the beginning of the Advent season with a new Liturgical Cycle. The gospel is from Jesus’s “Eschatological Sermon,” the sermon on the “Last Things.” Sometime we perceive these things in a negative way.
The readings speak about the end of time but with a particular emphasis: those who trust in the Lord, and who live His life to the best of their ability, have nothing to fear. Prophet Daniel says that the archangel Michael is the guardian of God’s people. Prophet calls him God’s Prince. So, we just heard that when the final days come, Michael will gather God’s people together, including those who have died. And, the reading says, the wise will shine brightly.
In the Gospel reading, Jesus says that on the last day, the angels will gather the elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky. By the way, Jesus also says that no one knows when the last day will come. The sum of the reading is to be prepared: build our personal relationship with God, sharing with others the Good News of Jesus.
Our God is love. When we see all kinds of discouragement around us, what we have to do? We have to do just focus on Jesus, build up our relationship with him. How can develop the relationship? First of all by prayer. It is not just prayer, going through motion, but enter into real intimacy. It won’t happen one day, we have to perceiver in prayer. Then we have to share the good news with others: by word and deed.
In the second reading from the Hebrew, Jesus offered himself for our sin. Today when we hear the word of God, don’t be afraid, but fill with hop. Our God is love, and he did everything because his love for us. He is going to do great things in and through us.
Happy Thanksgiving: 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 everyone!
A small boy observed his mother putting a dollar in the offering plate at Mass. On the way home from church, she freely criticized the poor homily the priest gave. "But mother," said the boy, "what could you expect for a dollar?"
What would it cost to have Jesus say Mass for us? It cost his entire life. This weekend’s readings talks about people who give everything. Two widows are the heroes, and they were generous with what they had.
In the Gospel, Jesus is sitting in the Temple with his disciples, in the area where people made donations to the Temple. Some would come with large sums of money and make sure that others would see them. The widow who came, though, was a poor woman. She put only a few cents into the Treasury. Perhaps she felt grateful to God that she was able to worship Him in the Temple and wanted to express her gratitude. Jesus saw it as true generosity.
The widow from the first reading, the widow of Zeraphath, was suffering from the famine. She did have a son, but he was a little child. No one care about her, but God sent the Prophet Elijah to her. But first, she had to trust in God. She had to follow the law of hospitality, caring for the stranger. And God rewarded her generosity.
How do we give ourselves to God? Time, talent, and treasure: these are the three main areas of stewardship. A steward is someone who is entrusted with that which belongs to someone else. We are entrusted with the Kingdom of God. We are invited to share our time, talents and gifts to our Church and community. Are we generous in sharing our gifts? It can be even a beautiful smile. The story of the poor widow tells us they didn’t have much, but they shared everything: generosity of heart. Does that mean that we have to be poor widows? It is not that wealth is bad. What is wrong and sinful is using improper means to gain wealth. It is all about consideration for others.
This weekend, we celebrate Veterans Day: They served our country. Talk about giving totally. This year something remarkable in history is remembered. The "Bells of Peace" will ring out nationwide from smartphones on the "11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month" to mark the centennial of the end of World War I in November of 1918, thanks to a new app created in honor of the anniversary.
We honor them today for their sacrifices with 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.
Happy Veterans Day! Thank you for the gift you shared!!
The month of November begins with the celebration of All Saints Day and All Souls Day. The entire month of November is dedicated to praying for our loved ones who have gone before us. 2 Maccabees 12:38–46 explains the need to pray for the dead. We read in 12:42 that “they prayed that the sinful deed might be fully blotted out.” Praying for the dead is a rich tradition of the Church.
God wants all of our souls. We are to give God our whole bodies and all our strength like St. Kateri Tekakwitha. Pope emeritus Benedict XVI described Kateri Tekakwitha as a "striking example of sanctity and heroic charity." Her life reminds us, he said, of the "historic role played by women in building up of the church in America." Her example and intercession, he added, should inspire all of us in our "pursuit of holiness" and in our "efforts to contribute to the growth of God's Kingdom in the hearts of people today."
Let’s take a look at this weekend’s readings. There were 613 laws that Moses gave in the Torah, the first five books of the Bible. There were a series of laws written to protect these 613. The scribes knew every one of them ,and they had high importance in their lives. Here a scribe comes with a question for Jesus: "Which is the first of all the commandments?" The Ten Commandments, which are the constitution of the people of God, were part of a covenant that God entered into with a specific group of people - the Israelites. If we look at the Ten Commandments, the first three commandments have to do with God. He is the source of everything in our life. These commandments are about our relationship to God. The second tablet of the law (the remaining seven commandments) refer to our human relationships with one another.
Jesus summarized the commandments and gave not just one but two first commandments: love of God and love of neighbor are more important than all the burnt offerings and sacrifices one could make. In the first reading from the Book of Deuteronomy, it says fear the Lord, our God, and keep his commandment throughout the life. Love and fear, how do these two go together? There is a fear because of love, isn’t it? I don’t want mess up my relationship with my friend, so I don’t want say it or do it. It can be applied to God too. He loved us first, and gave us everything. Can we give him everything? It is not an easy task, and we have keep on trying. We will get there one day. He gives us his total attention and he needs our total attention. I close my message with a thought which I read somewhere that was dedicated to Max Lucado.
Max Lucado, in his book, "And the Angels were Silent," reminds us that each of us has got a donkey that the Lord needs. He writes: "Sometimes I get the impression that God wants me to give him something and sometimes I don't give it because I don't know for sure, and then I feel bad because I've missed my chance. Other times I know he wants something but I don't give it because I'm too selfish. And other times, too few times, I hear him and I obey him and feel honored that a gift of mine would be used to carry Jesus to another place. And still other times I wonder if my little deeds today will make a difference in the long haul."
Hellen Keller who had deafness and blindness, writes, “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched - they must be felt with the heart.” Most of us have very good eyesight. Some of us may use glasses, but still we have pretty good sight. But do we see everything? How many times have we forgotten to recognize the goodness of our Lord? In the first reading from the book of prophet Jeremiah, God is a liberator and healer. In the second reading from the book of Hebrews, Jesus is the true sacrifice for our sins and High priest of the New Testament. In the Gospel, Bartimaeus receives sight. Everyone around him could see, but they couldn’t see that Jesus could heal him. When everyone tried to silence him, Bartimaeus cried out all the more.
For the last weekend of Respect Life month, we pray for victims of domestic violence and human trafficking. We are invited to love one another and be eyes for those who have no sight. Violence against another person is a failure to treat that person as someone worthy of love. In violence within the sacramental marriage, the abused spouse may question, "How do these violent acts relate to my promise to take my spouse for better or for worse?" The person being assaulted needs to know that acting to end the abuse does not violate the marriage promises. An article from the United State Conferences of Catholic Bishops says, “We focus here on violence against women, since 85 percent of the victims of reported cases of non-lethal domestic violence are women. Women's greatest risk of violence comes from intimate partners—a current or former husband or boyfriend.”
Today human trafficking is a new form of slavery. United States Bishop’s Conference says, “Human trafficking violates the sanctity, dignity, and fundamental rights of the human person.” They state that every nation is affected by this disease—the United States is no exception. We all are called to love God and love one another. It is the essence of our discipleship. During the month of October, we were reflecting and praying, especially through the devotion to the Rosary, on the dignity of the human life.
All Saints Day and All Souls Day: In the month of November, the Church invites us to pray for our loved ones. We celebrate November 1st as All Saints Day and November 2nd as All Souls’ Day. Sometimes we think that the church means we who are on earth, but the Church has three realms. The church on earth is called the militant church because we are in a battle between good and evil; the souls in purgatory are called the suffering church because they are in a purifying state to fully experience God’s glory; and the saints, who have already entered into heavenly glory, are the victorious or triumphant church.
All Saints Day is a feast honoring all Christian saints – known and unknown. On All Souls Day we remember all those who have gone before us. The souls in purgatory need our prayers to help their purification to attain heavenly glory. On November 2nd we will celebrate a special Mass St. Cecilia Cemetery at 11:00 am for All Souls. We will celebrate a Mass of Remembrance on November 13 at 6pm.
We ask saints to intercede for us. We pray for our loved ones and those who have gone before us. In every Mass there is time when we pray for our loved ones. Please remember our loved ones during every Mass. The Church also invites us to offer Masses in the names of our loved ones. It costs only $ 10.00, but it take conscious thought and action to do it. Please join us for the All Saints Day and All Souls Day celebration.
St. Therese of Lisieux, also called St. Teresa of the Child Jesus or the Little Flower, is the patron saint of missionaries. She was a spiritual master of the contemplative life, and she considered her call and the call of her fellow sisters to be the spiritual mother of the missions and missionaries. St. Therese didn’t go out to mission journey, but in her autobiography, The Story of a Soul, she reflects on the new freedom of a new joy she will enjoy in heaven. She writes, “There will be no longer any cloister and grilles and my soul will be able to fly with you into distant lands.”
Some give to the missions by going. Some go by giving. Mission Sunday is the day to reach out beyond the needs of the local Parish and diocese to assist missionaries as they ‘go and tell’ in the young churches. The Church is a missionary church, and at baptism, each one of us becomes a missionary of the Church. Missionary work is a different aspect and level in our life, like our family, parish, in our community and around the world. Pope Francis in his World Mission Sunday Message writes, “The Church, by proclaiming what she freely received (cf. Mt 10:8; Acts 3:6), can share with you young people the way and truth which gives meaning to our life on this earth. Jesus Christ, who died and rose for us, appeals to our freedom and challenges us to seek, discover, and proclaim this message of truth and fulfilment.”
The Church, according to Vatican Council II, is "missionary" in her very nature because her founder, Jesus Christ, was the first missionary. God the Father sent God the Son into the world with a message of God’s love and salvation. Thus, the evangelizing mission of the Church is essentially the announcement of God's love, mercy, forgiveness, and salvation as these are revealed to mankind through the life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord. Bishop James Powers invites us to celebrate Mission Sunday “as special moment to live out the mission we share as God’s children, the mission to bring the Gospel to the whole world.” He continues, “I encourage you to be a “voice for mission” through your prayers and through the help that you are able to give…”
This weekend’s Gospel, James and John, came to Jesus. What did they ask? They asked, "Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left." What was their real desire, they want intimacy with Christ. The first reading from book of Isaiah about the “Suffering Servant” connect with gospel teaching on humility. Jesus is going to accomplish his mission by suffering, dying, and rising. The concluding words of Jesus in today’s gospel define his mission, “Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many."
Let us make visible Jesus Christ in and through our own daily life and support missionaries around the World.