Bishop James Powers invites us to reinstate the Sign of Peace in the celebration of Mass on the First Sunday of Advent. It is a good opportunity to reflect on what it means and how it needs to be celebrated.
The Rite of Peace follows the Lord’s prayer. The celebrant prays that the peace of Christ will fill our hearts, our families, our Church, our communities, and our world. As a sign of hope, the people extend to those around them a sign of peace, typically by shaking hands. It is not saying a “hello,” we are preparing to receive the Eucharist. It is a sign of reconciliation to one another,and at the same time the Prince of Peace, the Risen Lord, who is present on the Altar: Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.
Bishop James Powers emphasized in our clergy workshop the need to relearn the meaning of the Sign of Peace when we reinstate it. From now on let us consciously think about the meaning of the Sign of Peace at each Mass and do it with reverence. If you are not ready to shake hands, but say it with the same reverence.
First Sunday of Advent we begin a new liturgical year C. 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."
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 life is 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 an eternal davidic dynasty which brings security and justice to God’s people. The promise of the “just shoot spring up for David” to execute “justice and righteousness.” He prophesied the coming of Messiah, which we read in the book of Isaiah 11:1, “But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.” The continuity of the Davidic Dynasty would have interrupted the Babilonian captivity, but the line of David would culminate with the coming of the Messiah, the Eternal King.
We move from the Gospel of Mark (Year B) to the Gospel of Luke (Year C). This week we read from the Gospel of Luke 21:25-28,34-36, Jesus’ eschatological discourse which we read two weeks ago from the Gospel of Mark 13:24-32. The second coming of the Lord is that which takes place at the end of time. Jesus speaks about this in apocalyptical terms in today’s Gospel. This is an invitation to engage. We can’t just be passive bystanders to the words we hear in the Gospel, “People will die in fright in anticipation of what is coming.” The Word of God wakes up and reminds us to ask a question: “What can we do to be ready for the end time?”
In the second reading St. Paul tells us what to do while waiting for the coming of the Lord. May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we have for you, so as to strengthen your hearts, to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones. Amen.
For us the season of Advent is an invitation for preparing for Christmas, at the same time preparation for the end time. Let us actively engage and walk with the Lord in this Advent Season.
Frederich Nietzche, the German philosopher said, “God is dead.” In 1966 Time Magazine published a cover story that asked, “Is God Dead?” Is 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. Today we celebrate the solemnity of Christ the King, which marks the end of liturgical year B and next weekend, the First Sunday of Advent begins the liturgical year C. Solemnity of Christ the King reminds us not to forget about our King and his Kingdom. God loves us and through Jesus, He gave us an easy way to be close to Him. Jesus emptied himself and became a man and identified with every human being, except sin. Another way to look at it, Jesus is hiding in every human being we meet.
The first reading is from the book of Daniel chapter 7 which is about Daniel’s vision. The apocalyptic book of Daniel, talks about the Kingship of the Lord, that of the Promised Messiah. Daniel says, “I saw one like a Son of man coming, on the clouds of heaven (7:13).” His vision of the “Son of Man” refers to the one who brings salvation to the world, which is a clear prophecy of the coming Messiah. Last weekend we saw in the Gospel of Mark 13:26, Jesus identifies himself as “Son of Man.” In Daniel's vision, he saw God seated on a throne, with millions of people serving him. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Glory, His kingdom will last forever. In the book of Daniel, the everlasting dominion of the Lord and His Kingdom is repeated several times. We can read the 3:33 and 4:31. The New Testament proves that Jesus, the Messiah, is the King of Kings. Christ, the eternal King whose kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36), sits at the right hand of the Father, as we proclaim in the Nicene Creed.
Today’s Gospel reading is from John. The heavenly kingship is a dominant theme of John’s Passion narrative. Christ did not deny he was a king, instead he proclaims before Pilate that he is a king and clarifies that his kingdom “does not belong to this world.” Jesus did not come to liberate from the oppression of Romans, but to liberate from the oppression of sin. He was accused by his own people of calling himself a king, but he certainly didn’t appear to be a king. Later we see Pilate order a sign to hang over the Cross which reads, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” We know what his crown was, it was not a jewel, but a thorn. He is the King of Hearts! Happy Christ the King!
As we celebrate Thanksgiving this week, I would like to share a story which Mother Teresa told in an address to the National Prayer Breakfast in 1994. She said, “One evening several of our Sisters went out, and we picked up four people from the street. One of them was in the 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 couldn't 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!!
This weekend we are remembering all our loved ones who passed away this past year. We are called to remember them, but the church in a special way invites us to pray for them in the month of November. This weekends reading is a very suitable message for the Mass of Remembrance. It talks about end time - eschatology. Eschatology is a reflection on last things. At first glance this weekends reading appears doom and gloom. We live in the present age and we look forward to the world to come. In this present age we are enslaved to evil powers. The readings assure 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.
We hear a Gospel passage from Mark chapter 13. In the Gospel of Mark chapter 13 takes a turn and starts to talk about eschatology. Christ foretold his Ascension as well as his second coming, when we will judge the living and the dead. We read in the Book of Daniel 7:13, “As the visions during the night continued, I saw coming with the clouds of heaven One like a son of man. When he reached the Ancient of Days and was presented before him…” Jesus identifies himself with the royal figure of Daniel (Mark 13:26).
Jesus uses the image of the fig tree. Jesus says, "Learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near (Mark 13:28).” Jesus talks about doom and gloom signs, actually he is giving us hope.
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.
Early Christians did not look at this message as doom and gloom. Instead they saw it as a time when the Lord would return to his people and correct the injustices of the world. In the same way, the first reading from the book of Daniel, gave comfort to the Jewish people who were going through persecution. The reading introduces the belief in the resurrection of the dead and mentions everlasting life. In the Gospel of Matthew 22:30 we read, “At the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage but are like the angels in heaven.”
Prophet Daniel says that the archangel Michael is the guardian of God’s people. The 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 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 hope. Our God is love, and he did everything because of his love for us. He is going to do great things in and through us.
I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate our Junior Confirmation candidates as they make their commitment. Also, our first reconciliation children who made the commitment last Sunday. Let us join in our prayer and support them.
Last weekend we meditated on the Law of Love: love God and neighbor. There Jesus reminded the Jews “Shema” prayer, to love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. This weekend we see two widows, who wholeheartedly trust God and share what they have.
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 cares about her, but God sent Prophet Elijah to her. In the Gospel of Luke 4:25 & 26, Jesus says, “Indeed, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah when the sky was closed for three and a half years and a severe famine spread over the entire land. It was to none of these that Elijah was sent, but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon.” First, she had to trust in God. She had to follow the law of hospitality, caring for the stranger and God rewarded her sacrificial generosity.
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.
We heard the second reading from the letter to Hebrews about the Eternal High Priest, Jesus. He offered himself to the Father on our behalf. The Old Testament high priests offered sacrifice again and again for their sins and sins of the people. Jesus does not offer himself again and again. At the Mass the priest enters into the eternal reality of Christ’s sacrifice on the Calvary. He offered once and gave us the Eucharist, so he can remain with us. Here we see the ultimate generosity. It changed the world. We are sent out to do the same.
Vocation Awareness Week (November 7-13): We all are called to live in a specific state of life. In a special way we pray for the Vocation to Priesthood, Religious Life, and Diaconate. It is an opportunity to pray and learn about these vocations, and talk to children about different vocations. There is a beautiful video on the USCCB website. Or you can google videos about priesthood or religious life or diaconate. https://www.usccb.org/committees/clergy-consecrated-life-vocations/national-vocation-awareness-week
National Vocation Awareness Week | USCCBNational Vocation Awareness Week, celebrated November 7-13, 2021, is an annual week-long celebration of the Catholic Church in the United States dedicated to promoting vocations to the priesthood, diaconate, and consecrated life through prayer and education, and to renew our prayers and support for those who are considering one of these particular vocations.www.usccb.org
The widow of Zarephath, she had faith, but she needed an affirmation. Elijah told her “Do not be afraid.” We need to talk to our children about different vocations, because they won’t hear much about it in their circle or social media. If they are interested in the priesthood or religious life, they need support and affirmation to grow in their call.
Veterans Day: Let us take a moment to recognize and honor the Veterans for their sacrifices. The gift God entrusted, they used for the good of the community, nation and world. This is 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!
October leaves and November enters the scene…
The last weekend of Respect Life month, we are praying for victims of Domestic violence and human trafficking. It is against the commandment of love. The violence against another person is a failure to treat that person as someone worthy of love. An article from United State Bishop’s 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 new form of slavery. United 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. The month of October, we were reflecting and praying, especially through the devotion to the Rosary, on the dignity of human life from the womb to tomb.
The reading talks about love: Love God and Love One another. In the first reading from the book of Deuteronomy, Moses’ introduction of the Law and presenting the law and asking them to follow the law. This passage contains the greatest law, since the Lord alone is the God, the Israelites must love him with an undivided heart. Because this passage contains the greatest commandment, it is called “Shema” in Hebrew. The ‘Shema’ serves as the “creed” of Judaism. The words of “Shema”: “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone!” was part of a Jew’s morning and evening prayer, which proclaims the oneness of God. The call to love an undivided heart does not mean emotions, but to the disposition of the heart.
The first reading prepares us to listen to the Gospel reading from Mark 12:28-34. In this Gospel passage Jesus summarizes the entire Old Covenant in two commandments. The greatest is “Shema” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5 which is considered as a summary or creed of the Jewish faith). Jesus goes further to answer the question and says that the second commandment, the love of neighbor (Leviticus 19:18). These two commandments cover 613 precepts of the law and especially the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:2-17).
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 is All Souls day. Sometimes we think that the church means we who are on earth. The Church has three realms. The church on earth is called militant church because we are in a battle between good and evil; the souls in purgatory are called suffering church because they are in a purifying state to fully experience God’s glory and the saints who have already entered in the heavenly glory are victorious or triumphant church.
All Saints day is a feast honoring all Christian saints – known and unknown. This year All Saints Day is not Holy Day of Obligation. We will have Mass on November 1st at 8:30 am at St. Anthony. On All Souls day we remember all those who have gone before us. The souls in purgatory, they need our prayer to help their purification and to attain heavenly glory. On November 2nd we will celebrate a special Mass at St. Cecelia Cemetery 11:00 am for all souls and evening at 5 pm at St. Anthony. We celebrate a Mass of remembrance on November 14th in respective parishes in our cluster.
We ask saints to intercede for us. We pray for our loved ones who have gone before us. Every Mass there is a place we pray for our loved ones. Please remember your loved one every Mass. Another way to pray, the Church invites us to offer Mass in their name. It costs only $ 10.00, but it takes conscious thought and action to do it. Please join for All Saints Day and All Souls Day celebrations.