I am on vacation in India so no homilies till February 2019. Thank you and God bless you.
The Baptism of the Lord
Is.40:1-5, 9-11, Tit.2:11-14; 3:4-7, Lk.3:15-16, 21-22
A man was down the country travelling along by-roads where the signposts were few and far between. After a while, unsure of his directions, he decided to ask the first person he saw.
When he came across a farmer driving his cows home for milking he stopped the car and asked if he was on the right road to Mallow. The farmer told him that he certainly was on the Mallow road.
The driver thanked him and was about to move forward when the farmer added, in a nonchalant way, “you’re on the right road, but you’re going in the wrong direction!’
Today’s reflection of Jesus’ baptism challenges us to examine whether we are on the right road and moving in the right direction for our eternal destiny.
The sacrament I like celebrating the most is the sacrament of baptism. It is always a happy occasion.
A father is in church with three of his young children, including his five-year-old daughter. As was customary, he sat in the very front pew so that the children could properly witness the service.
During this particular service, the minister was performing the baptism of a tiny infant. The little five-year-old girl was taken by this, observing that he was saying something and pouring water over the infant’s head.
With a quizzical look on her face, the little girl turned to her father and asked: “Daddy, why is he brainwashing that baby??”
The joy of the occasion is palpable, especially when the parents and godparents come up to the baptismal font and the water is poured over the head of the child by the celebrant.
Each child is anointed before and after baptism with special oil, the oil of catechumens and the oil of chrism; the baptismal shawl is placed around the child and the baptismal candle is lit.
The whole occasion is somehow uplifting in a way that is unique to that sacrament.
Today we celebrate the feast of the baptism of Jesus. The Baptism of Jesus is the great event celebrated after the feast of Epiphany because it is the occasion of the first public revelation of all the Three Persons in the Holy Trinity, and the official revelation of Jesus as the Son of God to the world by God the Father.
Hence, it is described by all four Gospels. It marks the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry.
Jesus’ baptism by John was a very important event in the life of Jesus. First it was a moment of identification with us sinners. Sinless, Jesus received the baptism of repentance to identify himself with his people who realized for the first time that they were sinners.
Second, it was a moment of conviction about his identity and mission: that He is the Son of God and His mission was to preach the Good News of God’s love and salvation and to atone for our sins by becoming the “suffering servant.”
God the Father’s words, “This is my beloved Son,” taken from Psalm 2:17, gave Jesus the identity of God’s Son.
And the words “with whom I am well pleased,” from Isaiah 42:1, pointed to Jesus’ mission of atoning for the sins of the world by His suffering and death on the cross.
Third, it was a moment of equipment. The Holy Spirit equipped Jesus by descending on him in the form of dove, giving him the power of preaching and healing.
Fourth, it was a moment of decision to begin public ministry at the most opportune time after receiving the approval of his Heavenly Father as His beloved Son.
The Feast of the Lord’s Baptism is also an occasion for us to go over our own baptism. This could be more urgent especially now that baptism has been reduced to a social occasion, devoid of its spiritual meaning. We need to go back to the true sense of this sacrament.
The feast of the Baptism of the Lord is a good day for cultivating gratitude for the graces that flow from the One who descended into the waters of the Jordan so that our sins might be washed away.
How can we cultivate gratitude in our spiritual life? The most obvious answer is to say “Thank you” to God during our daily prayers, whether first thing in the morning or before going to sleep.
But there are even simpler ways to cultivate gratitude for the gift of supernatural life. Last year Pope Francis gave some very practical advice about the Sacrament of Baptism:
“It is important to know the day on which [one] was immersed in that river of Jesus’ salvation. And I will allow myself to give you some advice…
Today, at home, go look, ask about (or make sure) the date of your Baptism; that way you will keep in mind that most beautiful day of Baptism.
The danger of not knowing is that we can lose awareness of what the Lord has done in us, the memory of the gift we have received. We are called to live out our Baptism every day as the present reality of our lives.”
So the Pope himself has asked you to memorize the date of your baptism. Within families, the date of each member’s baptism ought to be celebrated with at least as much importance as one’s birthday.
After all, the anniversary of a person’s birth is for celebrating one’s first step—so to speak—into this world.
But the anniversary of a person’s baptism is for celebrating one’s first step towards Heaven!
In some homes on a family member’s baptismal day, that person’s baptismal candle is brought out, placed on the dinner table, and lit as part of celebrating with gratitude the gifts first given at baptism.
There are four gifts given, or four changes that happened to you at the moment that you were baptized.
For each of these we need to express gratitude to God. The first change was a washing away of something negative: all of your sins, both Original Sin and any personal sins.
But this cleansing was simply preparatory for the other three changes: that is, the gifts that positively strengthened you. These three are inter-twined.
At the moment of your baptism, God made you His own child by infusing you with the divine virtues of faith, hope, and love.
At the same time, you were incorporated into the Mystical Body of Christ, which is the Church. Any time that a person becomes God’s child, it’s as one member of the Body of Christ.
So in this sense, Baptism united you not only to God, but also to all the other members of the Church. This new life of Baptism is about gaining not just a spiritual Father, but an entire spiritual family!
Yes, the baptism of Jesus reminds us of our identity. It reminds us of who we are and Whose we are. By Baptism we become sons and daughters of God, brothers and sisters of Jesus, members of his Church, heirs of heaven and temples of the Holy Spirit.
It is a day to thank God for the graces we have received in Baptism, to renew our Baptismal promises and to preach Christ’s “Good News” by our transparent Christian lives of love, mercy, service and forgiveness.
Be Blessed and Be a Blessing. Amen.
The Epiphany of the Lord, Year C -19
Is 60:1-6/ Eph 3:2-3a, 5-6/ Mt 2:1-12
While they were talking about the story of the three wise men, a woman asked her parish priest, this question, “Do you know why God gave the star to the wise men?”
When he professed his ignorance, she told him: “God knows men are too proud to ask directions.
If there had been three wise women instead of three wise men, they would have asked for directions, arrived on time, helped deliver the baby, cleaned the stable, made a casserole, and given some practical gifts!”
I entered the seminary when I was in the 10th grade. That might seem premature and perhaps even reckless by today’s standards, but the 1980’s were a very different age.
I decided I wanted to be a priest, and so I threw myself into preparation at the seminary with all the confidence and bravado that only a 16 year old could muster.
It was not long however, that I began to have some problems or doubts but I had challenged my mom. My mom said that it is difficult for me to become a priest because I get angry. She used to say, you get angry at the tip of your nose.
I told my mom or I challenged my mom telling her that even if I don’t become a priest I will not return back home. May Be a premature decision.
But you know I had no problem till I went to Philosophy and there was a challenge. There was a misunderstanding between the rector and me. So I decided to leave.
But my older brother said, you are most welcome back and I will educate you and get you a job but before you come back, discern if your decision is from the Lord or from the devil.
I received a letter back from my brother encouraging me to stay. He always writes a proverb or a poem. He wrote: A King had a queen and queen had 9 kids and none of them proved their lives. We are 9 siblings and none of us have proved our lives.
Then after Philosophy I was sent to a very remote village for one year of field experience (regency). When every one of my classmates had a good place I was very far from my hometown traveling more than one day to a tribal area for my experience.
One of my friends wrote to me stating the proverb: even from the gutters you can see the star and it included in it a little poem which I still remember. It goes like this:Two men looked out of their prison bars. One saw mud, the other stars.”
Now the poem is very simplistic, and maybe even a little corny. But it got me thinking. I knew what the difficulties were but I had not focused on what might be good in my situation.
If I had leaned on God not on me in life, focus on the stars rather than the mud, perhaps it would make a difference. I followed that advice, and here I am today.
Even after becoming a priest I never wanted to come to a foreign country but the Lord brought me here to do his ministry. Our ways are different from God’s ways.
I thought of this poem on the feast of the Epiphany because it is certainly true that the wise men had all kinds of reasons to stay at home.
If they would have chosen to focus on how difficult the journey would be, how others might make fun of them because they were dreamers, or the possibility that the Christ Child would not accept their gifts, they would have stayed where they were in the East.
But the Magi set their sights higher than their fears and their doubts. They looked to the star, and the star led them to the Christ Child. These strangers from the East became among the first ones to worship the Jewish Messiah.
Now the point of this homily is not simply we should be positive thinkers. That is much too simplistic. There are bad things in this world and sometimes those bad things happen to us.
At times there is no amount of perspective or attitude that can protect us from evil. Yet having said that, it is also true that we usually see the things upon which we focus.
We usually find the things that we are looking for. So why not look for the things that are good rather then the things that are bad?
Rather then centering on all the things that are wrong, why not look and search out those things for which to be thankful, for which to be joyful.
I think we all know people who are examples of this kind of living. I remember a woman from the parish where I was the pastor in TX. An elderly woman but full of life and energy.
She was always the center of the fun, always the one who would make others laugh. One day she shared with me that her health was failing and she would need to check herself into a retirement home.
I told her that it will be difficult for her because she is a chain smoker and I said the nursing home will not allow you to smoke. She said that she need to quite smoking and she did it.
For many people moving into that kind of facility would have been the end of life, a reason to give up, a reason to despair. But not this woman.
She told me, “Father, it’s going to be good. I am going to meet some new people and I am going to have some new opportunities.” I watched her as the months passed by. It was good. She made new friends.
She became involved in new activities. She came to that situation expecting goodness and she found it. She brought joy, and the joy she brought she shared with others.
On this feast of the Epiphany the Gospel challenges us to look for the positive things in our life. Where should we look for goodness?
Who are the people, the situations, the issues that are pulling us down? Can we not ask God to help us see them differently?
Is there the possibility that there might be some goodness that we are overlooking?
Yes, there are things that discourage us, but are there not also reasons for hope?
On this feast of the Epiphany let’s pray that God will guide us to what is good, that God will give us the light that we need.
God led the Magi to the Christ Child. God did not lead them astray. I believe there is every reason to trust that God will do the same thing for us.
But first, we need to move our eyes off of the mud and onto the stars. Be Blessed and Be a Blessing. Amen.
Mary, the Mother of God
Num.6:22-7; Gal. 4:4-7; Lk. 2:16-21
A boy asked his father, “Dad, if three frogs were sitting on a limb that hangs over a pool, and one frog decided to jump off into the pool, how many frogs would be left on the limb?”
The dad replied, “Two.” “No,” the son replied. “Here is the question again: There are three frogs and one decided to jump, how many are left?”
The dad said, “Oh, I get the point! If one decided to jump, the others would too. So there are none left.” The boy said, “No dad, the answer is three. The frog only DECIDED to jump.”
Does that sound like our last year’s resolutions? Great inspiration and great resolutions, but oftentimes we only decide, and months later we are still on the same limb of doing nothing.
Since we celebrate the Feast of Mary, the Mother of God on New Year’s Day, may I take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy and Peaceful New Year?
I pray that the Lord Jesus and His mother Mary may enrich your lives during the New Year with an abundance of God’s blessings.
Today’s first reading gives us the beautiful divine blessing from the book of Numbers for the New Year. “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 peace!
Today’s Feast of Mary, the Mother of God is a very appropriate way to begin a new year. This celebration reminds us that the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, is also our Heavenly Mother.
Hence, our ideal motto for the New Year 2019 should be “Through Mary to Jesus!”
The Church observes this day also as the World Day of Peace and invites us to pray specially for peace in the world.
In his message for this World Day of Peace, January 1, 2014, Pope Francis emphasized “fraternity as the foundation of peace and as the pathway to peace.”
Actually, this is a very ancient feast, which used to be celebrated on October 11th. Today’s feast answers the question, “Why do Catholics honor Mary?”
Non-Christians sometimes believe that we Catholics worship Mary as a goddess who gave birth to our God. Non-Catholic Christians argue that there is no Biblical basis for honoring Mary and that Catholics worship her and make her equal to God.
They fail to understand why we honor Mary and name churches and institutions after her. They do not understand what we mean by calling her the Mother of God.
The truth is that we Catholics do not worship Mary as we worship, adore, God. We honor her, respect her, love her and seek her intercession, praying, “Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners.”
We do not, ever, equate her with God nor replace God with her. Rather, we honor her, primarily because God honored her by choosing her to become the mother of Jesus, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, when He took on our flesh and became Man.
We learn the great truth that Mary is the Mother of God from St. Luke’s Gospel, in the message given by the angel to Mary: “You are going to be the mother of a Son and you will call Him Jesus, and He will be called the Son of the Most High.”
After the angel had appeared to her and told her that she would be the mother of Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary visited Elizabeth.
At Mary’s greeting Elizabeth said, “Why should this great thing happen to me, that my Lord’s mother comes to visit me?” [Lk. 1:43].
Based on these references in the New Testament and on the traditional belief of the early Church, the Council of Ephesus affirmed in AD 431 that Mary was truly the Mother of God.
Today’s Gospel tells us that the first people who came to adore the Baby Jesus were the shepherds.
They were taking care of their flocks of sheep when an angel appeared to them and communicated to them the Good News concerning the birth of the Son of God. The angel told them that they should not be afraid.
And that is precisely the message that this solemnity we celebrate today brings us.
Through this Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God, the Church tells us that we should not be afraid, that we should prepare ourselves for the beginning of the New Year by asking Our Lord and our Most Beloved Mother, the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, to come to our aid.
We should ask her, not just today – although today is an especially important occasion for doing so – but always, to help us to live like people who have been renewed, ready, with her aid, to identify ourselves more closely with the teachings of the Church and with the Commandments, so that we may follow Christ more closely.
Three ways to make the New Year meaningful: a) something to dream, b) something to do, and c) Someone to love.
“I have a dream’” said Martin Luther King. We should all have a noble plan of action (dream a noble dream), for every day in the New Year.
We need to remember the proverb: “Cherish your yesterdays, dream your tomorrows, but live your today.” It has been truly said that an idle mind is the devil’s workshop. We must not be barren fig trees, nor barren branches in God’s vineyard.
We must be always engaged, doing good for others and loving the men and women we encounter in daily life, for they are our brothers and sisters in Christ.
This becomes easy when we make God the center of our life and realize His presence in all the people around us. Let us light a candle instead of blaming the darkness around us.
Just as the moon borrows the sun’s light to illuminate the earth, we must radiate the light of God shining within us.
A resolution for the New Year: We might resolve to start every morning with a short prayer: “Good morning, Lord. Thank You for extending my life for one more day.
Please grant me a special anointing of your Holy Spirit so that I may do your holy will today and avoid everything evil.” Amen. Be Blessed and Be a Blessing.
Holy Family, Year C
1Sam.1:20-22, 24-28/ 1Jn.3:1 – 2, 21 – 24 / Lk.2:41-52
A mother was shocked to hear her son tell a lie. Taking the youngster aside for a heart to heart talk, she graphically explained what happened to liars.
“A tall black man with red fiery eyes and two sharp horns grabs little boys who tell lies and carries them off at night.
He takes them to Mars where they have to work in a dark canyon for fifty years! Now” she concluded, “you won’t tell a lie again, will you, dear?” “No, Mum, replied the son, gravely, but…But……you tell better lies Mum!”
Children learn to tell lies from the elders. With them it does not work to say, “Do as I tell and not as I do.”
Today, the Church celebrates the feast of the Holy Family. So, inevitably the focus will be on family life. And when we look at the family, just what kind of analogy could we use to describe a family?
Maybe I would say that the family is like a fruit cake – mostly sweet and with some nuts; some may have more nuts! Nonetheless, we still have to admit that family life, although like a fruit cake, can be quite messy.
It’s said that a family is like a social unit that is concerned with some kind of space. The father is concerned with parking space, the children are concerned with outer space, the mother is concerned with looking for space.
And when the family has to share the same space, that is where challenges come in. Because problems can arise when we feel that our own space is encroached upon or has been trespassed.
And when our space is encroached upon or is trespassed, then communications become fragile and tensed.
We will be quick to speak and to scorch, but we will not be that ready to listen with attention. Let me quote from a poem entitled “Harsh Words”:
I ran into a stranger as he passed by, “Oh excuse me, please” was my reply. He said, “Please excuse me too, I wasn’t watching for you.”
We were very polite, this stranger and I. We went on our way saying good-bye.
But at home, a difference is told, how we treat our loved ones, young and old.
Later that day, while cooking the evening meal, my son stood beside me very still.
As I turned, I nearly knocked him down. “Move out of the way!” I said with a frown.
It so ironic, isn’t it, that while dealing with strangers, common courtesy we use. But with family and loved ones, we seem to abuse.
In today’s gospel, we heard about Mary and Joseph, and the 12 year-old Jesus going to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover.
It was an annual event for them but this time round something happened. After the feast, Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, without his parents knowing.
Needless to say, Mary and Joseph must have panicked during those three days until they found Him in the temple.
The gospel passage simply said that they were overcome when they saw Him, but that said a lot about how Mary and Joseph felt – the anxiety, the stress, the frustration, the anger (?).
And we can certainly feel the seriousness of the tone in what Mary said to Jesus, “My child, why have you done this to us? See how worried your father and I have been looking for you.”
And the reply of Jesus was nowhere near consoling, and as if that was not enough, it was also confusing to say the least. That would have easily erupted into a parent-child quarrel and harsh words would fly about to cut and scorch.
Yet, no further words were exchanged, maybe because Mary and Joseph did not understand what Jesus meant. But Mary stored up all these things in her heart.
Joseph might be thinking that it would be easier to build a house for God than to raise the Son of God.
Yes, whether it is the Son of God or not, it was never easy to be parents and it never will be. Yes, there is that 5th Commandment – Honor your father and your mother, but we all know that we have broken that commandment time and again.
Yet as much as that 5th Commandment is directed at children, there is also an underlying spiritual aspect to it. This underlying spiritual aspect is that parents have this God-given authority over their children.
But this authority is not to be used to drive their children to resentment and make them feel frustrated. Over and above, the duty to care for their children and to provide for their needs, parents have a spiritual authority over their children.
It means that when parents pray for their children, God will surely listen to their prayers. And it is not just praying for them when they are applying for entry into a particular school or university, and when they are taking their exams.
Parents will have to exercise their spiritual authority over their children when they are ill, when they have gone wayward, when they are in trouble or in danger. Parents have this power to call upon God’s protection and blessing over their children.
And that is why it is so important that parents understand and exercise this spiritual power. And it is so essential that parents must pray together in order that this spiritual power be manifested and bear spiritual fruits in their children.
One of the difficult challenges in family life is family quarrels. Family quarrels are bitter, especially when they are between parents and children. They can be about any issue, and can spring up unexpectedly and catch us totally unprepared.
Whatever it is, family quarrels are bitter and painful. They are like splits in the skin that won’t heal easily because there’s not enough material to do so. But again, parents have this spiritual power to call upon God’s blessing so that there can be peace and unity in the family.
Family peace and harmony cannot be taken for granted, and as a matter of fact, family breakup is becoming more rampant. But again, parents have that spiritual power to keep the family together and sharing the same space.
So even after the Temple episode, Jesus went down with Mary and Joseph to Nazareth and lived under their authority.
There He increased in wisdom, in stature and in favor with God and with others. As it was for Jesus, so may it be for parents and children in the family.
As Pope John Paul II said: As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.
Let us pray for the grace of caring for one another in our families, for each member of our parish family, and for all families of the universal Church.
Be Blessed and Be a Blessing. Amen.
Christmas Year C
All of the shopping, all of the rushing about, all of the busy-ness of Christmas is now over. Today the streets are deserted. A quiet and peaceful stillness lays over all.
Now the religious meaning of Christmas is allowed to emerge from beneath all of the mall music, the shopping, and the frantic preparations for this day.
But to what do we turn our attention? To peace on earth toward men of good will? Yes, and something more. To the sharing of love with family? Yes, and something more. To joining together with the ones, we love? Yes, but more.
Christmas is more than having a lovely time, more than family sharing, more than the so-called “happy holidays.” We celebrate today what so many are looking for.
We focus our attention today on that which will give peace to many who are lonely, uneasy with themselves, and who are searching for meaning in their lives.
The centerpiece of the Mass, the essence of Catholicism, and the core of our belief is what we consider today.
The only essential and ultimately important reality is the joining of humanity with divinity. This joinder is the genius of Christianity and the core of Catholic devotion.
It is that which unites liberal and conservative, saint and sinner, European and American, black and white. God and man at table are sat down.
The birth of Jesus Christ is not the birth of one religious prophet among many, one founder of a religion among many, the birth of one good man among many others. It is rather the stupendous joining of humanity with divinity.
An elderly man in Oklahoma calls his son in New York just a few days before Christmas and says, “I hate to ruin your day son, but I have to tell you that your mother and I are getting a divorce; 45 years of marriage… and that much misery is enough!” “Dad, what are you talking about?” the son yells.
“We can’t stand the sight of each other any longer,” the old dad explained. “We’re sick of each other, and I’m sick of talking about this, so you call your sister in Hong Kong and tell her!”. Frantic, the son calls his sister, who explodes on the phone.
“Like heck they’re getting divorced,” she shouts, “I’ll take care of this.” She calls her elderly father immediately, and screams at him, “You are not getting divorced. Don’t do a single thing until I get there. I’m calling my brother back, and we’ll both be there tomorrow.
Until then, don’t do a thing, you hear me?” she yelled as she hung up the phone. The old man hangs up his phone and turns to his wife. “Okay dear”, he says, “it’s all set. They’re both coming for Christmas and paying their own air-fare.”
We celebrate Christmas with great rejoicing for three reasons. First, it is the birthday of our God who became man and Savior to save us from our sins.
Second, it is the birthday of a God who came to share His love with us and third, it is the anniversary of the day when Almighty God came to live with us as Emmanuel.
First of all, Christmas is the feast of God’s sending us a Savior. Jesus, the Incarnation of God as man, came to save us from the bondage of sin.
The Hindu Scriptures in India describe ten incarnations of God.
The purpose of these incarnations is stated in their Holy Scripture, Bagavath Geetha or Song of God. “God incarnates to restore righteousness in the world whenever there is a large scale erosion of moral values.”
But the Christian Scriptures teach that there was one and only one Incarnation of God, the purpose of which is stated in John 3:16: “God so loved the world that he sent His Only Son so that everyone who believes in Him may not die, but have eternal life.”
We celebrate that Incarnation today as Good News because we have a Divine Savior. As our Savior, Jesus atoned for our sins and liberated us from slavery to sin by his suffering, death and Resurrection.
Every Christmas reminds us that we still need this Savior to be reborn in our hearts and to live there, for we need him every day to free us from our evil habits, addictions and unjust, impure and uncharitable tendencies.
Hence, Christmas challenges us to accept Jesus as our Lord God and personal Savior and to surrender our sinful lives to Him, allowing Him to rule our lives. Before I go to the 2nd point:
A little girl climbed onto Santa’s lap, Santa asked the usual, “And what would you like for Christmas?” The child stared at him open mouthed and horrified for a minute, then gasped: “Didn’t you get my E-mail?”
Second, Christmas is the feast of God’s sharing His love with us. Jesus, as our Savior, brought the “Good News” that our God is a loving, forgiving, merciful and rewarding God who wants to save us through His Son Jesus and that God is not a judgmental, cruel and punishing God, as Satan presented God to Adam and Eve.
Jesus demonstrated by his life and teaching how God, our Heavenly Father, loves us, forgives us and provides for us. All his miracles were signs of this Divine Love. Jesus’ final demonstration of God’s love for us was his death on the cross and the institution of the Holy Eucharist.
Christmas reminds us that we have to allow this God of unconditional love to be reborn in us and to start living in us.
Let us accept the challenge given by the famous poet, Alexander Pope, “What does it profit me if Jesus is born in thousands of cribs all over the world, and He is not born in my heart?”
Let us allow Jesus to be reborn in our hearts and lives today and every day, and let us allow him to radiate his light around us as sharing and selfless love, compassionate words and deeds, unconditional forgiveness, the spirit of humble service and overflowing generosity.
Third, Christmas is the feast of Emmanuel, i.e., God living with us and within us. Christmas is the feast of Emmanuel because God in the New Testament is God-with-us, Emmanuel, who continues to live with us in all the events of our lives as announced by the Archangel Gabriel to Mary.
The Christmas story tells us that there is a way out of our sinfulness and hopelessness because God is with us. We are not alone. There is a mighty God within us to strengthen us in our weaknesses and temptations.
As Emmanuel, Jesus lives in the Sacraments (especially in the Holy Eucharist), in the Holy Bible, in the praying community and in each believer, with the Holy Spirit Who is transforming us daily into the “Temples of the Holy Spirit.”
Hence, each Christmas reminds us that we are bearers of our incarnate God with the missionary duty of conveying Jesus to others around us by loving others as Jesus did, through sacrificial, humble and committed service.
Sharing with others Jesus, Emmanuel living within us, is the best Christmas gift we can give to, or receive from, others. And so we celebrate today the fact that just as God came to the Garden of Eden to search out Adam and Eve, so also did He come to us in Jesus Christ to search us out and fill us with God’s Holy Spirit.
And we celebrate the stupendous reality that He comes to us in every Holy Communion to be made flesh in your flesh, and so mingle His blood with yours and thus to search out and enter into your heart.
This is God’s Christmas gift to you. What will you give to Him? Hopefully we will give Him the gift of ourselves and our love.
Be Blessed and Be a Blessing. Amen.
Is 62:1-5/ Ac 13:16-17, 22-25/ Mt 1:1-25
The nativity play was going as planned and Joseph and Mary were going from house to house knocking on the doors and asking if there was any room for them.
A boy wanted to be Joseph in the Sunday School pageant. He was cast as the landlord and objected loudly, but to no avail.
When the pageant was presented, Mary and Joseph knocked on the door and asked him if he had a room for them.
The teachers prompted telling him to say no, he looked here and there and again looked at the teacher. Then he thought for a while and said no room here, come to my home I will give my room to you.
As they continued to get “no room” answers a little voice came from the back and said “YOU SHOULD HAVE BOOKED!”
Just now, we saw what is commonly called a Children’s Christmas Pageant, or a Nativity Play.
Well, it was certainly cute and amusing as the little children are dressed up in Nativity-style costumes, with look-alike shepherds and angels.
What is really heart-warming is that the children and their teachers had taken time and effort to put up the Christmas Pageant.
They did this as their offering to God to recall the birth of our Saviour Jesus Christ.
So that is why what we saw is called the Children’s Christmas Pageant.
The word “Pageant” is an interesting word. It means a grand show, a big show.
So besides the Christmas Pageant, there are also other pageants like the “Miss Universe” pageant.
That is indeed a grand show, a big show, a show of beauty and brains, with cameras clicking away and with the spot-light on the beautiful women from all over the world.
And of course there is the typical reaction of the eventual winner of the “Miss Universe” title.
Well, in our Children’s Christmas Pageant, it is also a grand show; at least the parents were clicking away with their cameras and videoing the whole pageant.
But instead of glamorous designer evening gowns and dresses, what we saw was a motley combination of mix-and-match costumes that brings us back to the time of the birth of Jesus.
And the children, with the guidance of their teachers, were doing the Christmas Pageant because they want to be part of the beautiful Christmas story.
And every character in the Christmas story has a role and a purpose. Nothing happens by coincidence.
If not for Caesar Augustus issuing a decree for a census, then Mary and Joseph would not need to go to Bethlehem. And in doing so they fulfilled the prophecy.
And because there was no room at the inn, Mary had to lay the new-born Jesus in a manger where the shepherds were able to find them.
And the shepherds came because of the angel’s announcement of the birth of the Saviour.
Yes, nothing happens by coincidence. There was a plan, a beautiful plan for a simple and humble and quiet entry of the Saviour into the world.
And for the children who took part in the Christmas pageant, it was not a coincidence either.
Well, at least they will remember that they played a role in Christmas Pageant 2018, whether it is Mary or Joseph or the shepherd or the angel. (Anybody played role of the donkey or cow?)
How will this have an influence in their lives, we will know as the mystery of life unfolds.
And as for us who are here this evening and have watched the pageant, we being here is certainly not a coincidence.
Nothing in life happens by coincidence, especially when it is at Christmas.
Why are we here may be due to various reasons – we are here with our family or friends; we are here because the Midnight Mass will be too late and it will affect our beauty sleep.
We may be bored and got nowhere to go because everywhere is crowded; or we could be part of that network of undercover Catholics who only comes for Mass at Christmas.
Whatever it may be, we being here is not a coincidence. Because something has happened to us.
Just like Mary and Joseph and the shepherds and even the angels, something has happened to them.
All because the Saviour has come into the world and into their lives.
So we have seen the Christmas story. We have seen a wonderful pageant, and now we are a part of it.
What will happen to us we will know as life unfolds.
Yes nothing happens by coincidence because the Saviour has come into our lives.
Let us join the angels and praise God and give glory to Him in the highest heavens.
Be Blessed and Be a Blessing. Amen.