New Year – 2015

Mary, the Mother of God, 2015

Num.6:22-7; Gal.4:4-7; Lk.2:16-21

On the first day God created the cow. God said, “You must go to the field with the farmer all day long and suffer under the sun, have calves, and give milk to support the farmer, and I will give you a life span of sixty years.” The cow said, “That’s a kind of tough life, you want me to live for sixty years. Let me have twenty years, and I’ll give back the forty.” And God agreed.

On the second day God created the dog. God said, “Sit all day by the door of your house and bark at anyone who comes in or walks past. I will give you a life span of twenty years.” The dog said, “That’s too long to be barking. Give me ten years, and I’ll give back the other ten.” So God, with a sigh, agreed.

On the third day God created the monkey. God said, “Entertain people, do monkey tricks, make them laugh. I’ll give you a twenty year life span.” Monkey said, “How boring: monkey tricks for twenty years? I don’t think so. Dog gave back ten; so that’s what I’ll do, too, okay?” And God agreed again.

On the fourth day God created man. God said, “Eat, sleep, play, and enjoy life. Do nothing, just enjoy. I’ll give you twenty years.” Man said, “What? Only twenty years? No way, God. Tell you what, I’ll take twenty, and the forty, cow gave back, and the ten, dog gave back, and the ten monkey, gave back. That makes eighty, okay? “Okay,” said God. “You’ve got a deal.”

So that’s why for twenty years we eat, sleep, play, enjoy life, and do nothing; for the next forty years we slave in the sun to support our family; for the next ten years we do monkey tricks to entertain our grandchildren; and for the last ten years we sit in front of the house and bark at everybody!

The human life of Jesus begins with Mary. Therefore, it is appropriate that we begin the New Year with the Feast of Mary, the Mother of God. Since Mary is the Mother of God she is the mother of joy, joy to the world. So the traditional greeting on this first day of the New Year is one of joy: Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! How many times did you hear that today? How many times did you give that same greeting to others? Was it just a conventional greeting or was it a real wish? In other words is it really possible to find happiness in the New Year?

Most of us have some kind of watch on our wrists. And maybe somewhere at home in some drawer there are a few more watches: dress watch, sports watch, diving watch, automatic watch, analogue watch, digital watch, etc. Whatever it is, all of us have at least one watch, or some kind of time piece. It only goes to show how important time is in our modern lives.

Yesterday, if we were celebrating some kind of “count-down”, then we would have seen how the last few seconds of last year ticked away into history and into the New Year. And this morning we are looking at the 365 days ahead, and we are here at Mass asking God for His blessings in this New Year as we offer to the Lord. And today is also the 8th day of the Octave of Christmas, and the Church dedicates this day in honor of Mary under the title of “Mother of God”.

Mary is indeed instrumental in the whole story of salvation, because as we heard in the 2nd reading: When the appointed time came, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born a subject of the Law, to redeem the subjects of the Law and to enable us to be adopted as sons. Yes, Mary was there at the appointed time, at the appointed moment, and she was available to carry out the will of God.

So as we welcome the first day of the New Year, we also need to be prepared for the appointed time when God will come into our lives and reveal Himself to us. Well, let’s say on this first day of the New Year, you win a prize! And these are the details of the prize: Each morning your bank will deposit $86,400.00 into your private account for your personal use.

However, this prize comes with rules just like any game has certain rules. The first set of rules would be this:

  1. The money that you do not spend at the end of each day would be taken away from you.
  2. You cannot simply transfer the money into some other account.
  3. Only you can spend it.


So each morning when you wake up, the bank opens your account with $86,400.00 for that day. The second set of rules is this:

  1. The bank can end the game without warning. At any time it can say, “It’s over, the game is

over!” 2. It will close the account and you will not receive a new one.

So with $86,400 what would you want to do with it? You would buy anything and everything you wanted, right? Not only for yourself, but for all the people you love and your friends as well, right? Even for people you don’t know you would also want to spend it on them, because you couldn’t possibly spend it all on yourself, right?

You would try to spend every cent, and use it all, right? Well actually this game is about life! Each of us is in possession of such a “magical” bank. We just don’t see it. THE MAGICAL BANK IS TIME! Each morning upon awakening, we receive 86,400 seconds as a gift of life, and when we go to sleep at night, any remaining time is NOT credited to us.

What we haven’t lived up to that day is forever lost. Yesterday is forever gone. Each morning the account is refilled, but the bank can dissolve your account at any time……. Without warning. Well, what would you do with your 86,400 seconds? Aren’t they worth so much more than the same amount in dollars?

In fact they are worth much more. So as we begin this New Year, and as we look at so many days ahead, let us look at one second at a time, one moment at a time. Together with Mother Mary, let us offer each second and each moment of every day to the Lord so that He will bless it and make it holy, so that every moment of every day, we will be loving and peaceful and joyful. So as we move on from this moment, may I quote the formula for blessing from the 1st reading:

“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! (Num.6:24-26) OR


“May the Lord bless you and keep you.

May the Lord let His face shine on you and be gracious to you.

May the Lord uncover His face to you and bring you peace.” Amen.




Feast of the Holy Family – 2014

Feast of the Holy Family – 2014

Sir.3:2-6, 12-14; Col.3:12-21; Lk.2:22-40

A little boy greets his father as he returns from work with a question: “Daddy, how much do you make an hour?” The father is surprised and says: “Look, son, not even your mom knows. Don’t bother me now, I’m tired.” “But Daddy, just tell me please! How much do you make an hour?” the boy insists. The father finally gives up and replies: “Twenty dollars.” “Okay, Daddy,” the boy continues, “Could you loan me ten dollars?”

The father yells at him: “So that was the reason you asked how much I earn, right? Now, go to sleep and don’t bother me anymore!” At night the father thinks over what he said and starts feeling guilty. May be my son needed to buy something. Finally, he goes to his son’s room. “Are you asleep, son?” asks the father. “No, Daddy. Why?” replies the boy. “Here’s the money you asked for earlier,” the father said.

“Thanks, Daddy!” replies the boy and receives the money. Then he reaches under his pillow and brings out some more money. “Now I have enough! Now I have twenty dollars!” says the boy to his father, “Daddy, could you sell me one hour of your time?” Today’s gospel has a message for this man and for all of us, and the message is that we need to invest more of our time in our family life.

On the last Sunday of the year, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family.  We are here to offer all the members of our own families on the altar for God’s blessing. Today we continue our Christmas celebration with a consideration of the Holy Family. The first reading is a commentary on the fourth commandment: “Honor your father and your mother.”

Ben Sirach has many good things to say about living properly according to the Torah. Sirach reminds children of their duty to honor their parents – even when it becomes difficult. He also mentions the five-fold reward which God promises to those who honor their father and mother. The first reward is “riches,” and the second long life: “Whoever reveres his father will live a long life.”Forgiveness of sins and God’s prompt answer to prayers are the fourth and fifth rewards.

He reminds children that God blesses them if they obey, revere and show compassion to their father. Paul, in the letter to the Colossians, advises us that we should put on love and remain thankful in our relationships with one another. Paul’s advice is part of the “Household code” – the rules for members of the Christian family.

In today’s Gospel, Mary and Joseph present Jesus in Jerusalem’s Temple in fulfillment of their religious tradition. You, parents can remember when your children were infants. You couldn’t wait to show them off to family and friends. You probably had a big celebration on that very special day when you went to your parish church and presented them to the Lord to receive his life in Baptism.

When you first held your children, when you brought the baby home from the hospital, when you survived that first night when your baby would not get to sleep, you probably asked yourself, how will I, how will we, deal with the challenges this new life is going to bring? Perhaps you are still asking yourselves that question. Certainly there is not a parent here who has not wondered:

How can I be the best parent possible? What will happen to my child during his or her life? What sort of person will he or she become? Today the Church bids us to look to the Holy Family. They kept their union with God as the foundation and glue of their lives. This resulted in a tranquility that let them meet each challenge they faced…conquering the surrounding chaos instead of being destroyed by it.

You, parents live in a society that does too much but not enough. Other forces tempt you to do too much. They convince you that if you are going to be good parents you have to have your kids in every activity possible, be a part of every organization you can, be the perfect homemaker, cook, provider, repairer, and referee. They convince you to do too much… but not enough.

For many parents there is not enough time to develop the union with God but that is the heart of your family. You try too hard… but not hard enough. You try to be the perfect parent in every way but sheer exhaustion results in you. You find not much time to spend in prayer. Your prayer time should not be something you throw into your day.

Prayer is a life style, not an emergency exit.  It should be the ground upon which you build your day. The sudden and unexplained collapse during the last fifty years of the institution we know of as family is a great mystery. Why, during these times, have so many young people simply begun living together as a family when they really were not? One third of the children born today are born out of wedlock.

The numbers of children who are being shaped and formed without a father and a mother living with them is staggering. Who are their grandparents, and how many sets of grandparents do they have, given the number of stepfathers and stepmothers they have? What sorts of values are being displayed in the lives of the adults with whom children live?

Much is said these days about the troubles within our public school system. While a lot may be wrong in the system, the chief thing that has gone wrong is the absence of genuine families in which the children are being raised. Most of the children are not being raised with mom, dad, and siblings. Schools cannot replace families. Do you know that 60% of the felons in our prisons don’t know who their fathers are?

Yet it was in our family that our character, personality were formed. We became an individual and a person with a distinct character because we lived in a family. For a family makes an individual, and individuals in turn constitute the family. It is in our family homes that we learn a philosophy of life.

It is there, in the family (the so called domestic church), that God is acknowledged, that prayer is learned, and devotion is formed. It is there that our soul is nurtured at the family altar, the family table in which we share a communion of food for the body, the mind and the soul.

There is a story about a solicitor who lived some distance from her elderly, widowed father. Months had passed since she had seen him and when her father called to ask when she might visit, the daughter detailed a long list of reasons that prevented her from taking the time to see him, court schedules, meetings, new clients, research, etc., etc.

At the end of the recitation, the father asked, “When I die, do you intend to come to my funeral?” The daughter’s response was immediate,” Dad, I can’t believe you’ve asked that. Of course, I’ll come!” To which the father replied, “Good. Forget the funeral and come now. I need you more now than I will then.” She got the message and began to see him regularly after that!

So in thanking God for the gift of the Christ Child, let us also thank God for our mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, and the wonderful gift that we have been given, our family. Amen

Christmas Day – 2014

Christmas Day – 2014

Is.52:7-10; Heb.1:1-6; Jn.1: 1-18

After explaining childbirth, the biology teacher asked her 3rd graders to write an essay on “childbirth” in their families. Susan went home and asked her mother how she was born. Her mother, who was busy at the time said, “A big white swan brought you darling, and left you on our doorstep.” Continuing her research she asked grandma how she got her mother as a child.

Being in the middle of something, her grandma similarly deflected the question by saying, “A fairy brought your mom as a little baby, and I found her in our garden in an open box”. Then the girl went and asked her great-grandmother how she got her grandma as a baby. “I picked her from a box I found in the gooseberry bush,” said the surprised great-grandma.

With this information the girl wrote her essay. When the teacher asked her later to read it in front of the class, she stood up and began, “I am very sad to find out that there was not even a single natural birth in our family for three generations… All our children were extraterrestrials.”

Today we have a birth that came from the Word. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. The Bible tells us of another non-normal birth. It’s a non-normal birth, never before, nor after, seen or experienced, because it is the birth of God as man – Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Man, as our Savior.

While Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus goes back to Abraham, and Luke’s genealogy to Adam, John’s genealogy goes back to God Himself. John travels to eternity to reveal to us the theology of Christmas. While the Gospel selections for the Vigil, Midnight and Dawn Masses describe the history of Christmas, the selection from John’s Gospel for this Daytime Mass lifts us out of history into the realm of mystery—His wonderful name is the Word.

The reading tells us that the Baby in the manger is the Word of God, the very Self-expression of God. The first reading gives us the assurance that, just as Yahweh restored His chosen people to their homeland after the Babylonian exile, Jesus, the Savior, will restore mankind to the Kingdom of God.

In the second reading, St. Paul tells us how God had conveyed His words to us in the past through His prophets. And now God has sent His own Son, so that He might demonstrate to us humans, by His life, death and Resurrection, the real nature of our God. And John, in the Prologue of his Gospel, introduces the birth of Jesus as the dawning of the Light. This light will remove the darkness of evil from the world.

John explains later in his Gospel why light is the perfect symbol of Christmas: Jesus said “I am the Light of the world,” (Jn.8:12) and “You are the light of the world” (Mt.5:14). John proclaims the Incarnation of God, the most fundamental truth of Christianity in the inspired words of his Prologue. He makes the connection between Jesus Christ and the Logos of God.

John found that, in both Greek and Jewish thought, there existed the concept of the “word.”  For the eastern people, words had an independent, power-filled existence. The Greek term for word is Logos which not only means word, but also reason. Hence, whenever the Greeks used Logos, the twin ideas of the Word of God and the Reason of God were in their minds. That is why John introduces Jesus to the Greeks as the eternal, light-giving and creative power of God, or the Mind of God in poetical prose, in the very beginning of his Gospel.

Let me share with you a story about a pair of twins whose resemblance to each other was only in their looks. But they are opposite in every way, one being a bright optimist, and the other a gloom and doom pessimist. Just to see what would happen, to see if anything would change, and so when the family was out, the father had the pessimist son’s room filled with every imaginable toy and game.

The optimist son’s room was however loaded with horse manure. When the family came home, the father waited a while, and then he walked past the pessimist son’s room. He found him sitting with his new toys, but crying bitterly, and the father asked him why. The pessimist son replied: Because my friends would be jealous of my toys, I’ll have to read all the instructions before I can play with them, I’ll constantly need new batteries, and my toys will eventually be broken.

The father sighed, and then he walked past the optimist son’s room. He found him dancing for joy in the pile of horse manure. So the father asked: What are you so happy about? The optimist son answered: Well, I got my Christmas wish; with all this manure, there must be a pony somewhere.

So do you think the father will get him a pony? Sure, why not? Christmas is a time for us to open our eyes to God’s blessings and graces, and to see his greatest gift of love, and that is Jesus. Because with Jesus, we can only look forward for the best, and not fear and prepare for the worst. Because of Jesus, we do not need to worry and fret when things start to crack.

After all, there is a crack in everything. But, that’s how the light gets in. And that’s when Christmas begins. Today our readings concern an appearance. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has appeared to humans. He existed before, but he was not visible to us before. He was completely present, but we were ignorant of his presence, so he became present in a new way: he took a human body and a human soul, a whole human nature, and joined it to his divine person, remaining one person but with two natures.

He did not merely have the appearance of a man, such as if he had appeared fully grown. Then we would say that Jesus Christ appeared like a man. Or we may say like we heard in the story that we found him in the manger when he was a baby. No, he began his human life in the earliest stage of human formation, with a single cell, multiplying into an embryo, growing into a fetus, maturing into a newborn baby.

And that baby grew up and gave us some very hard teachings, teachings about loving one another, about being poor, about suffering. He does this because he wants us to grow up; he is preparing us to live in full maturity, so that we might be heirs according to the hope for eternal life. Jesus Christ first made his appearance in the world 2000 years ago.

Christmas is a day to remember and a day to wait for. Today, while we remember and celebrate God’s first coming into our world in human form, we also look forward because the liturgy we celebrate reminds us that the Lord is going to return in his Second Coming. The liturgy calls on us to prepare His way, to be ready to be judged by Him.

We need to remember that there is no room in the manger except for Jesus and us: There isn’t room in the manger for all the baggage we carry around with us. There’s no room for our pious pride and self-righteousness. There’s no room for our human power and prestige. There’s no room for the baggage of past failure and un-forgiven sin.

There’s no room for our prejudice and bigotry. There’s no room for bitterness and greed. There is no room in the manger for anything other than the absolute reality of who and what we really are: very human, very real, very fragile, very vulnerable human beings who desperately need the gift of love and grace which God so powerfully desires to give us in this Christmas.  Amen.







4th Sunday of Advent Year B – 14

4th Sunday of Advent Year B – 14

2Sam.7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16; Rom.16:25-27; Lk.1:26-38

There is a story about a man who was dangerously hanging on to a single branch on the top of a tree from where he could not climb down. He cried out to God: “Oh God, save me; you know I believe in you. All that I asked of you is to save me and I shall proclaim your name to the ends of the earth.” “Very well,” said the voice of God, “I shall save you and now let go off of the branch.” The distraught man yelled out: “Let go off of the branch? Hello, My God, do you think I’m crazy?”

Some people cling to their reason so adamantly that they are never able to see the light of faith. Mary’s faith is ever active and hence she does not only accept the divine truth but dwells upon it, uses it and develops it. Her faith is ever active and hence she says, “I am the handmaid of the Lord.” The Gospel stresses the key role of Mary in the work of our salvation.

In addition, today’s Scripture texts describe God’s promise to David and its fulfillment in Jesus, the Son of David. They also tell us that God’s preparation for the coming of Jesus was full of surprises. Today’s Gospel surprises us by telling us that this King would be born to an ordinary virgin, not by means of sexual relationship, but through the Holy Spirit.

The Gospel surprises by reminding us that God’s promise is best fulfilled not in buildings, or even great kings like Solomon, but rather in humble souls like Mary who trusted in God’s promise. Now let us pay attention to what happened to the conversation between Mary and the angel Gabriel. The first thing is that Mary listens.

The angel announces that the Messiah will be born in her and she listens. Her greatness comes through her faithful listening. Mary listens, asks for clarification and finally accepts to be the servant of the Lord. In the two annunciations described in Luke’s Gospel, neither Elizabeth nor Mary appears to be likely candidate for motherhood. Elizabeth is too old and Mary is a virgin.

The angel’s salutation to Mary, “Hail, full of grace,” reminds us of God’s words to Moses at the burning bush, “I will be with you” (Ex.3:12), the angel’s salutation Gideon, “The Lord is with you, you mighty warrior” (Jgs.6:12) and the Lord’s assurance to Jeremiah, “Be not afraid of their faces, for I am with you to deliver you” (Jer.1:8).

The second thing is Mary accepts. Mary is deeply disturbed even by the initial greeting of the angel. But Angel Gabriel showers her with assurances that everything will be alright.”Do not be afraid….The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; hence the holy offspring to be born will be called Son of God,” (v.35). These words of assurance eventually brought Mary to turn her negative emotion to a humble word of acceptance.

The important word in these angel’s words of assurance is “overshadow”. The word is rarely used in the Bible. In the Old Testament, however, we can find it in the book of Exodus. It says that as soon as the cloud overshadowed the tent, “The Lord’s presence filled it,” (Ex.40:34). It was in the tent that the Ark of the Covenant was kept and God overshadowed or covered it.

The word “overshadow” is also used at the Transfiguration (9:34) and in a story of Peter’s healing ministry (Acts.5:15). In all these places the verb clearly refers to Divine presence and power. The angel makes it clear that the child “will be holy” and “will be called Son of God.” Luke’s choice of this word is not accidental but it is deeply symbolic.

He compared Mary’s body to the tent in which the Ark of the Covenant was kept. He compared Mary’s womb in which Jesus will be housed. And we know that the Ark of the Covenant in which the tablet of the Ten Commandments were housed. Thus when God’s power overshadows Mary, the Lord’s ‘presence’ fills her.

The third thing is that Mary believes. Her faith was humble and hence she first believes and only then reasons upon it. The important words in the sentence are, ‘nothing is impossible with God.’ Before God’s power overshadows Mary, the world had no hope. Sin and violence were everywhere. The human race had no hope of salvation.

But when God overshadows Mary, He changes all these especially when Jesus has entered the world through Mary’s great fiat. Yes God wants Mary to submit even to the noble reason of faith. The next is Mary obeys. Her obedience is risk-taking when she says, “Let it be done to me according to your word.” Her obedience is a loving obedience. She loves God and hence trusts in Him and obeys.

She agrees to carry out the Word Gabriel has addressed to her. Her response again calls forth OT language. Abraham’s “Here I am” (Gn.22:1) Isaiah’s “Here am I, send me” (Is.6:8) Hannah’s “Think kindly of your maidservant”(1Sam.1:18) Samuel’s “Here I am” (1Sam.3:4). Mary’s response qualifies her as Jesus’ first disciple. Mary is thus presented as the perfect disciple.

Those who find out what God wants of them and accept His message as Mary did are Jesus’ true followers. Those who only hear the Word but never put it into action are deceiving themselves. Christian Faith is a matter of continually making Jesus a part of our lives.

Jesus’ earthly existence begins with Mary’s “Yes” in today’s account of the Annunciation. Although we normally regard the birth of Jesus as the beginning of God’s presence among us, the Church teaches that the conception of Jesus in Mary’s womb by the power of the Holy Spirit took place at the moment that Mary agreed to be the mother of Jesus.

Mary’s “Yes,” changed the world. Her obedience to God’s call changed the lives of all of us. How many times have we said “No,” to God? How different would things be for us and for others if we had said “Yes,” to him more often? We need to say a courageous and generous “Yes” to God as Mary did.

True obedience comes from a free choice made in the light of what is true and good. It often requires a great deal of courage. True obedience also aims at putting oneself at the service of something/Someone that is greater than oneself. Will we surrender to God and allow God to do what seems impossible from our human point of view?

Will we surrender our agenda, our will and our kingdom to God and allow God’s agenda God’s will and God’s Kingdom become a reality for and through us? It is by saying “yes” wholeheartedly and unconditionally to God that Jesus will be re-born in us or maybe even born in us for the first time. By our saying “yes” Jesus will be born or reborn in others too.

The Good News in today’s Scripture message is not only that God is making provision for the salvation of His people, but also that He has a plan for each individual person. In many cases, our work for God seems rather ordinary, but each ordinary task which we carry out fits into God’s plan in ways that we cannot yet understand. God desires not the skill of our hands but the love of our hearts.

The Babe in the Manger reminds us of what God has done and is still doing for us. What are we doing in return? Let us show our gratitude to God by living as true followers of Christ saying: “Behold here I am Lord to do thy will.” Amen.


3rd Sunday of Advent [B] 2014

3rd Sunday of Advent [B] 2014

Is.61:1-2, 10-11; 1 Thess.5:16-24; Jn.1:6-8, 19-28

There is a story told about a man who had to travel to St. Louis on business. This was years ago when Christians kept Sunday as a very special day. For this man, “keeping the Sabbath,” also meant not riding the trains on Sunday. Thus, after he finished up his business late Saturday night, he had to stay over in St. Louis until the following Monday morning. On Sunday morning, he left the hotel looking for a place to worship.

The streets were quite deserted, but finally he saw a policeman and asked him for directions to the nearest church. The stranger thanked the policeman for the information and was about to walk off when he turned and asked the policeman: “Why have you recommended that particular church? It looks like a Catholic church.

There must be several churches nearby that you could have recommended.” The policeman smiled and replied: “I’m not a church man myself, but the people who come out of that church are the happiest looking church-people in St. Louis and they claim that they have received Jesus and they are happily taking him to their homes. I thought that would be the kind of church you would like to attend.”

The Scripture for today reminds us that every Sunday in every Christian church must be a Gaudete Sunday or “Rejoice Sunday.” Today is “Rejoice Sunday” because today’s Mass (in its Latin, pre-Vatican II form), began with the opening antiphon: “Rejoice in the Lord always.” In the past, when Advent was a season of penance, the celebrant of the liturgy used to wear vestments with the penitential color of purple or violet.

In order to remind the people that they were preparing for the very joyful occasion of the birth of Jesus, the celebrant wore rose-colored vestments on the third Sunday. Today we light the rose candle, and the priest may wear rose vestments, to express our joy in the coming of Jesus, our Savior. The primary common theme running through today’s readings is that of encouraging joy.

The second common theme is that of bearing witness. The prophet Isaiah, Mary and John the Baptist all bear joyful witness to what God has done and will do for his people. The readings for the third Sunday of Advent remind us that the coming of Jesus, past, present and future, is the reason for our rejoicing.

The first reading tells us that we should rejoice because the promised Messiah is coming as our Savior and liberator, saving us by liberating us from our bondages. The Responsorial Psalm of the day is taken from Mary’s Magnificat, in which she exclaims: “My soul glorifies the Lord, my spirit finds joy in God my Savior.” Paul, in the second reading, advises us to “rejoice always” by leading blameless, holy and thankful lives guided by the Holy Spirit. Today’s Gospel tells us that John the Baptist came as a witness to testify to the Light and that light is Jesus.

The coming of Jesus, the Light, into the world is cause for rejoicing. He removes darkness from the world. We should be glad and rejoice also because, like John the Baptist, we, too, are chosen to bear witness to Christ Jesus, the Light of the world. We are to reflect Jesus’ Light in our lives so that we may radiate it and illuminate the dark lives of others around us. The joyful message of today’s liturgy is very clear. The salvation we await with rejoicing will liberate both the individual and the community.

“Rejoice Sunday” is taken directly from St Paul. It is a command taken directly from Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians, as in today’s second reading: “Rejoice always” (1Thess.5:16). It is a positive command, one that we are supposed to keep at all times and in all circumstances. It is not a conditional command that we keep only when things are going well with us. The command to rejoice, like every other command, is demanding one.

Paul begins by telling us what we must do at all times. (16) “Rejoice always, (17) pray without ceasing, (18) give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” At all times and in all circumstances we must rejoice, pray and give thanks. He adds that this command reflects the will of God for those who come to Him through Jesus Christ.

As followers of Christ we know that life on earth is not always rosy, but life after death is bliss. Our hope is not in this life only. That is why we are able to rejoice in good times and in bad, as Jesus himself did. Next, Paul tells us what we must never do, what we have to avoid at all costs.

(19) “Do not quench the Spirit” (20) Do not despise the words of prophets, (21) but test everything; hold fast to what is good; (22) abstain from every form of evil.” We must not stifle the Spirit, despise the word of prophets or indulge in any form of evil. Paul is asking us to activate and nourish the spiritual part of our lives.

As humans we have a material and a spiritual life. Some of us pay all attention to the material, neglecting the spiritual dimension. You can see it in the way we prepare for Christmas. We take more care to decorate our homes more than we do to clean up our souls. We are more concerned with the gifts we give to family and friends than the gift of self that we should make to God. Advent is a time to prepare not only materially but also spiritually for the coming of the Lord.

Finally, Paul tells us how to achieve the ideal life of God’s children to which he calls us. It is not something we achieve by dint of will power or human effort alone. It is something that God Himself accomplishes in us. “May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this” (1Thess.5:23-24).

The life of holiness to which Paul invites us this Advent is the life of God in us. It is God in us who makes it happen. Our part is mainly to say yes to God, to surrender totally to Him. It is hard for us to live a life of rejoicing always, but the One who calls us to this life is one who always gives us what He commands. He is faithful, and He will do it in our lives.

So what should we do in preparation for Christmas? The Jews asked the same question of John. His answer was: “Repent and reform your lives, and prayerfully wait for the Messiah.”This means that we have to pray from the heart and pray more often. Our Blessed Mother, in her many apparitions, has urgently reminded us of the need for more fervent and more frequent prayer.

Let us remember that the Holy Mass is the most powerful of prayers. We must become a Eucharistic people, receiving the living presence of Jesus in our hearts so that we may be transformed into His image and likeness. We encounter Jesus in all the Sacraments. Regular monthly Confession makes us strong and enables us to receive more grace in the Eucharist.

After the Baptism of his baby brother in Church one Sunday, little Johnny sobbed all the way home in the back seat of the car. His Dad asked him three times what was wrong. Finally, the boy replied, “That priest said he wanted us brought up in a Christian home, but I want to stay with you guys!” His Dad got the message and they began to go to Church regularly… Needless to say the family had a bit of catching up to do.

As we prepare to celebrate Christmas and the coming of God into our lives we need also to remind ourselves that we have been called to be the means of bringing Jesus into other people’s lives. Amen.

2nd Sunday of Advent [B] 2014

2nd Sunday of Advent [B] 2014

Is. 40:1-5, 9-11; 2 Pet. 3:8-14; Mk. 1:1-8

A school principal called the house of one of his teachers to find out why he was not in the school. He was greeted by a small child who whispered: “hello?” “Is your Daddy home?” asked the principal. “Yes,” answered the whispering child. “May I talk with him?” the principal asked. “No,” replied the small voice. “Is your mommy there?” the principal asked.

“Yes” came the answer. May I talk with her?” Again the small voice whispered, “No.” “All right,” said the principal “Is there any one besides you?” “Yes,” whispered the child, “A policeman.”  “A policeman? Now, may I speak with the policeman?” “No, he is busy,” whispered the child. “Busy doing what?” asked the principal.

“Talking to Daddy and Mommy and the fireman,” came the child’s answer. “The fireman? Has there been a fire in the house or something?” asked the worried principal. “No,” whispered the child. “Then what are the policeman and fireman doing there?” Still whispering, the young voice replied with a soft giggle, “They are looking for me.”

It would be pretty hard for the “rescuers” to find this child as long as the child keeps hiding from them. In today’s gospel we see John the Baptist calling out to the people of Judea to come out into the open space and let God find them.

Homecoming is the central theme of the Scripture readings for the Second Sunday of Advent. All three readings focus on the absolute necessity of our getting ready for Christ’s coming by true repentance, reparation and the renewal of our lives.

The first reading, taken from the prophet Isaiah, tells us about the Babylonian exiles coming home to their native country, Judah, and their holy city, Jerusalem. Isaiah assures his people that the Lord will lead them in a grand procession to their homeland and take care of them as a shepherd cares for his sheep.

The Responsorial psalm describes how shalom or perfect peace is coming home with the Lord’s coming. The second reading, taken from the second letter of Peter, invites us to get ready to go home to Heaven with Jesus at his second coming. Peter tells those who doubt the second coming of Jesus that God’s way of counting time is different from ours and that God has His own reasons for delaying Christ’s second coming.

The Gospel tells us through John the Baptist how we should prepare to receive Jesus our Savior’s coming home into our lives during the Advent season by repentance and the renewal of life. John preached that the appropriate behavior for those preparing “the way of the Lord” was to be baptized “as they confessed their sins.” He wanted the Jews to prepare their lives for the Messiah by filling in the valleys of prejudice, leveling the mountains of pride and straightening out their crooked paths of injustice.

John recommended a baptism of repentance in the river Jordan to the Jews who were familiar with ritual and symbolic washings. The Jews insisted that when a male Gentile became a Jew, he had to do three things: i) accept circumcision as the mark of the covenant people; ii) offer sacrifice because he stood in need of atonement, and iii) undergo baptism by immersion in water, which symbolized his cleansing from all pollution.

The most amazing thing about John’s baptism was that he, a Jew, was asking fellow-Jews to submit to that which only a Gentile was supposed to need. John was convinced of the truth that even the chosen people needed true repentance and renewal of life to receive their long-awaited Messiah. The baptism of a Gentile was accompanied by a confession made to three different recipients as a sign of repentance for sin.

(i) A man must make confession to himself because the first step in repentance is to admit his sin to himself. (ii) He must make confession to those whom he has wronged. This involves humiliation and is a test of real repentance since there can be no forgiveness without humiliation. (iii) He must make confession to God because it is when a man says, “I have sinned,” that God gets the chance to say, “I forgive.”

John’s message calls us also to confront and confess our sins; to turn away from them in sincere repentance; to receive God’s forgiveness; and most importantly, to look to Jesus. Do we need to receive God’s forgiveness? There are basically two reasons why we fail to receive forgiveness. The first is that we fail to repent, and the second is that we fail to forgive. Is there someone we need to forgive today?

We can’t be forgiven unless we forgive. Let us let go of that bitterness and allow God to work healing in our life. Perhaps we need to draw closer to Him. Like the prodigal son’s father, God will run to meet us. He will throw His arms around us and He will forgive us and restore us. He will receive us as His sons and daughters. Let us draw close to Him today, and He will draw close to us.

During this advent, John is calling us to come out of our hiding places such as complacency, smugness, procrastination, taking people for granted, self-preoccupation, addiction, chronic complaining, envy, pettiness, rudeness, ingratitude, laziness and anger. When the heart is full, not even God can come into it. We have first to let go of what our heart is holding on to before we can embrace God.

We need to make use of Advent as a season of reflection and preparation. We are invited by the Church to prepare for Christmas. Christmas is the time for reflection and personal renewal in preparation for the coming of Jesus into our lives. Through his letter today St. Peter reminds us, on the one hand, of God’s great desire to come into our lives and, on the other, of our need to be prepared for that event when it happens.

We want God’s help and comfort, but we are not always prepared to change our ways to enhance genuine conversion. For God to come to us, we also need to go to Him. We need to let every day become Christmas and the “Day of the Lord” for each one of us.

We need to become preachers of the Good News through our own life. John’s preaching reminds us also of our important task of announcing Christ to others through our lives at home and in the community. When we show real love, kindness, mercy and a spirit of forgiveness, we are announcing the truth that Christ is with us.

Thus, our lives become a kind of Bible which others can read. John the Baptist invites us to turn this Advent season into a real spiritual homecoming by making the necessary preparations for the arrival of the Savior and his entrance into our lives. Amen.