1st Sunday of Advent Year C – 15

1st Sunday of Advent Year C – 15

Jer.33:14-16; 1Thess.3:12-4:2; Lk.21:25-28; 34-36

A mother was running furiously from store to store like a last-minute Christmas shoppers. Suddenly she became aware that the little hand of her three-year-old son was no longer clutched in hers. In panic she retraced her steps and found him standing with his little nose pressed flat against a frosty window.

He was gazing at a manger scene. Hearing his mother’s near hysterical call, he turned and shouted with innocent glee: “Look Mommy!  It’s Jesus – Baby Jesus in the hay!” With obvious indifference to his joy and wonder, she impatiently jerked him away saying, “We don’t have time for that!”

Yes we have time for everything expect for Jesus our Lord. We spend enormous amounts of our resources, time, and energy on things that give us a sense of security. We buy expensive insurance policies to protect ourselves from any and every sort of disaster.

We have high-tech alarm systems in our businesses, homes, and automobiles. Some of us work and even live in buildings surrounded with security fences. And still we are not secure. Moreover, no amount of money, protection systems, medical effort, or bodyguards can protect us from the ultimate confrontation we each will individually face.

For each one of us, you along with me, will one day stand face to face before Christ at the end of our earthly existence. Yet we live our lives awash in distractions, busily engaged in a whole lot that’s seemingly very important to us now. Our eyes are torn away from what lies ahead down the road at the end of our time here on earth.

Advent is a time of waiting for Christ, allowing him to be reborn in our lives. It is also a time for purifying our hearts by repentance and for renewing our lives by reflecting on and experiencing the several comings (advents) of Christ into our lives.

Besides his first coming at his birth, Jesus comes to our lives through the Sacraments (especially the Eucharist), through the Word of God, through the worshipping community, at the moment of our death and, finally, in his Second Coming to judge the world.

There is a note of urgency and summons to alertness in both the second reading and the gospel today. These might provide one with a jumping-off point for some reflections on the start of the liturgical year.

The last sentence in the gospel says, “Stand (secure) before the Son of Man? How can we stand secure? We will be standing there before Him without our bank accounts, our 401-k retirement accounts, our statements of net worth, our alarm systems, and with no security fences.

And we will not be looking into the eyes of closed circuit television monitors. No. We will instead be looking into the eyes of the Son of God. His judgment of what we did with our lives will be upon us. What securities will we have? What securities should we have?    All you and I will have at that moment when we face the Son of God will be our memories. It is from them that we will draw up our accounts; it is in them that we will find the records of our lives.

The season of Thanksgiving and Christmas is a season of reflection, a time of examination, a time when we look ahead with expectant hope for the Son of God’s coming to us. When we meet Him face to face at the end of our own personal lives, and when we all meet Him collectively at the end of the world, we will be filled with awe, that’s for sure.

But will we be filled with terror or will we be filled with love and the sense of security that undergirds love? The answer, of course, depends upon the fabric of our lives, the contents of our relating to others, and the memories that we bring with us to that event.

The judgment we receive at the end, will not so much be God’s judgment of us, but our own. It is we, not God, who are forging our image, our persona, our character, our personality, and our personhood. All that we take to God at the end of the lives we have fashioned here on earth.

The content depends not so much upon God as it does upon us. Allow me to repeat the last part of the gospel:

“Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap. For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth. Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.”

Advent brings with it the theme of darkness and light. Darkness envelopes so many of us; the darkness of our physical world, but the even more deadly a spiritual darkness of souls living in narcosis.

For the addiction of being too busy can blind us, leaving us unwilling to be bothered with the effort of seeing, of paying attention, of gazing into the surrounding loveliness that is there for all who have eyes to see and ears to hear.

Also, for many of us perhaps it is the narcosis of overwhelming resentments that darken our souls so that we can no longer see the light of love, of kindness, compassion, forgiveness and acceptance.

Finally there is the darkness of being blinded by the glitz of this world’s offerings, offerings that can blind us from paying attention to our souls and to the presence of God in our lives. Advent calls us to ask the question: What are we looking for?

Are we like that little boy who had his eyes fixed on Jesus on the hay or are we like that mother whose eyes are fixed on so many things except on Jesus and do we say as she said, “We don’t have time for that!”

God now calls us to see what He is offering us. That is what Christmas is all about. Come, let us join the wise men, journeying with them under the light of heaven’s mysterious star in their search… and joining them in the answer to their quest.

Advent is the time for us to make this preparation by repenting for our sins, by renewing our lives through prayer and penance and by sharing our blessings with others. Advent also provides an opportunity for us to check for what needs to be put right in our lives, to see how we have failed, and to assess the ways in which we can do better.

Today’s readings invite us to assess our lives during Advent and to make the necessary alterations in the light of the approaching Christmas celebration. Advent is the time for an improvement of our lives and for deepening the sincerity of our religious commitment.

It is a call to “look up” to see that Christ is still here. We must raise our heads in hope and anticipation, knowing that the Lord is coming again. Amen.


The Solemnity of Christ the King – 15

The Solemnity of Christ the King, Year B – 15

Dn.7:13-14/ Rev.1:5-8/ Jn.18:33-37

The word “legacy” will give rise to some images and ideas in our minds. One of which is that of how a person has left his influence and his mark in this world even if he is no more in this world. Another is that the mention of the person’s name will make others recall what he has done and contributed to mankind.

Examples of this would be people like Alexander the Great, Beethoven, Thomas Edison and maybe even Steve Jobs. Alexander was the first king to be called “the Great” and subsequently the title of “the Great” was used for people with great achievements.

Beethoven was a great musician who left behind a legacy of great classical compositions (e.g. the famous 5th Symphony). Thomas Edison left behind a legacy of inventions, and one of the famous ones was the lightbulb. And Steve Jobs’ legacy is in the digital world of mobile phones, laptops and computers.

So for a person and his name to go down into history and be remembered through the ages, it means that he has left behind a legacy, a legacy that lives on. In today’s gospel, we come across a person who didn’t really leave behind a legacy. Maybe we can only say that he was just part of a legacy.

The name Pilate, Pontius Pilate, has gone down into history as the man who sentenced Jesus to death. His name is mentioned in the Creed, but not as someone with a great achievement, nor did he leave behind a legacy. Pontius Pilate could have left behind a legacy, but he became a tragedy.

He became a tragedy in the sense that he will always be known as the one who sentenced Jesus to death, despite knowing that Jesus was innocent. He even tried to deny any responsibility in the death of Jesus by the symbolic gesture of washing his hands.

But the truth is that he had the final say in the sentencing of Jesus. Yes, that is the truth. Pontius Pilate has the power and authority to acquit or condemn Jesus. He himself knew that Jesus was innocent and in fact he was eager to release him.

But after the chief priests and the people mentioned about Caesar being their only king, Pilate became anxious for his own security and his own interests and future. Yet, as we heard Pilate question Jesus about His authority, we can see that the tables were being turned around.

Jesus stated that He is a king but His kingdom is not of this world. He came into the world to bear witness to the truth and those who are on the side of the truth will listen to His voice. And Pilate was left to decide. Which king was he going to serve? The king of this world?

Or will he serve the King of truth and hence stand on the side of truth? Pilate was to judge Jesus, but in the end he had to judge for himself. He had to decide for which side he will stand on. And Pilate went down in history and into our Creed as the one who choose to stand on the dark side of falsehood.    He could have been a legacy but he ended up as a tragedy. Because in condemning Jesus, Pilate also condemned himself. By not standing for the truth, Pilate did not have anywhere to stand on, neither in this world nor in the next.

And yet the tragedy that Pilate left behind continues to fester in the dark side of our lives, as we turn away from the truth and hide from the truth.

There is this story of a little boy and his sister who went to visit their grandparents in the countryside. He had a catapult and he practiced in the fields but he could never hit his target. As he came back to his grandma’s backyard, he happened to see her pet duck.

Out of impulse, he took aim and let fly a shot. The stone hit the duck squarely and it fell dead. The boy panicked. Desperately, he hid the dead duck in the barn, only to look up and see his sister watching. His sister, Sally had seen it all, but she said nothing.

After lunch that day, Grandma said, “Sally, let’s wash the dishes.” But Sally said, “Johnny told me that he wanted to wash the dishes today. Didn’t you, Johnny?” And she whispered to him, “Remember the duck?” So Johnny had to wash the dishes.

Later, Grandpa wanted to bring the two children fishing. Grandma said, “Oh, I am sorry but I need Sally to help prepare dinner.” Sally smiled and said, “Oh, Johnny said that he wants to do it.” Again, Sally whispered, “Remember the duck?” And so Johnny stayed and Sally went fishing.

After a couple of days of doing the chores, Johnny became frustrated and desperate and he couldn’t take it anymore. So he confessed to Grandma that he had killed her pet duck. Grandma held his face in her hands and said, “I know, Johnny.

I was standing at the window and saw the whole thing. There and then, I forgave you because I love you. I was wondering how long you are going to hide the truth and let Sally make a slave out of you.” Yes, when we hide the truth, we become slaves of sin and end up in tragedy.

But Christ our King invites us to listen to His voice and stand on the side of truth and the truth will let us free. Christ our King wants us to be free so that we can be His living legacy of honesty, sincerity, humility and faithfulness.

Just as Christ the King called out to Pilate to stand by Him, Christ the King also calls us to stand by Him. If we don’t stand by Christ our King, then we won’t have anywhere to stand at all, neither in this world, nor in the next.

What is the relevance of this feast today? The Feast of Christ the King was instituted during a time when respect for Christ and the Church was waning. In fact, this feast is still needed today, as these problems have not vanished, but have worsened.

We are so discouraged with the present condition of conflict among the nations, and the threat of new wars, corrupt leaders, overwhelming greed, individualism, terrorism and the absence of morals. By the celebration of this feast today, we are reminded that Christ must reign our lives.

We must give him sovereign power over our bodies, our thoughts, our heart and our will. In every moral decision we face, there’s a choice between Christ the King and Barabbas, and the one who seeks to live in Christ’s Kingdom is the one who says, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.”

Let us ask ourselves the question, “What does Jesus, my King, want me to do or say in this situation?” Let us pray each day that Jesus the King will give us the right words to say to the people we meet that day, words that will make us true ambassadors of Jesus.

Let our home life as well as the way we conduct ourselves with our friends come under the Kingship of Jesus. What a blessing we have in Christ our King! What a blessing to be able, with Christ, to walk in the glorious freedom of the sons and daughters of God. Amen.




33rd Sunday O T Year B – 15

33rd Sunday O T Year B – 15

Dan.12:1-3, Heb.10:11-14, 18, Mk.13:24-32

A Sunday school teacher asked his class, “If I sold my house and my car, had a big garage sale and gave all my money to the Church, would that get me into Heaven? “NO!” the children all answered. “If I cleaned the Church every day, mowed the yard, and kept everything neat and tidy, would that get me into Heaven?”

Again, the answer was, “NO!” Again the teacher asked, “Well, then, if I were kind to animals and gave candy to all the children, and loved my spouse, would that get me into Heaven?” Again, they all answered, “NO!” “Well then how can I get into Heaven?” A five-year-old boy shouted out, “YOU GOTTA BE DEAD!” Good insight for a five-year old!

Today’s readings give us the assurance 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, protecting and strengthening us in spite of our necessary human uncertainty concerning the end time when “Christ will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.”

Next Sunday is the Thirty-fourth and last Sunday in our liturgical year when we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King, and the following Sunday marks the beginning of the Advent season with a new Liturgical Cycle. Each year at this time, the Church asks us to mediate on the “last things” – Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell — as they apply to us.

The readings invite us to focus our attention on the threefold coming of Jesus: 1) His first coming according to the flesh, as Redeemer. 2) His second coming, either at our death, or at the end of time and the world, which will bring our salvation to completion. 3) His coming into our lives each time we step forward in genuine Christian living.

Mark’s Gospel, written some 40 years after Jesus’ death, is the simplest, shortest, and oldest of the four Gospels. This week’s Gospel text is taken from the thirteenth chapter of Mark, which, together with Matthew 24 and Luke 21, is often called the “Little Apocalypse.”

Apocalypse literally means unveiling. The whole of Mark’s thirteenth chapter is full of apocalyptic imagery and predictions borrowed from the Old Testament. In today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks about the displacement of celestial bodies at the end of the world, followed by the appearance of the Son of Man in glory to establish the Reign of God.

The coming of the Son of Man, “in clouds with great power and glory,” echoes a passage in the Daniel. Cosmic disturbances of the sun, moon and stars are images traditionally associated with the manifestations of God’s judgment of Israel.

Jesus gives a warning lesson from the fig tree, using stock prophetic expressions well known to his listeners. The fig tree sprouts its leaves in late spring heralding the summer season. The application of this image to the end of the world suggests that the end of the world will mean good times.

It is a good time for Jesus’ disciples, because their God will be bringing things to a triumphant end and His Truth, Love and Justice will prevail forever.

A young lector was reading in church to large Mass goers for the first time. Visibly nervous and tensed, she struggled to finish the reading and at the end she blurted out: “This is the end of the world,” instead of saying, “This is the word of the Lord.” And you know what, the congregation answered in chorus: “Thanks be to God!”

In today’s gospel, our Lord Jesus tells us about a terrible end of the world. “My world has come crashing down.” You’ve heard those words spoken by others around you who have faced calamities, real or imagined. Many of you have, I am sure, in the midst of your own tears uttered those words.

There are moments, periods and events in which God’s time intersects with human time. This is true not only socially and historically but individually and personally as well. Jesus and His disciples are about to experience such an interfacing between God’s time and human time.

What is our Christian response to these events, be they apocalyptic or personal, when it seems that our world is crashing down around us? Standing back and looking at the big picture let me first call your attention to the fact that life goes on.

A teenage girl may feel life for her is over because the boy she’s infatuated with has found another girl and is no longer totally interested in her. Still, life goes on. A college student may find that he is not as intelligent as he once thought himself to be.

Others, he discovers, are smarter and more intelligent, getting better grades than he has scored. Still, life goes on. An entrepreneur may face the fact that his or her company will fail. A scientist may learn that what was discovered for the benefit of humankind is now being employed for its destruction.

A president may find that a war entered upon for good reasons has ended in disaster at the cost of numberless lives and countless human miseries. Efforts to end gun ownership, illegal immigration, the drug trade, and all manner of vices can result in terrible unintended consequences.

The list of failed human endeavors, nobly conceived and ignobly ended, is seemingly endless. And still, life goes on. That, it seems to me, is the first response of a Christian to all that appears to be apocalyptic in our lives. Christians have an advantage in dealing with these questions, the advantage of hope.

We can have hope based on what Jesus Christ has done for us, and not only done in the distant past but also what He has done for us in our own personal lives. Another advantage we have is vision. We have a vision of reality that transcends the here and now, that looks over the horizon, and that sees beyond recorded human history.

When you stand back and look at the big picture and see human life Christ’s way of seeing things you cannot help but see that God is continually bringing good out of evil, meaning out of absurdity, order out of chaos, and life out of death.

The Christian response to all of life’s losses and tragedies is to see that hidden in every crisis there is opportunity. We need not feel like helpless victims who must surrender to doubt and despair. Why do we let fear overwhelm and bury us?

Have not our greatest artists given us their best creations in the midst of terrible loss, in time when their worlds have come crashing down around them? Has not history demonstrated that great cultures have risen from the ashes of previous collapsed cultures?

As we approach the end of the Church’s yearly liturgical cycle the question is put before us. It is one that we must face collectively. More importantly, however, is the fact that each one of us must face the question personally. What is the meaning of my life? What is the purpose of my life? When and how will my life end?

Today, as the saying goes, is the first day of the rest of your life. Tomorrow is yet another day of opportunity. Beginnings can be endings and endings can be beginnings. Beginning to live differently today ends the ways we lived yesterday and in the days of our past.

May be, then, it’s a good thing we don’t know what the future holds in store for us. May be it’s a great gift God is giving us, the gift of forming and shaping our destiny with His love here and now, rather than in some possible future. God has given us here and now realities, not just future possibilities. That, it seems to me, is something wonderful.

Let no one frighten us with disturbing descriptions of the end of the world because “the end” is all about the birth of everyone and everything into eternity. Amen.

32nd Sunday O T Year B – 15

32nd Sunday O T Year B – 15

1Kg.17:10-16; Heb.9:24-28; Mk.12:38-44

One night years ago, in a small town, a stormy rain stranded a newlywed couple on a remote country road. Unable to go any farther, they got out of their car and walked towards a dimly lit farmhouse. When they reached the house, an elderly couple, carrying a kerosene lamp, met them at the door.

Explaining their predicament, the young man asked: “Could we spend the night with you? A place on the floor or a few easy chairs will do.” The elderly couple saw the newly wedded couple and understood their predicament. “Why surely, children,” said the elderly woman.

“We just happen to have a spare bedroom. You get your things from the car while my husband and I freshen it up a bit.” Then they led them up to the room. The next morning the newlyweds got up early and prepared to leave without disturbing their host.

They dressed quietly, put a hundred dollar bill on the dresser, and tiptoed down the stairs. When they opened the door to the living room, they were aghast at what they saw. The old couple were asleep in the chairs. They’d given the newlyweds their only bedroom.

The heartwarming story is a modern illustration of the poor widow in the gospel of this 32nd Sunday of the year. Like the poor widow, the elderly couple gave not from their surplus but from the only resource they had.

Today’s readings invite us to live out a total commitment to God’s service with a humble and generous heart, free from pride and prejudice. The first reading and the Gospel today present poor widows who sacrificially gave their whole lives and means of livelihood to God, symbolizing the supreme sacrifice Jesus would offer by giving His life for others.

In the gospel, Christ praises the poor widow who drops only two small copper coins in the temple treasury, unlike the others who “put in their surplus money”. Although she was very poor, she put her last money – “all she had to live on.”

The first lesson we can learn from the gospel is you don’t have to be wealthy in order to give to charity or help people. The example of the poor widow poignantly illustrates this. There are those who say, “I’ll give when I become rich or win the lottery” or “when I receive my retirement pension.”

The question is, what if you won’t become rich at all or win the lottery? Does it mean you won’t do acts of charity anymore? Our work of love, which is the basic requirement of a true Christian, ought to be unconditional. Rich or poor, we’re called to practice charity.

The second lesson the Lord teaches is that our giving is more meaningful and meritorious when it is accompanied by some pain or sacrifice. The rich in the gospel did not have this. They gave away only what was extra or disposable. When we donate money for charity, what’s our real motive?

Is it because we want our names, our families or company’s names publicized? Do we donate to charity only because it is “tax deductible?” Do we give gifts to our boss because we want something in return like a salary raise or promotion?

If such be our motive, then our giving is self-serving; it has strings attached. Christ teaches, “When you give something to a needy person, do not make a big show of it as the hypocrites do” (Mt 6:2). It’s said that there are three kinds of givers: GRUDGE givers, DUTY givers, and LOVE givers.

Grudge givers give but do it grudgingly or reluctantly. Duty givers give with a sense of obligation. Love givers give because they want to. They do it freely and joyfully motivated by love or compassion. What kind of giver are we?

The story is told about a politician who sent a check of 1 million dollars to a charitable institution to the delight of the nuns running it. Their joy was short-lived when they saw that the check was not signed by the donor. You know, why? The donor wanted to remain anonymous!

The question you and I face is this: “Do we give God what’s left over after we’ve taken care of everything else?” Or do we give God what we’re living for? We have much, and we can give God much. We can give God our trust, our reliance upon Him, our dependence upon Him.

Take our daily efforts, for instance. Are they to accomplish our purposes or God’s purposes? They can be the same, you know. We can make our purposes God’s purposes and we can make God’s purposes our purposes. Caring for the ones you love, caring for your wife, your husband, and your children is giving your life to God.

Providing for the happiness of others is giving your life to God. Working for peace, working for justice and fairness in our world, and many other efforts is, in fact, giving your life over into God’s care. Let’s be clear about it. God isn’t interested in your money.

He has all of the riches He will ever need. No, God wants more than your money. God wants YOU. He wants your daily life. He wants to be what you depend on each day. He wants to be what you live on. Our giving to God is only giving Him back what’s already His in the first place.

But can we giving God our hearts? Ah, that’s quite something else! The gift of our heart is what He’s looking for. It’s our gift to Him each time we’re at Mass. And when we gift Him with our love, when we give Him our hearts and our lives, our interests and desires, what He will give back to us cannot be measured.

Christian sharing involves pain. There is pain in giving, so to say. On the part of the widow, we know it was painful for her to share the two small coins because she needed them very much. As the gospel says, the coins represent her whole livelihood. But still she let go of it.

Christian sharing is all about that. If we give, we give something that we also need, but then we decide to let go of it because we find that others are more in need of it. Consequently, we feel the pain. There is also joy in sharing.

To let go of something which one needs can be painful, but there is also a concomitant joy it gives us. In giving, we experience joy and fulfillment.

Often this joy cannot be fully described and explained. “The more you give, the more you receive.” But I think the joy is more caused by the fact that through giving, we have helped and we become part of the lives of these people who are recipients of our generosity.

This can be a source of our joy and fulfillment. It simply shows that indeed we are a brother and a sister to each other. A generous person is never selfish. A selfish person cannot be generous because he or she merely thinks of his/her self and his/ her needs.

A generous person goes out from the “world of the self” and he enters into the “world of others.” The poor widow demonstrates and exemplifies a true Christian sharing: pain-filled and joy-filled. Can we, like the poor widow, find the courage to share the wealth and talents we hold? Amen.