Holy Family, Year C – 15

Holy Family, Year C – 15

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. Amen.


Christmas – 15

Christmas Year C – 2015

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. Amen.





4th Sunday of Advent Year C – 15

4th Sunday of Advent Year C – 15

Micah 5:1-4/ Heb.10:5-10/ Lk.1:39-44

If I say I have news for you, then most probably you would want to hear what the news is about. Regardless of whether it is good news or bad news, we would want to know what it is. The curiosity in us would also make us almost demand to know what the news is all about.

So whether the news is good or bad, happy or sad, favorable or incredible, we just want to hear it first and then see what to make of it after that. So, let’s say one day you come back from work and you see a letter addressed to you and it’s from your daughter, you would surely open the letter immediately.

Your curiosity won’t let you wait, no matter how tired or how busy you might be. Well, a story goes that one day, a mother came home from work and as she passed by her daughter’s room, she was astonished to see the bed nicely made and everything was packed up.

Then, she saw an envelope propped up prominently on the center of the bed. It was simply addressed to “Mom”. With the worst premonition, she opened the letter with trembling hands and slowly read the letter. It read like this: Dear Mom,

It is with great regret and sorrow that I am writing to you. I had to elope with my new boyfriend because I wanted to avoid a scene with you and Dad. I’ve been finding real passion with John and he is so nice, even though he is pierced with studs in his ears, nose, lips, tongue, face and he has tattoos all over his body.

But it’s not only the passion, Mom. I’m pregnant and John said that he will take care of me and we will be very happy. He has a trailer somewhere and there is enough food for us and the baby. He wants to have many children with me and I really like that idea too.

John taught me that marijuana doesn’t really hurt anyone and we intent to grow it and then trade it with his friends for all the cocaine and ecstasy pills we want. In the meantime, we hope that science will find a cure for AIDS so John can get better because he surely deserves it.

Don’t worry Mom, I’m 15 years old now and I know how to take care of myself. Someday I’m sure we’ll be back to visit so that you can get to know your grandchildren. With love, your daughter. And then at the Bottom of the letter:

PS: None of the above is true! I’m actually at the neighbor’s house. I just wanted to remind you that there are worse things in life than my report card which is on my desk. I love you, Mom. Call me when it is safe for me to come home.

Well, I guess there are many ways to break some news so we might as well try to be creative with it! The Gospel account for this 4th Sunday of Advent is about two pregnant women, one of whom, Elizabeth, was already in the sixth month of her pregnancy.

Mary had only recently received the news that she was pregnant. It was a life-changing announcement, and she probably needed some time to herself, time to prepare, time to reflect, time to get herself together. But she didn’t think of her own needs.

Instead she set out on an arduous journey to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who was six months pregnant, and to care for her. That’s not something most women would do. But these were two remarkable women, remarkable in the sense that under ordinary circumstances they would not be pregnant. One was a virgin; the other was beyond, way beyond, childbearing age.

Both were not supposed to be pregnant. But God was at work within them. To add to the unexplainable mystery, they both bore within their wombs mysterious babies. One bore the Christ, God’s only begotten Son; the other bore John the Baptist.

What does that have to do with us? What does this entire interchange have to do with how we live our lives? There are those who believe that life is all about having fun. Eat, drink, and have fun is their motto. They live for weekends when they don’t have to be on the job.

There are others who don’t want to pay attention to what’s inside themselves, who divert their attention from anything and everything that is spiritual. Their focus is on their bodies; they don’t want to admit that they have souls.

The spiritual, they ask? Who cares! John the Baptist? He was some kind of a nut! Jesus Christ? Who’s he? is their response. At another level, all of us must eventually face the fact that we are persons and that we are destined to live in interpersonal relationships.

All of us feel the call to love. Some of us are, however, afraid to love because love demands setting one’s self aside. Love demands that we be open, sensitive and vulnerable to others. Those who cannot love don’t stay married for very long.

Those who cannot love don’t have any good friends, and if they do their friendships are superficial at best. Those who cannot love, or those who choose not to love, are doomed to live only for themselves, doomed to love only their own selves.

As persons do we think we are bodies that happen to have souls, or are we souls clothed with bodies? How you answer that question determines how you will live out your life.

It’s what’s inside us that matters, not how we look, not how beautifully our bodies may be shaped, not how many possessions we have, not how much money we have, not what kind of jobs we have, or the professions we live in. It’s what’s inside us that matters; it’s the spiritual part of us that allows us to love, to have friendship, and to truly relate to others.

So what does the story of Mary and Elizabeth have to do with us? Well, Mary was carrying within her the Christ child. We, too, carry within us the presence of Christ. That’s why we pay such attention to Mary. She models who we are and what God is doing inside us.

There is a saying, “He (she) who is on fire cannot sit on a chair.” Mary, filled with the fire of the Holy Spirit, hurried to the mountain country where Elizabeth lived, thereby conveying the Holy Spirit to her cousin and Elizabeth’s unborn child.

The Church is pregnant with the presence of Christ, something that we are about to celebrate in Holy Communion. And since the Church is not simply a building or an institution but the Body of Christ we, like Mary, need to carry within us the presence of Christ.

Not only that, but we carry within us the presence of Christ not just for our own sake, but in order to share Him with others. We bear Christ within us that we may bring Him to others in the world around us. So now we see the importance of the story of Mary and Elizabeth.

How we live our life can have a tremendous influence on others around us. We have the power to bring Christ’s love, compassion, mercy, and friendship to those around us, particularly to those who are close to us. John the Baptist in Elizabeth’s womb recognized Jesus in Mary’s womb and was filled with joy.

Others around us can recognize the presence of Christ within us and also be filled with joy. We can bring to them what their hearts are searching for. Yes, it may be hidden; the bond of friendship and love may be hidden from the eyes of others, but it will be no less real.

Elizabeth blessed Mary, crying out: “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” May others who know us, others who have received our loving care and friendship, likewise bless us.

We need to carry Jesus to others as Mary did. We make a real difference in the lives of others by carrying Jesus to them.  However, we cannot give what we do not possess. Christmas is the ideal time for us to be filled with the spirit of Christ, allowing his rebirth within us.

Thus he enables us to share his love with all whom we encounter by offering them humble and committed service, unconditional forgiveness and compassionate caring. Amen.

3rd Sunday of Advent Year C – 15

3rd Sunday of Advent Year C – 15

Zep.3:14-18/ Phil.4:4-7/ Lk.3:10-18

As we began the Mass, we lighted the third candle of the Advent wreath, which is the pink-colored candle. It also signifies that the third Sunday of Advent is also called “Gaudete Sunday”. “Gaudete” means rejoice.

Yes, the first reading tells us to rejoice and exalt with all our hearts. The second reading also has this call to rejoice as St Paul tells the Philippians: I want you to be happy, always happy with the Lord.

Yes, a pink-colored candle standing in the midst of three dark purple candles tells us life can have its joyful moments amidst disappointments and sadness and sorrow. So I hope we can laugh a little with this story that I am going to tell.

You might have heard this story before but it fits into our reading today. From the shadows in the distance, the man watched as the family packed their bags in the car, locked the doors and then drove off for their holidays.

The man waited till it was dark and then he emerged from the shadows and he went to the front door and rang the door-bell of the house. When there was no answer, the man, a seasoned burglar picked the lock of the front door and got in.

Then just to be sure that no one was in the house, he called out, “Is there anyone in?” Hearing nothing, he was about to move on, when he was stunned by a voice, “I see you, and Johnny sees you!” The burglar panicked and called out, “Who’s that?”

And again, the voice came back, “I see you, and Johnny sees you!” Terrified, the burglar switched on his flashlight and pointed it towards the direction of the voice. He was relieved to see that it was a parrot in a cage and it recited once again, “I see you, and Johnny sees you!”

The burglar laughed to himself and said, “Oh, shut up stupid bird. Anyway, who is this Johnny? Is it another bird friend of yours?” And the parrot replied, “Johnny is right below me!” And the burglar shone his flashlight at what was below the parrot’s cage.

And there he saw Johnny, a huge Doberman, looking at the burglar with those eyes, and growling. And then, the parrot said, “Go Johnny, go!”

Well, I guess that it is good to have a little laugh on this “Rejoice Sunday”. But if the first two readings talk about rejoicing and happiness then the gospel message is certainly serious and it is no laughing matter.

Last Sunday, we heard John the Baptist preaching repentance and the forgiveness of sins. And today we heard that people, all sorts of people, including those detestable and sneaky tax collectors, and those rough and tough soldiers coming to hear him.

As they hear the message of repentance and forgiveness of sins, they had one common question: What must we do? The people asked, “What must we do?” The tax collectors asked, “What must we do?” The soldiers asked, “What must we do?”

They asked that question because they have heard the voice. Not just the voice of John the Baptist, but also the voice of the Lord. Yes, it was the voice of the Lord that spoke to them in their hearts telling them that they had not shared their goods with those who were poor.

They had ignored those who were hungry and had nothing to live on. They fell into dishonesty and injustice. And then, they heard the voice of John the Baptist. John the Baptist was like telling them, “I see you, and the Lord sees you.”

In a way, we are like that burglar who breaks into a house at night and thinks that nobody is watching. That’s what happens when we sin. When we sin, we enter into the dark. And in the darkness of sin, we think that no one is watching as we commit dishonesty and injustice, selfishness and greed, lust and immorality.

And just when we thought we are going to enter deeper into the dark, the voice of John the Baptist calls out to us, “I see you, and the Lord sees you!” What are we going to do? Are we going to stop in our tracks?

Or are we not going to be bothered and go on deeper into the dark and into sin? There is one Christmas song that I like to listen to as well as reflect upon. The title is “Do you hear what I hear?”

It is composed in 1962 and it was written at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, when the United States and the then Soviet Union confronted each other over the placement of missiles in newly Communist Cuba.

So the  Christmas song “Do you hear what I hear?” was a plea for peace, and the composers Regney and Shayne got the inspiration after watching a baby being pushed in a pram, and sleeping peacefully.

So do we hear the voice of John the Baptist? Maybe he is just telling us, “I see you and the Lord sees you.” It is not to frighten us but to call us to repent and have our sins forgiven. So, do you hear what I hear? If we do hear, then we will also know what to do.

There is a beautiful opportunity for us if you hear what I hear. The opportunity for all of us on Wednesday to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We will have the confessions heard at 5.00 in the evening by 5 priests. Please make use of this opportunity to prepare ourselves for the Christmas.

Because the voice belongs to the one who will bring us goodness and light. As that Christmas song tells us – “He will bring us goodness and light, He will bring us goodness and light.”

So we are called to a change of life. John the Baptist, stern and uncompromising preacher, challenges our superficial attempts at change, demanding that we take a deeper look. Obeying the commandments is a good start, but we must then examine our relationships with others.

We must mend ruptures and frictions, face family responsibilities, work honestly and treat employees justly. Start where you are, John says. Our domestic and social lives must be put in order. John’s voice is sober and runs counter to the intoxicating voices around us.

He calls for rectitude and social consciousness. We must abandon our selfish thirst for consumption, and instead, be filled with the expectation of Jesus’ coming. Amen.

      Immaculate Conception of the B.V.M., – 15

                     Immaculate Conception of the B.V.M., – 15                 Gen.3:9-15, 20 / Eph.1:3-6, 11-12 / Lk.1:26-38

Immaculate Mary is the patroness of our Diocese and the patroness of the United States. So I wish you all a Happy Feast.
The Immaculate Conception is the conception of Mary in the womb of her mother without any stain of sin.

Church doctrine states that, from the first moment of her existence, Mary was preserved by God from the Original Sin and filled with sanctifying grace that would normally come with baptism after birth. 

Catholics believe Mary was free from any personal or hereditary sin. The Immaculate Conception was proclaimed as a dogma in 1854 by Pope Pius IX. It means that it is to be accepted as an infallible statement of faith.

But why such a focus on Mary? We must remember that any teaching about Mary must eventually point to Christ. The teaching on the Immaculate Conception points to the grace of God which preserved Mary from sin at her conception in order that she will bear the divine Son of God in her at the Annunciation.

Although God removed sin from Mary at her conception, He did not remove her free will and her freedom of choice. At the Annunciation, Mary made her choice for God’s plan to be fulfilled in her. We have been cleansed of sin at our baptism. 

It is for us now to remain in God’s grace by choosing to do God’s will always, just as Mary chose to do God’s will. On this feast of the Immaculate Conception, let us also ask for Mary’s intercession for the grace to do God’s will always.

How beautiful is the Gospel today! From this one reading we learn so much about our Mother. First we learn that she is greater than the angels. To whom else did an angel, a messenger of God, come and say “Hail, full of grace”?  

With these words Gabriel acknowledges that he is speaking to someone greater than himself. We also learn by those words that she is free from all sin, for what is sin but a denial of grace and how could someone who ever denied grace be full of grace. Sin is an emptiness, but Mary was full.

From this Gospel we also learn that Mary is betrothed to Joseph, but also vowed to a lifelong virginity. How else could she say “I have no relations with man” and not “I have not had relations with a man”? What woman, even though a virgin, would be unable to figure out the meaning of the angel’s words?  

No woman before was promised a child without expecting to conceive that child in the normal way. Mary is betrothed to Joseph. Without a prior commitment to virginity, any reasonable girl would expect to conceive the child during her imminent marriage. 

From this Gospel we learn that Mary is the Mother of God. Gabriel calls her child the Son of God. The son of a dog is a dog. The son of a human is a human. The Son of God is God. If he were not, the title would be contradictory.

We can be adopted sons and daughters of God, but the Son of God, conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, can only be God, and the Mother of the Son of God must be therefore the Mother of God. From this Gospel we learn that Mary is courageous.  

St. Joseph was terrified at the prospect of having a role in raising the Son of God, so much so that he was going to divorce Mary quietly. Mary, however, asks only for the practical details before submitting to the will of God. 

From this Gospel we learn that Mary is humble. She, though courageous, is afraid. What frightens her who was not afraid either of the judgement of others or the terrible responsibility of being the Mother of God? She is frightened by a greeting.  

She is frightened to see an archangel bow before her. We sinners would rejoice to see an angel bow to serve us, and it would be Satan dressed as an angel of light to inflate our pride. Mary, who is destined to be Queen of Heaven, is too humble to understand the greeting.

From this Gospel we ought to learn to love Mary with a tiny portion of the great love by which God preserved her free from all sin from the moment of her creation. 

From this Gospel we ought to learn to love God with a tiny portion of the fearless, God-fearing love by which Mary said “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

Let us pray that prayer found on the Miraculous Medal, or otherwise also called the medal of the Immaculate Conception. The prayer goes like this: O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you. Amen.

2nd Sunday of Advent, Year C – 15

2nd Sunday of Advent, Year C – 15

Bar.5:1-9, Phil.1:4-6, 8-11, Lk.3:1-6

Once upon a time, there was a king who ruled a prosperous country. One day, he went for a trip to some distance areas of his country. When he came back to his Palace, he complained that his feet were very sore, because it was the first time that he went for such a long trip, and the road that he went through was very rough and stony.

He then ordered his people to cover every road of the entire country with leather. Definitely, this would need skins of thousands of animals, and would cost a huge amount of money. Then one of his wise advisors dared to tell the king,

“Why do you have to spend unnecessary amount of money? Why don’t you just cut a little piece of leather to cover your feet? The king was surprised, but he later agreed to his suggestion to make a “shoe” for himself.

We are aware of how bad this world has become. We don’t feel safe anymore. We don’t know whom to trust. There are crimes and killings everywhere. We could only wish people would change so that this world would become a better place to live in.

But we forget that these problems are just reflections of what is in our hearts. If we say, “I wish people would change so that this world would change” is like covering the roads with animals’ skin so that we can walk smoothly.

But if we say, “I will change myself so that this world could change” is like putting shoes on our feet – more practical, more realistic, and more attainable. We have heard wise people saying: “Change your thinking and change your world.

Why do we have to change our thinking? Because, we are victims of our thinking. When we change our thinking, we change our lives. Look at the progression this sets in motion. When you change your thinking, you change your beliefs; when you change your beliefs, you change your expectations;

When you change your expectations, you change your attitude; when you change your attitude, you change your behavior; when you change your behavior, you change your performance; when you change your performance, you change your life! When you control your thinking, you can have greater control over your lives.

So how do you change your beliefs? The answer is by thinking and praying about your thoughts. You have already chosen your beliefs. The question is, will you choose to evaluate them in the light of prayer and change them if necessary? It is up to you.

Audrey Vines is the author of the book: “Change your Thinking, Change Your World.” She says, “Where there is hope there is change. I hope and I can change. My greatest power is changing the way I think. I will open my mind to clear thinking.

I will not allow dark thoughts to rule my life. I will change my thinking and I will change my world. We need to realize that whatever situations we are in we have in some way contributed to them. Albert Einstein says, “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them. Only when we change our thoughts about a situation will our behavior and results change.”

This advent, let us open up ourselves to getting out of our defeatist thinking. Let us rise to conquer our fears and rediscover how we can enjoy our life. Success and happiness are not accidents; they are the end result of the person’s ability to think positively.

No one can make us change, but we can have a profound influence on our own choices. John the Baptist is crying out: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight His path.” Definitely, it is not the Lord’s paths that need to be straightened out but it is our paths to be straightened.

A soap manufacturer and a pastor were walking together down a street in a large city. The soap manufacturer casually said, “The Gospel you preach hasn’t done much good, has it?  Just observe. There is still a lot of wickedness in the world, and a lot of wicked people, too!”

The pastor made no reply until they passed a dirty little child making mud pies in the gutter.  Seizing the opportunity, the pastor said, “I see that soap hasn’t done much good in the world either; for there is much dirt still here, and many dirty people are still around.”

The soap man said, “Oh, well, soap only works when it is applied.” And the pastor said, “Exactly!  So it is with the Gospel.” What are the things that need to be straightened in our lives? Each individual only can answer that question.

Perhaps one area could be our twisted and tangled relationships. We let misunderstandings run on from year to year, meaning to clear them up some day. We keep quarrels alive because we cannot make up our minds to sacrifice our pride and end them.

We pass people sullenly, not speaking to them out of some silly spite. We let our dear ones starve for love and understanding. So, if there is some crooked attitude, or some crooked way of behaving, or some crooked relationship that needs to be straightened out, let us straighten it out.

Let us be the first to hold out the hand of reconciliation even though it gets slapped or rejected. Make friends with someone you are at odds with. Pick up the phone and talk to somebody you have not talked to in months or years.

Be willing to put some possessions on the line. Give, not out of your excess, but out of your substance. Great opportunities to help others seldom come but small ones surround us every day. It talks only a minute to be kind, but the prophet reminds us the end result can remain forever.

Willingness is the key to religion. It’s a matter of the will. It’s an act of choice. It’s like love. Love is something you choose to do. Affection is something you feel. Religion and seeking the Lord are something that you choose to do. Religious sentiment is something that you feel.

Repentance and conversion are conscious acts of our wills. They are free choices made with deliberation. They are not religious feelings or moods. They are not nice, warm, glowing, mystical feelings which come upon us before flickering candles in our churches.

Repentance and conversion are conscious will-acts made in the cold light of reality and in the hard choices of our everyday lives. To separate religion and religious choices and values from our day to day choices is to remove religion from reality.

Repentance and conversion are made out in the open, not in private. It is, after all, a question of vision. Are we willing to take a look? To acquire that vision? It’s all a matter of choosing. It’s never just a matter of feeling like it. It’s all a matter of conversion and repentance. It’s not up to God, it’s up to us.

Let us change our thinking, let us change our world. Amen.