Feast of the Holy Family – 2017

Feast of the Holy Family – 2017

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

4th Sunday of Advent Year B – 17

      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.”

Be Blessed and Be a Blessing. Amen.












2nd Sunday of Advent [B] 2017

2nd Sunday of Advent [B] 2017
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.

Be Blessed and Be. Blessing. Amen.












1st Sunday of Advent, Year B -2017  

    1st Sunday of Advent, Year B -2017                                                                                            Isa 63:16-17, 64:1, 3-8/ 1 Cor 1:3-9/ Mk 13:33-37

A group of young people went to visit a famous Master (of Life) well known for his wisdom. To test his wisdom a young man asked the Master, “Master I want to be in heaven after my death. So how many days before my death should I prepare for that?

Immediately the Master replied, “One day before your death.” This was an unexpected answer for the young man. Still he braved to ask, “But, how do I know when I am going to die?

In a calm voice the master replied, “Since we do not know the time, start preparing now.  The time is now to organize our lives with right priorities.

There are many ways to know how healthy we are or how our body is feeling. We can go for a medical check-up, or take advantage of those free consultations to see how well we are. But one of the best ways to know how healthy we are and the physical state of our body is to see who we feel when we wake up.

If at the point of waking up, we feel fresh and rejuvenated then we can be sure that we will go through the day energetically, and we will even go be in a good mood throughout the day.

We may not even need that cup of coffee to get us started and we may even be waking up before the alarm goes off. But this is often not the case.

Very often, the alarm wakes us up and at times we can even not hear the alarm! Oh yes, we can oversleep and we jump-start the day and get into that morning rush as we try not to be late for work or for school or for whatever.

If we can oversleep and the alarm can’t even wake us up, then we must be very tired and not in good shape. And even if we can wake up and drag ourselves out of bed and when we look at ourselves in the mirror, then we can really see how we feel.

Very often, we look sleepy, with eyes only half-opened. Our face looks tired and feels tired. It looks like as if we had been working all night instead of sleeping. It is strange to look tired when we wake up.

Even a cup of coffee may not get us started. May be a few cups are needed. And if we wake up feeling tired, then most likely we will feel tired throughout the day, tired and maybe moody.

So, how we feel when we wake up in the morning will certainly have a bearing on the rest of the day. Today, we begin a new liturgical year, a new Church year, with the 1st Sunday of Advent.

We can say that today we wake up to a new Church year. The season of Advent prepares us for Christmas. So the 1st Sunday of Advent is like the alarm clock ringing. The 4 weeks of Advent to slowly wake us up to Christmas. But are we hearing the alarm and slowly waking up?

Or do we just wake up for a while and then back to sleep and end up oversleeping? If after sleeping one whole night and we still can’t quite wake up or feel tired upon waking up, then something must be wrong.

Well, we can ignore the signs and continue to sleep and end up oversleeping and then jump-start and rush through Advent and through Christmas and rush through life, and end up getting more and more tired about life.

In today’s gospel, Jesus kept repeating this phrase – stay awake! Jesus wants us to look at the areas of our lives that tire us out physically and spiritually.

Advent is a time to see the world for what it is, to acknowledge the mess things are in, to recognize our own failings, failings caused by our own indifference and apathy. We’re too distracted, lost in iPhone chatter, twittering and tweeting away¸ awash in e-mails.

Advent can be a gift that allows to take time out to clearly see that we need a savior and in our hearts to listen to His voice within us. We need God to come among us and set us back on the right path for living on this planet among each other, as He intended we should.

And, of course, Christmas is the celebration of the fact that God has done just that. In Christmas, He has given us His presence, His power, and His love.

We have so many questions we put to God. We have all of these lamentations and cries for Him to act. But did you notice that Jesus has a question for us? He has an expectation of us.

He asks: Where is your faith? Do you in fact have any faith? And, He asked, when He comes again in glory on the Last Day, will He find any faith on earth?

Again, and again we hear about all we must do for the poor, the oppressed and those less fortunate than we are.

But what about the one duty upon which all of our social services are based, namely our duty to honor God, to believe in His love, and to live in faith, to pray and give Him worship?

Faith gives us the power of hope. If we see hopelessness we see faithlessness. Faith empowers us to act – to engage our surrounding world because we hope for better things.

So, God wants us to look at our spiritual life and stay awake and keep looking at it instead of closing our eyes and sleeping through it and think that they will go away somehow.

Yes, we open our eyes and look at our lifestyles and our eating habits, especially those that are unhealthy and doing damage to our health. We open our eyes and look at our spiritual life, e.g., our prayer life and our awareness of the presence of God in our lives.

We also look at what is bothering us – our frustrations, worries and anxieties, our disappointments, resentment and anger. All these trouble our hearts and burden our minds so much so that as we are sleeping, our minds and hearts are not resting.

Hence, when the alarm wakes us up, or when we try to wake up, we feel too tired and we just want to continue sleeping. But to continue to sleep and then end up oversleeping will not solve any problems – in fact, the problem will only keep increasing.

And that’s why Jesus tells us to stay awake and to open our eyes to look at our problems. It is only when we keep looking at the problem, then we will slowly see the solution.

Be Blesses and Be a Blessing. Amen.