Mary, The Mother of God

Mary, the Mother of God

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

A boy asked his father, “Dad, if three frogs were sitting on a limb that hangs over a pool, and one frog decided to jump off into the pool, how many frogs would be left on the limb?”

The dad replied, “Two.” “No,” the son replied. “Here is the question again: There are three frogs and one decided to jump, how many are left?”

The dad said, “Oh, I get the point! If one decided to jump, the others would too. So there are none left.” The boy said, “No dad, the answer is three. The frog only DECIDED to jump.”

Does that sound like our last year’s resolutions? Great inspiration and great resolutions, but oftentimes we only decide, and months later we are still on the same limb of doing nothing.

Since we celebrate the Feast of Mary, the Mother of God on New Year’s Day, may I take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy and Peaceful New Year?

I pray that the Lord Jesus and His mother Mary may enrich your lives during the New Year with an abundance of God’s blessings.

Today’s first reading gives us the beautiful divine blessing from the book of Numbers for the New Year. “The Lord bless you and keep you! The Lord let His face shine upon you And be gracious to you, The Lord look upon you kindly, And give peace!

Today’s Feast of Mary, the Mother of God is a very appropriate way to begin a new year. This celebration reminds us that the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, is also our Heavenly Mother.

Hence, our ideal motto for the New Year 2019 should be “Through Mary to Jesus!”

The Church observes this day also as the World Day of Peace and invites us to pray specially for peace in the world.

In his message for this World Day of Peace, January 1, 2014, Pope Francis emphasized “fraternity as the foundation of peace and as the pathway to peace.”

Actually, this is a very ancient feast, which used to be celebrated on October 11th. Today’s feast answers the question, “Why do Catholics honor Mary?”

Non-Christians sometimes believe that we Catholics worship Mary as a goddess who gave birth to our God. Non-Catholic Christians argue that there is no Biblical basis for honoring Mary and that Catholics worship her and make her equal to God.

They fail to understand why we honor Mary and name churches and institutions after her. They do not understand what we mean by calling her the Mother of God.

The truth is that we Catholics do not worship Mary as we worship, adore, God. We honor her, respect her, love her and seek her intercession, praying, “Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners.”

We do not, ever, equate her with God nor replace God with her. Rather, we honor her, primarily because God honored her by choosing her to become the mother of Jesus, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, when He took on our flesh and became Man.

We learn the great truth that Mary is the Mother of God from St. Luke’s Gospel, in the message given by the angel to Mary: “You are going to be the mother of a Son and you will call Him Jesus, and He will be called the Son of the Most High.”

After the angel had appeared to her and told her that she would be the mother of Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary visited Elizabeth.

At Mary’s greeting Elizabeth said, “Why should this great thing happen to me, that my Lord’s mother comes to visit me?” [Lk. 1:43].

Based on these references in the New Testament and on the traditional belief of the early Church, the Council of Ephesus affirmed in AD 431 that Mary was truly the Mother of God.

Today’s Gospel tells us that the first people who came to adore the Baby Jesus were the shepherds.

They were taking care of their flocks of sheep when an angel appeared to them and communicated to them the Good News concerning the birth of the Son of God. The angel told them that they should not be afraid.

And that is precisely the message that this solemnity we celebrate today brings us.

Through this Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God, the Church tells us that we should not be afraid, that we should prepare ourselves for the beginning of the New Year by asking Our Lord and our Most Beloved Mother, the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, to come to our aid.

We should ask her, not just today – although today is an especially important occasion for doing so – but always, to help us to live like people who have been renewed, ready, with her aid, to identify ourselves more closely with the teachings of the Church and with the Commandments, so that we may follow Christ more closely.

Three ways to make the New Year meaningful: a) something to dream, b) something to do, and c) Someone to love.

“I have a dream’” said Martin Luther King. We should all have a noble plan of action (dream a noble dream), for every day in the New Year.

We need to remember the proverb: “Cherish your yesterdays, dream your tomorrows, but live your today.” It has been truly said that an idle mind is the devil’s workshop. We must not be barren fig trees, nor barren branches in God’s vineyard.

We must be always engaged, doing good for others and loving the men and women we encounter in daily life, for they are our brothers and sisters in Christ.

This becomes easy when we make God the center of our life and realize His presence in all the people around us. Let us light a candle instead of blaming the darkness around us.

Just as the moon borrows the sun’s light to illuminate the earth, we must radiate the light of God shining within us.

A resolution for the New Year: We might resolve to start every morning with a short prayer: “Good morning, Lord. Thank You for extending my life for one more day.

Please grant me a special anointing of your Holy Spirit so that I may do your holy will today and avoid everything evil.” Amen. Be Blessed and Be a Blessing.

Holy Family – Year C

Holy Family, Year C

1Sam.1:20-22, 24-28/ 1Jn.3:1 – 2, 21 – 24 / Lk.2:41-52

A mother was shocked to hear her son tell a lie. Taking the youngster aside for a heart to heart talk, she graphically explained what happened to liars.

“A tall black man with red fiery eyes and two sharp horns grabs little boys who tell lies and carries them off at night.

He takes them to Mars where they have to work in a dark canyon for fifty years! Now” she concluded, “you won’t tell a lie again, will you, dear?” “No, Mum, replied the son, gravely, but…But……you tell better lies Mum!”

Children learn to tell lies from the elders. With them it does not work to say, “Do as I tell and not as I do.”

Today, the Church celebrates the feast of the Holy Family. So, inevitably the focus will be on family life. And when we look at the family, just what kind of analogy could we use to describe a family?

Maybe I would say that the family is like a fruit cake – mostly sweet and with some nuts; some may have more nuts! Nonetheless, we still have to admit that family life, although like a fruit cake, can be quite messy.

It’s said that a family is like a social unit that is concerned with some kind of space. The father is concerned with parking space, the children are concerned with outer space, the mother is concerned with looking for space.

And when the family has to share the same space, that is where challenges come in. Because problems can arise when we feel that our own space is encroached upon or has been trespassed.

And when our space is encroached upon or is trespassed, then communications become fragile and tensed.

We will be quick to speak and to scorch, but we will not be that ready to listen with attention. Let me quote from a poem entitled “Harsh Words”:

I ran into a stranger as he passed by, “Oh excuse me, please” was my reply. He said, “Please excuse me too, I wasn’t watching for you.”

We were very polite, this stranger and I. We went on our way saying good-bye.

But at home, a difference is told, how we treat our loved ones, young and old.

Later that day, while cooking the evening meal, my son stood beside me very still.

As I turned, I nearly knocked him down. “Move out of the way!” I said with a frown.

It so ironic, isn’t it, that while dealing with strangers, common courtesy we use. But with family and loved ones, we seem to abuse.

In today’s gospel, we heard about Mary and Joseph, and the 12 year-old Jesus going to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover.

It was an annual event for them but this time round something happened. After the feast, Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, without his parents knowing.

Needless to say, Mary and Joseph must have panicked during those three days until they found Him in the temple.

The gospel passage simply said that they were overcome when they saw Him, but that said a lot about how Mary and Joseph felt – the anxiety, the stress, the frustration, the anger (?).

And we can certainly feel the seriousness of the tone in what Mary said to Jesus, “My child, why have you done this to us? See how worried your father and I have been looking for you.”

And the reply of Jesus was nowhere near consoling, and as if that was not enough, it was also confusing to say the least. That would have easily erupted into a parent-child quarrel and harsh words would fly about to cut and scorch.

Yet, no further words were exchanged, maybe because Mary and Joseph did not understand what Jesus meant. But Mary stored up all these things in her heart.

Joseph might be thinking that it would be easier to build a house for God than to raise the Son of God.

Yes, whether it is the Son of God or not, it was never easy to be parents and it never will be. Yes, there is that 5th Commandment – Honor your father and your mother, but we all know that we have broken that commandment time and again.

Yet as much as that 5th Commandment is directed at children, there is also an underlying spiritual aspect to it. This underlying spiritual aspect is that parents have this God-given authority over their children.

But this authority is not to be used to drive their children to resentment and make them feel frustrated. Over and above, the duty to care for their children and to provide for their needs, parents have a spiritual authority over their children.

It means that when parents pray for their children, God will surely listen to their prayers. And it is not just praying for them when they are applying for entry into a particular school or university, and when they are taking their exams.

Parents will have to exercise their spiritual authority over their children when they are ill, when they have gone wayward, when they are in trouble or in danger. Parents have this power to call upon God’s protection and blessing over their children.

And that is why it is so important that parents understand and exercise this spiritual power. And it is so essential that parents must pray together in order that this spiritual power be manifested and bear spiritual fruits in their children.

One of the difficult challenges in family life is family quarrels. Family quarrels are bitter, especially when they are between parents and children. They can be about any issue, and can spring up unexpectedly and catch us totally unprepared.

Whatever it is, family quarrels are bitter and painful. They are like splits in the skin that won’t heal easily because there’s not enough material to do so. But again, parents have this spiritual power to call upon God’s blessing so that there can be peace and unity in the family.

Family peace and harmony cannot be taken for granted, and as a matter of fact, family breakup is becoming more rampant. But again, parents have that spiritual power to keep the family together and sharing the same space.

So even after the Temple episode, Jesus went down with Mary and Joseph to Nazareth and lived under their authority.

There He increased in wisdom, in stature and in favor with God and with others. As it was for Jesus, so may it be for parents and children in the family.

As Pope John Paul II said: As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.

Let us pray for the grace of caring for one another in our families, for each member of our parish family, and for all families of the universal Church.

Be Blessed and Be a Blessing. Amen.

Christmas- Year C

Christmas Year C

All of the shopping, all of the rushing about, all of the busy-ness of Christmas is now over. Today the streets are deserted. A quiet and peaceful stillness lays over all.

Now the religious meaning of Christmas is allowed to emerge from beneath all of the mall music, the shopping, and the frantic preparations for this day.

But to what do we turn our attention? To peace on earth toward men of good will? Yes, and something more. To the sharing of love with family? Yes, and something more. To joining together with the ones, we love? Yes, but more.

Christmas is more than having a lovely time, more than family sharing, more than the so-called “happy holidays.” We celebrate today what so many are looking for.

We focus our attention today on that which will give peace to many who are lonely, uneasy with themselves, and who are searching for meaning in their lives.

The centerpiece of the Mass, the essence of Catholicism, and the core of our belief is what we consider today.

The only essential and ultimately important reality is the joining of humanity with divinity. This joinder is the genius of Christianity and the core of Catholic devotion.

It is that which unites liberal and conservative, saint and sinner, European and American, black and white. God and man at table are sat down.

The birth of Jesus Christ is not the birth of one religious prophet among many, one founder of a religion among many, the birth of one good man among many others. It is rather the stupendous joining of humanity with divinity.

An elderly man in Oklahoma calls his son in New York just a few days before Christmas and says, “I hate to ruin your day son, but I have to tell you that your mother and I are getting a divorce; 45 years of marriage… and that much misery is enough!” “Dad, what are you talking about?” the son yells.

“We can’t stand the sight of each other any longer,” the old dad explained. “We’re sick of each other, and I’m sick of talking about this, so you call your sister in Hong Kong and tell her!”. Frantic, the son calls his sister, who explodes on the phone.

“Like heck they’re getting divorced,” she shouts, “I’ll take care of this.” She calls her elderly father immediately, and screams at him, “You are not getting divorced. Don’t do a single thing until I get there. I’m calling my brother back, and we’ll both be there tomorrow.

Until then, don’t do a thing, you hear me?” she yelled as she hung up the phone. The old man hangs up his phone and turns to his wife. “Okay dear”, he says, “it’s all set. They’re both coming for Christmas and paying their own air-fare.”

We celebrate Christmas with great rejoicing for three reasons. First, it is the birthday of our God who became man and Savior to save us from our sins.

Second, it is the birthday of a God who came to share His love with us and third, it is the anniversary of the day when Almighty God came to live with us as Emmanuel.

First of all, Christmas is the feast of God’s sending us a Savior. Jesus, the Incarnation of God as man, came to save us from the bondage of sin.

The Hindu Scriptures in India describe ten incarnations of God.

The purpose of these incarnations is stated in their Holy Scripture, Bagavath Geetha or Song of God. “God incarnates to restore righteousness in the world whenever there is a large scale erosion of moral values.”

But the Christian Scriptures teach that there was one and only one Incarnation of God, the purpose of which is stated in John 3:16: “God so loved the world that he sent His Only Son so that everyone who believes in Him may not die, but have eternal life.”

We celebrate that Incarnation today as Good News because we have a Divine Savior. As our Savior, Jesus atoned for our sins and liberated us from slavery to sin by his suffering, death and Resurrection.

Every Christmas reminds us that we still need this Savior to be reborn in our hearts and to live there, for we need him every day to free us from our evil habits, addictions and unjust, impure and uncharitable tendencies.

Hence, Christmas challenges us to accept Jesus as our Lord God and personal Savior and to surrender our sinful lives to Him, allowing Him to rule our lives. Before I go to the 2nd point:

A little girl climbed onto Santa’s lap, Santa asked the usual, “And what would you like for Christmas?” The child stared at him open mouthed and horrified for a minute, then gasped: “Didn’t you get my E-mail?”

Second, Christmas is the feast of God’s sharing His love with us. Jesus, as our Savior, brought the “Good News” that our God is a loving, forgiving, merciful and rewarding God who wants to save us through His Son Jesus and that God is not a judgmental, cruel and punishing God, as Satan presented God to Adam and Eve.

Jesus demonstrated by his life and teaching how God, our Heavenly Father, loves us, forgives us and provides for us. All his miracles were signs of this Divine Love. Jesus’ final demonstration of God’s love for us was his death on the cross and the institution of the Holy Eucharist.

Christmas reminds us that we have to allow this God of unconditional love to be reborn in us and to start living in us.

Let us accept the challenge given by the famous poet, Alexander Pope, “What does it profit me if Jesus is born in thousands of cribs all over the world, and He is not born in my heart?”

Let us allow Jesus to be reborn in our hearts and lives today and every day, and let us allow him to radiate his light around us as sharing and selfless love, compassionate words and deeds, unconditional forgiveness, the spirit of humble service and overflowing generosity.

Third, Christmas is the feast of Emmanuel, i.e., God living with us and within us. Christmas is the feast of Emmanuel because God in the New Testament is God-with-us, Emmanuel, who continues to live with us in all the events of our lives as announced by the Archangel Gabriel to Mary.

The Christmas story tells us that there is a way out of our sinfulness and hopelessness because God is with us. We are not alone. There is a mighty God within us to strengthen us in our weaknesses and temptations.

As Emmanuel, Jesus lives in the Sacraments (especially in the Holy Eucharist), in the Holy Bible, in the praying community and in each believer, with the Holy Spirit Who is transforming us daily into the “Temples of the Holy Spirit.”

Hence, each Christmas reminds us that we are bearers of our incarnate God with the missionary duty of conveying Jesus to others around us by loving others as Jesus did, through sacrificial, humble and committed service.

Sharing with others Jesus, Emmanuel living within us, is the best Christmas gift we can give to, or receive from, others. And so we celebrate today the fact that just as God came to the Garden of Eden to search out Adam and Eve, so also did He come to us in Jesus Christ to search us out and fill us with God’s Holy Spirit.

And we celebrate the stupendous reality that He comes to us in every Holy Communion to be made flesh in your flesh, and so mingle His blood with yours and thus to search out and enter into your heart.

This is God’s Christmas gift to you. What will you give to Him? Hopefully we will give Him the gift of ourselves and our love.

Be Blessed and Be a Blessing. Amen.

Christmas – 18 (Children Mass)

Christmas -18

Is 62:1-5/ Ac 13:16-17, 22-25/ Mt 1:1-25

The nativity play was going as planned and Joseph and Mary were going from house to house knocking on the doors and asking if there was any room for them.

A boy wanted to be Joseph in the Sunday School pageant. He was cast as the landlord and objected loudly, but to no avail.

When the pageant was presented, Mary and Joseph knocked on the door and asked him if he had a room for them.

The teachers prompted telling him to say no, he looked here and there and again looked at the teacher. Then he thought for a while and said no room here, come to my home I will give my room to you.

As they continued to get “no room” answers a little voice came from the back and said “YOU SHOULD HAVE BOOKED!”

Just now, we saw what is commonly called a Children’s Christmas Pageant, or a Nativity Play.

Well, it was certainly cute and amusing as the little children are dressed up in Nativity-style costumes, with look-alike shepherds and angels.

What is really heart-warming is that the children and their teachers had taken time and effort to put up the Christmas Pageant.

They did this as their offering to God to recall the birth of our Saviour Jesus Christ.

So that is why what we saw is called the Children’s Christmas Pageant.

The word “Pageant” is an interesting word. It means a grand show, a big show.

So besides the Christmas Pageant, there are also other pageants like the “Miss Universe” pageant.

That is indeed a grand show, a big show, a show of beauty and brains, with cameras clicking away and with the spot-light on the beautiful women from all over the world.

And of course there is the typical reaction of the eventual winner of the “Miss Universe” title.

Well, in our Children’s Christmas Pageant, it is also a grand show; at least the parents were clicking away with their cameras and videoing the whole pageant.

But instead of glamorous designer evening gowns and dresses, what we saw was a motley combination of mix-and-match costumes that brings us back to the time of the birth of Jesus.

And the children, with the guidance of their teachers, were doing the Christmas Pageant because they want to be part of the beautiful Christmas story.

And every character in the Christmas story has a role and a purpose. Nothing happens by coincidence.

If not for Caesar Augustus issuing a decree for a census, then Mary and Joseph would not need to go to Bethlehem. And in doing so they fulfilled the prophecy.

And because there was no room at the inn, Mary had to lay the new-born Jesus in a manger where the shepherds were able to find them.

And the shepherds came because of the angel’s announcement of the birth of the Saviour.

Yes, nothing happens by coincidence. There was a plan, a beautiful plan for a simple and humble and quiet entry of the Saviour into the world.

And for the children who took part in the Christmas pageant, it was not a coincidence either.

Well, at least they will remember that they played a role in Christmas Pageant 2018, whether it is Mary or Joseph or the shepherd or the angel. (Anybody played role of the donkey or cow?)

How will this have an influence in their lives, we will know as the mystery of life unfolds.

And as for us who are here this evening and have watched the pageant, we being here is certainly not a coincidence.

Nothing in life happens by coincidence, especially when it is at Christmas.

Why are we here may be due to various reasons – we are here with our family or friends; we are here because the Midnight Mass will be too late and it will affect our beauty sleep.

We may be bored and got nowhere to go because everywhere is crowded; or we could be part of that network of undercover Catholics who only comes for Mass at Christmas.

Whatever it may be, we being here is not a coincidence. Because something has happened to us.

Just like Mary and Joseph and the shepherds and even the angels, something has happened to them.

All because the Saviour has come into the world and into their lives.

So we have seen the Christmas story. We have seen a wonderful pageant, and now we are a part of it.

What will happen to us we will know as life unfolds.

Yes nothing happens by coincidence because the Saviour has come into our lives.

Let us join the angels and praise God and give glory to Him in the highest heavens.

Be Blessed and Be a Blessing. Amen.

4th Sunday of Advent Year C

4th Sunday of Advent Year C

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.

Be Blessed and bs a Blessing. Amen.

2nd Sunday of Advent Year C – 18

2nd Sunday of Advent Year C – 18

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.

Be Blessed and Be a Blessing. Amen.

1st Sunday of Advent Year C – 18

1st Sunday of Advent, Year C – 18

Jer.33:14-16 / 1 Thess.3:12 – 4:3 / Lk.21:25-28, 34-36

Typical of last-minute Christmas shoppers, a mother was running furiously from store to store. Suddenly she became aware that the pudgy 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!”

If there is one word to describe the month of December, it is this word – holiday.

Although there is only one public holiday in the month of Dec, a number of families are going or have gone for holidays overseas, primarily because of the school holidays.

Even the church seems to be decorated for a festive holiday mood. We should have noticed that within the church as well as outside the church.

Oh yes, we see these decorations year after year, and we expect them to be there. Just like shopping malls and Orchard Road are decorated and in fact, much earlier, even before December, we too want our church to be decorated.

But there is one big difference – those that are at the shopping malls and the nearby Orchard Road can be termed as commercial decorations, nice and pretty to look at, and that’s all to it.

But church decorations are more than just nice and pretty. Church decorations are signs and symbols that point to a spiritual reality.

That spiritual reality is the celebration of the birth of our Saviour, as well as the waiting in joyful hope of the 2nd coming of Jesus.

So every piece of decoration in church is a sign or a symbol that points to a reality, a spiritual reality, a reality that we can understand, a reality that we are a part of.

In today’s gospel, when Jesus talked about the signs, it is understandable that we don’t see anything more in those signs other than signs of distress and turmoil, signs of the end-times.

What other interpretations can we give of the words Jesus used: agony, clamour, dying of fear?

Certainly, those kinds of signs are far from pleasant and we would wish that we will never see those signs. And we wonder why such a passage is chosen for the First Sunday of Advent.

But when we look at our world today, and in every age and time, we have those signs of distress and turmoil – nuclear war threat, ecological dangers, plagues, famines, natural disasters.

These are signs that made us fear what is to come and thoughts of the end-time prophecies flash through our mind.

But just as Christmas decorations can be categorized as commercial decorations and spiritual decorations, so are the signs.

The world may see those signs as disturbing signs of distress and turmoil, signs of agony and fear of the future, signs of the end of the world.

But we cannot see as how the world sees, we cannot think as how the world thinks. Because our faith tells us that what others see as the end, we see as the beginning. We see tribulation giving way to celebration, we see distress giving way to success, we see adversity as an opportunity and we see darkness giving way to light.

And that’s what our Christmas decorations should be all about. Our Christmas decorations are not just to be nice-looking or impressive. They must point to two things – 1. The celebration of the birth of our Saviour. 2. The preparation of the 2nd coming as He promised.

So, for example, the Advent candles and the Advent wreath. It tells us that the four weeks of preparation is to let the light of Christ shine slowly into our hearts and dispel whatever darkness that is blocking our hearts from receiving Jesus.

The Advent wreath is round and with evergreen and it symbolizes the eternal and everlasting love of God for us, a love that is expressed in the birth of Jesus.

The Christmas tree symbolizes what we heard in the 1st reading, when the Lord said this: See the days are coming when I am going to fulfil the promise I made to the House of Israel and the House of Judah.

Because from the stump of Jesse (the Christmas tree is also known as the Jesse Tree), a shoot will grow and become a great and mighty tree, again pointing to Jesus.

And of course the Nativity scene with the big star of Bethlehem, to point to us the reason for the season, and whether in celebration of the birth of Jesus or in preparation of His 2nd coming, we do it in joyful hope for a promised fulfilled and a promise that will be fulfilled.

So, as we begin this season of Advent, let us come away from the hustle bustle, let us come away to the Divine, let us come away to pray with the lights, the lights that point to Jesus the true Light.

Yes, come and pray, bring a friend along, or even a non-Catholic friend along. Who doesn’t like to admire Christmas decorations in a quiet setting, and we have that quiet setting in this church!

Yes, come away and pray and may we feel how God has fulfilled His promises in our lives as we wait in joyful hope for His abundant blessings to come.

Be Blessed And Be A Blessing. Amen.