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Monthly Archives: December 2015

FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY

 

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As a faithful Jew, Jesus went with his parents to the Temple to celebrate the feast of Passover, which commemorated Israel’s deliverance from slavery in Egypt. At the end of the feast, the family assumed that their son was in the caravan returning to Nazareth. When the anxious parents did not find him after the first day of travel, they returned to the Holy City to look for him. After three days, the astonished parents found Jesus in the Temple with a group of teachers who were amazed at his wisdom. When Mary reproached her son for causing them grief, Jesus replied that he “had” to be about the work of his Father. Then Jesus obediently returned to Nazareth where he grew in stature, wisdom and grace.

Young people today seem to be smarter than ever. They seem to instinctively know how to use digital devices without consulting a manual.

They use smartphones as extensions of themselves. They relate to one another and to the world through an array of social media, able to use search engines to access information in a matter of seconds, often the ones writing new software and forming companies that make innovative use of the Internet. As a group they have tremendous purchasing power and influence. And they are often the ones setting styles and trends that are followed by the general population.

Young people just seem to be smarter than older people. But while that may be true in some areas, especially when it comes to the digital world, that does not mean that young people are smarter when it comes to what may be most important, namely, making good decisions.

We see an example of that in the Gospel (Luke 2:41-52) for this Sunday’s Feast of the Holy Family.

In that Gospel reading we hear how Jesus accompanies Mary and Joseph to Jerusalem for the celebration of Passover. When the feast ends, Mary and Joseph and their relatives and friends leave the city to return home.

After a day passes, Mary and Joseph realize that Jesus is not among the caravan so they return to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days of searching they find “him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.”

But Jesus was not lost or uncertain of how to find his way back home. Jesus had made a conscious decision to stay behind in his “Father’s house” while the rest of his group returned home as planned.

If Jesus had been upset and thought he had been inadvertently left behind, he would have set out to look for Mary and Joseph. He would not have remained in the Temple for three days and continued his discussions with the religious authorities.
Jesus made the decision to stay behind with the wisdom and understanding that he had as a 12 year old boy. He had religious knowledge to be sure but his understanding of his role in the family and his knowledge of the pain he would cause Mary and Joseph by his decision seemed to be lacking. As Mary asked him, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.”

He returned home to Nazareth and there, “Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favour before God and man.” That process of growing in wisdom, age, and favour continued for 18 years, for Luke tells us that “Jesus began his ministry when he was about thirty years of age.” (Luke 3:23) At that point, Jesus was ready to go forth and to make wise decisions that would advance his ministry and promote the coming of God’s kingdom.

Today, our eyes still wander over to the manger, that Nativity scene that stirs so many sentiments. The “Holy Family” but the “perfect family?” Likely not. The truth is that today’s Gospel won’t allow us to distance ourselves from the reality of God becoming human in a human family. Nothing about Joseph and Mary’s marriage and the birth of their son fits with the perfect family.

The good news for us is that the Holy Family is kin to us all. And even though, “the family is being weakened and is exhibiting signs of its fragile nature, it is still the basic human community and the first and primary place to teach how to love. The Feast of the Holy Family is a celebration of God’s call to be a holy family. No matter how wounded the family may be, that still is possible and we can’t ever let go of it.

The Gospel of today reminds us that making good decisions requires a wisdom that comes with age and experience, and we might add, with the help of the Holy Spirit. That’s true for young people and not so young people as well. We all need more growing in wisdom!

 
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Posted by on December 26, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Fourth Sunday in Advent

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On this last Sunday before Christmas, the Church’s Liturgy reveals the true identity of our Redeemer:

He is, as today’s First Reading says, the “ruler…whose origin is from…ancient times.” He will come from Bethlehem, where David was born of Jesse. God promised that an heir of David would reign on his throne forever

Jesus is that heir, the One the prophets promised would restore the scattered tribes of Israel into a new kingdom He is “the shepherd of Israel,” sung of in today’s Psalm. From His throne in heaven, He has “come to save us.”

Today’s Epistle tells us that He is both the Son of David and the only “begotten” Son of God, come “in the flesh”. He is also our “high priest,” from the mould of the mysterious Melchisedek, “priest of God Most High,” who blessed Abraham at the dawn of salvation history/

All this is recognized by John when he leaps for joy in his mother’s womb. Elizabeth, too, is filled with joy and the Holy Spirit. She recognizes that in Mary “the mother of my Lord” has come to her. We hear in her words another echo of the Psalm quoted in today’s Epistle (see Psalm 2:7). Elizabeth blesses Mary for her faith that God’s Word would be fulfilled in her.

“Equal justice under law” is the phrase that expresses our hope that all people will be treated equally.

While the law might try to treat all people the same way, we often do not. Though we might not readily admit it, we rank people differently and treat them accordingly. As a society we are very status conscious.

For example, we judge the CEO of a company as more important than the ordinary worker. We place entertainment celebrities and athletes on levels far above their fans. We place our military personnel in clearly defined categories that show their rank and grade. And we even think of ourselves as having a certain status in society.
In this Sunday’s Gospel (Luke 1:39-45), we meet a woman who surprisingly did not act according to the status and position that were rightfully hers.

When Mary was told by the angel that she had been favoured above all women to be the mother of the Saviour, she was also told that her cousin Elizabeth was in the sixth month of an unexpected pregnancy. In response, Mary immediately “set out and travelled to the hill country in haste” so she could assist Elizabeth in the last months before the birth of her son, John.

When Elizabeth saw Mary at her door, she was astounded. Elizabeth asked, “And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”

Elizabeth knew that Mary certainly outranked her in importance. If anyone should have been making a trip, Elizabeth should have gone to the home of Mary. As Elizabeth said of Mary, “Blessed are you among women.”

But Mary was not status conscious, she went to assist Elizabeth. Mary’s humility astounded Elizabeth and it continues to impress us today.

The wonderful feast of Christmas that we will soon celebrate sets before us the highest example of someone not acting according to status and position.

In Acts, St. Paul says that “God is that in which we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28) Mary reminds us that we are how God lives and moves and brings about God’s will in the world.

It is not through magic, but through a human being. Through Mary, and her child Jesus, and with the help of the Holy Spirit through apostles, prophets and martyrs – and even through us – that God transforms God’s dream of shalom into the reality of God’s realm of justice and peace.

And just like Mary though little, we are enough. Each of us is enough to magnify God. Imagine what would happen if we let God work. If we truly made room for God to be born in our hearts. If we let God magnify the good work that God has begun and is already doing in each of us.

The Fourth Sunday of Advent shows us that Mary did not act according to the rank and status that were appropriately hers, nor did her Son. Mary marks the fulfilment not only of the angel’s promise to her, but of all God’s promises down through history. As we prepare to welcome Christ once more into our hearts and our homes, may our souls magnify more and more the glory of God and our hearts exult in the goodness of God, this day and always.

 

 
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Posted by on December 19, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 18 Advent Weekday

MATTHEW 1:18-25 (Jeremiah 23:5-8; Psalm 72)
KEY VERSE: “She is to have a son and you are to name him Jesus because he will save his people from their sins” (v 21)

Traditionally, the season of Christmas elicits a romantic, tinselled picture of Jesus’ coming in the beautiful nativity sets in our homes and churches. Normally, the Christmas story does not draw out emotions of confusion, apprehension and uncertainty. However, in revisiting today’s part of the Gospel’s Christmas story, such emotions are evident.

Matthew summarizes the story of how the birth of Jesus came to be by telling us that Mary is pregnant with Jesus. Though she and Joseph are betrothed, they have not lived together. It is not hard to imagine the anxiety, concern, and uncertainty in both Joseph and Mary’s life. We know that Mary had asked the Angel Gabriel, “How could this be?” Joseph is prepared to quietly divorce Mary according to Jewish law, though unwilling to expose her to shame. Certainly this is not the picture of peace on earth or in Mary and Joseph’s relationship at this point.

Joseph is not calmed until an angel in his dreams helps him realize that he need not be afraid to take Mary into his home because God’s spirit is with him and Mary; and that Emmanuel, “God is with us”, was in their midst. This was certainly a time of faith. Yes, faith in God, but also in each other in order to be able to enter into the unknown and trust one another…their actions speaking louder than words as they began their journey into the unfamiliar future.

In a week, we will celebrate Christmas in our homes and faith communities, with family and friends. In the midst of our celebrating together we bring ourselves with our struggles, brokenness, worries, anxieties, and concerns.

Hope is today’s message in Jeremiah’s words, as well as in the psalmist hymn. They bring the promise that God is coming. And our reality is that we know that Emmanuel is here, in our midst.

During these seven days of preparation, my prayer is that I/we may be open to Emmanuel in our midst…the promise of hope, trust, faith in a God that IS with us. In the midst of the busyness of these days, perhaps in the quiet darkness of the night, I pray that I/we will be open to the real message of the season….God is with us. I have hope that we will somehow realize that our call is to be that God presence to those with whom we walk today and tomorrow as we reach out to those in need and into the Christmas celebrations.

dec-18-o-antiphon1-e1355685412938O SACRED LORD, December 18
Today’s O Antiphon is “O Adonai” (O Sacred LORD). Adonai was the Hebrew word that the Jews used instead of the four-lettered word for God’s name (YHWH), which they held to be too sacred to pronounce aloud. Christ is Lord of Creation. He is also Lord of the Covenant he made on Mount Sinai with the People He chose. O Leader of the House of Israel, giver of the Law to Moses on Sinai: come to rescue us with your mighty power!

 
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Posted by on December 17, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 17 Advent Weekday

MATTHEW 1:1-17  KEY VERSE: “Of her was born Jesus who is called the Messiah” (v 16).

Today’s first reading is part of what is known as the ‘Blessings of Jacob’, although they are more like prophecies than blessings. And it is directed not so much to the sons of Jacob but more to the tribes who bore their name.

If we knew our Bible history better, we would recognize immediately what a motley crew Jesus’ ancestors were. Jacob got his inheritance by fraud. David’s sin is well known. On and on . . . Most of the 14 kings after David were petty oriental potentates, hedonists with little or no concern for the covenant and even less competence in statecraft. And most of the 14 following the return from Babylon were so undistinguished that their names are mentioned nowhere else in the Bible. The incarnation, which we celebrate in a few days, includes not just the fact that God, in Jesus, took on human form in Mary’s womb, but that he incorporated into his own background all the tawdriness, venality, and mediocrity that we humans are capable of – all the ordinariness of human lives. Matthew insists on it in his opening sentence: “ . . . A genealogy of Jesus Christ, . . .”

The wonder is what came out of that background! Clearly, God is capable of taking the most inauspicious beginnings, the most humble of materials, and creating something of unsurpassed goodness. Nor does the progression stop with “. . . Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.” God is incarnated anew down the centuries in the church, the body of Christ. Jesus called his disciples, all of whom failed him, just as so many of his ancestors had failed God. Failure is the experience of every person called to follow Jesus. The good news is that it’s not a barrier to our responding to that call.

Both the First Reading and the Gospel, which contains Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus, emphasise Jesus’ roots going back to the very beginnings of Israel. Jesus was a Jew through and through and linked with many of the most significant characters in Israel’s turbulent history.

As we prepare to celebrate the birth of the Child Jesus in Bethlehem, we need to remember that the content of today’s readings is an important aspect of the Incarnation. Jesus did not just appear as an isolated human being. He came from God but he is also is intimately and crucially linked with the history of his own people. And, because of that, so are we.

 
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Posted by on December 16, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

O ANTIPHONS

O ANTIPHONS

The Catholic Church has been singing the “O” Antiphons since at least the eighth century. They are the antiphons that accompany the Magnificat canticle of Evening Prayer from December 17-23. They use ancient biblical imagery drawn from the messianic hopes of the Old Testament to proclaim the coming Christ as the fulfillment not only of Old Testament hopes, but present ones as well. Their repeated use of the imperative “Come!” embodies the longing of all for the Divine Messiah.

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Posted by on December 16, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT

LUKE 3:10-18
(Zephaniah 3:14-18a; Psalm: Isaiah 12; Philippians 4:4-7)
KEY VERSE: “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (v 16)1

In today’s Liturgy, each of us is being called to stand in that crowd and hear the “good news” of John’s call to repentance. We should examine our lives, ask from our hearts as they did: “What should we do?” Our repentance should spring, not from our fear of coming wrath (see Luke 3:7-9), but from a joyful sense of the nearness of our saving God.

This theme resounds through today’s readings: “Rejoice!…The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all,” we hear in today’s Epistle. In today’s Responsorial, we hear again the call to be joyful, unafraid at the Lord’s coming among us.

“I’m not fit. Not fit to touch his sandal straps.”

Most Australians won’t relate to this. That phrase, I’m not fit or in another passage not worthy, comes from a foreign language. It flies in the face of positive self-esteem. I am not worthy? What’s that mean for us here today?

If you’ve been reading the weekday Advent readings
it shows up on a regular basis.

The phrase echoes the words of the Elizabeth when she greets the pregnant Mary on the doorstep of her house: “Who am I,” exclaims Elizabeth, “that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”

Her incredulity resonates with the words that Peter mumbled when he buckled at the knees at the sight of a miraculous catch of fish the first day he encountered the Lord: He hits the deck and cries out, “Leave me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”
John’s protest of unworthiness in today’s gospel also mirrors the words of the Roman centurion on the day his child grew sick, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under the roof of my house….”

Lord, I am not worthy.

Step back from the words, and look at the circumstances in which they occur. When you do this, the issue of unworthiness takes on a different tone.

It’s no longer an issue of self-esteem.
Rather, it’s about God. It’s not about you…it’s about God.
And it’s about God coming into your life!

“Who am I… to experience this privilege? This Presence?”

This is the experience of John the Baptist. The bounce of joy in Elizabeth’s womb. The last-ditch hope of the desperate centurion. At the edge of Peter’s transformation. “Lord, I am not worthy.”

Lord, I’m not worthy. So said John as he surveyed the motley gang of sinners on the muddy bank of the Jordan.

And so say we all…all of us, sinners that we are, when the water of God’s amazing grace washes away the mud that clings to our hearts and souls…The mud of prejudice, of gossip, of infidelity, entitlement and greed.

Who are we?
That the Lord, the God of all history, should enter into this world of ours to save it, absolve it and transform its mud and muck into revelations of mercy, pardon and peace?

So, “Lord, I am not worthy” does not mean that we are nothing but dirt. Rather, it means that we are nothing without grace!

God’s grace. God’s magnificent, manifold grace…
breaking through the armor of human pride
…and the bombed out cities of political maneuvering
…and the mangled mess of emotional manipulating
…and the tangled webs of ignorance, fear and hatred.

God- Redeemer-Saviour-Messiah…scattering the darkness
and igniting our world with the hope of mercy, forgiveness and peace.

Mary is the Daughter Zion – the favored one of God, told not to fear but to rejoice that the Lord is with her, “a mighty Saviour.” She is the cause of our joy. For in her draws near the Messiah, as John had promised: “One mightier than I is coming.”

Are we worthy? Are we fit and proper?
No. We are not worthy.
But we are worthwhile.
Worthwhile enough for God to send his Son,
his only Son, to set us free.

Worthwhile enough for God.

 
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Posted by on December 12, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

FEAST OF IMMACULATE CONCEPTION.

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LUKE 1:26-38
(Genesis 3:9-15, 20; Psalm 98; Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12)
KEY VERSE: “Hail favored one! The Lord is with you” (v 28).

Introduction: Mary’s prophecy given in her ‘Magnificat’: “behold all generations will call me blessed” was fulfilled when the Catholic Church declared four dogmas of faith about her: 1 -Immaculate Conception, 2 – Perpetual Virginity, 3 – Divine Maternity, and 4 – Assumption. The Immaculate Conception is a dogma based mainly on Christian tradition and theological reasoning. It was defined in 1854 by Pope Pius IX through “Ineffabilis Deus” as: “From the first moment of her conception, Mary was preserved immune from original sin by the singular grace of God and by the virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, savior of human race” (CCC). It means that original sanctity, innocence and justice were conferred upon her, and the evil effects of original sin exempted from her excluding sorrow, pain, disease and death, which are temporal penalties given to Adam (Catholic Encyclopedia). The Fathers of the Church from the fourth century believed and taught that the Blessed Virgin Mary had been kept free of all traces of sin by the grace of God because she was to become the Mother of the Lord Jesus. This belief coexisted with the perpetual virginity of Mary, her sinlessness, and her Divine motherhood. Church history makes known to us that, as early as the seventh century, there was a liturgical observance that proclaimed the Blessed Virgin Mary to be free from sin.

Proofs: (A) From tradition: It is a dogma originating from sound Christian tradition. Monks in Palestinian monasteries started celebrating the “Feast of Conception of Our Lady” by the end of 7th century. It got spread as the Feast of the Immaculate Conception in Italy (9th century), England (XI), and France (XII). Pope Leo VI propagated it and Pope Sixtus IV approved it as a feast. Finally in 1854 Pope Pius IX declared it a dogma of faith. Mary approved it by declaring to Bernadette at Lourdes: “I am the Immaculate Conception”.

(B) From the Holy Scripture: 1 – God purified prophet Jeremiah in the womb of his mother and anointed John the Baptist with His Holy Spirit before John’s birth. (Jer. 1/5: Before I formed you in the womb of your mother I knew you and before you were born, I consecrated you”). Hence it is reasonable that God kept the mother of His Son, free from all sins from the first moment of her origin.
2 – The angel saluted Mary “full of grace”. It means that she was never, even for a moment, a slave of sin and devil.
3 – Gen. 3/15: “I will put enmity between you and the woman and her seed shall crush your head”. The woman stands for Mary and the promise would not be true if Mary had original sin.

(C)-Argument from reason: 1 – If we were allowed to select our mother, we would select the most beautiful, healthy and saintly lady. So did God.
2 – All-holy God cannot be born from a woman, who was the slave of the devil at least for a moment in her life.

Message: 1) Be pure and holy like our heavenly mother. Every mother wants her children to inherit or acquire all her good qualities. Hence be holy and pure children of an immaculate and holy mother. The original sin from which Mary was preserved is the original sin from which we too have been freed. The grace of Christ that was hers is the same grace of Christ that is ours. Mary is significant for us because the central factors in her life are the central factors in our own. Perhaps the lesson is that, no matter which direction we take, we need Mary Immaculate in our lives in order to remember who Christ is and who we ourselves are.

2) Be thankful and humble. Mary’s sinlessness was a gift of God, given to her right from the very moment of her conception. In the same vein, by the grace of God, we have received a new heart, a new spirit and the indwelling Holy Spirit to raise us to the level of holiness that the Blessed Virgin Mary enjoyed during her earthly life. Through faith in Jesus and the Sacrament of Baptism, having been born again of water and Spirit, we have been adopted into the Body of Christ in the living hope of receiving our salvation. Through our living faith, including the reception of the Sacrament of Confession, we receive the righteousness of our souls. Through the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, we abide in Jesus and Jesus in us, thus leading towards our salvation [Jn. 6:56]. Hence those of us who happen to be holy, who sin less than the average sinner, should regard our holiness as basically a gift of God and not an achievement. Our attitude should then be characterized by two basic attitudes: thankfulness to God and humility before those who are naturally and spiritually less gifted than we are.

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2015 in Uncategorized