BAPTISM OF THE LORD [C] (Jan 13): (Is 40:1-5, 9-11; Ti 2:11-14, 3:4-7; Lk 3:15-16, 21-22) L/19
Introduction: The Baptism of the Lord is the great event celebrated by the Eastern churches on the feast of Epiphany because it is the occasion of the first public revelation of all the Three Persons in the Holy Trinity, and the official revelation of Jesus as the Son of God to the world by God the Father. Hence, it is described by all four Gospels. It marks the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry.
The turning point: His baptism by John was a very important event in the life of Jesus. First it was a moment of identification with us sinners. Sinless, Jesus received the baptism of repentance to identify himself with his people who realized for the first time that they were sinners. (As given in the anecdotes, St. Damien, Mother Teresa (St. Teresa of Calcutta), Gandhi, and Mandela identified with the people whom they served). Second, it was a moment of conviction about his identity and mission: that He is the Son of God and His mission was to preach the Good News of God’s love and salvation to Israel, and eventually to us, and to atone for our sins by becoming the “suffering servant.” God the Father’s words, “This is my beloved Son,” taken from Psalm 2:17, revealed Jesus’ identity as God’s Son, and the words “with whom I am well pleased,” from Isaiah 42:1 (referring to the “suffering servant“), pointed to Jesus’ mission of atoning for the sins of the world by His suffering and death on the cross. Third, it was a moment of equipment. The Holy Spirit equipped Jesus by descending on him in the form of dove, giving him the power of preaching and healing. Fourth, it was a moment of decision to begin public ministry at the most opportune time after receiving the approval of his Heavenly Father as His Beloved Son.
# Anecdote: Thomas Merton: A young man once described his experience of sinking into insanity. He was a very bright university student, but he had abandoned his studies in favor of nightclubs and pornography. One night he retired to a hotel room. As he lay in bed, the window appeared to expand until it reached the floor. He heard a mocking voice in his mind saying, “What if you threw yourself out of that window?” The young man wrote: “Now my life was dominated by something I had never known before: fear. It was humiliating, this strange self-conscious watchfulness. It was a humiliation I had deserved more than I knew. I had refused to pay attention to the moral laws upon which all vitality and sanity depend.” Well, this young man did begin to pay attention to the moral law. He began to put his life in order – and to experience inner peace. He eventually entered the Catholic Church and went on to become one of the most famous monks of the twentieth century. His name is Thomas Merton. Today’s Gospel on Jesus’ baptism should challenge us, too, to examine whether we are keeping our Baptismal promises. (Fr. Phil Bloom)
Life messages: (1) The baptism of Jesus reminds us of our identity. It reminds us of who we are and Whose we are. By Baptism we become sons and daughters of God, brothers and sisters of Jesus, members of his Church, heirs of Heaven and temples of the Holy Spirit.
(2) Jesus’ baptism reminds us also of our mission: a) to experience the presence of God within us, to acknowledge our own dignity as God’s children, and to appreciate the Divine Presence in others by honoring them, loving them and serving them in all humility; b) to live as the children of God in thought, word and action; c) to lead holy and transparent Christian lives and not to desecrate our bodies (the temples of the Holy Spirit and members of Jesus’ Body), by impurity, injustice, intolerance, jealousy or hatred; d) to accept both the good and the bad experiences of life as the gifts of a loving Heavenly Father for our growth in holiness; and e) to grow daily in intimacy with God by personal and family prayers, by meditative reading of the Word of God, by participating in the Holy Mass, and by frequenting the Sacrament of Reconciliation. (3) It is a day to thank God for the graces we have received in Baptism, to renew our Baptismal promises and to preach Christ’s “Good News” by our transparent Christian lives of love, mercy, service and forgiveness.
Greetings in Christ,
The Baptism of our Lord is the inauguration of his missionary activity, having been sent by the Father. John was baptizing people with water; Jesus too submitted himself for baptism although he did not need it as the people did. Two things happen during Jesus’ baptism. The heavens open as the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus; and a voice from heaven affirms Jesus as God’s beloved Son. The way has now been prepared for Jesus’ missionary works for our salvation.
Baptism is important as a sacrament of initiation as Jesus started His work with it. We are also reminded of our baptismal promises and vows to live daily. Our baptism made us spiritually united to Jesus as Christians. It made an indelible mark upon our soul, making us children of the Father in heaven, through Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. Before a candidate is baptized, it is important that the parents, together with the godparents, are prepared for their responsibilities. Chosen godparents need to be practicing the faith above all, and not only because they are close friends or business associates. This is expected of godparents to reinforce the serious responsibility that the child grow and mature in the same Christian faith. All of us are expected to live our faith in Jesus daily as witnesses of Christ’s love.
Fr. Albert B. Becher, Pastor
Feast of Epiphany (Jan 6): Is 60:1-6; Eph 3:2- 3a, 5-6; Mt. 2:1-12
Introduction: The Greek word Epiphany (επιφάνεια), means appearance or manifestation. First, the angels revealed Jesus to the shepherds. In the Western Church, the Feast of the Epiphany celebrates Jesus’ first appearance to the Gentiles, represented by the Magi, while in the Eastern Church, the feast is the commemoration of the baptism of Christ where the Father and the Holy Spirit gave combined testimony to Jesus’ identity as Son of God. Later, in the synagogue at Nazareth, Jesus revealed himself as the promised Messiah, and at Cana he revealed his Divinity by transforming water into wine. These multiple revelations are all suggested by the Feast of the Epiphany.
Scripture lessons: Today’s Gospel teaches us how Christ enriches those who bring him their hearts. The adoration of the Magi fulfills the oracle of Isaiah (first reading), prophesying that the nations of the world will travel to the Holy City following a brilliant light and will bring gold and incense to contribute to the worship of God. Today’s Responsorial psalm includes a verse about kings coming from foreign lands to pay homage to a just king in Israel. Paul’s letter to the Church of Ephesus (today’s second reading), expresses God’s secret plan in clear terms: “the Gentiles are…copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel.” Today’s Gospel reminds us that if God permitted the Magi – foreigners and pagans – to recognize and give Jesus proper respect as the King of Jews, we should know that there is nothing in our sinful lives that would keep God from bringing us to Jesus. There were three groups of people who reacted to the Epiphany of Christ’s birth. The first group headed by King Herod tried to eliminate him, the second group, priests and scribes, ignored him and the third group, represented by the shepherds and the Magi, came to adore him.
Anecdote # 1: A woman among the Magi? Rev. Benedict Thomas Viviano. A renowned Gospel of Matthew professor, Dominican friar and priest, has a new biblical theory that may change nativity scenes across the globe: there was one (or more) among the Wise Men. His original theory was published in 2011 in Studies of Matthew by Leuven University Press. It’s “perfectly plausible” that Matthew would have understood the magi as some sort of Eastern sages, he said. “On the other hand, the masculine plural magi does not close the question of gender. “The main reason to think of the presence of one or more women among the magi is the background story of the queen of Sheba, with her quest for Israelite royal wisdom, her reverent awe, and her three gifts fit for a king,” Viviano suggested. His second reason to suspect the presence of the feminine is the Israelite tradition of personifying wisdom as a woman, he said (Proverbs 8:22-30; 9:1-6; Book of Sirach, 24). Viviano’s third argument for his female magi cause is that Matthew’s Gospel later characterizes Jesus as embodying wisdom, which Jewish literature considers female and even terms Lady Wisdom. The passages he refers to are Matthew, Chapter 11:19 and 25-30. What difference it would have made if there was a woman among the magi? A women’s magazine says: They would have come before the birth of Jesus, brought provisions for the child and his mother and the woman would have served as a midwife!
# 2: Artaban the fourth Wise Man: In 1895, Henry van Dyke wrote the “Story of the Other Wise Man,” a fourth wise man called Artaban. Our hero is not mentioned in the Gospel because he missed the caravan. He got to Bethlehem too late to see the baby Jesus. But Artaban did make it in time to save one of the Holy Innocents by bribing a soldier. For 33 years Artaban searched for Jesus. He did not find him. But all the while the Fourth wise man fed the hungry, helped the poor. Then one day in Jerusalem Artaban saw the “King of the Jews” being crucified. He started to offer a pearl as ransom. But then he saw a girl being sold into slavery to pay family debts. Artaban gave his pearl to buy freedom for the girl. Suddenly the earth quaked as Jesus died on the cross and a stone struck Artaban. Dying, he heard a voice saying: “When you helped the least of my children, you helped me. Meet me in heaven!” Artaban, the fourth Wise Man, had been making God present in his community for years by helping others. God asks each of us on the feast of Epiphany to be a fourth Wise Man by becoming God’s epiphanies, making His love present in the world around us by our acts of love and kindness.
#3: “Because you never know what’s going to happen next.” Little Amy was looking through the family album and found a picture of a man sitting behind a cow. All that was visible was the man’s legs and feet. When her photographer uncle who owned a photo, studio came to visit her mother Amy told him, “This is the only picture of my grandfather that we have. So please remove the cow so that I may see what he looked like.” It is the same curiosity which led the Magi to follow the star of Bethlehem. A survey was made among school children asking the question why they enjoyed reading Harry Potter novels and watching Harry Potter movies. The most common answer was, “Because you never know what’s going to happen next.” The same element of suspense marked the journey of the Magi, who never knew what road the Spirit was going to take them down next. Today’s readings invite us to have the curiosity of Amy and the school students so that we may discover the “epiphany” of our God in everyone and every event, everywhere.
Life Messages: (1) Let us make sure that we belong to the third group. a) By worshiping Jesus at Mass with the gold of our love, the myrrh of our humility and the frankincense of our adoration. b) By giving a new direction to our lives. Just as the Magi chose another route to return to their homes, let us choose a better way of life, abstaining from proud and impure thoughts, evil habits and selfish behavior. c) By becoming stars leading others to Jesus, as the star led the Magi to Jesus. Let us remove the darkness of the evil around us by radiating Jesus’ love through selfless service, unconditional forgiveness and compassionate care. (2) Like the Magi, let us offer Jesus our gifts on this feast of Epiphany. (a) Our gift of friendship with God in the form of wholehearted love and devotion. (b) Our gift of friendship with others by leading them to Jesus by our exemplary lives of Christian charity in action (c) Our gift of reconciliation with God by daily asking His pardon and forgiveness for our sins and giving unconditional forgiveness to our offenders. (d) Our gift of peace by seeking God’s peace in our own lives through prayer, the Sacramental life and daily meditation on the Word of God.
Mary Mother of God – Jan 1, 2019 Nm. 6:22-27, Gal. 4:4-7; Luke 2: 16-21
Introduction: 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 Feast of Mary, the Mother of God is a very appropriate way to begin a new year, reminding us to rely on the powerful intercession of our Heavenly Mother. The Church observes this day also as the World Day of Peace and invites us to pray specially for lasting peace in the world throughout the New Year.
Scripture lessons: Today’s first reading gives us the beautiful Divine blessing from the book of Numbers for the New Year. In the second reading, Paul reminds the Galatians and us that God’s Son has become one of us through Mary and that it was through Him that we have become the children of God. Today’s Gospel describes how the shepherds spread to all their neighbors the Good News surrounding the birth of Jesus which the angel had revealed to them, and how Mary treasured “all these things” in her heart. The Gospel also tells us that on the day of His Circumcision, the Child was given the name Jesus that had been chosen by God Himself.
Traditional belief and Church doctrine: We honor Mary 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 human flesh and became man as stated in the Bible. The angel said 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 was to 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]. Hence, the Council of Ephesus affirmed in AD 431 that Mary was truly the Mother of God (Theotokos), and in AD 451, the Council of Chalcedon affirmed the Divine Motherhood of Mary as a dogma, an official doctrine of the Holy Catholic Church.
Anecdote: # 1: Smiling child and his mother: There is a beautiful little story about a long, tedious train journey, made one Christmas day by some elderly residents of a nursing home who were on their way to a vacation spot. At one station, a young mother with a small child entered the train. The child smiled at all the grim faces around him and began moving from one lap to another talking, shouting with joy and chatting with everyone. Instantly, the grim and silent atmosphere in the train was changed to one of joy and happiness. Today we remember with joy and gratitude, how Mary and her Divine Son Jesus transformed a hopeless, joyless and sinful world into a place of joy and happiness.
# 2: Is it possible to have a birth without a mother? Monsignor Arthur Tonne tells the story of a Catholic pastor in a small Alabama city of mostly Southern Baptist Christians who decided to put up a Christmas crib in the town square. The priest with some of his prominent parishioners approached some rich people and businesses for donation. When they went to see the rich editor of the local newspaper the priest explained the project: “Many people, especially the children will be inspired to see Jesus, Mary and Joseph and animals right here in the center of the town.” The editor agreed to help on condition that Mary must be left out. Otherwise, it would be promoting your Catholic denomination. The priest said: “Tell you what. Tell me how you can show a birth without a mother, and I will agree to leave Mary out.” The editor had no answer and the Mother was with her Child in the town square.
# 3: # Deciding to jump: 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.
1) Let us strive to be pure and holy like our Heavenly Mother. All mothers want their children to inherit or acquire their good qualities. Hence, let us honor Mary, our Heavenly Mother, by practicing her virtues of faith, obedience, purity and humble service.
2) Let us make the New Year meaningful by having every day a) some noble thing to dream, b) something good to do, and c) Someone to love, the first person being Jesus.
3) Let us have a daily resolution for the New Year: Let us resolve to start every morning asking our Heavenly Father for a special anointing of His Holy Spirit so that we may do God’s holy will and avoid everything evil. Let us also resolve to say a short prayer, every evening, as the last thing we do before we go to sleep: “Thank you Lord for helping me to do Your will today. Forgive me, Lord, for saying ‘no’ to Your grace several times today. I am sorry for all my sins of the day. Please pardon me.” And, as we close our eyes, we might say: “Good night, Lord. Father, into Your hands I commend my spirit.”
Introduction: 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. 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 two-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.” 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. Though the details date to Paul’s time, the underlying message of being careful with one another – being full of care – is timeless. Paul teaches that children should learn and practice noble qualities like compassion, kindness, forgiveness and sharing in the warmth of the family. In a truly holy family all members are respected, cherished, nurtured and supported, united through the bond of love. Today’s Gospel describes how Joseph and Mary protected the Child Jesus from the sword of King Herod by escaping with him to Egypt.
Anecdote # 1: Grandparents are a treasure: Pope Francis said that as a child, he heard a story of a family with a mother, father, many children and a grandfather. The grandfather, suffering from Parkinson’s illness, would drop food on the dining table, and smear it all over his face when he ate. His son considered it disgusting. Hence, one day he bought a small table and set it off to the side of the dining hall, so the grandfather would eat, make a mess and not disturb the rest of the family. One day, the Pope said, the grandfather’s son came home and found one of his sons playing with a piece of wood. “What are you making?” he asked his son. “A table,” the son replies. “Why?” the father asks. “It’s for you, Dad, when you get old like grandpa, I am going to give you this table.” Ever since that day, the grandpa was given a prominent seat at the dining table and all the help he needed in eating by his son and daughter-in-law. “This story has done me such good throughout my life,” said the Pope, who will celebrate his 77th birthday on December 17. “Grandparents are a treasure,” he said. “Often old age isn’t pretty, right? There is sickness and all that, but the wisdom our grandparents have is something we must welcome as an inheritance.” A society or community that does not value, respect and care for its elderly members “doesn’t have a future because it has no memory, it’s lost its memory,” Pope Francis added.
# 2: Cancer, heart disease and family relationship: A few years ago, a study was undertaken to find the U.S. city with the lowest incidence of cancer and heart disease. The winner was Rosetto, Pennsylvania. Soon experts descended upon the city expecting to see a town populated by non-smokers, people who ate the correct food, took regular exercise and kept close track of their cholesterol. To their great surprise, however, the researchers discovered that none of the above was true. They found instead that the city’s good health was tied to the close family bonds that prevailed within the community. This suggests that there is much to be said for a close and loving family relationship. (Robert Duggan & Richard Jajac).
# 3: Dying of loneliness: In an audience Pope Paul VI told how one day, when he was Archbishop of Milan, he went out on parish visitation. During the visitation he found an old woman living alone. ‘How are you?’ he asked her. ‘Not bad,’ she answered. ‘I have enough food, and I’m not suffering from the cold.’ ‘You must be reasonably happy then?’ he said. ‘No, I’m not’, she said as she started to cry. ‘You see, my son and daughter-in-law never come to see me. I’m dying of loneliness.’ Afterwards he was haunted by the phrase ‘I’m dying of loneliness’. And the Pope concluded: ‘Food and warmth are not enough in themselves. People need something more. They need our presence, our time, our love. They need to be touched, to be reassured that they are not forgotten’ (Flor McCarthy in New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies).
Life messages: 1) We need to learn lessons from the Holy Family: The Church encourages us to look to the Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph for inspiration, example and encouragement. They were a model family in which both parents worked hard, helped each other, understood and accepted each other, and took good care of their Child so that He might grow up not only in human knowledge but also as a Child of God.
2) We need to make the family a confessional rather than a courtroom. A senior Judge of the Supreme Court congratulated the bride and groom in a marriage with a pertinent piece of advice: “See that you never convert your family into a courtroom; instead let it be a confessional. If the husband and wife start arguing like attorneys to justify their behavior, their family becomes a court of law and nobody wins. On the other hand, if the husband and the wife — as in a confessional — are ready to admit their faults and try to correct them, the family becomes a heavenly one.”
3) Marriage is a sacrament of holiness. Each family is called to holiness. By the sacrament of marriage, Jesus sanctifies not only the spouses but also the entire family. The husband and wife attain holiness when they discharge their duties faithfully, trusting in God, and drawing on the power of God by prayer.
Christmas Day (Is 52:7-10; Heb 1:1-6; Jn 1:1-18/1:1-5,9-14)
Introduction: While Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus goes back to Abraham, and Luke’s genealogy to Adam, John’s genealogy goes back to God Himself. John travels to eternity to reveal to us the theology of Christmas. While the Gospel selections for the Vigil, Midnight and Dawn Masses describe the history of Christmas, the selection from John’s Gospel for this Daytime Mass lifts us out of history into the realm of mystery—His wonderful Name is the Word. The reading tells us that the Baby in the manger is the Word of God, the very Self-expression of God.
Scripture lessons summarized: The first reading gives us the assurance that, just as Yahweh restored His chosen people to their homeland after the Babylonian exile, Jesus, the Savior, will restore mankind to the Kingdom of God. In the second reading, St. Paul tells us how God Who had conveyed His words to us in the past through His prophets sent His own Son, so that He might demonstrate to us humans, by His life, death and Resurrection, the real nature of our God. John’s Gospel gives us a profoundly theological vision of Christ, the result of John’s years of preaching and of meditating on this wondrous mystery of God’s love. While stressing the Divinity of Christ, he leaves no doubt as to the reality of Jesus’ human nature. In the Prologue of his Gospel, John introduces the birth of Jesus as the dawning of the Light Who will remove the darkness of evil from the world. He explains later in his Gospel why light is the perfect symbol of Christmas: Jesus said, “I am the Light of the world,” (Jn. 8:12) and “You are the light of the world” (Mt 5:14-16).
A vision test: Once there was a Rabbi who asked his disciples the following question: “How do you know when the darkness has been overcome, when the dawn has arrived?” One of the disciples answered, “When you can look into the distance and tell the difference between a cow and a deer, then you know dawn has arrived.” “Close,” the Rabbi responded, “but not quite.” Another disciple ventured a response, “When you can look into the distance and distinguish a peach blossom from an apple blossom, then you know that the darkness has been overcome.” “Not bad,” the Rabbi said, “not bad! But the correct answer is slightly different. When you can look on the face of any man or any woman and know immediately that this is God’s child and your brother or sister, then you know that the darkness has been overcome, that the Daystar has appeared.” This Christmas morning when we celebrate the victory of Light over darkness, the Gospel of John introduces Jesus as the true Light Who came from Heaven into our world of darkness to give us clear vision.
Life Messages: 1) A day to remember and a day to wait for: Today, while we remember and celebrate God’s first coming into our world in human form, we also look forward, because the liturgy we celebrate reminds us that the Lord is going to return in his Second Coming. The liturgy calls on us to prepare His way, to be ready to be judged by Him. In addition to these two “comings,” the Church teaches us that Christ comes to us every day through the Holy Eucharist, the Holy Bible and the worshipping community. We are asked to inaugurate Christ’s Kingdom in our lives by allowing Him to be born in us, by recognizing Him in others and by courageously going forth to build His Kingdom of love, justice, peace and holiness in our world.
2) We need to remember that there is no room in the manger except for Jesus and us: There isn’t room in the manger for all the baggage we carry around with us. There’s no room for our pious pride and self-righteousness. There’s no room for our human power and prestige. There’s no room for the baggage of past failure and unforgiven sin. There’s no room for our prejudice, bigotry and jingoistic national pride. There’s no room for bitterness and greed. There is no room in the manger for anything other than the absolute reality of who and what we really are: very human, very real, very fragile, very vulnerable human beings who desperately need the gift of love and grace which God so lavishly gives us through the Sacraments, through the Holy Bible and during our prayers.
Christmas Vigil: Is 62:1-5, Acts 13:16-17, 22-25, Mt 1:1-25 /1:18-25
Central theme: The Scripture lessons for today focus on the first Christmas, or the birthday of Jesus, which we celebrate today in all its solemnity. We are celebrating the fulfillment of the prophecies about our merciful God Who sent His own Son to save a sinful world.
Scripture lessons summarized:
In the first reading, Isaiah prophesies how the God of Israel will honor the desolate and forsaken Jerusalem and land of Israel by espousing her as a man marries a virgin and makes her fertile. Yahweh will do this by sending His long-awaited Messiah into Israel to possess it rule over it. The Messiah will vindicate Israel and save it. The Lord God wished to inspire the hopeless Israelites, returned from the Babylonian exile, to plant crops and make their desolate land fertile and prosperous so that she might be able to hold up her head again among the other nations.
In the second reading, St. Paul recounts the history of God’s mercy to Israel, His chosen people. God showed His mercy to Israel by fulfilling the prophecy about His long-awaited Messiah, sending His Son as the Savior and the descendant of David.
The Gospel (Matthew 1: 1-24), first recounts the genealogy of Jesus (vv 1-17), tracing his descent from Abraham through David (as foretold by the prophet), then describes his birth in Bethlehem as our Savior (vv 18-25), through the working of the Holy Spirit. The Gospel also shows how God resolved the doubts of Joseph by sending His angel, first to reassure Joseph, then to instruct him to name the child Jesus. The name Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Yehosua, which means “Yahweh is salvation.” Just as the first Joshua (successor of Moses) saved the Israelites from their enemies, the second Joshua (Jesus) would save them from their sins.
Life messages: 1) We need allow the Savior to be reborn in our lives. Let us remember the famous lines of Alexander Pope: “What do I profit if Jesus is born in thousands of cribs all over the world during this Christmas, but is not born in my heart?” Let us allow him to be reborn in our lives during Christmas 2018 and every day of the New Year 2019. Let us show the good will and generosity of sharing with others Jesus, our Savior reborn in our hearts, by love, kindness, mercy, forgiveness and humble service.
2) We need to look for Jesus in unlikely places and persons. The message of Christmas is that we can truly find Jesus if we look in the right places – in the streets, in slums, in asylums, in orphanages, in nursing homes – starting in our own homes, workplaces and town. God challenges us to be like the shepherds who overcame their fear to seek out Jesus, or like the Wise Men who traveled a long distance to find Him. Then we will have the true experience of Christmas – the joy of the Savior.
What is Christmas for you this year?
Can you make some difference unlike in the past years?
Greetings in Christ,
A Blessed fourth Sunday of Advent! This is the shortest of the four “weeks” of Advent, having only one day, falling as the eve of Christmas. The Gospel proclaims the Visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth who heard Mary’s greeting, and the baby in her womb leaped for joy. The meeting of Mary and Elizabeth is also the meeting of John and Jesus from within both mothers’ wombs, in fulfilment of God’s will. What a joyful experience of God’s favor for two great mothers.
DECEMBER 25 CHRISTMAS DAY
Merry Christmas to everyone and all!
We are now celebrating the day of Jesus’ birth – the word of God becoming flesh. Today is the feast of the Incarnation. God has made himself visibly present among us, his people. He humbles himself, a lovely child in a manger. Jesus first made himself “present” in a family to consecrate our families. This is the first mission of Jesus’ coming – sanctifying our families with his loving presence. He makes every family sacred, as holy as Nazareth with Mary and Joseph. This is God’s blessing of love to all of us, His presence as a child.
We impart our Christmas blessings, greetings and message of God’s love to all of you! With Fr. Peter, our Deacons, and the Parish and School Staffs, I wish you a Blessed and Merry Christmas!
Fr. Albert B. Becher, Pastor
Advent IV [C] (Dec 23) Mi 5:1-4a; Heb. 10:5-10; Lk 1:39-45
Central theme: Today’s readings remind us that Jesus is reborn every day in ordinary people living ordinary lives, who have the willingness to respond to God’s call and the openness to do God’s will. They suggest that Christmas should inspire us to carry out God’s word as Mary and Jesus did, in perfect obedience to His will, in cheerful kindness and unselfish generosity.
In the first reading, the prophet Micah gives assurance to the Jews that God is faithful to His promises and that from the unimportant village of Bethlehem He will send them the long-expected ruler. The third stanza of today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps. 80), is a prayer for God’s blessing on the Davidic king.
The second reading, taken from Paul’s Letter to the Hebrews, reminds us to be thankful to Jesus Christ who offered the perfect sacrifice of obedience that liberated us from sin. By his willingness and eagerness to do God’s will, (“Behold, I come to do your will”), Christ gave Himself in the place of all the other ritual sacrifices offered as the means of sanctification.
In the Gospel, Luke tells us how two seemingly insignificant women met to celebrate the kindness and fidelity of God. It shows us how sensitive Mary was to the needs of Elizabeth, her older cousin who had miraculously become pregnant in her old age. For Luke, discipleship consists in listening to God’s word and then carrying it out, and Mary does both, to become the most perfect disciple.
1) We need to carry Jesus to others as Mary did. Christmas is the ideal time for us to be filled with the spirit of Christ, allowing his rebirth within us. Once Christ is reborn in us, He enables us to share his love with all whom we encounter by offering them humble and committed service, unconditional forgiveness and compassionate, caring love. Let us take the time to visit others this during Christmas season, especially the sick and shut-ins, to bring some inspiration into their lives, and hopefully to bring them closer to God.
2) We need to bless and encourage the younger generation. Elizabeth demonstrates the responsibility of the older generation to inspire the younger generation. Grandparents, parents, teachers, and leaders have the responsibility of encouraging those around them. By complimenting and encouraging one’s spouse, children and friends, let us make them know how valuable they are to us and to God.
3) We need to recognize the Real Presence of the Emmanuel (God is with us) in the Holy Eucharist, in the Bible, in the Sacraments, and in the praying community. The hill country of Judea is right here in our surroundings. Let us convey Jesus to people around us by our acts of love, kindness and forgiveness.
16th of December 2018
Greetings in Christ,
Rejoice and be glad, for our salvation is near at hand. This is the message of God for us this third Sunday of Advent called “Gaudete-Rejoice”. This is a powerful message of hope God brings to us, his people – the good news for our salvation. God is coming to save us. The darkness caused by sin is beginning to give way to the light of Christ’s coming.
In the Gospel people were asking John “What shall we do?” John’s answers are very concrete. Share what you have; love your neighbor as you love yourself. Share food and clothing with those in need. Avoid corrupt practices; do not abuse your power. This is already the beginning of living the spirit of Christmas. It is the spirit of joy, love and charity that moves us to share the light of Christ by our acts of charity to our neighbors. This is the spirit of a good steward who joyfully shares their time, talent and treasure in building God’s kingdom of love, justice and peace.
Fr. Albert B. Becher