Monthly Archives: December 2018
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
Advent III-C (Dec 16) Zep 3:14-18a; Phil 4:4-7; Lk 3:10-18 (L/18)
The central theme of today’s readings is the command “Rejoice!” We are to do so mainly by realizing the presence of Jesus in our midst and by receiving him into our lives through our repentance, our renewal of life and our doing of God’s will. Today is called “Gaudete” Sunday because today’s Mass begins with the opening antiphon, “Gaudete in Domino semper” (“Rejoice in the Lord always”). Today we light the rose candle of the Advent wreath, and the priest may wear rose vestments, to express our communal joy in the coming of Jesus as our Savior. We rejoice because a) we are celebrating the day of Christ’s birth, b) we recognize his daily presence in our midst, and c) we wait for his return in glory. Scripture lessons summarized: In today’s first reading, the prophet Zephaniah encourages Jerusalem and Israel to shout out for the joy of expecting its deliverance from the Lord. In today’s Responsorial Psalm (Is 12:6), the prophet gives the same instruction, “Shout with exultation, O city of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.” St. Paul echoes this message of joy in the second reading, a letter written from imprisonment: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again, rejoice…” In the Gospel today, John the Baptist explains the secret of Christian joy as our wholehearted commitment to God’s way by the doing of His will. John challenges people to generosity and sense of fairness so that others may have reason to rejoice. According to John, happiness comes from doing our duties faithfully, doing good for others and sharing our blessings with others in need. John’s call to repentance is a call to joy and restoration. Repentance means a change in the purpose and direction of our lives. John tells the people to act with justice, charity and honesty, letting their lives reflect their transformation. For us, that transformation occurs when Christ enters our lives, and it is to be reflected in our living in the ways John suggests.
“Don’t you give out warnings?” Patricia Greenlee tells a story about her son who is a West Virginia state trooper. Once he stopped a woman for going 15 miles an hour over the speed limit. After he handed her a ticket, she asked him, “Don’t you give out warnings?” “Yes, ma’am,” he replied. “They’re all up and down the road. They say, ‘Speed Limit 55.’” People tend to disregard the warning signs, don’t they? Sometimes that has dire consequences. Today’s Gospel presents John the Baptist warning the Jews with prophetic courage of their need for repentance and conversion.
1) We are called to a change life style.
We should examine our relationships with others. We must mend ruptures and frictions, face family responsibilities, work honestly and treat employees justly. Our domestic and social lives must be put in order. We must abandon our selfish thirst for consumption and, instead, be filled with the expectation of Jesus’ coming.
2) We need to remember that we are, like John the Baptist, Christ’s precursors:
Parents, teachers and public servants act as Christ’s precursors by repenting of their sins, reforming their lives and bringing Christ into the lives of those entrusted to their care. Parents are expected to instill in their children a true Christian spirit and an appreciation for Christian values by their own lives and behavior. All public servants are to remember that they are God’s instruments and that they are to lead the people they serve to the feet of Jesus, so that they, too, may know him personally and accept him as their Savior, Lord and Brother.
Central theme: The Second Sunday of Advent challenges us to prepare a royal highway in our hearts for Jesus so that we may receive Him as our saving God during Christmas. We should also be prepared for Christ’s daily coming into our lives in the Holy Eucharist, in the Holy Bible and in the praying community. Finally, we are asked to be ready to meet Jesus as our Judge on His Second Coming, at the end of our lives and at the end of the world.
In the first reading, the prophet Baruch introduces Yahweh, the God of Israel, preparing the way for, and leading the Babylonian exiles to, Jerusalem. Hence, the prophet invites the weeping Jerusalem to rejoice and go to high places to watch the return of the exiles. Baruch’s prophecy announces the return of the whole human race to God. During this Advent season, we, too, are asked to return to the Lord from our slavery to sin. Today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 126) offers us a close-up of the exiles who had wept bitterly on leaving Jerusalem now returning home, rejoicing. In the second reading, Paul advises the Philippian community members to prepare themselves for Christ’s Second Coming by practicing Christian love and by leading pure and blameless lives. John the Baptist, in today’s Gospel, challenges the Jews to prepare their lives for receiving their long-awaited Messiah. They must prepare a highway in their hearts for their Messiah by leveling the mountains of pride and valleys of impurity and injustice and omissions and by straightening their crooked ways. They are to get ready by repenting of their sins, renewing their lives, and expressing their repentance by receiving the baptism of repentance in River Jordan.
“Make ready the way of the Lord.” A blizzard hit the Kansas prairie. Two feet of snow drifted to five and six feet in places. The telephone rang in the doctor’s home. The time had come for John Lang’s wife to have her baby. But it was impossible for the doctor to get through those drifts. John Lang called his neighbors: Can you help the doc to get through? In no time, from all directions, came men and boys with plows and shovels. They labored with all their might almost for two hours until finally the old doc was able to make it, just in time to deliver the Lang boy. Today, to all of us comes a call from another Father, God the Father through His prophet Isaiah and repeated by Jesus’ own cousin John the Baptist: “Make ready the way of the Lord.” But we are called, not to remove piles of snow, but piles of sin, neglect, thoughtlessness, the things that make it difficult and often impossible for the divine child to be reborn to our hearts and lives
Life messages: #1: We need to prepare our hearts and lives for Jesus our Savior to be reborn in us during this Christmas time. We must fill in the “valleys” of our souls, formed from our shallow prayer life and a minimalist way of living our Faith. We must straighten out whatever crooked paths we’ve been walking, like involvement in some secret or habitual sins or in a sinful relationship. If we have been involved in some dishonest practices at work or at home, we are called to straighten them out and make restitution. If we have been harboring grudges or hatred, or failing to be reconciled with others, now is the time to clear away all the debris. As individuals, we might have to overcome deep-seated resentment, persistent fault-finding, unwillingness to forgive, dishonesty in our dealings with others, or a bullying attitude. And we all must level the “mountains” of our pride and ego-centrism by practicing the true humility of rendering humble service to others.
#2: We need to repent and seek forgiveness from God and our fellow human beings: John’s message calls us to confront and confess our sins. We need to turn away from them in sincere repentance and receive God’s forgiveness. Next, we need to forgive others who have offended us and ask forgiveness for our offenses. Jesus is very explicit about this in Matthew 6:14-15. He says, “For if you forgive men their transgressions, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.”
Immaculate Conception of BVM L/18 (Gn. 3:9-15, 20; Eph. 1:3-6, 11-12; Lk 1:26-38)
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-The Immaculate Conception, 2-The Perpetual Virginity, 3-The Divine Maternity, 4-The Assumption. The Immaculate Conception is a dogma based mainly on Christian tradition and theological reasoning. It was defined in 1854 by Pope Pius IX as a Dogma of Faith through Ineffabilis Deus. Definition: From the first moment of her conception, Mary was preserved immune from original sin by the singular grace of God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race. (CCC #491). This means that original sanctity, innocence and justice were conferred upon her, and that she was exempted from all the evil effects of original sin, excluding sorrow, pain, disease and death which are temporal penalties given to Adam. (Catholic Encyclopedia).
Evidences: (A) From Church tradition: The Immaculate Conception is a dogma originating from sound Christian tradition. Monks in Palestinian monasteries started celebrating the feast of the Conception of Our Lady by the end of the 7th century. The feast spread as the Feast of the Immaculate Conception in Italy (9th century), England (11th century), and France (12th century). Pope Leo VI propagated the celebration, and Pope Sixtus IV approved it as a Feast. Finally, in 1854, Pope Pius IX declared the Immaculate Conception to be a Dogma of Faith. Mary herself approved it in 1858 by declaring to Bernadette at Lourdes, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” (B) From Holy Scripture: 1) God purified the prophet Jeremiah in the womb of his mother (Jer. 1:5 –“Before I formed you in the womb of your mother I knew you and before you were born, I consecrated you”), and anointed John the Baptist with His Holy Spirit before John’s birth as John’s mother attests. (Lk 1: 43-44 – “And how does this happen to me, that the Mother of my Lord should come to me? For now, the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.”) 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 as “full of grace.” The greeting means that she was never, even for a moment, a slave of sin and the 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 could select our mother, we would select the most beautiful, healthy and saintly lady. So, did God. 2-The All-Holy God cannot be born from a woman who was a slave of the devil, even for a moment in her life. “Deus potuit, decuit, fecit.” (Don Scotus).
Life messages: Every mother wants her children to inherit or acquire all her good qualities. Hence, our Immaculate and holy Heavenly Mother wants us to be holy and pure children. Let us honor her by practicing her virtues of Faith and obedience. Let us respond to God’s grace by using it to do good to others.
The favorite name of explorers: In 1492, Columbus discovered America. He sailed in a ship called Santa Maria de Conceptio (St. Mary of the Conception). He named the first Island he landed San Salvador, in honor of our Savior. Columbus named the second island Conceptio in honor of Mary’s Immaculate Conception. The fearless French explorer Fr. Marquette who explored the 2300-mile length of the Mississippi River flowing through ten states, called it River of Mary Immaculate. In fact, all the early American Catholics were so proud of the great truth we celebrate today that the American bishops in 1829 (25 years before the promulgation of the dogma, and the year before the Blessed Mother gave St. Catherine Laboure the design for the Miraculous Medal), chose Mary Conceived Without Sin as the patroness of the United States. Hence, in the U.S., this Holy Day is the feast of the country’s Heavenly patroness.