….Reflections from Fr. Andres
Fifth Sunday of Lent – Fifth Sunday of Lent.
Readings: Ezekiel 37: 12-14; Romans 8:8-11; John 11:1-45
Life and death; hope and despair are the key phrases that sum up the message of this Sunday readings. All three readings this Sunday lead us to meet Jesus, who is not only
the water of life and the light of the world, but also the resurrection and the life.
The prophet Ezekiel in the first reading urges the devastated nation of Israel to look beyond the destruction of Jerusalem to a new future, when God’s Spirit will restore Israel. If you are facing grief or conflict in the family, there is good news for you. The prophet Ezekiel offers hope for those who believe in the God of life. You and I have many times encountered the shattering effects of death in the family.
The Gospel opens with the announcement that Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary, is ill. Jesus’ immediate response is that this illness will not result in the death of
Lazarus, but that it will be an occasion for God’s glory to be revealed to all and that the Son may also be glorified. Even though Jesus had a deep love for Lazarus and his sisters,
he remains in the same place for another two days.
By the time Jesus arrives, Lazarus is already dead for four days. The dramatic episode of the raising Lazarus to life is a reminder that Jesus is the source of life; he is the resurrection and the life. Just as in any funeral we have attended, there are tears the eyes of Mary and Martha as they tell Jesus, that if he had been there, their brother would not have died.
The whole account is a beautiful catechesis that Jesus offers as the episode develops. On meeting Jesus Martha says: “If you had been here, Lord, my brother would not
have died.” “Your brother will rise to life,” says Jesus. “Yes, I know that he will rise again on the last day,” replies Martha, reflecting on Jewish belief of life after death.
Jesus uses the occasion to lead the two women through a gradual revelation of who he is: “I am the resurrection and the life. If anyone believes in me, even though he dies he will live, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die”.
The passage is a powerful revelation of who Jesus is from his absolute control over life and death. In other words, Jesus has the power to transform death into life; to bring hope in the midst of despair; and joy out of grief.
So this is the message we can take from this Sunday readings:
1- The good news is that Jesus is the resurrection and source of life that he promises to anyone who believes
2- We are led to strengthen our faith in the life after death.
3- Our faith in Christ who transforms death into life has been strengthened in the liturgy. We are sent to share
this good news with others who may be in grief or in despair and care for them. May God bless you. Amen.
Fourth Sunday of Lent. 1 Samuel 16:1,6-7,10-13; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41.
Light and darkness, sight and blindness are the contrasting images the readings of this Sunday. The central message is that Christ heals our spiritual blindness in our Baptism and makes us witnesses of the truth. The three readings help us to see a sharp contrast between light and darkness;
spiritual sight and spiritual blindness.
In the first reading, Samuel struggles as it were in darkness, trying to find a king, but can only succeed to find the young David, when he begins to see as God sees. In the second reading, Paul reminds us that we were once darkness, but now because of our Baptism we are light in the Lord. We are therefore challenged to be children of the light, for the effects of the light are seen in goodness, in right living and in truth.
The story of the man born blind in the Gospel is not so much about the man being healed, but about seeing as God sees. Here we meet a blind man with sight as compared to the intellectual Pharisees who are blind. The Gospel reminds us that our Baptism illuminates us to see and embrace God’s vision, life, goodness and truth.
Our Baptism commits us to be bearers of the truth and to confront the spiritual blindness of the world with the truth. The passage clearly contrasts light and darkness, faith and the refusal to accept the truth. The passage leads to a controversy with the Pharisees. Because they are in the darkness of their own prejudice, they refuse to recognize
Jesus as the messiah; they refuse to acknowledge that Jesus has the power to heal the blind man.
The blind man gives Jesus the opportunity to show forth once again his own true divine identity for all to see and believe. In the story, Jesus not only gives the blind man his sight, physical light, but he also gives him the light of faith. When Jesus asks the blind man if he knows the Son
of Man, he says, “Who is he sir that I may believe in him?” Jesus says to him, “You have seen him, the one speaking with you is he.”
The man then says, “I do believe, Lord.” On the other hand, the Pharisees, because of their prejudice, are totally blind to Christ and even attribute his miracle to Satan. The story is not simply about the healing of the man born blind and the Pharisee refusing to accept the power of Christ to perform such a miracle.
Rather, the story is about you and me in moments of our own spiritual blindness and darkness. In the selfishness of our hearts; in our inclinations for pleasure; in our material covetousness, we become spiritually blind and lose our spiritual sight. This is the message we can take from this Sunday readings:
1-In baptism, Christ has healed our blindness and given us the light of faith, so that, like the healed blind man, we may proclaim Christ boldly despite the opposition from those still in darkness.
2- Just as the blind man after being healed by Jesus began to witness to Christ, we too are challenged to spread the light of Christ wherever we are, even in times of opposition.
3-Just as in the Gospel story, we must not allow dishonesty
and the distortion of the truth to dim our light, because Christ is our Light. May God bless you. Amen.
March 15, 2020 – Third Sunday of Lent. Year A. Readings: Exodus 17:3-7; Romans 5:1-2,5-8; John 4:5-42.
Transforming people one at a time is at the heart of God’s plan for the world. The story of the Samaritan woman in the Gospel is a concrete example of how God transforms people one at a time. Lent is a season when we encounter God, who not only thirsts to transform us, but also God who satisfies our spiritual thirst.
This is evident in the Gospel from John which very effectively uses the symbolism of water and thirst, leading us to scrutinize our own spiritual thirst. The Samaritan woman in the Gospel was shocked to discover that Jesus knew about her private life and her brokenness. That led to her own self-scrutiny. When she confessed that she knew the Messiah, Jesus then reveals his true identity to her. “I who am speaking to you… I am he”.
On hearing this, she accepts the water of life that Jesus is of-fering to quench her spiritual thirst. The Samaritan woman in the Gospel becomes aware of her own brokenness; her spiritual thirst and accepts the water of life that Jesus offers to quench her spiritual thirst.
This woman who first came for a jar of water, now leaves the jar at the well, and be-comes a disciple, and a messenger sent to her village, where she tells her people: “Come and see”, come and see the person, who has changed my life. This story was so convincing that the entire village came and saw and invited Jesus who stayed with them for two days.
You and I like the Samaritan woman have come to the well and encountered Jesus, who has told us everything about us. He has offered us life-giving water; he now chal-lenges us to accept his offer and change our lives. The readings invite us to reflect on our lives, and so discover our need for conversion. So this is the message we can take from this Sunday readings:
1- Like the Samaritan woman, this too is our day to encounter Jesus at the well, leading us through our conver-sion and transformation.
2- We too have discovered our thirst and need for the Water of Life.
3- At the end of this Holy Mass, like the Samaritan woman let’s go out and announce the good news that Jesus whom we have encountered at the well today has trans-formed our lives. May God bless you. Amen.
March 8, 2020 – Second Sunday of Lent. Year A. Genesis 12:1-4a. 2 Timothy 1:8-10. Matthew 17:1-9.
The transfiguration of Jesus is one of the great mysteries of our faith. We are not entirely sure what happened at that point, but we do know that Jesus changed in front of His disciples in a way that they could sense the power of God flowing through Him. The voice that they hear confirms that this is something from heaven and confirms the role of Jesus and the reality of Jesus as Son of God.
Jesus is the Son and Abram is also a son of God in the first reading, from Genesis. God promises to Abram that he will become a great nation. As with so many promises of God, the reality is greater and feels dif-ferent from what people might have expected.
The second reading, from the Second Letter to Timothy, gives us another insight:
He saved us and called us to a holy life, not according to our works but according to his own design and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus. So often we are tempted to think that we must become holy, but rather it is God who makes us holy. For sure, we must cooperate. That is our work. This brings us back to the Gospel from Matthew. It is almost impossible for us to imagine the effect of the transfiguration on the three Apostles, Peter. James and John.
We can say truly that they were out of their minds! But out of their minds and into faith in Jesus. We are invited today to go out of our minds and trust completely in the Lord. Let us walk these days of Lent so that we may share in the Passion and Resurrection of our Lord. Jesus. This is the message we can take form this Sunday readings:
1- We are called like Abraham to leave our country and culture of death; to be radically different from what the world around us expects: to be part of a new culture of life; a new way of life in Christ. But the question before us is: can we with-stand the seductions of today’s culture? Yes, we can. Can we overcome to-day’s subtle persecution and mockery due to our Catholic values and beliefs? Yes, we can.
2- While it is tough being faithful Christians in today’s culture, we can live our faith because God in Christ gives us the strength to be always faithful.
3- We are called to bear our share of the cross through self-discipline and obedience. As ridiculous as that may seem to others, choosing faithfulness brings God’s blessings in the end. May God bless you. Amen.
March 1, 2020 -First Sunday of Lent. Year A. Readings: Genesis 2:7-9, 3:1-7; Romans 5:12-19; Matthew 4:1-11.
The Lenten Season leads us along with Jesus towards Jerusalem and to the Cross. We are called to prepare ourselves for that journey by imitating Jesus, who spends 40 days in the wilderness where he faces temptations. The Lenten journey will be a challenge as we face one temptation after another just like Jesus. In our case these temptations may be around food, drink, alcohol,drugs, lustful thoughts, and by possessions (money).
The Devil will want us to take short-cuts on our spiritual life or even giving us the excuse for not saying our prayers or fasting. It all starts by skipping prayer or going to church. The Devil too will tempt us to use all 24 hours a day and 7 days a week for ourselves, because we own them. Well, we do not own our time. That is a gift from God.
In the Gospel Jesus faces temptations by the devil three times. He resists, because He not only knows the Scriptures, but He also remains faithful: “Be off Satan! For Scripture says: You must worship the Lord your God, and
serve him alone”. It is not enough for us to know God’s Word, or his Commandments.
We must be doers of the word. In the first temptation, the devil knows that Jesus is hungry after 40 days of fasting, and so tempts him to turn stones into bread (self-satisfaction with food). Next the devil takes Jesus to the high est point of the Temple and asks him to throw himself down, which would immediately convince the people of Israel that He is truly the Son of God (shortcut to success).
Finally, the devil tempts Jesus with the illusions of power and glory by taking him to a high mountain and showing him all the kingdoms of the world which the devil pretends he owns and will give them to Jesus if he on
ly worships the devil. Jesus overcomes all these temptations one after another because he is focused on his mission. As human beings, temptations are bound to come our way. The three temptations of Jesus remind us that any shortcut without sacrifice does not last.
The temptations call us to the same faithfulness that Jesus had in overcoming his temptations. During this season of Lent, we have opportunities of prayer, almsgiving and fasting to help us. Prayer in particular is a great weapon in moments of temptations. We also need to know the scriptures, and live what they say. That can help us remain focused in following Jesus Christ. This is the message we can take from this first Sunday of Lent:
1- We will be tempted by food, drink and other material desires. What satisfies our hunger is not physical food, but God’s word and every teaching that nourishes our faith.
2- We will be tempted to take shortcuts to achieve success; to give ourselves without sacrifice. The alms and the offertory you give must have an element of sacrifice. The temptation is always to try tip God who owns everything. God cannot be tipped.
3- We will be tempted to embrace the idolatry of power and control, rather than focusing on our baptismal faith journey that has one purpose and mission for which God created us: to be the best version of ourselves by seeking closer relationship with Christ. We do this through the Lenten disciplines of prayer, almsgiving, and fasting.
4) Finally, we will be tempted to use all the 24 hours God gives us daily for ourselves and for some, only the Sunday time at Mass. To give no time to God is very selfish and even very arrogant. God gives you 24 hours a day. That is 1,440 minutes a day.
This Lent commit yourself to giving at least 10 minutes a day to God. If you do not come to daily Mass, consider visiting the church near you on your way to work or after work, and pray for 10 minutes a day. At home, commit another 10 minutes to scripture reading.
I guarantee you will see a change in your life, your work and family life. May God give us the grace to deepen our baptismal faith journey this Lenten Season. May God bless you. Amen.
February 23, 2020 – Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Readings: Leviticus 19:1-2,17-18; 1 Corinthians 3:16-23; Matthew 5:38-48.
This Sunday in the Gospel Jesus continues his Sermon on the Mountain. The Gospel message challenges us to do the impossible by turning the other cheek by loving our enemies, and praying for those, who persecute us. In other words, we are called to use the secret weapon of kindness to disarm the enemy. In the First Reading, the Lord asks Moses to tell the people: “Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.”
The instruction then goes on to tell the people some practical ways of being holy: avoiding hatred and not
taking revenge. All that is summed up in the Levitical Law as, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” This is not just a law, but a relationship that is grounded on God’s love for all without exception. This understanding leads us to imitate our God; it leads us to be holy, just as our God is holy; it leads us to be “kind and merciful” just as “The Lord is kind and merciful,” the response to Psalm 103 used in the readings this Sunday.
Once again like last Sunday in the Gospel Jesus teaches about forgiveness, challenging us further to do the impossible by going beyond the law of love and revenge. In
world so marked by a culture of violence and revenge, we are called to be compassionate and forgiving. As followers of Christ, we must never revenge. Instead, Jesus tells us,
“When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one as well.”
At the time of Jesus in Palestine, the law forbade anyone in authority from striking anybody with the back of the right hand, or with the left hand. Therefore, if you turned
the other cheek, the enemy would first be surprised and stop to think. That technique of Jesus may be called disarming the enemy, because it is a game changer. It transforms behavior, and defuses a situation that would have otherwise ended up in violence or revenge.
The example of turning the other cheek may seem by world standards to be weakness, or even as taking a risk, but that is what gives us a unique identify when we react to the enemy in a non-violent way rather than violently. That is what is unusual and different from a world culture of violence. Our apparent weakness and cowardice is a powerful witness and leads to holiness. That is why Jesus concludes the Gospel passage with, “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
So this the message we can take from this Sunday readings:
1- In a world so marked by a culture of violence and revenge, we are called to be compassionate and forgiving.
2- Jesus challenges us further to be transforming agents in this violent world by disarming the enemy, rather than by revenge.
3- Our compassion and apparent weakness before the
enemy is a powerful witness, and leads to holiness. May God bless you. Amen.
February 16, 2020 – Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Readings: Sirach 15:15-20; I Corinthians 2:6-10; Matthew 5:17-37.
Choosing wisely and living by the values of the kingdom are the key phrases that help to focus on the message of this Sunday. The first reading from the Book of Sirach uses the word “choice” three times, and once the phrase “the wisdom of the Lord.” The opening verse of the passage says, “If you choose, you can keep the commandments, they will save you.”
The point seems to be that the wisdom of the Lord calls us to choose life, reminding us that life and death are set before us. The choice therefore is up to us. God gives us both freedom and responsibility. The wise choose life, not death; they choose love, peace and forgiveness, not hate and revenge. Choice is always before us: choosing to relate with others wisely by respecting boundaries.
Saint Paul in the second reading describes
this choice in terms of either human wisdom or God’s wisdom. If we choose God’s wisdom, we become the best version of ourselves; we live by the values of the kingdom. When we choose human wisdom, we end up being foolish and blaming ourselves. We end up by being the worst versions of ourselves.
In the Gospel, Jesus continues his teaching on the mountain. He addresses several moral issues. I will concentrate on two: murder and marital relations. On the issue of murder, Jesus calls us to choose to be persons of peace and compassion, or to be persons of violence. We are
told that murder is like an eruption of a volcano that begins with anger in the heart.
Violence begins within a person who is hurting. To be a person of peace and compassion means being a person of forgiveness. Unless one forgives, anger continues to build up until it erupts. It may take years or months, but some day it will blow up, burning anyone near that person.
That is why it is so important to fight every tendency that results in murder, namely our anger, our hatred, our grudges, our hurts of the past, because they destroy the life of Christ within us. We have to teach our children that there is no room for hatred in the world.
They may be very upset with a teacher, a playmate, or a family member, but we must never allow being upset to turn into hatred. If we do that, we destroy ourselves, and our ability to be the best version of ourselves. When we make the choice to forgive, we already live the values of the kingdom.
The second issues that Jesus addresses is the new law of marital relations. He calls us to make a choice to live our married relationship in fidelity. When we choose to do that, we live a radical way of life, setting an example for others, and becoming the best version of our married life. That choice starts in the heart by choosing to be the best version of yourself.
For Jesus, marriage was part of God’s plan, reflecting God’s fidelity to the chosen people. Married relationship is therefore a place of safety, nurture and honor; not a place of violence, dishonesty and destructiveness. By forbidding divorce, Jesus calls for a reconciled relationship between husband and wife, instead of living in a situation of sub-marine warfare.
So this is the message we can take from this Sunday readings:
1- The readings challenge us to choose the values of forgiveness, fidelity and honesty at all times;
2- In choosing such values we choose God’s wisdom which, though may appear foolishness, in fact transforms us into
the best version of ourselves.
3- This week, choose to forgive someone who has hurt you, live faithfully and honestly. That is the best version of yourself. You will see the difference in your life; in your family; in the work place. The choice is yours. May God bless you. Amen.
February 9, 2020 – Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Readings: Isaiah 58:7-10; 1 Corinthians 2:1-5; Matthew 5:13-16.
Salt of the earth and light of the world are the phrases that focus on the central message of this Sunday. In the gospel this Sunday Jesus uses two metaphors in his teaching:
the salt of the earth and the light of the world. We have heard that Gospel before, and it is very easy to miss the deeper meaning of the two metaphors. Let us first look at the example of the salt. Why does Jesus call his disciples salt of the earth?
1- The first obvious reason is that Jesus wants to describe the power of influence his disciples have in the situations they find themselves.
2- the second reason is that historically, salt has always been valuable in human society, much more than it is today.
3- It may be interesting to note that the English word “salary” comes from Latin salarium,”salary”, “stipend”, originally a Roman soldier’s pay which was in salt. The English saying, “worth one’s salt” means that someone is worth his or her wages.
4- The hearers of Jesus understood the expression salt of the earth to represent a valuable commodity. Thus the followers of Jesus were to have an extremely important role in the world, much comparable to the function of salt. Because of the preservative nature of salt, an covenant sealed with salt in Jewish society was deemed to last forever.
In saying to his disciples “you are the salt of the earth,” Jesus could have used the metaphor to underline a several disciple qualities. One of the best meaning for the metaphor of salt is its preservative quality.
So just as salt is us ed to preserve food from decay and keep it fresh, so too Christians by their life of witness, can make a difference by preserving their situations from moral decay. That preservative quality of salt implies our being mixed with the affairs of this world, in order to change its flavor. We must maintain our saltiness in order to sustain our influence.
The expression light of the world, perhaps comes from Isaiah, who described Israel as “light of the nations.” In calling his disciples “the light of the world” Jesus refers to their radical way of life that must be distinctive and thus become witnesses for the world to see, like a city set on a mountain.
Christians become the light of the world through their visible good deeds. But just as light does not draw attention to itself, but to what is in the room, so too a disciple, to be truly light of the world draws attention to the source of the light, Jesus Christ. So this is the message we can take from this Sunday readings:
1- Just as salt fulfills its function of saltiness by being mixed with food, we too mix with the affairs of daily life and so give the flavor and taste of Christ to such situations.
2- We become the light of the world by our exemplary life of witness that makes others see the possibility of living as Christ teaches.
3- Both salt and light are most effective, when they draw attention, not to themselves, but to something beyond themselves. Similarly, disciples are more effective and faithful when they point to the source of saltiness and light, Jesus Christ. May God bless you. Amen.
Feast of The Presentation of the Lord. Year A. Readings: Malachi 3:1-4; Hebrews 2:14-18; Luke 2:22-40.
Observing prescriptions, the presentation, sign of contradiction, and a sword of sorrow, are the phrases that help to focus on the central message of this Sunday. Forty days after the Nativity of the Lord on February 2, the Church celebrates the feast of the Presentation of the Lord, previously known as the purification of Mary. This feast is therefore only celebrated on Sunday, if it falls on Sunday.
The celebration started first in Rome and in France in the sixth century with solemn blessings, and processions of candles, popularly known as “Candlemas.” The first reading gives an important insight to understand the mystery of the Lord’s Presentation in the Temple by Mary and Joseph, in accordance with the Mosaic Law. The text, taken from the Prophet Malachi says, “I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me; and suddenly there will come to the temple the Lord whom you seek.”
That messenger comes to purify the hearts of the people in readiness for the Lord. The Gospel passage is the fulfillment of the prophesy in the account of the presen-tation of Jesus in the Temple. This was a celebration of piety: the piety of Mary and Joseph, of Simeon and of Anna. This ritual points to the fact that Jesus is raised in a religious devout family. Five times Luke says that the parents of Jesus observed the ritual prescriptions of the Law.
Here they comply with the religious requirements of purification, and a second ritual for redeeming the first male child. The first ritual purification sprung from the belief that the life-power within blood was sacred and be-longed to God. Because of the mysterious power of blood, all objects, and people coming into contact with human blood had to be ritually purified. Thus birth and death too were surrounded by ritual purification.
The second ritual was a kind of buying back from God every first-born male child. At the end of the Gospel Simeon prophecies Mary’s sufferings which point to the passion of the Lord. Simeon also announces that Christ will be a sign of contradiction, that is those who loose appear foolish, while in those who recognize the power of the cross reveal salvation and life. So this is the message we can take from this Sunday readings:
1- The readings in-spire us to get to know the precepts of the Church and so observe them;
2- The readings also underline the need for purification in preparation for the Lord’s coming. It is like washing my car to get downtown! Do I wash my car only every 3 years? My soul is more precious than my car.
3- Just as Simeon prophesies that Jesus would be a sign of contradiction, you and I will appear weak and foolish before the world, but in the eyes of faith equipped with the saving power of Christ. May God bless you. Amen.
Second Sunday in Ordinary Time. Readings: Isaiah 49:3,5-6; 1 Corinthians 1:1-3; John 1:29-34
Servant of the Lord, Lamb of God and wounded for our sins, are some of the phrases that help us to capture the central point of the readings of this Sunday. The Nativity scene is gone, the lights are down, and the Christmas season is over. Last Sunday, the readings focused on Jesus being baptized by John the Baptist, anointed and commissioned, and sent by the Father on His mission.
This Sunday, we are the very beginning of Jesus’ public minis-try. In both the first reading and the psalm, Jesus is seen as the “Servant of the Lord,” who comes to do God’s will. In the Gospel, John the Baptist points out Jesus to his disciples, saying, “Behold the Lamb of God.”
What does that phrase mean? What exactly did John have in mind when he said “Behold the Lamb of God”? When John the Baptist describes Jesus as “the Lamb of God”, he draws that phrase from an Old Testament tradition of the “lamb of God” symbol-ism. The blood of the paschal lamb of the Old Testament protects and saves the Israelites from the Exodus.
For Saint Paul, Christians are saved by Christ as their true Paschal Lamb of God. Therefore John the Baptist in the Gospel draws our attention to the identity of Jesus and all he would have to undergo in order to save us. The Prophet Isaiah prophesied graphically the fate of the “Suffering Servant” of the Lord.
He was pierced for our offenses; Crushed for our sins; Upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole; By his stripes we were healed. The Lord laid upon him the guilt of us all. He was harshly treated; He submitted, and never opened his mouth; Like a lamb led to the slaughter, or a sheep before the shearers; He was silent and opened not his mouth.
He was wounded for our sins, bruised for our iniquities. That prophesy of Isaiah was fulfilled in Jesus in his passion and death prophesied in the symbols of bread and wine at the Last Supper. At that event, Jesus took the Jewish Passover ritual sacrifice, and applied it on himself as he shared the Passover meal with his disciples.
They ate the ritual Passover lamb that night, but then Jesus gave the whole event a new meaning by taking bread, blessing, giving thanks and giving it to the disciples, and similarly the wine. As he gave them to his disciples, Jesus said: “This is my body, and this cup is my blood.”
The symbolism of the lamb, the bread, and the wine was later adopted by the church as part of the order for the Eucharist. Further examination of title “Lamb of God” for Christ, leads us to the Book of Revelation, where the victorious apocalyptic lamb would destroy evil in the world. Therefore, when we use the phrase “Lamb of God” at Mass, we reflect on the mystery of Eucharistic Sacrifice of Christ’s death and resurrection for our salvation.
So this is the message we can take from this Sunday readings:
1- The readings remind us that we have a far greater obligation to offer thanksgiving to Jesus Christ, who “was wounded for our sins, bruised for our iniquities and died to save us.”
2- The readings invite us to share our faith with others, especially those who may be waiting for someone to lead them to Christ.
3- Just as John’s witness was so convincing that two of his disciples fol-lowed Jesus, we too are called to give such convincing witness, that leads people to Jesus Christ. May God bless you. Amen
The Baptism of the Lord
Readings: Isaiah 42: 1-4, 6-7; Acts 10:34-38; Matthew 3:13-17
Baptized, anointed and doing good, are some of words and phrases that help us to understand the Solemnity we celebrate this Sunday, the Baptism of the Lord. But immediatelywe face the question of why Jesus had to be baptized since he had no sin. One reason given is that God wanted Jesus to begin his ministry by symbolical ly identifying himself with sinful humanity, in order to save it. Jesus therefore identified with humanity not as a sinner, but as a fellow human being. Jesus knew what it was to be human. At the same time, the divinity of Jesus is manifested through His Baptism by John in the river Jordan.
As Jesus comes out of the water, the heavens open, and the Spirit of God descends up on Jesus, and the Father’s voice affirms who Jesus is: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased”. The Baptism of Jesus as recounted in the Gospel of Matthew signifies the anointing of Jesus by the Father, in the power of the Holy Spirit, and the Father’s commissioning of Jesus for his ministry that begins thereafter.
That anointing and commissioning underlines the power of Baptism that we have received. By virtue of our Baptism, we are sent on mission to give witness to Jesus Christ.
Peter in the second reading captures that idea of being sent on mission, in the case of Jesus who gives us an example. After Jesus’ baptism, He “went a
bout doing good and curing all who had fallen into the power of the devil”. It was for this purpose that the Father had anointed him with the Holy Spirit, and sent him on his earthly mission. In the words of the Prophet Isaiah, the Father appoints Jesus as “a covenant of the people and a light of the nations, to open the eyes of the blind, to free captives from prison, and those who live in darkness from dungeon”.
Thus Jesus is the one who fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy of bringing salvation to the nations. The dove that descends upon Jesus symbolizes the nature of his mission as an agent of peace and reconciliation in the world.
This Sunday, as we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord, we are reminded of the power of our Baptism. In the Gospel passage , though John the Baptist tri
es to resist baptizing Jesus, Jesus insists to be baptized. At that Baptism, the Holy Spirit of God descends upon Jesus in the form of a dove. The puzzling question of why Jesus should have to be baptized since he had no sin is an important question. The answer is twofold, and helps us to further understand the power of Baptism.
1- The first reason is that when Jesus is born, He becomes one with us. In His baptism, the Son of God becomes one with us in our sinfulness that is symbolically washed away in the waters of Baptism.
2- The second reason is that like us, Jesus is alienated from the Father, in order to lead us out of that isolation through his death and resurrection back to the Father. Therefore, Christ becomes immersed in our tainted human nature, in order to cleanse us an d to reconcile us with the Father.
So this is the message we can take from this Sunday Readings:
1- The Baptism of the Lord celebrates the mystery Baptism as an immersion with Christ, and a rising with Him into new life.
2- Just as Jesus was anointed and sent by the Father to proclaim peace and to heal, we too are anointed and sent to proclaim God’s mercy, compassion and forgiveness.
3- The secret power of our baptism is found in our union with God that makes us powerful instruments of transforming the world by being agents of God’s peace and reconciliation in the world. May God bless you. Amen.
The Epiphany of the Lord.
Readings: Isaiah 60:1-6; Ephesians 3:2-3,5-6; Matthew 2:1-12
This Sunday we celebrate the Epiphany of the Lord. The word ‘epiphany’ comes from the Greek language “epiphaneia’ which means ‘appearance’, ‘showing forth’ or ‘manifestation’. So we could say that we celebrate the manifestation of the Lord. The feast of the Epiphany originated in the third century to commemorate the first appearance of Christ as Savior to the entire world. The first reading from Isaiah speaks about light shining through the darkness and the clouds, a wonderful image of describing what epiphany tells us about Jesus Christ, who enlightens our dark minds.
Psalm 72 focuses on the nations coming to adore the Lord. “Lord, every nation on earth will adore you” and then speaks of kings from foreign lands bringing gifts to the Lord. The Psalm in a certain sense introduces the Gospel of today, that recounts the story of the three wise kings from the East, who represent all the nations. These Magi come as seekers of the source of the light. The star is only a guide for them. On finding the source, the infant king, they are overjoyed, they confess, worship him and offer him gifts. In the preface of the Epiphany, we get a sense of the mystery we celebrate.
“Today you revealed in Christ your eternal plan of salvation, and showed him as the light of all peoples”. The mystery of Christ’s birth, the mystery of the Incarnation, is therefore made known to all people all over the world without exception. St. Paul in the second reading speaks about the inclusive nature of salvation in God’s plan.
The central message of the Epiphany is that Jesus is revealed to us as a light to the nations. The Magi go in search of this light guided by a star until they find the source of the light in Bethlehem. Like the Magi, we are led to discover Christ and are therefore called to go out and share with others the Good News revealed to us. Through our daily witness, in loving others, in forgiving them, in our faith and compassion, in our courage and perseverance, may we be like the star that guides them in their journey of faith, to seek and to discover Christ in their lives. That is mystery of the Epiphany of the Lord we celebrate today. It celebrates our discovery of a star that leads us to the source of the light, Jesus Christ.
So this is the message we can take from this Sunday readings: 1 – We are invited today to recognize God’s light, God’s presence in our lives, and to let our hearts rejoice, throb and overflow, because we know that God is with us. 2- You and I are challenged to lead a life of witness that becomes like the star that leads others to source of light, Jesus Christ; Like the Magi, let us follow that star until we find Jesus Christ. 3 – Consequently, we are called to go out and share the Good News of Jesus Christ with others; to share the light that Christ has given us, so that others may find the way to Jesus Christ. May God bless you. Amen.
Solemnity of the Holy Family. Year A.
Readings: Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14; Colossians 3:12-21; Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23.
The solemnity of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, is celebrated on the Sunday after Christmas, mainly for three reasons:
1- a reminder that Christmas is a family feast; and
2- to show us that Jesus was born, and raised in a family just like us; and
3 – to show that Mary and Joseph faced many of the challenges that families today have to struggle with.
Paul in the second reading reminds us that Christ is the profound link for every Christian family. For Paul, Christ must be at the center of every Christian family.
He speaks of the peace that reigns in the family that lives in Christ. That peace is threatened today. The greatest threat facing families is simply that we do not spend enough time together. We are so busy working, or socializing, or watching TV, or surfing the Internet and social media, that we have less, and less time for each other. That lifestyle takes a big toll on the family today.
Mary and Joseph faithfully accept their vocation as parents, and on their total submission to God’s will. The spirit in which Mary and Joseph lived their parental vocation, is an example to be imitated by parents. The Holy Family is put before us, as a model, because even though they did not have our modern day obstacles like TV and the Internet, Mary and Joseph went through many of the trials, and obstacles that families today have to struggle with. The holy family had to flee to Egypt in order to escape from the threat over the life of Jesus by king Herod. Mary and Joseph were troubled when they lost their 12 year old boy only to find him in the temple, doing his Father’s business.
They had to struggle to survive without miracles! Joseph had to teach young Jesus carpentry, so they could earn a family living. We can also imagine that Mary and Jesus suffered bereavement after Joseph’s death. Mary suffered the most agony watching her own son die on the Cross. How did the parents of Jesus cope with the difficulties they faced? One may say that Mary and Joseph lived a family spirituality centered on Jesus:
they learnt to look at Jesus with eyes of faith; to listen to him with attention, and to meditate on the unfolding mystery of the Son of God in their midst. But above all, they loved each other. Just as the Holy Family survived its crises through love for each other and faith in God, let us pray that our families too may follow that example of love and faith in God.
So this is the message we can take from the readings of this Solemnity:
1- The example of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph challenges us to find ways of coming together and centering our family life spirituality on Jesus.
2- We need to pray together as family, because family bonds are strengthened when Christ is in our midst. “The family that prays together stays together.”
3- We are invited to pray for our own families and those of our relatives and friends, so that, by God’s grace, they may overcome the trials and sufferings that face family life today, and find healing and reconciliation, during this Christmas season and throughout the year. May God bless you. A Happy and Blessed New Year. Amen.
Fourth Sunday of Advent. Year A.
Readings: Isaiah 7:10-14; Romans 1:1-7; Mt. 1:18-24
Does doing God’s will and the messiness of life have anything in common? That is one mquestion we need to think about seriously this Sunday. In the last two Sundays we have focused attention on John the Baptist. This Sunday, only days from Christmas, we change our focus from John the Baptist to Saint Joseph. The main reason for this shift is that Matthew writes his Gospel for the Jewish people.
He wants to show that Jesus is the Messiah promised by the prophets in Sacred Scripture, and that He comes through the line of David. Joseph is a direct descendant of David. In the Gospel of Matthew, Joseph names the child. He gives his own spirit, and all he is to the child, the carpenter’s son. The child is Son of God, and Son of Mary, but also, through the action of naming the child by Joseph, He is Son of David.
Saint Paul, in the Second Reading argues that Jesus becomes the Son of God through the resurrection that fully manifests his divinity. The readings therefore place before us the mystery of the Incarnation foreshadowed in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the New Testament. In the first reading, Isaiah offers a sign to king Ahaz, confirming that the line of David would survive the attacks from neighboring nations. The sign is that “a maiden shall conceive and bear a son.” Very true to the prophecy, the young wife of Ahaz bears him a son, whose name would be “Emmanuel.”
Matthew in the Gospel uses that story to show the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy in Jesus the Messiah, out of the line of David. That is why the Gospel begins by saying “This is how Jesus Christ came to be born.” He will be named Emmanuel, a name that means “God is with us.” Two persons are at the center of this mystery.
First, we have Mary, who responds to God’s message through the angel with unconditional faith, and trust. In so doing, Mary risks so much: her future marriage, and family reputation, placing everything in the hands of God. Then we have Joseph, who at first is confused and afraid. We often hear that Gospel passage, and perhaps we wonder what Joseph was afraid of. He must have thought of the messiness of his own situation.
He must have thought of a greater mess if he went ahead with the marriage. He does not know what to make of Mary’s conception before their marriage, but then divine intervention comes. An Angel of the Lord appears to Joseph in a dream and reveals the mystery of the conception. The angel advises him to proceed with the marriage, because Mary “has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit.”
Basically, Joseph is told to celebrate this unexpected birth. When he awakes from his dream, Joseph decides to follow his faith; to do God’s will and take Mary as his wife. In so doing, Joseph saves her reputation. The Gospel tells us that Jesus is born of Mary who was betrothed to Joseph son of David. In connecting Jesus to the line of David, Matthew wants to underline the fact that Jesus is fully human and is also the fulfillment of God’s promises to David. Jesus is also “Son of God”, a point explained by Paul in the second reading. The Gospel also gives us a model to follow in Mary and Joseph.
Both faced a tremendous challenge to their faith when God asked them to open their hearts to welcome Jesus into their lives. So this is the message we can take from this Sunday readings:
1 – Just as Mary and Joseph accepted to welcome Jesus into their lives with deep faith and trust, we too are challenged to do no less;
2 – As we get to Christmas in a few days, let us open our hearts so that in doing God’s will like Mary and Joseph,Christ may be born in our lives this Christmas.
3 – Both Mary and Joseph remind us that doing God’s will at times may lead us into the messiness of life; into situations, or even countries we never dreamed of. May God bless you. Amen.
Third Sunday of Advent. Gaudete Sunday
Readings: Isaiah 35:1-6, 10;James 5:7-10; Mathew. 11:2-11.
Signs of hope, joy, new life and fulfillment of promise characterize the message of this Sunday. Last Sunday the readings focused on a peaceful kingdom in the future, when the wolf and the lamb would lie down beside each other. This Third Sunday of Advent is called Gaudete Sunday, Rejoice Sunday. We are invited to pause and rejoice. We are told that salvation is
near; the Messiah is in our midst. The Sunday takes its name from the opening words of the Entrance Antiphon of this Sunday taken from Paul’s Letter to the Philippians which begins with Gaudete in Domino semper (“Rejoice in the Lord always”).
That is why today we light a mdesert rose candle symbolizing joy, because our salvation is already here in our midst.
In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah announces to the people in exile that the Messiah will come; their situation is about to change; they will soon be free to go back home. Isaiah shows the people a poetic picture of how the desert will become fertile, and all the foliage will sing out the goodness and glory of God.
Then in the final section, the reading recounts how the change will affect those who long for salvation; those who look for real joy and happiness.
There would be nothing as joyful as a blind person seeing, nothing as beautiful as a deaf person hearing; nothing as uplifting as a lame person walking and a mute speaking. The reading therefore invites us to rejoice because the promised Messiah is coming soon to make that vision a reality; to bring real joy and happiness into our lives.
In the Second reading from the Letter of James, we hear the same message: “Make your hearts firm, because the coming of the Lord is at hand.”
The Gospel starts with John the Baptist in prison. John sends his disciples to ask Jesus whether he is really the Messiah, or would there be another to come. Jesus refers to what Isaiah had prophesied in today’s First
Reading, and says that there is no need to keep waiting for salvation.
It is already in our midst. There are already clear signs of joy, hope and new life. Jesus mtells the messengers: “Go back, and tell John what you hear, and see; the blind see again, the mlame walk, and the Good News is proclaimed to the poor”. That is why we need not wait. That is why we need to rejoice and be happy. The deeper question we need to ask on this Sunday is what constitutes real joy and happiness in our lives? In other words, material possessions, no matter how cool, never give lasting satisfaction and joy. That is why St. Augustine once said: Our heart is restless until it rests in God.
This Sunday, the readings help to see what Christ is already accomplishing in our midst, through the Church, and through our own witness that
makes the blind see, the deaf hear and the lame walk. Miracles do happen in our parish: just open your eyes and ears. So this is is the message we can take from this Sunday readings:
1- The readings proclaim joy, because our salvation is closer than when we began this season. The air of Christmas is all around us;
2- The readings draw our attention to the Messiah, who is already in our midst. There are many signs of hope: the saving action of Christ is present in our parish;
3- The readings lead us to rejoice as we encounter the hidden “miracles” of today. Yes, “the blind see, the lame walk, and the Good News is proclaimed to the poor.”
4- Let us pray that the Lord may open our eyes and ears of faith to see, and hear what Jesus is already doing in our midst; that we may go, and tell others what we have seen, and heard. May God bless you. Amen.
Second Sunday of Advent. Readings: Isaiah 11:1-10; Romans 15:4-9; Mathew 3:1-12.
The readings this Sunday are quite similar to last Sunday in that they focus our attention on two key Advent themes:
1) the call to prepare ourselves through conversion, and
2) the call to wait in hope for a kingdom of peace. Obviously, both themes are interrelated. In the Gospel, John the Baptist announces a message of repentance “for the Kingdom of Heaven is close at hand.” John is the prophet Isaiah spoke of saying, “Prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight”.
This is the real meaning of Advent, preparing ourselves for the Savior who comes to bring the gift of peace for the world. The Liturgy of the Word therefore invites us to prepare ourselves spiritually, by being reconciled with God and with one another.
That inner conversion should be so real that we are led to action; that we open our eyes to see the plight of the poor around us, and to do something about it. The lesson we learn from the encounter between John the Baptist, and some Jewish religious leaders is important.
John underlines the importance of authentic spiritual reform, conversion. Genuine spiritual reform is always accompanied by action as evidence that we have truly been transform by the Lord. That is why John the Baptist tells the Pharisee and the Sadducees to “Produce good fruit as evidence” of repentance. In other words, the sign of our inner transformation shows itself in the life we live. It is not enough to be baptized.
For John the Baptist, conversion meant literally turning around from the direction one is going. The second theme, waiting in hope and trust for a kingdom of peace is found in the both the first, and second readings. Isaiah prophesies that out of the line of David would come a
king, who would be a different kind of king. “Justice shall be the band around his waist, and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.” That king would be nothing but just, for He will establish justice and peace.
That peace would be so great and genuine that natural enemies in animal kingdom like the wolf and the lamb would lie down next to one another, a beautiful image of
harmony among God’s creation. That is the kingdom of peace John the Baptist was preparing the people for when he said, “prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”
Paul in the Second Reading reminds us that our God is a God of endurance, and encouragement, and as people of hope, we must never give up until all is realized in Christ.
This is the message we can take from this Sunday readings:
1- The readings highlight the meaning behind the lighting of the Second Candle on the Advent Wreath, signifying our need for repentance, and calling us to reform our lives.
2- We are called to be reconciled with God and with one another; to live in genuine peace and harmony;
3- That reconciliation and acceptance of God’s mercy will certainly lead to the kingdom of peace we all await when Christ comes; the kingdom of peace starts with me when I am humble enough to be totally reconciled with God and with others. May God bless you. Amen.
First Sunday of Advent. Readings: Isaiah 2:1-5; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew. 24:37-44.
Waiting, watching and preparing: are the three key words
that sum up best, the Advent Season that we begin today.
We need to choose to be found doing our duty as Christian
when the Lord comes, watching, and waiting. Advent is
about waiting for fulfillment of Isaiah’s vision of all the nations, transforming their weapons of war into tools of cultivation, and harvesting for their people; a time anticipating peace and joy.
The Gospel reading urges us to stay awake, and to be
ready, “because the Son of Man is coming at an hour” we
least expect. Paul in the second reading suggests that we
prepare ourselves through conversion: throwing “off the
works of darkness, and putting on the armor of light;” putting “on the Lord Jesus Christ, and making no provision for the desires of the flesh.” The readings underline two basic Advent themes:
1) anticipation and hope for the second coming
of our Lord and Savoir, who brings peace into our hearts
and in the world, symbolized by the green circular wreath,
or advent wreath. The circle points to the promise of eternal life.
The 5 candles: three purple, one rose, and one white in the canter are mlit progressively on each Sunday, with the white one being mlit on Christmas Day. The lighting of the candles reminds us that Jesus is the light of the world that dispels the darkness of our lives, and brings us newness, life, and hope.
2) The second theme symbolized by the color purple is conversion, and renewal in preparing a suitable place to welcome our Savoir in our hearts. Conversion is a call to be instruments of peace in the world, so that a kingdom of peace may come about; so that nations may no longer engage in wars; so that neighbors may talk of peace, and not of war; so that God’s reconciling love may become a reality.This is the message we can take from this Sunday readings:
1- Advent is a season of watching, and waiting with
hope for Christ, who brings peace into our hearts, and in the mworld;
2- Advent is a time of looking forward with eagerness,
and anticipation for the joy of salvation that Christmas
3- But above all it is a season of spiritual preparation
to receive Christ in our hearts by receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation. May God bless you. Amen.
Solemnity of Jesus Christ the King. Year C.
Readings: 2 Samuel 5:1-3; Colossians 1:12-20; Luke 23:35-43.
You and I are challenged by two basic questions. Who is your king? What kingdom do you serve? The account of David’s anointing in the first reading speaks of his closeness mto the people and his future role as a shepherd-king. David is the deliverer and shepherd mof his people, thus pre-figuring the mystery of Christ, who is King, Shepherd, and at the msame time the lamb slain on the cross for his sheep.
That is the point of Luke’s crucifixion narrative, in which everything said about Jesus comes to be true: the “chosen one”, the “Messiah”, the “Savior of all”; the one who saves himself by surrendering his own life. Indeed the readings lead us to meet Christ, who, in Paul’s Letter to the Colossians, “is the image of the unseen God, and the first born of all creation, for in him were created all things in heaven, and on earth: everything visible, and everything invisible, everything was created through him and for him.” In this beautiful hymn that is highly poetic, St. Paul gives us a glimpse of the Father, who sums up all creation in Christ.
St. Paul’s meditation on the Father summing up, and reconciling all things in and through Christ, is one of the mmost beautiful prayers of thanksgiving to the Father. We are invited to offer our gratitude to the Father for all that he has done for us throughout the Liturgical Year that comes to an end this Sunday.
Thus in the Eucharist, we offer to the Father a sacrifice of thanksgiving through Christ, mthe King, who by his death, and resurrection enters into an eternal and universal kingdom: a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, mlove and peace.
The prayer after Communion beautifully sums up the mystery of Christ mwe celebrate this Sunday: “Lord, you give us Christ, the King of all creation, as food for everlasting life. Help us to live by his Gospel and bring us to the joy of his kingdom”. This last Sunday of the Liturgical Year challenges us to be more determined to live by the values and principles of Christ our King, and to be willing to sacrifice ourselves for those values.
Our baptism into the life of Christ was and continues to be a bold statement to the mworld: Jesus is Lord and King of our lives. We dream His dreams. We share His hopes.
We believe that nothing, not even death, can take away the dream of His Kingdom from ,mus. The Solemnity of Christ the King is not just a conclusion of the church year. It takes
us to the beginning: ushering in the King who is, who reigns in our hearts, and who is yet to come, a new Advent. So this is the message we can take from this Sunday readings: