….Reflections from Fr. Andres
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 celebr
ate this Sunday, the Baptism of the Lord. But immediately
we 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: