Saturday, December 28, 2013

Feast of the Holy Family :Sir 3:2-6, 12-14, Col: 3:12-21, Mat: 2:13-15, 19-23).

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 celebrated his 77th birthday on December 17. “Grandparents are a treasure,” he said. 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.
On the last Sunday of the year, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family.  The first reading is a commentary on the fourth commandment: "Honor your father and your mother."  When a child obeys his parents, he will have his sins forgiven, his prayers heard, and will himself be blessed with children. Sirach counsels us to be good to our parents in their old age, even when their minds fail!
Paul, in the letter to the Colossians, advises us that we should put on love and remain thankful in our relationships with one another. The reading says that if the parents fail to do what is right and just in the sight of God, they can hardly complain if their children turn out disobedient to God and to them. The young learn more from example than from precept.
Holy- means healthy. A family can grow healthy only on the key virtues of forgiveness and patience. "Put on... patience," St Paul writes, "bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do."
There is no way to create an atmosphere of forgiveness without being ready to ask for forgiveness. The best gift we can give our families is to make a commitment to always be the first one to say "I'm sorry" whenever there is the slightest need. That little phrase is like super-glue for family relationships.
 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 in an attempt 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.”
Today's Gospel described for us a family on the run, suffering, struggling just to survive. God permits hardships, because he knows that hardships can bring us closer to him. When we face the hardships of family life with courage, we grow in virtue and glorify God better, because we have a chance to love more heroically.
Jesus did not come to a protected life, but he came to the life that any ordinary man must live.  He experienced the hardships of the people who are forced to leave their home and kinsmen; he can very well relate to the problems of refugees. He experienced the problems of an ordinary workman, while working as a carpenter in Nazareth; and He experienced the pangs of death when his foster father died.
When we try to give a struggle free life for our children we do not give them any chance to experience the world in which they live. When we try to provide them the best education, they ignore the illiteracy around. When we struggle to provide them the best food, they are unaware of the poverty that exists around them. When we want to give them the best of everything, they do not see the suffering in the world. So, never hesitate to let our children go through struggles, but help them go through it. It will strengthen them as mature human beings. Family life, truly is the school where we learn to color in the outline of the image of God in which we were created.
At a time when many families are breaking up and breaking down all over, the Holy Family presents itself as our source of great hope and consolation. There is perhaps no other way to keep each family intact and moving onwards except through the virtue of sheer self-sacrifice and self-giving for each other in the family.
May the Holy Family intercede for all families that they may remain one and united in the model of Holy Family of Nazareth.


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

CHRISTMAS.-2013

A grade school class was putting on a Christmas play which included the story of Mary and Joseph coming to the inn. In that class was one little boy who wanted very much to be Joseph. But when the parts were handed out, his biggest rival was given that part, and he was assigned to be the inn keeper instead. He was really bitter about this.
So during all the rehearsals he kept plotting in his mind what he might do the night of performance to get even with his rival who was Joseph. Finally, the night of the performance, Mary and Joseph came walking across the stage. They knocked on the door of the inn, and the inn-keeper opened the door and asked them gruffly what they wanted.
Joseph answered, "We’d like to have a room for the night." Suddenly the inn-keeper threw the door open wide and said, "Great, come on in and I’ll give you the best room in the house."
For a few seconds poor little Joseph didn’t know what to do, and a long silence ensued. Finally thinking quickly on his feet, Joseph looked in past the inn-keeper, first to the left and then to the right and said, "No wife of mine is going to stay in a dump like this. Come on, Mary, let’s go to the barn." And once again the play was back on course.
In the beginning of creation, Satan tried to sabotage God’s plan for the creation, using innocent Adam and Eve as victims. As a result God had to rewrite rest of the story to reach the final climax he had intended. For that, God himself had to play the major role in the newly rewritten script. Christmas is the celebration of that role God played in the story of human history.
Jesus, the Incarnation of God as man, came to save us from the bondage of sin. The Hindu Scriptures in India describe ten incarnations of God. The purpose of these incarnations stated in their Holy Scripture is to restore righteousness in the world whenever there is a large scale erosion of moral values. But the Christian Scriptures teach that there was only one, only one Incarnation of God, and the reason is stated in John 3: 16: “God so loved the world that he sent His only Son so that every one who believes in Him may not die, but have eternal life.”  God had promised the coming of his son into the world through several prophets. Jesus is the only one who came into human history who fulfilled all the conditions of those prophesies of Messiah. The gospel of Mathew itself quotes 11 of those prophesies being fulfilled in Jesus. The purpose of incarnation of Jesus was not just to die on the cross and save us from sins, if that were the only purpose, he would have come down on earth a week before the crucifixion and save us from our sins. It also had a purpose to show us how to live a normal human life amid trials and tribulations and be obedient to God’s will.

Christmas is the feast of the Emmanuel -God-with-us, God who continues to live with us in all the events of our lives as announced by the Archangel Gabriel. The Christmas story tells us that there is a way out of our sinfulness and hopelessness, because God is with us. There is a mighty God within us to strengthen us in our weaknesses and temptations, and he will fight for us from within our human nature.
Christmas tells that to find Jesus we need look for Jesus in unlikely places and persons. The magi looked for him in the likely place: the palace of Herod. But they found him in the most unlikely place: the manger. Today we can find him also in the most unlikely places –   in the streets, in slums, in asylums, in orphanages, in nursing homes – starting in our own homes, workplaces and town.
Pope Francis said "God abases himself, descends to earth as someone small and poor, which means that to be like him we should not put ourselves above others, but on the contrary, abase ourselves, give ourselves in service, make ourselves small with the small and poor with the poor,".  He continues: "It is an ugly thing when one sees a Christian who will not abase himself, who will not serve, a Christian who struts about vainly everywhere,"  "That is not Christian, that is pagan." He added.
Today Jesus will come to us again in the Eucharist. Just as he came into the world on the first Christmas, quietly, gently, helplessly, entrusting himself to Mary's care, so he comes to us in Holy Communion, quietly, gently, helplessly, entrusting himself to our care. Christmas reminds us that we have to allow this God of unconditional love to be reborn in us and to start living in us.
He comes into our lives in order to invite us to come into His life, to follow him all the way to heaven. This Christmas, will we take up God's gentle invitation and let Christ come further into our lives? Will we agree to follow him more closely, even if it means leaving our comfort zones behind?

Let’s pray to the newly born divine king to give us the  courage to abase ourselves and to risk our self-sufficiency and comfort for the sake of proclaiming his kingdom of peace on earth. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

IV- Advent- Is 7: 10- 14; Rom 1: 1-7; Mt 1: 18-24  

The story of the Virgin Birth is at the heart of our Christmas celebrations.   In the first reading, God gives a sign through the prophet Isaiah to  King Ahaz of Judah: "Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel" (Isaiah 7: 14).  Matthew considers this one of the most descriptive and definite prophecies foretelling the future messianic king, Christ, to be born as a descendant of David. Today’s Gospel, from Matthew, focuses on the person and role of Joseph.
The Angel of God comes to Joseph three times in dreams. In each instance, the angel calls Joseph to action and Joseph obeys.  He doesn't have a speaking part.  In this first instance, the angel commands Joseph to take Mary as his wife.   In Mt 2:13, the angel tells Joseph to take the mother and child to Egypt to escape Herod's wrath.  At Herod’s death angel tells Joseph to return to Israel.  The angel begins by saying, "Joseph, son of David," alerting us to Joseph's lineage.  It is through Joseph that Jesus will be of the house and lineage of David.  Mary's role is to bear a son, and Joseph's role is to name him.  By naming him, Joseph makes Jesus his son and brings him into the house of David. Joseph’s hallmark is obedience -- prompt, simple, and unspectacular obedience.

Jewish marriage started with an engagement arranged by parents, often between children.  Prior to marriage, couples began a year-long betrothal very much like marriage except for sexual rights.  Betrothal was binding and could be terminated only by death or divorce.  A person whose betrothed had died was considered to be a widow or widower. Joseph found that Mary was pregnant without his knowledge.  Now, the law required that Mary be stoned to death, because she would have been considered an unfaithful wife, and the baby would have been stoned to death with her.  In Deuteronomy 22:23-24, the penalty for adultery was death by stoning at the door of her father’s house as she had disgraced her father. From his perspective Joseph is in a dilemma. He cares for Mary, his betrothed, but she is with child. This is very difficult for him and he is facing a serious embarrassment both for himself and for Mary.

Sooner or later, every one of us comes up against the rough side of life like Joseph, and we have to face big problems. Dr. J. A. Hadfield, noted British psychologist, commented on this when he said, "When people run up against life and find it too much for them, one swears, one gets a headache, one gets drunk, and one prays"
When life gets hard, what do we do? Do we give up and lose faith in God like king Ahaz ? Do we swear? Do we lash out in hostility? Do we try to find someone to blame? Do we give in to bitterness? Do we run away? Do we hide behind some illness? Do we drug ourselves ? Or, do we pray? Do we consider the problem prayerfully and then listen to God? That’s what Joseph did, and it worked.
What a great lesson to learn from Joseph: the art of listening! May be this is why Jesus went often into the wilderness alone to do some praying and listening. Perhaps he learned from father Joseph how to listen for God’s will. Joseph was big enough to listen. Even when it was hard to do, Joseph listened and heard God’s command. Then he had the courage to act, to obey, to do God’s will…
If Joseph had not cooperated with God’s action in human history, the birth of Jesus would have been quite different. The witness of Joseph calls us to cooperate with God’s work in today’s world. It calls us to respond to God’s action among us.
Joseph, not having all of the evidence and knowledge of the future, decided to do more than law and custom required. He elected to do more than was expected of him. He let justice and compassion guide his decision about his pregnant betrothed. He was pulled, not by the strength of custom, but by the law of love.
Instead of trying to expose the weakness of Mary, Joseph was able to tolerate the weakness of Mary in silence. Do we have the courage and goodwill to tolerate the weakness of others as Joseph did ?
Like Joseph, instead of relying on our own schemes to get us through life, let us trust in God and be strengthened by talking to Him in fervent prayer and by listening to Him speaking through the Bible. Let us remain faithful and prayerful, imitating Joseph and Mary, welcoming Jesus into our hearts and lives this Christmas. 



Thursday, December 12, 2013

III- Advent: Is 35:1-6, 10; Jas 5:7-10; Mt 11: 2- 11

Today's Gospel describes how Isaiah's vision of Israel's glorious future is fulfilled unexpectedly by the coming of the promised Messiah and by his healing and preaching mission. But the Jews in general expected a political Messiah who would reestablish the Davidic kingdom after overthrowing the Roman government. Hence, most of them were scandalized by Jesus’ peaceful preaching and shameful death. The disciples of John the Baptist continued to insist that John was indeed the Messiah, and they awaited his return, causing problems to early Christians. Hence, all four Evangelists highlighted John’s important role as the Messiah’s herald but emphasized that John had a secondary and subordinate role in salvation history. Matthew, in the second part of today’s Gospel, presents Jesus as paying  the highest compliments to John the Baptist as his herald and the last of the prophets.
John the Baptist is almost a New Testament figure; he is a kind of honorary member of the new community.  The Church does not refer to Isaiah or Jeremiah or any of the great prophets as ‘Saint’, but we call John ‘Saint John the Baptist’.  Yet, as Jesus said to the crowd, “the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” The kingdom of heaven was inaugurated by Jesus, not by John.
Scripture scholars over the centuries have wondered why John sent his disciples to ask Jesus if he were the one who was to come. There are two possible explanations: 1) John knew that Jesus was the Christ and, as a prisoner, he wanted his disciples to follow Jesus as their new master. So he sent them to ask Jesus this question and presumed that, once they had met Jesus, they would see for themselves that he was the Messiah and so would become followers of Jesus.
2. John the Baptizer became confused about the way in which Jesus acted out his messiahship. He had doubts about the validity of his contemporary, Jesus of Nazareth. John had said that he came to baptize with water, and that the one following him would baptize with "fire from heaven." So, where was the fire? So far there wasn't even smoke. So far, the Pharisees and Sadducees were still in charge of the faith, and Rome was still in charge of the government. In fact, instead of bringing in the kingdom, Jesus had kept pretty quiet up north in Galilee while John got himself arrested and thrown into one of Herod's dungeons on a mountaintop down by the Dead Sea. That might make a person ask some questions. Is this any way for a Messiah to behave?
He may have been wondering why the expected Messiah was not setting him free as Isaiah (61:1) had predicted. John may have found sympathetic doubters among his own disciples who might have wondered how the Messiah could leave their own teacher in prison, and how He could usher in the kingdom without political or military might.  This may have been why John sent his disciples to dispel his doubt, asking: "Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” 
Instead of criticizing Jesus or breaking away from him, John approached Jesus through his disciples.   John may have had his doubts, but he was open to hearing Jesus say that he was, indeed, the one! John must have recognized the scriptural allusions behind Jesus' answer.  Isaiah 29:18 speaks of the deaf hearing and the blind seeing.  Isaiah 35:6 speaks of the lame leaping like a deer.  Isaiah 26:19 speaks of the dead becoming alive.  Isaiah 61:1 speaks of good news for the oppressed, the brokenhearted, captives and prisoners.  These were signs of the Messiah's coming.  

Jesus could have rebuked John for his doubts, but instead offered him a blessing.  Jesus had not lived up to John's expectations, but John did not allow that to be a stumbling block.  Complimenting John, Jesus says that John is the fulfillment of Malachi 3:1 ("See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me"), presenting the Baptist as the end-time messenger, the forerunner of the Messiah.  

  From a theological perspective, this entire episode helps us to understand how the experience of a faith crisis can play a role in our spiritual and emotional development. If John the Baptist, even after having had a direct encounter with Jesus the Messiah, could question, doubt and revise his faith, then so can we.  If disillusionment is a necessary precondition for a more resilient faith, then we, too, must be open to its possibilities .
        
Did Jesus fail to come when we rubbed the lantern?
Then perhaps Jesus is not a genie.

Did Jesus fail to punish our enemies?
Then perhaps Jesus is not a cop.

Did Jesus fail to make everything run smoothly?
Then perhaps Jesus is not a mechanic.

But, he is the lamb of God as John says, who takes away the sin of the world, a lamb that was born in a manger among other lambs. He is not a political king or a quick fixer of our problems in the way we think. So we will fail to put him in our small box. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

ADVENT II- Is 11:1-10; Rom 15:4-9; Mt 3:1-12
In the first reading, prophet Isaiah paints a picture of what the reign of the future descendant of David, Son of Jesse, will look like. Isaiah foresees a time when peace and concord would be established throughout the whole of creation. There would be the restoration of a lost serenity and innocence so that in their relations with one another God’s creatures ‘do no hurt, no harm’.
In his kingdom, “The wolf lives with the lamb,
the panther lies down with the kid, Calf and lion-cub feed together with a little boy to lead them.
The lion eats straw like the ox. The infant plays over the cobra’s hole, into the viper’s lair the young child puts his hand.
In short, he will be able to re-establish harmony between God and man; harmony between man and man; and harmony between man and nature. This extraordinary harmony will be founded on wisdom and the fear of the Lord. Once men come to know God, sin, the cause of disunion, will disappear and peace will set in.
The Gospel of today shows John the Baptist inviting the Jews to “Repent, for the kingdom of God is close at hand.”
John came heralding Jesus and he was the last of the Old Testament Prophets; he came after a gap of 400 years of prophetic silence. In the ancient world, a herald was one who went ahead of a king’s chariot to prepare the road. He would command a crew which would smooth out the usually rough roads of that day by filling potholes and removing boulders. The herald would also go before the king shouting, “Make way, the King is coming!”
John was very straight forward in calling people to conversion. He tells those who came to him for baptism that they cannot claim security simply by calling themselves children of Abraham and thus assuming that the promises made to Abraham would be applied to them. Placing their confidence in their ancestry was not enough to maintain a right relationship with God. Rather, John tells them, if they don’t measure up to their calling then God will simply raise up new children of Abraham. God will leave them as chosen people of God.
Participation in the kingdom of God requires a change of heart. And this means living life in a new and challenging way.
The Greek word for repentance is met├ínoia which means, "to change one's mind and heart," a change of direction or a U-turn. Repentance involves turning around – facing in a new direction -- with a change of heart and a new commitment. Repentance is a daily experience that renews our Baptism. “The repentant person comes before God saying, 'I can't do it myself, God. Kill me and give me new life. You buried me in Baptism. Bury me again today. Raise me to a new life.'" Repentance for us is not a one-time action but must take place daily, because preparing for the Lord is a perpetual task.  Repentance should lead to right action.

At the time that Leonardo da Vinci painted "The Last Supper," he had an enemy who was a fellow-painter. Da Vinci had a bitter argument with this man and despised him. When Da Vinci painted the face of Judas Iscariot, he used the face of his enemy so that it would be present for ages as the man who betrayed Jesus. While painting this picture, he took delight in knowing that others would actually notice the face of his enemy on Judas. As he worked on the faces of the other disciples, he often tried to paint the face of Jesus but couldn't make any progress. Da Vinci felt frustrated and confused. In time, he realized what was wrong. His hatred for the other painter was holding him back from finishing the face of Jesus. Only after making peace with his fellow-painter and repainting the face of Judas was he able to paint the face of Jesus and complete his masterpiece.
Our repentance should lead us to asking forgiveness from God and the one another. To the offended human person we can ask straight but to get assurance of God’s forgiveness we need to approach him through the sacrament of penance. We have opportunity for that here at our parish this Tuesday at 7.00 pm. We will have 8 priests to choose from, to go to reconciliation.

Bearing good fruit is not just doing good things but being a good tree, making oneself worthy of God’s grace. To experience the joys of the coming Kingdom in a fresh way at this Christmas, just as Christ wants us to, let’s show evidence of true repentance in our life.