Wednesday, December 30, 2015

MARY MOTHER OF GOD (New Year-2016)

Today’s Feast of "Mary, the Mother of God" is a very appropriate way to begin a new year. What better way to ring in the New Year than to celebrate the woman whose complete devotion to God played such a central role in our salvation? A Human woman is the mother of God, and God is the son of a human mother.

The gospel today presents Mary to us as a model of that new life in Christ that all of us wish for ourselves in the new year. There we see that Mary was prepared to do something to realize this goal. What did she do? We read that the shepherds, when they went to adore the Child Jesus in the manger, told all that the angels had said to them. "But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart" (Luke 2:19). Again after the boy Jesus was found in the Temple, we are told that "His mother treasured all these things in her heart" (Luke 2:51). Mary was a woman who valued the word of God, who treasured it and made time to meditate and ponder it. God did not tell Mary his entire plan. We know much more than she did about how everything was going to work out. She had to walk in the dim light of faith, one step at a time, trusting in God, witnessing his action, and seconding it whenever she could.

It is true that the holiness of Mary is attributed to the grace of God, but this should not make us forget that she needed to make an effort in order to cooperate with the grace of God. She pondered the word of God in order to discern what God was saying to her at every stage in her life as the handmaid of God.
Just as Mary's womb was open to receiving God's living Word at the moment of Christ's Incarnation, so her heart was constantly open to receiving God's ongoing words and messages as he continued to speak through the events of her life.

This capacity and habit of reflecting in our heart on God's action in our lives is both a sign and a source of wisdom. And we can never become mature, courageous, and joyful followers of Christ unless we develop it.
Today's Solemnity reminds us that if we have become Christ's spiritual brothers and sisters, we have also become spiritual children of Mary. She was his mother in the flesh, and she is our mother in grace. And just as we learn from our natural mothers how to be good human beings, so we learn from Mary how to become mature Christians. She is the living school where we learn every virtue that leads to happiness and holiness.

New year comes around with a lot of expectations, but behind them there may be some remorse too. The name "January" comes from the Roman god Janus, the god with two faces, one looking to the past and the other looking to the future. This is indeed a time to look back at the year that has just ended and to look forward to the new year ahead of us. How did I spend this one year of my life that has just passed? Did I use it to advance my goals and objectives in life? Did I use it to enhance the purpose of my existence? Could I have done better last year in the way I invested my time between the demands of work, family, friends and society, and the demands of my spiritual life? We do need to review our lives from year to year because, as Socrates says, the unexamined life is not worth living.
Our lives are shaped much more by our attitude than by our circumstances. Everybody has struggles. My struggles are just more apparent than yours. That’s why I think my troubles are greater than yours.
The good news what lies ahead is no surprise to God. In fact, He has already been where we are going. That reason alone empowers us to face every tomorrow with hope, knowing whatever touches us passes through His hands, with His permission.

Whatever the situation in which we find ourselves - a hardship, a disappointment, a decision to make - God has a solution, an answer that is right for us. We tell God about it in prayer but we also listen to what God has to tell us about it. Prayer is a conversation with God but sometimes all we do is pick up the phone, read out the list of our problems to God and drop the phone without listening to hear what God has to say to us.

Let us today resolve to listen more to the voice of God, to treasure God's word and ponder it in our hearts. Then shall we be able to realize our new year resolution of a new life in union with God. Let us see this year as another chance given to us to get it right, to grow in familiarity with God our loving Father, and to grow in our awareness of ourselves as God’s beloved children.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

HOLY FAMILY:1Sam 1:11,20-22,24-28; 1Jn 3:1-2,21-24; Lk 2:41-52

Stephen Glenn tells a wonderful story about a famous research scientist who had made several very important medical breakthroughs. A newspaper reporter interviewed this scientist and asked why, in his opinion, he was so much more creative than the average person.

This scientist answered that he believed it was because of an experience he had with his mother when he was about two years old. He had been trying to get a bottle of milk out of the refrigerator when he lost his grip on it, spilling its contents all over the kitchen floor. It created a veritable sea of milk!

When his mother came into the kitchen, instead of yelling at him, giving him a lecture or punishing him, she said, "Robert, what a great and wonderful mess you have made! I have rarely seen such a huge puddle of milk. Well, the damage has been done. Would you like to play in the milk for a few minutes before we clean it up?"

Robert thought that was a great idea. After a few minutes, his mother said, "You know, Robert, when you make a mess like this, eventually you have to clean it up. So, how would you like to do that? Would you rather use a sponge, a towel, or a mop?" He chose the sponge, and together they cleaned up the mess. His mother then said, "You know, what we have here is a failed experiment in how to effectively carry a big milk bottle with two little hands. Let's go out to the back yard and fill the bottle up with water. Then we'll see if you can figure out a way to carry it without dropping it." The little boy learned that if he grasped the bottle at the top with both hands, he could carry it without dropping it. It was a wonderful lesson!

This renowned scientist then remarked that at that moment he knew he didn't need to be afraid of making mistakes. Instead, he learned that mistakes were just opportunities for learning something new, which is, after all, what scientific experiments are all about. Even if the experiment doesn't work, we usually learn something valuable from it.

Today’s feast of Holy Family stands besides parents anxious about their children, worrying for their welfare. Through any challenge, anxiety, difficulty or danger, they showed us how to be people of faith, people of forgiveness, people of love.

We can imagine how misunderstood both Mary and Joseph when Mary conceived through Holy Spirit. She experienced the threat of divorce. Jesus was born in animal's shelter in Bethlehem. The family had to flee to Egypt as refugees because Jesus' life was in danger due to Herod. There was growing hostility to Jesus by the Jewish authorities. The saddest moment came when the mother watched her son die on the cross.

We can only imagine Mary and Joseph's conversation when, at the end of a day's journey, they realized that Jesus was not with their caravan. In those days, pilgrims who came to Jerusalem for the holy days came in large groups that included extended families and neighbors.
Traveling together was safer, and it also helped create the festive atmosphere required by the holy days. And usually the caravans were divided into groups of men and women. This is why it's understandable that Mary and Joseph lost Jesus.

Joseph would have thought Jesus was somewhere with the women (the children often traveled with the women), and Mary would have thought he was with Joseph (after all, he was now twelve-years-old, so he could officially join the men's group). Only at the end of the day's travel, when each individual family got back together for the night, would they have realized that Jesus wasn't with them. That's when the "great anxiety" clamped down on their hearts. The anxiety would have included fear, anger, uncertainty, sadness, frustration, a sense of helplessness – all the disturbing emotions that our own family troubles so often cause us.
We can even imagine Joseph and Mary playing a little bit of the blame game as they discovered what happened (though I am sure it didn’t last long). And the amazing thing is that God permitted this. He had a reason for allowing them to suffer in this way. He was preparing them for Christ's Passion. This is why St Luke points out specifically that they only found Jesus again on the third day since they lost track of him. In the same way, Mary would find Jesus again after his passion only on the third day, the day of his resurrection. Many times, God guides us in the same way. He allows sufferings to cross our paths, not because he likes torturing us, but because he wants to purify us, to make us grow in wisdom, to prepare us to meet the Risen Jesus, to draw us closer and closer to his own suffering heart.
By staying back in Jerusalem to attend to his heavenly Father's business, Jesus is showing Joseph and Mary (and us) that our primary responsibility in life, our primary mission as human beings, is to find and follow God's call. Nothing, not even the strong, deep ties of family affection and loyalty, should interfere with our obedience to God.

When St Francis of Assisi discovered God's call in his heart and decided to dedicate his life completely to God's service, his father, a successful businessman, threatened to disown and disinherit him. His father did everything possible to discourage his son from following God's call in his life. And in order to be faithful to his heavenly father, Francis was forced to live with the violent rejection of his earthly father.
In our lives too we sometimes feel the opposition between what would please our family members and what we know God is asking of us. We can face this opposition in little things, like the inconvenience of coming to Mass on Sunday mornings, or of taking time to pray together as a family, for example. Or we can face the opposition in big things, like the apparent inconvenience of adhering to solid moral truths about artificial contraception, divorce and remarriage, and homosexuality.

It is not always easy to follow God's wisdom when those closest to us don't agree with it, but it is always the best and surest path to peace of mind and interior freedom. Staying close to our heavenly Father must be our first priority.
When Mary and Joseph finally found Jesus, teaching all the scholars and rabbis in the Temple, they expressed their frustration. It could have been a moment of conflict. It could have been a moment when one of the three, or all of them, lost their temper and lashed out at the others for not understanding or respecting them.

Jesus makes his comment about "his Father's house," and that reminded Mary and Joseph to try and see the difficult situation from God's perspective. And that reminder defused the tension, anger, frustration, and high emotion. St Luke tells us that although Mary didn't understand fully what Jesus meant, she "kept all these things in her heart."

Just as the holy family survived all its crises through love for each other and faith in God, let us pray during this Mass that our families will conquer all difficulties through love for each other and faith in God.

Friday, December 25, 2015

CHRISTMAS VIGIL:Is 62:1-5, Acts 13:16-17, 22-25,Mt 1: 18-25

Michael Hendrix tells about a dinner party he once attended during the Christmas season. The house was properly decorated, including an electric train set up around the base of the tree. One of the children was running the train too fast and it derailed. She was bent over the train trying to put it back on the track. The host noticed what she was doing and went over to help. He said to her, “You can’t do that from above; you have to get down beside it.” Then he lay down on the floor beside the train where he could see to place the train back on the track.
This is the story of the history of salvation. “The human race had derailed and needed to be put back on the track of life. It couldn’t be done from above; God had to come down beside us in order to put us on track. That’s what God did in Jesus Christ when he became a child in the manger.
There's only one religion in which mankind's effort to climb back up to heaven is met by the unimaginable event of God himself deciding to climb down into human nature. Christmas is one thing that makes Christianity entirely unique among all the world religions. Only we Christians have the privilege of saying, "The Word became flesh, and lived among us."

God came down because we could not reach up to God intellectually. Our little brains are not sufficient to understand God. Christian faith is not a philosophy that someone thought up. Christian faith is revelation. God revealed His purpose and plan, His love and His grace, in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. If there are some things about our faith you do not understand, join the crowd. If we could understand everything there is about God, God would not be God. We do not have the mental capacity to reach up to God intellectually.
We also could not reach up to God morally. That is, before the coming of Jesus the Jewish people believed that the way to God is through right living. If you could just follow the Law and keep all its ordinances, then you could be saved. But salvation by righteousness did not work. For some, their devotion to the Law deteriorated into an odious legalism. They looked down their noses at others who were not as righteous as they. While others, feeling that they had no hope of fulfilling the Law, simply threw up their hands in despair and did not bother to try. So, God came down to save us through grace in Jesus, not by knowledge or moral righteousness.

The angel told Joseph  Mary, your betrothed will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” The name Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew Yehosua, which means "YHWH is salvation." Just as the first Joshua (successor of Moses), saved the Israelites from their enemies, the second Joshua (Jesus) will save them from their sins.  The Jews, however, did not expect a Messiah who would save them from their sins, but one who would deliver them from their political oppressors. Matthew stresses the fact that the birth of Jesus as Savior is the fulfillment of a prophecy by Isaiah (7:14): “'Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,' which means, 'God is with us.' In Hebrew, El is a short form of Elohim, a name for God.  Immanu-El, therefore, means "God with us," a meaning which Matthew spells out for non-Hebrew readers. Emmanuel is not a second name by which friends and neighbors will know Jesus.  "Jesus" is Our Lord's true name and   Emmanuel describes his role. Thus, Matthew begins his Gospel with the promise that Jesus' role-name means "God-with-us." He will end his Gospel with Jesus' own promise that He will be with us "always, to the end of the age" (28:20). His being with us is to free us from all the irrational fears and worries.
In a Peanuts cartoon, Linus tells Charlie Brown, "When I hear those coyotes howling at night, it totally depresses me. I start to feel lonely ... Then I get scared."
Charlie Brown says, "I thought holding onto that blanket made you secure."
Linus replies, "I think the warranty has run out."

Isn't that true for us? We fear life, we fear death, and everything in between. We are afraid of little things like a black cat crossing our path or spilled salt. Or, leaving our home at night lest we become a victim of crime. Or, the fear that floods our hearts as we wait for the doctor to tell us if we have cancer. Or, the fear that startles us when the shrill sound of the telephone jolts us awake in the middle of the night.

The antidote to our fears is found in the coming of Christ into the world. The first words of Adam are "I was afraid."(So he hid behind the tree). But the first words at the birth of Jesus are, "Don't be afraid. If Jesus is Emmanuel, the God with us, why should we be afraid of anything? If I am afraid, it means, He is with me, but I am not with him.  The purpose of every Christmas celebration is to bring ourselves to Jesus the God with us and strengthen ourselves in his power. The message of Christmas is that you are never alone (Tayler Caldwell) So, let us not have a Christmas without Jesus in our hearts and minds and in every of our relationships.

Let us remember the famous lines of Alexander Pope: “What do I profit if Jesus is born in thousands of cribs all over the world during this Christmas, but is not born in my heart?” Let us allow Him to be reborn in our lives during Christmas 2015 and every day of the New Year 2016.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Advent IV [C] Mi 5:1-4a, Heb 10:5-10 Lk 1:39-45

 Composer and performer Bradley James has set Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s teachings and prayers to music in the internationally acclaimed recording, Gift of Love: Music to the Words and Prayers of Mother Teresa.  Bradley remembers her teaching: “Mother said we don’t have to go to Calcutta to help the poor; rather, we must help them right in front of us.” He applied this lesson when he encountered a homeless beggar on the streets of San Francisco. Bradley placed some money in his metal cup, then reached out and shook the man’s hand.  The recipient gave him a big smile, and the two exchanged names and small talk. Bradley recalls: “Then he pulled me a little closer and said, ‘Thanks for the money, but what I really needed was a handshake’”. Indeed, what was remarkable in this incident was not the coin, but the gift of human dignity and the love of Christ that Bradley James brought to the beggar through the handshake and his fraternal presence. In effect, Bradley replicated in his life and experience the joyful mystery of the Lord’s Visitation (cf. Lk 1:39-45) described in today’s Gospel. 
Today’s readings suggest that we should not celebrate Christmas as just an occasion for nice feelings.  Instead, commemorating Jesus' birth should inspire us to carry out God's word as Mary and Jesus did, in perfect obedience to His will, and thus to become true disciples.
 In the first reading, the prophet Micah gives assurance to the Jews that God is faithful to His promises, and that from the unimportant village of Bethlehem He will send them the long expected ruler. The second reading, taken from Paul's Letter to the Hebrews, reminds us that it is the person of Jesus Christ, who has offered the perfect sacrifice of obedience that liberates us from sin. The reading portrays the Son of God as accepting a human body, the true Christmas theme. It also gives the profound reason Jesus came into the world: "Behold, I come to do your will.” By his willingness or eagerness to do God’s will, Christ offered himself, in the place of all the other ritual sacrifices offered, as the means of sanctification. 

In the Gospel, Luke tells us how two seemingly insignificant women met to celebrate the kindness and fidelity of God. It shows us how sensitive Mary was to the needs of Elizabeth, her older cousin, who had miraculously become pregnant in her old age. For Luke, discipleship consists in listening to God's word and then carrying it out, and Mary does both, to become the most perfect disciple. Mary helped Elizabeth in her time of need and served her till John was born. That was her perfect, loving, and sacrificial gift to Elizabeth. This story teaches us the importance of mutual ministry.

There is a saying, “He (she) who is on fire cannot sit on a chair."  Mary, filled with the fire of the Holy Spirit, hurried to the mountain country where Elizabeth lived, thereby conveying the Holy Spirit to her cousin and Elizabeth’s unborn child. Like all good Jews, whatever Mary did was prompted by her commitment to God’s word in her life. The trip from Nazareth in Galilee where Mary lived to a village in Judea where Elizabeth lived would take four days. Since travel alone was not safe, Mary must have gone with a caravan. The two cousins greeted one another, one running to assist the other, both pregnant with life and Faith. Mary’s formal salutation served both as a prophetic gesture and as a prophetic oracle. Elizabeth’s unborn child leaped with joy in recognition that salvation was near. Already, before his birth, John had been touched by the Holy Spirit. No wonder, John would be the first to recognize the presence of Jesus as He began His public ministry! Elizabeth then prophetically interpreted this event, pointing away from her own motherhood to reveal the hidden identity of her visitor and the baby she carried. 

We can make a real difference in the lives of others by carrying Jesus to them.  However, we cannot give what we do not possess.  Christmas is the ideal time for us to be filled with the spirit of Christ, allowing his rebirth within us. Thus he enables us to share his love with all whom we encounter by offering them humble and committed service, unconditional forgiveness and compassionate caring.  Sharing Jesus with others is the best Christmas gift we can give. God wants each of us, like Mary, to carry to those around us the Lord of Life. It is easy to send flowers, Christmas cards or gifts.  To give the gift of oneself, however, is the greatest gift of all.  Let us take the time to visit others this Christmas, to bring some inspiration into their lives, and hopefully to bring them closer to God.  Let us share with them the Spirit of God, the Spirit of consolation, of courage, of peace and joy, just as Mary did. 

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Advent III [C] Zep 3:14-18a; Phil 4:4-7; Lk 3:10-18

Today is called “Gaudete” Sunday because today’s Mass begins with the opening antiphon, “Gaudete in Domino semper” (“Rejoice in the Lord always”). That’s why today’s readings mention the word “joy” twelve times.
Advent is a time for joy, not only because we are anticipating the anniversary of the birth of Jesus, but also because God is already in our midst.  Christian joy does not come from the absence of sorrow, pain or trouble, but from an awareness of the presence of Christ within our souls.
St. Paul echoes the same message of joy in the second reading, taken from his letter to the Philippians: “Rejoice in the Lord always.  I shall say it again, rejoice...  The Lord is in your midst…  Fear not… be not discouraged...  The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all…” 

We can only rejoice “always” if our joy is based on something that goes deeper than the passing pleasures of this world. What is that deeper thing? Salvation; friendship with God; something that never ends, and something no one can take away from us. That is the source of a Christian’s joy, and that is the gift Jesus brings us. The joy of Christ the Savior is different from the joys of the world in many ways.

True Christian joy doesn't wear out. This is because it comes from something that is alive: our relationship with Christ. This is why the Christmas tree is an evergreen tree. In winter, the other trees are leafless and dormant. But the evergreen tree is still green and fragrant. The evergreen symbolizes hope amid winter’s lifeless, cold, and dark days. That is why we use that a lot at Christmas.
In the gospel we hear John’s screaming voice. “Why are you not getting ready?” he yelled to the Hebrews. Why are you just standing there. Don't you see that your time is running out on you. You need to be preparing the way. Making the path straight. Go and get ready.

The reaction of the throngs who came out to hear John preach is electric. They were “filled with expectation.” They were so impressed by the presence and words of John the Baptist that they actually thought he was the promised Messiah, the Savior. But he clearly tells them that he is not even worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. But he taught them how to expect for the Messiah. His lesson is nothing new. He tells the crowds to share their food and clothing with the poor, to be honest in their business dealings and hard working in their jobs. He merely applies the Ten Commandments to the particular situations of his listeners. He reminds them of the value of justice and humility: we are not to take undue advantage of anyone, and we are to help those in need.

Thus by his teaching John warned the people of his time that the Messiah is here. So the people had no excuse for not having received any warning.
A state trooper once stopped a woman for going 15 miles an hour over the speed limit. After he handed her a ticket, she asked him, “Don’t you give out warnings?” “Yes, ma’am,” he replied. “They’re all up and down the road. They say, ‘Speed Limit 55.’”
John the Baptist’s warning comes to us during every advent. And that should trouble our conscience if we are not serious enough in our preparation.

What should we do in preparation for Christmas? This is the same question the Jews asked John. His answer, to them and to us, is the same: repent and reform your lives, and prayerfully wait for the Messiah. Our Blessed Mother, in her many apparitions, urgently calls us to more fervent prayer. Let us remember that the Mass is the most powerful of prayers. We must be a Eucharistic people, living and experiencing the presence of Jesus in our hearts. Let us remember that conversion is through Jesus, whom we encounter in the Sacraments. Regular Confession makes us strong and enables us to receive more grace in the Eucharist. Tomorrow we have our deanery penance service at St.Joe’s Coldspring at 7.00 pm. And on this Friday we have confession time available here from 6.00-8.00. And today before and during the opening of Jubilee year of Mercy celebration there will be opportunity to make confessions at the Cathedral too.

The Sacrament of Penance will be a key focus of the Year of Mercy. In his letter on the coming jubilee year, Pope Francis wrote that “it is important” that the pilgrimages to the Holy Door “be linked, first and foremost, to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and to the celebration of the Holy Eucharist with a reflection on mercy.”

Holy Doors become “doorways into holiness” for those who fulfill all the requirements for a plenary indulgence – which include an examination of conscience, an honest assessment of sins, a contrite heart, and prayers.
Everyone can actively participate in God’s mercy through the Sacrament of Confession and the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, he explained.

Heeding the advice of John let’s repent and mend our ways. Further, let us spend some time every week in adoration of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Let us forgive those who offend us and pray for them. Finally, let us share our love with others as selfless and humble servants showing God’s mercy to them whenever possible. 

Monday, December 7, 2015


In 1492, 523 years ago, Columbus discovered America. He sailed in a ship called Santa Maria de Conception (St. Mary, the Immaculate Conception). He named the first Island he landed San Salvador, in honor of our Savior. Columbus named the second island Conceptio in honor of Mary’s Immaculate Conception. The fearless French explorer Fr. Marquette who explored the 2300 miles long Mississippi River, flowing through ten states, called it River of Mary Immaculate. In fact, all the early American Catholics were so proud of the great truth we celebrate today that the American bishops in 1829 (25 years before the promulgation of the dogma) chose Mary Conceived without sin as the patroness of the United States. Hence, this feast is the feast of the country’s heavenly patroness in the U.S.  

This feast celebrates the conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the womb of her mother Saint Anne; and nine months later, on September 8, we celebrate the Nativity, the birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In 1854, Pius IX solemnly proclaimed: “The most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instant of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin.”

There is nothing in the Scriptures about the beginnings of Mary’s own life, and no mention of course of her conception as immaculate, it is a natural inference from her role as the Mother of God’s Son. She had to be immaculate for two reasons. First of all, her son Jesus, being God and man at the same time, could not have inherited original sin from her. That would nullify the infinite merits of Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross. If Jesus himself was in the shade of Original Sin, he could not effectively wipe away the sins of others. So Mary had to be free from Original Sin, so that her Son would be free from Original Sin. Mary’s Immaculate Conception enhances Jesus’ redemptive work. Other members of the human race are cleansed from original sin after birth. In Mary, Jesus’ work was so powerful as to prevent original sin at the outset.

Secondly, Sin is a condition of being not in friendship with God. If Jesus was God, how could God and sin co-exist. God and sin cannot co-exist. Sin is a situation of being away from God. And if one argues that Mary was not immaculate, then our whole doctrine of salvation through Jesus would be under attack, pushing Jesus in to original sin and making his redemptive work less effective.

Hence, fruits of Jesus’ redemptive work on the Cross was applied to Mary at her conception not because of her virtue or merits, but by the merits of Jesus. The angel’s salutation “full of Grace” is the scriptural proof of Immaculate conception too. Full of grace means having no stain of sin. If she had some stain of sin, angel Gabriel who knows heavenly secrets and knowledge would not address her so.
This doctrine of immaculate conception leads us to conclude that Mary was ever virgin too. The brothers and sisters of Jesus mentioned in the bible are not his blood siblings. If Mary had other children, they would have been present under the cross and Jesus would have definitely given Mary’s protection to them, rather than giving her to John. It would have been an offense to them if Jesus gave their mother to somebody other than his brothers.

Mary’s immaculate conception leads us to think that God created her as the most beautiful person on earth.  Bishop Sheen asks, “Just suppose that you could have pre-existed your own mother, in much the same way that an artist pre-exists his painting. Furthermore, suppose that you had the infinite power to make your mother anything that you pleased, just as a great artist like Raphael has the power of realizing his artistic ideas. Suppose you had this double power, what kind of mother would you have made for yourself? Would you not have made her, so far as human beauty goes; the most beautiful woman in the world; and so far as beauty of the soul goes, one who would radiate every virtue, every manner of kindness and charity and loveliness; one who by the purity of her life and her mind and her heart would be an inspiration not only to you but even to your fellow men, so that all would look up to her as the very incarnation of what is best in motherhood? Do you think that our Blessed Lord, who not only pre-existed His own mother but who had an infinite power to make her just what He chose, would in virtue of all the infinite delicacy of His spirit make her any less pure and loving and beautiful than you would have made your own mother?
When we respect and adore Jesus, we cannot but fail to honor Mary. Because it is through Mary, that Jesus came into this world and learned his human virtues.
Every mother wants her children to inherit or acquire all her good qualities. Hence, our immaculate and holy mother wants us to be holy and pure children. 

Let us listen to her instructions and follow her example so that one day in the heavenly Jerusalem we may love the Lord as she does. At the first miracle at Cana, Mary said to waiters, “Do whatever he tells you”. This is what she continues to tell everyday to us. Do what he tells you.
Let the soul of Mary be in each one of us to magnify the Lord. Let the spirit of Mary be in each one to exult in Christ."

Saturday, December 5, 2015

ADVENT II [C]: Bar 5:1-9Phil 1:4-6, 8-11; Lk 3:1-6

Three pastors got together for coffee one morning. Much to their surprise they discovered that all their churches had problems with bats infesting their belfries. The bats were making a terrible mess. "I got so mad," said one pastor, "I took a shotgun and fired at them. It made holes in the ceiling, but did nothing to the bats." "I tried trapping them alive," said the second. "Then I drove 50 miles before releasing them, but they beat me back to the Church." "I haven't had any more problems," said the third. "What did you do?" asked the others, amazed. "I simply baptized and confirmed them," he replied. "I haven't seen them since." 
It is such a common occurrence. People come to the Church desiring Christian Baptism and Church membership. We welcome them into our fellowship, and then for six weeks or so after we welcome them into our fellowship, we don't hear anything of them. What does it mean? Or parents stand in the church to present a child to God. They make promises to bring up that child in the household of faith, and then they disappear. We rarely see them again. What did those promises mean? On this second Sunday of the New Church Year our lesson from the Gospel focuses our attention on the place of Baptism in our lives. 
The Advent season challenges us to prepare for the celebration of Jesus’ first coming. We are also to prepare for his present “coming” to us in his Word, in the Eucharist, in our neighbors, in the Christian community and in the abiding presence of his Holy Spirit in our souls.
In the Gospel, John the Baptist challenges us to prepare the way for the salvation of "all flesh,” including our own, by a true repentance leading to the renewal of our lives.  Quoting Isaiah, John declares that he has come to prepare a royal road in our hearts for our Savior, a way out of the wilderness of sin and alienation, to God.

Each year, the second and the third Sundays in Advent center on John the Baptist, reminding us that if we want to prepare properly for the coming of Jesus we need to listen to the Baptizer’s message. The Evangelists realized the importance of John’s message. Hence, all four of them wrote about John’s preaching, while only two of them described the nativity of Christ.  Following the style of ancient historians, Luke dates the appearance of John according to the ruling powers.  He begins by setting the emergence of John against a world background, the background of the Roman Empire. After referring to the world situation and the Palestinian political situation, he turns to the religious situation and reports John's emergence as a herald of the Messiah during the religious leadership of Annas and Caiaphas. 
Quoting the prophet Isaiah, John the Baptist declared, “Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth” (Lk 3:5). The quotation John used is from Isaiah 40:3-5, where the prophet was calling the people to prepare for the Lord's visitation.  If a king were planning to travel, work crews would be dispatched to repair the road. John called people to repent as a way of preparing their hearts and lives for the Lord's visit.  He is calling us, too, to get ready for something so great that it fills our emptiness with expectation. A smooth road means nothing to God, but a repentant heart means a great deal. Hence, the truly important goal for us is to prepare our hearts to receive the Lord. By emphasizing the last line of the quotation "All flesh will see the salvation of God," Luke stresses the universal aspect of God's salvation.

During this advent, we need to prepare the way for the Messiah in our hearts: We have to fill in the “valleys” of our souls which have resulted from our shallow prayer life and a minimalist way of living our faith. We have to straighten out whatever crooked paths we’ve been walking, like involvement in some secret or habitual sins or in a sinful relationship.  If we have been involved in some dishonest practices at work or at home, we are called to straighten them out and make restitution. If we have been harboring grudges or hatred, or failing to be reconciled with others, now is the time to clear away all the debris. If we have been pushing God off to the side of our road, if we have been saying to Him that we don’t really have the time for Him, now is the time for us to get our priorities straight. As individuals, we might have to overcome deep-seated resentment, persistent fault-finding, unwillingness to forgive, dishonesty in our dealings with others, or a bullying attitude. And we all have to level the “mountains” of our pride and egocentrism.

The word “Advent” actually originates from the Latin term for “coming towards.”
Jesus is “coming towards” us in a new way this Christmas, and the message of John the Baptist is meant to help us get ready. Let’s prepare a way for the Lord to come into our lives this holy season of advent.