Saturday, December 31, 2016

NEW YEAR, MARY, MOTHER OF GOD. Nm 6:22-27, Gal 4:4-7; Lk 2:16-21

A Catholic pastor in a small Alabama city of mostly Southern Baptist Christians decided to put up a Christmas crib in the town square. The priest with some of his prominent parishioners approached some rich people and businesses for donation. When they went to see the rich editor of the local newspaper the priest explained the project: “Many people, especially the children will be inspired to see Jesus, Mary and Joseph and animals right here in the center of the town.” The editor agreed to help on condition that Mary must be left out. Otherwise, it would be promoting your Catholic denomination. The priest said: “Tell you what. Tell me how you can show a birth without a mother, and I will agree to leave Mary out.” The editor had no answer and the Mother was with her Child in the town square.
In his book, Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis said that no subject in our Faith needs to be approached more delicately than this, and one of the reasons he cited was that Catholics have a natural affection for Mary, and when Mary is attacked, Lewis says that Catholics respond with that “chivalrous sensibility that a man feels when the honor of his mother or his beloved is at stake.” Lewis says that Catholics feel this way about Mary “very naturally,” but there is one person who feels that way about Mary even more naturally than we do: her literal Son according to the flesh — Jesus Christ. As the obedient, infinitely Holy, Son of God, the Lord Jesus was a very firm believer in the commandment to honor one’s father and mother. So, if we were to talk about Mary in an impious manner then we would be offending not only Mary but also Christ by denying his mother the glory that he himself gave her.

Today’s Feast of Mary, the Mother of God is a very appropriate way to begin a new year. This celebration reminds us that the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, is also our Heavenly Mother.   The Church puts the feast of this solemnity on the first day of the New Year to emphasize the importance of Mary’s role in the life of Christ and of the Church. In celebrating her special feast day, we acknowledge this great gift for the Church and world; we call on her to be actively involved in our daily life; we imitate her virtuous life as a great inspiration; and we cooperate with all the graces we get through her. As he was dying on the cross, Jesus gave us the precious gift of His own mother to be our Heavenly Mother. Therefore the Church has had a very strong love and intercession to Mary, Mother of God.
A senior priest went to his bishop with this complaint: “Now I have great difficulty in preaching. I cannot get the people's attention." After stroking his chin His Excellency suggested: "Say something striking at the beginning of your homily." "Could you give me an example?" begged the old padre. "Well," suggested the bishop, "you might start like this: 'I am in love'; 'I am in love with a married woman'; 'Her name is Mary'". Next Sunday the priest started his sermon thus: "The bishop is in love'; He is in love with a married woman'. After an embarrassing pause the priest continued: "But I have forgotten her name." 

We can honor Mary by cultivating an interior life like hers. Mary meditated on, that is, thought about and prayed over, the events of her life in relation to God’s plan of salvation. Her words at the wedding feast of Cana reveal her basic orientation, which we can apply to ourselves: ‘Do whatever he tells you.’

Today in Holy Communion we will receive the Body of Christ, which was formed in the womb of Mary. When we do, let's ask our spiritual Mother to teach us how to take care of the precious faith we have received just as she took care of the baby Jesus.
New year day is the time for us to look back and thank God for all the blessings of the passing year and looking forward to and pray for a very good new year enabling us to live glorifying God. “Lord, for all that has been, Thanks! For all that will be, Yes!” said Dag Hammersjshold. There is a proverb:“Cherish your yesterdays, dream your tomorrows, but live your today." This becomes easier when we make God the center of our life and realize His presence in all the people around us.   Just as the moon borrows the sun’s light to illuminate the earth, we must radiate the Light of God shining within us. 

The lessons from the failures in our lives should help us to avoid the things led to failures and do things differently to achieve success.  Albert Einstein said, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." 

One man called his parents to wish them a happy New Year, his dad answered the phone. "Well, Dad, what’s your New Year’s resolution?" he asked him. "To make your mother as happy as I can all year," he answered proudly. Then his mom got on, and he said, "What’s your resolution, Mom?" "To see that your dad keeps his New Year’s resolution."
Our new year resolutions should pertain us and directing to control our actions not of others. Because my happiness rests on my decisions, my attitudes and my actions.

In the   first reading, God gives Moses and Aaron the formula they should use while conferring the Divine blessing upon the Israelites. Let’s use the same to bless everyone who will come across our path: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace: today and every day of the new year.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas: During the Day. IS 52:7-10; Jn. 1:1-18

Once there was a Rabbi who asked his disciples the following question:  "How do you know when the darkness has been overcome, when the dawn has arrived?"  One of the disciples answered, "When you can look into the distance and tell the difference between a cow and a deer, then you know dawn has arrived.” “Close," the Rabbi responded, "but not quite."  Another disciple ventured a response, "When you can look into the distance and distinguish a peach blossom from an apple blossom, then you know that the darkness has been overcome."  "Not bad," the Rabbi said, “not bad! But the correct answer is slightly different.  When you can look on the face of any man or any woman and know immediately that this is God’s child and your brother or sister, then you know that the darkness has been overcome, that the Daystar has appeared."  This Christmas morning when we celebrate the victory of Light over darkness, the Gospel of John introduces Jesus as the true Light Who came from Heaven into our world of darkness to give us clear vision.
The Christmas is one of the great feasts of the Christians. But it is not the greatest feast. Easter is feast No. 1, Pentecost No. 2 and Christmas is No. 3. The Roman Church started celebration of Christmas only after Christianity was recognized as the state religion. But feasts of Easter and Pentecost were celebrated from day 1.
In medieval times the celebration of Christmas took the form of a special Mass celebrated at midnight on the eve of Christ's birth. Since this was the only time in the Catholic Church year when a Midnight Mass was allowed, it soon became known in Middle English as Christes Masse (Christ's Mass), from which is derived Christmas.

One of the striking features of the Gospel of John is the way it depicts the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. The other gospels usually tell us stories about Jesus. Then, like the disciples, we are left to ask, "Who is this, that wind and sea obey him? Who is this who feeds the multitude on a couple of loaves and a few fish?" But in the Gospel of John, there's never a doubt who Jesus is, because he tells us. Usually he does so with a statement that begins with the words, "I am." Put him in a situation and he will clarify who he is and what he has come to do.
You can put him in the desert surrounded by people who are chronically unsatisfied, and Jesus says, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty" (John 6:35).
You can put him in the midst of people who are confused, people who ask, "Who are you, Jesus? What makes you different from all the other gurus, rabbis, and religious leaders?" And Jesus says, "I am the gate for the sheep. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture" (10:7, 9). It is an act of self-definition.
You can put him at graveside, in the midst of grief-stricken people, and Jesus says, "I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live" (11:25).
Or put him in the midst of people who feel disconnected by life's difficulties, and Jesus says, "I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing" (15:5).
In the Gospel of John, in one situation after another, Jesus defines himself and says, "This is who I am...." In the eighth chapter, Jesus says, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life" (8:12). His words echo the opening words of the Fourth Gospel, where the writer defines the person and work of Jesus in terms of light. "What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people ... The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world" (1:3-4, 9).The prophet Isaiah said, "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light."

If John's Gospel were the only one we had, this is all that we would know about Jesus' birth: before his name was Jesus, his name was the Word, and he was with God from the very beginning of creation, bringing things into being, making things happen, shining light into the darkness.
He was God's self, God's soul, God's life force in the world. He was the breath inside all living things. He was the electric spark that charged peoples' hearts. He was the fire inside the sun. He was the space between the stars. He was the axis around which the galaxies spin.

Yet, he is the Word made flesh, and lies there as helpless to speak as any infant.  Only in silence can this silent Word be heard.  The new blade of grass does not make a scene or a noise; neither does the Word made flesh. He made his entrance in a manger away from the hustle and bustle of political activity. You need the quiet and simplicity of the shepherds to behold him.

He has chosen to come to us so weak and naked in order that we may each do something for Him…Mary's Son tells us that all we do or do not do for one of the smallest of His little ones, that we do or do not do for him.

Christmas tells us that God came to walk in our shoes and therefore, at times, if you do not find him clearly or hear him loudly does not mean that he doesn’t understand your pain.  Christmas is special because it reminds us concretely that God is indeed with us. So let’s go home to the heart of Christmas and embrace Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, who will not leave us in the best or the worst times. May this Christmas make you feel that God in Jesus is closer to you than you are to your own breath. May he be your comfort and consolation always, at every step of your life. Amen.
Christmas Midnight (Is 52:7-10; Heb 1:1-6; Jn 1:1-18/1:1-5,9-14)

Once there was a Rabbi who asked his disciples the following question:  "How do you know when the darkness has been overcome, when the dawn has arrived?"  One of the disciples answered, "When you can look into the distance and tell the difference between a cow and a deer, then you know dawn has arrived.” “Close," the Rabbi responded, "but not quite."  Another disciple ventured a response, "When you can look into the distance and distinguish a peach blossom from an apple blossom, then you know that the darkness has been overcome."  "Not bad," the Rabbi said, “not bad! But the correct answer is slightly different.  When you can look on the face of any man or any woman and know immediately that this is God’s child and your brother or sister, then you know that the darkness has been overcome, that the Daystar has appeared."  This Christmas night when we celebrate the victory of Light over darkness, Isaiah says: The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.

Jesus is the true Light Who came from Heaven into our world of darkness to give us clear vision.
The Christmas is one of the great feasts of the Christians. But it is not the greatest feast. Easter is feast No. 1, Pentecost No. 2 and Christmas is No. 3. The Roman Church started celebration of Christmas only after Christianity was recognized as the state religion. It was celebrated with Epiphany until then. But feasts of Easter and Pentecost were celebrated from day 1.
In medieval times the celebration of Christmas took the form of a special Mass celebrated at midnight on the eve of Christ's birth. Since this was the only time in the Catholic Church year when a Midnight Mass was allowed, it soon became known in Middle English as Christes Masse (Christ's Mass), from which is derived Christmas.

At the birth of Jesus the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord. The angels were the first to be given the message of the birth of the Savior.
Since David was a shepherd, it seems fitting that the shepherds were given the privilege of visiting David’s successor in the stable.  If these shepherds were the ones in charge of the Temple sheep and lambs which were meant for daily sacrifice in the Temple of Jerusalem, no wonder they were chosen to be the first to see the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world! Shepherding was a lonely, dirty job, and shepherds found it difficult to follow all the obligatory religious customs.  Hence, they were scorned as non-observant Jews.  So Baby Jesus selected these marginalized people to share His love at the beginning of his earthly ministry.  The shepherds expressed their joy and gratitude by “making known what had been told them" (v 17).  Just as very ordinary people later became witnesses to the Resurrection, very ordinary shepherds became witnesses to the Incarnation.  Other than the angels, they were the first to proclaim the Good News of Jesus' birth.  Once we have been privileged to experience God's presence, we, too, have a responsibility to share that experience with other people -- to spread the word -- to proclaim the Gospel.

Son of God came as Emmanuel, God with us, to share the misery of human beings. Look at the baby Jesus, wrapped in swaddling clothes, laid in a manger, smiling helplessly at his mother Mary - that is the true God, a God who comes to meet us right where we're at. As Emmanuel he understands us and can relate with our wretched life.

There was a very young minister who had been called once to minister to an old farm widow. Her husband had just died, and the minister went with all his earnest intent to be as much comfort as he could to her. Most of his knowledge of grief was abstract and academic, and so he went and said the best words he knew to say. He tried to convey his care, but while he was doing that, there came into the room another older woman about this widow's age. She walked across and without hardly a word, she embraced the grieving person and all she said was, "I understand, my dear. I understand."
Someone told the minister later that this second person had just lost her husband six months before and, therefore, she came out of a shared understanding of what his friend was experiencing. And he could almost see the bridges of understanding coming to exist between them. That woman who had shared the same experience as his grieving friend had a way of connecting, had a way of making clear that she understood, that this minister was not able to, because he had not walked in her shoes.

Christmas tells us that God came to walk in our shoes and therefore if you find him silent at times does not mean that he doesn’t understand your pain.  Christmas is special because it reminds us concretely that God is indeed with us. So let’s go home to the heart of Christmas and embrace Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, who will not leave us in the best or the worst times. May this year’s Christmas make you feel that God in Jesus is closer to you than you are to your own breath. May he be a comfort and consolation to you always and may you always remember: Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord.2

Friday, December 23, 2016


All religions involve mankind's effort to get back into a stable and healthy relationship with God - that's why they can appear to be so similar. But Christianity is the only religion in which mankind's effort to find God is met by the unimaginable event of God himself deciding to come down into human nature so that he can be more easily found.
It's like the farmer who stayed home on Christmas Eve when everyone else went to church because he didn’t believe in Jesus. A terrible snow storm started, and outside the living room window he saw a gaggle of wild geese huddling together in confusion, trying to keep warm. He rushed out into the storm and opened his barn door. Then he went over to the geese - barely able to see them through the blizzard. He tried to coax them into the barn. Then he tried to scare them in. But they just kept jumping away from him, squawking and flapping their wings in self-defense.
After 20 minutes and no progress, he gave up and went back inside. He stood in the warm living room staring out at the geese. And he thought: "If only I could become a goose myself, then I could lead them into the barn and save them." And with that thought, he fell on his knees, right there in the living room, and started to cry. He realized that that's exactly what God had done on the first Christmas night - and that he had been spending his life squawking and flapping in the wrong direction.

I don’t know whether the first part of the gospel reading made any sense to you. A long list of names of people belonging to the ancestry of Jesus. Though we often skip over these lists of names, the Gospel writers took great pains to compile the genealogies and to make several theological points in the process. Strangely enough, the list includes a number of disreputable characters, including three women of bad reputation: Tamar, Rahab and Bathsheba. Perhaps the Lord God included these women in His Son's human genealogy to emphasize God's grace, to give us all hope and to show us that Jesus is sent to save sinners. He comes under the image of a weak human being, so that he could drive the fear of God away from us; so that we could correct our wrong concept of God and we be able to relate with Him.

Ideas affect actions. The idea that we have of another person affects how we relate to that person. If someone gives me a million dollars, I am going to think he is a great guy, and I will treat him accordingly. If I find out that a friend has been stealing from my bank account, I am going to think he is a liar and a back-stabber, and my dealings with him will turn cold. Our idea of someone affects how we interact with them. Communion with God, a relationship with God, this is what we were created for. But the quality of that relationship depends on what we think this God is like.   

Someone who doesn't believe in God at all, will have no relationship with him. Someone who thinks God is an angry, intolerant tyrant will have a fearful, unstable relationship with him. Someone who thinks God as a distant and impersonal force will have a cold, distant relationship with God. God became man on Christmas Night almost 2000 years ago because he wanted to correct our mistaken ideas about what he's like. He wants us to have the right idea about him, so that we can live in a right relationship with him. What is this right idea?

Look at the baby Jesus, wrapped in swaddling clothes, laid in a manger, smiling helplessly at his mother Mary - that is the true God, a God who comes to meet us right where we're at. He has chosen to come to us so weak and naked in order that we may each do something for Him…Mary's Son tells us that all we do or do not do for one of the smallest of His little ones, that we do or do not do for him. If Christ indeed is in our midst, from now on, wherever you go, or wherever I go, all the ground between us will be holy ground." God is among us and in us. He is Emmanuel, God with us. He understands us and can relate with our wretched life.
There was a very young minister who had been called once to minister to an old farm widow. Her husband had just died, and the minister went with all his earnest intent to be as much comfort as he could to her. Most of his knowledge of grief was abstract and academic, and so he went and said the best words he knew to say. He tried to convey his care, but while he was doing that, there came into the room another older woman about this widow's age. She walked across and without hardly a word, she embraced the grieving person and all she said was, "I understand, my dear. I understand."
Someone told the minister later that this second person had just lost her husband six months before and, therefore, she came out of a shared understanding of what his friend was experiencing. And he could almost see the bridges of understanding coming to exist between them. That woman who had shared the same experience as his grieving friend had a way of connecting, had a way of making clear that she understood, that this minister was not able to, because he had not walked in her shoes.

Christmas tells us that God came to walk in our shoes and therefore if you find him silent at times does not mean that he doesn’t understand your pain.  Christmas is special because it reminds us concretely that God is indeed with us. So let’s go home to the heart of Christmas and embrace Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, who will not leave us in the best or the worst times. May this year’s Christmas make you feel that God in Jesus is closer to you than you are to your own breath. May he be a comfort and consolation to you always, at every step of your life. Amen.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

ADVENT IV [A] Is 7:10-14; Romans 1:1-7; Matthew 1:18-24 

Sooner or later, every one of us comes up against the rough side of life, 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 you do? We have a great example in today’s gospel. His name is Joseph, the just man, righteous man.
While Mary is featured prominently in Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth, Matthew brings Joseph to the forefront, because Jesus becomes part of David’s lineage through Joseph (1:1-17).  Luke tells us of Mary’s obedience (Luke 1:38) and Matthew of Joseph’s obedience.  Luke tells the story of the angel’s appearance to Mary (Luke 1:26-38), but Matthew tells us only that the child was from the Holy Spirit.  But why does the Church couple Ahaz with Joseph in today’s readings?  Because of the stark contrast between the two men, each faced with a difficult situation.  One of them, Ahaz, relied on his own wits and schemes.  Joseph relied on God alone and trusted in Him absolutely. Ahaz sacrificed his own son to appease the Babylonians and showed no mercy.  While Joseph spent his life in protecting his foster-son.  And so we see Joseph, in sharp contrast to Ahaz in the background, as the just and righteous man that he is. 

There are three occasions where angel talks to Joseph in a dream.   In each instance, the angel calls Joseph to action and Joseph obeys.  Joseph 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 will tell Joseph to take the mother and child to Egypt to escape Herod’s wrath.  In Mt  2:19, the angel will, at the death of Herod, tell 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. After each of the three angelic apparitions in his dreams, Joseph obeys the angel’s commands without question or pause.  His hallmark is obedience—prompt, simple, and unspectacular obedience.  And in this sense, Joseph prefigures the Gospel of Matthew’s understanding of righteousness:  to be righteous is simply to obey the Word of God. In the end, Joseph obediently took Mary as his wife, in spite of his fears, and he claimed her Son as his own by naming him. In spite of his earlier decision to divorce this woman quietly, Joseph nurtured, protected, watched over and loved both Mary and her Child. 
Like Joseph, we need to trust in God, listen to Him and be faithful.  Although we may face financial problems, job insecurity, family problems and health concerns let us try to be trusting and faithful like St. 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.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

ADVENT III [A] Is 35:1-6a, 10Jas 5:7-10;Mt 11: 2-11

Not seeing Jesus as a fiery reformer, John the Baptist send his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come or should we expect someone else?”  Jesus answers by pointing to what is happening, quoting what  the prophet Isaiah had said about the works of the expected Messiah: “the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers made clean, the deaf hear, the dead brought back to life and good news is reaching the poor.”  Jesus repeated what he had proclaimed at the synagogue at Nazareth, “Today these prophetic words come true even as you listen.” (Lk 4: 21)
If an unbeliever were to ask now for evidence that the Messiah has come, what answer could we give?  Can we say that, as the heavens proclaim the glory of the Creator God, the earth proclaims the coming of the Messiah-Christ?
We should remember two things:  that the kingdom of Christ, though here, is not yet and that the kingdom of God is indeed invisible.

As Vatican Council II wrote, the Church “becomes on earth the budding forth of that kingdom.”  We are a pilgrim people, fashioning the kingdom and the rule of Christ over human hearts through tears and trembling, through suffering and death, in the midst of sin and selfishness.
Though Jesus himself declared that “the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” he also said that the kingdom of God is “within us.”  It is “a kingdom of holiness and grace.”  

Though God’s kingdom is not fully established, though God’s rule is primarily hidden in our hearts, it should have effects in our everyday world of flesh and blood.  In other words, why are we not holier than we are?  Why are we not more visible and transparent signs that Christ is with us?

Advent lays an awesome responsibility on all believers, to let the world see that “he-who-is-to-come” is indeed with us. We are the works that reveal, or conceal him. Advent calls us to constant conversion, even radical reform, so that whether playing or praying, laughing or weeping, living or dying, we radiate Christ and his kingdom to the world, here and now, wherever we are.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Genesis 3:9-15, 20; Eph. 1: 3-6, 11-12; Luke 1: 26-38)

What is so special about the Immaculate Conception, about the fact that from the first moment of her existence Mary was protected by God from the stain and effects of original sin?
Why did the Church make this Solemnity one of the seven days of holy obligation?
There are two reasons.
First, the Immaculate Conception reminds us of the most basic truth of the Catholic faith and of human existence: we need a Savior.
Today's First Reading reminds us that the human race is fallen. All the suffering, injustice, and misery in the world flow from original sin, the rebellion of the human race against their Creator. That rebellion was a mortal wound to human nature.
It was like an astronaut on a space walk disconnecting the cable that links him to the space station: if no one reaches out to reconnect him, he will float away into oblivion.
After our rebellion against God, we needed him to reach out to us, we needed a Savior.
The Immaculate Conception reminds us of this, because Mary didn't do it herself. This miraculous privilege of being completely protected from the stain and effects of original sin, of being created "full of grace", was a pure gift of God. He filled her with grace from the very first moment of her existence in order to make her a fitting mother for the coming Savior.

When Adam disobeyed, he wasn't alone; Eve was with him. Adam and Eve together were created in God’s image, and together they were entrusted with caring for the world, and together they gave into temptation and caused the fall. And so, when the time came for God to redeem the human race, he considered it appropriate to give us not only a new Adam, Jesus, but also a new Eve, the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Jesus alone is the Savior, because he alone is divine, but he has chosen to involve Mary in his work of salvation in a special way. That is why she was preserved from the stain of original sin, from the very first moment of her existence.
The Church's liturgical calendar did not purposely place today's Solemnity in the middle of Advent. We remember and celebrate the Immaculate Conception on December 8th because we celebrate Mary’s birthday (which had made it into the liturgical calendar first) nine months later, on September 8th- Mary's conception was calculated backwards from her birthday, independently of Advent. But providence has made this apparent coincidence into a meaningful God-incidence. Advent is the time when we remember how dark the world was before Christ, and how dark and horrible it still is wherever hearts have not yet welcomed Christ's grace.
The Immaculate Conception was God's way of giving Jesus a worthy mother on earth, and of giving us a worthy mother in heaven. We should thank him for this great gift, and the best way to do that is to follow in our mother's footsteps, answering every call that God sends to our hearts and consciences in the same way that Mary answered her call, by saying: "May it be done to me according to your word."

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. The original sin from which Mary was preserved is the original sin from which we, too, have been freed. The grace of Christ that was hers is the same grace of Christ that is ours. Mary is significant for us because the central factors in her life are the central factors in our own. Perhaps the lesson is that, no matter in which direction we may be facing, we need Mary Immaculate in our lives in order to remember who Christ is and who we ourselves are.

On this feast day, let us ask her to be with us, to guide us, to protect us through her prayers of intercession with her Son, and to share her privilege with us, making our bodies worthy resting places for her son. 

Friday, December 2, 2016

ADVENT II [A]: Is 11:1-10; Rom 15:4-9; Mt 3:1-12  

In today’s Gospel, John the Baptizer urges the Pharisees and Saducees to give evidence that they mean to reform their lives so as to recognize and accept the promised Messiah.  He challenges them to repentance, conversion and renewal. He tells the common people, who are filled with expectation that the Messiah will come soon, to act with justice and charity, letting their lives reflect the transformation that will occur when the Messiah enters their lives.
John advises us to "prepare the way of the Lord." Advent season is a time of preparation. Most Christians prepare for the holidays with lights and gifts, cards and good cheer. But the Church reminds us to prepare spiritually.
John’s message puts joy into Christmas. For it is his message that calls us not to the way that Christmas is, but that the way Christmas ought to be. Christmas ought to be free from guilt and self-absorption. For that to occur there must be repentance.

Turning toward Christ enables us to repent.” Evoking repentance is taking the garbage out. The garbage of our sins, stinks up our lives. John the Baptist is our reminder: Repent and let Christ take the trash out of our life. Be baptized! Make straight paths for Him! Flee from the wrath to come! Produce fruit! This is Advent message. The more we turn to Christ, the more free we become from the bondage of sin.

Friday, November 25, 2016

I ADVENT [A] Is 2:1-5; Rom 13:11-14; Mt 24:37-44 

Today is the first Sunday of Advent. Advent is a time for looking both backward and forward.  We look backward as we prepare to celebrate the historical birth of Jesus. At the same time, we look forward to his Second Coming, as we prepare ourselves to welcome him into all areas of our lives during the Advent season.   One Bible scholar has estimated that there are 1845 references to Christ’s second coming in the Old Testament and 318 references in the New Testament. We see the traditional signs of Advent in our Church: violet vestments and hangings, dried flowers in the sanctuary, and the Advent wreath. We light a candle on this wreath each Sunday until all four are lit. By lighting one candle each week we show how progressively we are going to be in the light of Christ and completely surrounded and engulfed in the light of Christ by the end of 4th week.  We could light them all in one week, but that would not signify the preparation we put in each week. These signs remind us that we are waiting for the rebirth of Jesus in our hearts and lives in love, mercy, compassion and forgiveness. 

The consistent warning in today’s Gospel text is that we should be prepared for the coming of the master.  Our text indicates that the end will seem to be a peaceful and normal time, with people eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, and working in their homes or businesses.  In this routine normal life, it might be easy to forget the "coming of the Son of Man."   In a reference to the story of Noah, Jesus says that the sin of the people was placing too much emphasis on the normal cares and necessities of life.  They were too concerned with eating and drinking – just as we are during the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's holidays.  Jesus reminds us that there is something more important than feasts or weddings: the Son of Man will come to us unexpectedly, either at our death or at the end of the world, and that could be at any moment.   Since God will show up without an appointment, we must be prepared at all times. 

The man working in the field and the woman working at the mill will be “left", because they won’t leave their work.  True enough – work is important.  We need to provide food and shelter for ourselves and our families.  But there is something more important than our work: the coming of the Son of Man. God will arrive unexpectedly. We don't know when a thief might break into our house, so we are prepared for him at all times.  We lock our doors and windows.  We leave a light on when we're gone. We put in an alarm system. We insure our possessions.  We do these things now because a thief could come at some unknown time. 

We spend too much time trying to protect ourselves against future misfortunes.  We save for a rainy day, to get married, to buy a home, to send the children to college, to retire in comfort and to protect ourselves against future misfortunes with varieties of insurance.  But we need to be more spiritually wakeful to prepare for our eternal life. 
Hence, even during this busy Christmas season we must keep our daily life centered on Christ. The advent readings give us warnings as well as promises. To obtain the promise we need to listen to the warning and take it real seriously.

William Willimon tells the story of a funeral he attended when he was serving a small congregation in rural Georgia. One of his members' relatives died, so Willimon and his wife attended the funeral held in an off-brand, country Baptist church. He writes: "I had never seen anything like it. The preacher began to preach. He shouted; he flailed his arms. 'It's too late for Joe. He's dead. But it ain't too late for you. People drop dead every day. Why wait? Now is the day for decision. Give your life to Jesus.' "
Willimon goes on to suggest that this was the worst thing he had ever seen. He fumed and fussed at his wife Patsy, complaining that the preacher had done the worst thing possible for a grieving family - manipulating them with guilt and shame. Patsy agreed. But then she said: "Of course the worst part of it all is that what he said is true."

For the many who faithfully observe the consumer Christmas, Advent is the inevitable prelude to disappointment. And we can easily find that instead of preparing to sing "O Holy Night" we will find ourselves living out one holy nightmare; trying to buy and wrap gifts and decorating the house and making cribs, and not really do anything for a spiritual birth of Christ in our life. Let this advent be a challenge for us to really find Jesus in ordinary things, finding him who was born in the most ordinary situation of being born in a manger. 

Saturday, November 19, 2016

OT 34 [C] CHRIST THE KING: II Sam 5:1-3; Col 1:12-20; Lk 23:35-43

As the body of Abraham Lincoln’s body lay in state for a few hours in Cleveland, Ohio, for mourners to pay their tribute, a black woman in the long queue lifted up her little son and said in a hushed voice: “Honey, take a long, long look. He died for us, to give us freedom from slavery.” Today’s Gospel gives us the same advice, presenting the crucifixion scene of Christ our King Who redeemed us from Satan’s slavery by His death on the cross.
The Gospel presents Christ the King as reigning, not from a throne, but from the gibbet of the cross. Like the “suffering servant” of Isaiah (53:3), he is despised and rejected, as the bystanders ridicule the crucified King, challenging him to prove His Kingship by coming down from the cross.  The Gospel also tells of the criminal crucified beside Jesus who recognized Him as a Savior King and asked Jesus to remember him when Jesus entered His kingdom. Although the Romans intended the inscription on the cross, “This is the King of the Jews,” to be ironic, it reflected the popular Jewish speculations about Jesus’ possible identity as the Messiah of Israel. For Luke and other early Christians that title was correct, since the Kingship of Jesus was made manifest most perfectly in his suffering and death on the cross.

David was seen in the Old Testament as a representation, of the future Messianic King (2 Sm 7:16, Is 9:6-7, Jer 23:5). Jesus is often identified as the Son of David, as the Messiah and as the Shepherd of God’s people.  King David's successful 40-year reign became the model for the hoped-for Messiah in later Judaism. Saul, the first King of Israel, learned from God through the prophet Samuel that the kingship would not remain in his family because he had disobeyed the laws of God. David was chosen by God to replace Saul and was anointed secretly by Samuel in Bethlehem.  Having had to flee from Saul, David settled in Hebron.  Accepted by the tribe of Judah, he reigned there as King of Judah for seven years.  The first reading tells us how, on the death of Saul, the northern tribes came to David in Hebron and anointed him King over all of Israel.  David's reign lasted a mere forty years, but Christ's reign is eternal.  David was a mere man, sinful but repentant.  Christ was True God and True Man, sinless and All-perfect. Christ died on the cross to free all men from their sins. But he rose from the dead, and as living forever he reigns also forever.

In most of the Messianic prophecies given in the Old Testament books of Samuel, Micah, Isaiah and Jeremiah, Christ the Messiah is represented as a King.  Seven hundred years before the birth of Jesus, the Prophet Micah announced His coming as King.  
The New Testament tells us that Jesus is the long awaited king of the Jews.  In the Annunciation, recorded in Lk.1:32-33, we read: “The Lord God will make him a King, as his ancestor David was, and he will be the King of the descendants of Jacob forever and his Kingdom will never end.”  The Magi from the Far East came to Jerusalem and asked the question: (Mt 2:2) “Where is the baby born to be the King of the Jews?   During the royal reception given to Jesus on Palm Sunday, the Jews shouted: (Lk 19:38) “Blessed is the King, who comes in the name of the Lord.”  When Pilate asked the question: (Jn 18:33) “Are you the King of the Jews?" Jesus, in the course of their conversation, made his assertion, “You say that I am a King.  For this was I born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the Truth. Before His Ascension into Heaven, the Risen Jesus declared: (Mt. 28:18) “I have been given all authority in Heaven and on earth.”

The Kingdom of God is the central teaching of Jesus throughout the Gospels.  The word Kingdom appears more than any other word throughout the four Gospels.  Jesus begins His public ministry by preaching the Kingdom.  "The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand (Mark 1:14). In Christ's Kingdom, “we are all a royal priesthood, a holy nation” (1 Pt 2:9; see also Ex 19:6; Is 61:6). According to the teachings of the New Testament, the “Kingdom of God” is a three-dimensional reality:  the life of grace within every individual who does the will of God, the Church here on earth, and Eternal Life in Heaven.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that the Church is the Kingdom of Christ already present in mystery.  It is the mission of the Church to proclaim and establish the Kingdom of Christ in human souls. This mission takes place between the first coming and the second coming of Christ. The Church helps us to establish Christ’s Kingdom in our hearts, thus allowing us to participate in God's inner life. We are elevated and transformed through sanctifying grace. This supernatural life of grace comes to fulfillment in the eternal life of Heaven (CCC #758-780).

To ensure that Jesus is always the King of our hearts, we need to make a great commitment to Him and to back that commitment with the necessary sacrifices, conviction, hard work and daily, serious prayer.
 This feast is an invitation to all those who have power or authority in the government, public offices, educational institutions and in the family to use it for Jesus.  Are we using our God-given authority so as to serve others with love and compassion as Jesus did?  Are we using it to build a more just society rather than   to boost our own egos? Are parents using their God-given authority to train their children in Christian ideals and committed Christian living?

 On this great Feast, let us resolve to give Christ the central place in our lives and to obey His commandment of love by sharing our blessings with all his needy children.  Let us conclude the Church year by asking the Lord to help us serve the King of Kings as He presents Himself in those reaching out to us.  

Saturday, November 12, 2016

OT 33 [C] Mal 3:19-20a; II Thes 3:7-12; Lk 21: 5-19

The Danish philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard, tells the parable of a theater where a variety show is proceeding. Each act is more fantastic than the last, and each is applauded by the audience. Suddenly the manager appears on the stage, apologizing for the interruption.  He announces at the top of his voice that the theater is on fire, and begs his patrons to leave the theatre immediately, without causing a commotion. The spectators think that it is the most amusing turn of the evening, and cheer thunderously. The manager again feverishly implores them to leave the burning building, and he is again applauded vigorously. At last he can do no more. The fire races through the whole building engulfing the fun-loving audience with it. "And so," concludes Kierkegaard, "will our age, I sometimes think, go down in fiery destruction to the applause of a crowded house of cheering spectators". Today’s readings warn us about a similar fate if we are not well prepared when the “Day of the Lord” dawns quite unexpectedly, marking the end of the world.

Today’s Gospel passage warns that the date of the end of the world is uncertain.  Signs and portents will precede the end, and the faithful will be called upon to testify before kings and governors.  The Good News, however, is that those who persevere in faithfulness to the Lord will save their souls and enter God's eternal kingdom. Christ’s Second Coming is something to celebrate, because he is going to present all creation to his Heavenly Father. That is why we proclaim His Second Coming at Mass: "We proclaim Your death, O Lord, and profess Your Resurrection, until You come again." The second coming of Jesus at the t end of the age is a repeated theme in the scriptures.
C. S. Lewis said that when the author appears on the stage, you know the play is over. This is how he understands the doctrine of the Second Coming of our Lord. It means that he who has begun a good work will bring it to the best conclusion of which he is capable. After all, no one has ever claimed that this planet earth was intended to exist forever. The concept of the Second Coming merely affirms that such a conclusion will be purposeful. The drama of history is not going to just fizzle out or end in a whimper! It is going to come to the kind of climax that he who conceived the drama wants for it.
Humorist Lewis Grizzard wrote about a man in his hometown named Luther Gilroy. Luther claimed he was out plowing his field and saw a sign in the sky that said THE END IS NEAR. So Luther let his mule and his cow out of their pens, gave all his chickens away, and climbed on top of his house to await the end. When it didn't come, he pouted and refused to come down off the roof. Finally, his wife called the deputy sheriff, who came over and said, "Luther, you idiot, I saw that same sign. It didn't say, `The end is near.' It said, `Go drink a beer.' Now come down off that roof before you fall off and break your neck."
There are also people going about trying to tell people the end is near. Jesus said even he didn’t know the end times, only the Father knows. But Jesus said the end will have some portents. You will suffer persecution and those who persevere to the end will receive the reward.
“By your perseverance, you will secure your lives.” There can be no holiness without perseverance. Storms batter all of us. Sometimes they can be external. We could lose our jobs, we could fail epically in a relationship, someone we love could get cancer.
Sometimes these storms will be internal. We could be tormented by anxiety or self-doubt. Maybe there’s an intense loneliness. Maybe we suffer from depression. Obviously, God wants us to seek help for that. But He also wants us to recognize that these weaknesses aren’t an obstacle to our holiness, as long as we keep trying to walk with him. God is walking with us, and he asks us not to run from him.
The liturgical year draws to an end. Advent is just around the corner. And today’s readings highlight our call to be holy. Holiness grows through struggles, difficulties and challenges. If we don’t remain holy and prepared it can be disastrous for us when the Lord comes unexpectedly.  
The believers were assured that if they remained constant in Faith, they could welcome the end of all things and the beginning of eternity with confidence and joy rather than with fear and dread.
The ideal way to accept Jesus’ apocalyptic message is always to be ready to face our death.   We must live holy lives of selfless love, mercy, compassion and unconditional forgiveness, remembering the demands of justice in our day-to-day lives. Let us conclude this Church year by praying for the grace to endure patiently any trials that are essential to our affirmation of Jesus our Savior. 

Monday, October 31, 2016


Most of us have had the experience of attending a high school graduation ceremony, or maybe a different awards ceremony. Underclassmen watch the seniors receive their diploma, and many of them are honored with special awards recognizing their achievements during the past four years. Watching the older comrades reach the goal inspires the younger ones to keep on striving. All Saints' Day is like that for the Church.

What is life on earth if not a kind of school where we are supposed to learn wisdom, courage, and holiness? And heaven is kind of like an eternal awards banquet, filled with feasting and joy. Life on this earth is hard and for most people justice is not done on earth. Hundreds and thousands of holy men and women suffer through life's privations and challenges, glorifying God by their patience and heroic generosity, and we never hear anything about them.
But we hear non-stop reports about a few movie stars, politicians, and CEOs, many of whom who lead lives of corruption, self-indulgence and scandal. The bad guys seem to win pretty frequently here on earth, while the good guys suffer. Today, the Church reminds us of where the eternal rewards will actually go. What a relief to know that this beautiful but incomplete earthly life is duly crowned in the life to come!

We celebrate saints' days all throughout the liturgical calendar. But All Saints' Day reminds us of something that can get lost in the other saints' days. The most famous saints often led such extraordinary lives that it's hard for us to emulate them. It's easy to honor them, recognizing all that they did for Christ, and all that Christ did for them. But honoring the saints is not enough. We also need to emulate them. And this is where All Saints' Day comes in.
On Halloween we “dress up” in costumes and put on masks to “hide out,” to conceal who we really are. Originally the “disguises” worn on “All Hallows Eve” were supposed to fool the demons and other dark forces roaming the planet on that fateful night. The idea was that good Christians would be left alone by evil spirits if they dressed to look like they themselves were part of Satan’s army. Well, today’s feast is not a fooling feast, but a feast honoring the army of God.
Today we honor all of saintly men and women who have not been canonized by the Church, who are not famous saints, but who have nevertheless followed Christ heroically and taken their place in heaven. These are the saints that lived ordinary lives on the outside, and extraordinary lives on the inside. And God didn't overlook them. And there is no shortage of them. They make up a "great multitude, which no one could count," as St John puts it in the First Reading.
Most of us live ordinary lives on the outside. And may be some of us, because of that, think that we can't really live up to the high standard set by the famous saints who did miracles and lived dramatic lives. But today's Solemnity assures us that if we live each day as Christ would have us, striving to do God's will with all our strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves, then our lives, which look so ordinary on the outside, will be truly extraordinary on the inside.

One way we can tap into the encouragement that God offers us through the saints is by asking for their intercession. Since the very beginning of the Church, Christians have asked their older brothers and sisters who have already gone to the Father's house to pray for them.

Some non-Catholics quote the Bible to criticize it, pointing out that the New Testament says Jesus is the "only mediator" between God and man. It certainly does say that. But does that mean we can't pray for each other?  Certainly not. In James 5:16 we are commanded to "pray for one another" because "the fervent prayer of a righteous man is very powerful." And who is more righteous than the saints? Today we are reminded that all baptized Christians form one family in Jesus Christ. And just as good parents generously let the older children help and teach the younger children, God does the same for us.

As we honor our older brothers and sisters who are enjoying beatific vision and ask their intercession, we also need to strive to follow their path of heroic living by living the beatitudes in our lives for the sake of honoring Christ who died heroically for our salvation.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

OT XXXI [C]  Wis 11:22--12:2; 2 Thes 1:11--2:2. Lk 19:1- 10
There was a Zen school in Japan. They were training young boys in the discipline of meditation. The boys had been taken into seclusion. Among the boys there was one who kept stealing. So the boys finally put together a petition and brought the thief to the headmaster and stood there and said, "We are threatening right now to leave because we can't stand this kid any longer." With wisdom the Zen master approached them, looked at them, and said, "You are wise brothers. You are very wise. You are wise because you know the difference between right and wrong. You may go somewhere else to study if you wish, but this poor brother does not even know right from wrong. Who will teach him if I do not? I am going to keep him here even if all the rest of you leave." The story goes that a torrent of tears cleansed the face of that boy who had stolen, and the desire to steal was banished from him forever in that decisive moment.

The common theme of today’s readings is the benevolent and forgiving mercy of God for sinners and the response of repentance and conversion expected from us. 
In the first reading, the writer is attempting to boost the Faith of his fellow Jews by answering the question, "Why doesn’t God do away with   evil men?"  The answer is that, unlike men, God is benevolent toward all His creatures.  God's Providence for all His creatures shows that, in His strength, He can deal mercifully with all men. He “rebukes the offenders little by little,” “warns them of their sins” and reminds them to “abandon their wickedness. God continues to love us even when we do not love Him in return. 

In Luke ch.18, a rich ruler came to Jesus asking how he might be saved.  But he went away sad after learning that he would have to sacrifice his riches.  When the Apostles wondered if any man with possessions could be saved, Jesus assured them, “What is impossible for mortals is possible for God" (18:18-27).  This account leads naturally to our Gospel lesson, the story of Zacchaeus, a rich man who found salvation when he surrendered himself to the grace of God.  The rich ruler was too attached to his possessions to give them to the poor.  The repentant Zacchaeus, on the other hand, voluntarily pledged to give half his possessions to the poor and to make four-fold restitution to any one he might have cheated.  

Zacchaeus, as chief tax-collector in Jericho (roughly equivalent to a district director of the IRS), was probably a man of much wealth and few friends. From the time of Julius Caesar, the options for collecting Rome’s taxes were auctioned off to the highest bidder in each municipality or county. In order to win the bid, the prospective tax collector would have had to pay to Rome, in advance, all the taxes due in his locale. Then, he would hire agents who would help in collecting the taxes so that he could recoup his initial investment, pay his agents and make a generous profit as well. Because the tax collectors extorted sizable amounts of interest in addition to the taxes fixed by Rome, they were despised by their own townspeople.  Since Zacchaeus had reached the top of his profession, he was the most hated man in the district, considered by the other Jews as a traitor, a thief and an outcast.  When Zacchaeus heard Jesus who also had Matthew a tax professional as his disciple was passing by Jericho, he thought to see this Rabbi very much. When Zacheaus was seeking to see Jesus, Jesus also was seeking to know Zacchaeus.
Sometimes we believe that we’re the ones looking for him, but the only reason we can even look for him is because he’s already looking for us. St John of the Cross said that if we’re seeking God, know that he is seeking us even more.
Jesus didn’t walk by that sycamore tree by accident: he’d been planning his encounter with Zacchaeus.  Zacchaeus was mired in his sins, trapped in a selfishness he couldn’t escape. Jesus came to find him. 
Jesus didn’t only come to seek; he came to save. We can’t heal ourselves from sin. Whether it appears to be a terrible, glaring sin, or whether we think it’s a peccadillo, we can’t save ourselves. But Jesus can. And Zacchaeus wanted to celebrate that encounter by throwing a party for him. During the banquet, Zacchaeus made the solemn announcement of his repentance and committed himself to doing justice by the sharing of his wealth and the making of reparations. Zacchaeus did not make this offer to win Jesus' approval, but to show his gratitude. 
There is an old legend that says Zacchaeus went every day outside the city of Jericho carrying a bucket of water. One day, his wife followed him, wondering what this daily ritual was all about. She saw him stop at a certain sycamore tree. Zacchaeus poured his bucket of water on the tree's thirsty roots, and then stood there reverently looking up into the tree. It was a sacred place, for it was the place where his life was changed.
But unfortunately a lot of Christians can tell the day and the hour they first met Jesus Christ, but they have never taken this final step of letting the Living Christ rearrange the priorities of their lives.  Zacchaeus was ready to let Christ be the very center of his life. He was ready to let Christ send him back out into the world to continue our Lord's ministry of justice and compassion. His faith was now central to his whole being. Tradition says he became the first bishop of Caesarea.

Zacchaeus allowed himself to be found. Christ also asks us to let ourselves be found by him. One of the most powerful ways to do that is to wait for him at the confessional with a repentant heart.
When we go to confession, Jesus repeats the same words he said in Zacchaeus’s home: “Today salvation has come to this house.”
Let us remember that Jesus loves us in spite of our ugly thoughts, broken promises, sullied ideals, lack of prayer and Faith, resentments and lusts.  He will put us back on the straight road to Heaven.  We will become again true "sons and daughters of Abraham", If we stop hiding and allow him to find us. If we are short in our ego and get out to seek Jesus.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

OT XXX [C]: Sir 35:12-14, 16-18; 2 Tm 4:6-8, 16-18; Lk 18:9-14

A news reporter once asked Mother Teresa if she had ever been tempted to be proud.  Mother Theresa retorted with a smile, "Proud about what?"  The reporter replied, “Why, about the wonderful things you have been doing for the poorest of the poor!”  Then came her answer, "I never knew I had done anything, because it was God who worked in and through my Sisters and volunteers.”  True humility differentiates a saint from a sinner.  If we are proud of our talents, our family connections, our reputation, or our achievements in life, today’s Gospel tells us that we need Jesus to rid us of our pride and make us truly humble.
The main theme of today’s Gospel is that true humility must be the hallmark of our prayers. However, the central focus of today’s parable is not on prayer itself, but rather on pride, humility and the role of grace in our salvation. The first reading, taken from Sirach, is a perfect companion piece to the Gospel parable.  In one striking image from Sirach, the writer talks about "the prayer of the lowly, piercing the clouds to reach the unseen throne of God.”  Such prayers are heard because they come from the hearts of people who know how much they need God.  God did not hear the prayer of the Pharisee because he exalted himself.
The parable was mainly intended to convict the Pharisees who, on the one hand, proudly claimed they obeyed all the rules and regulations of the Jewish Law, while on the other hand, they ignored the Mosaic precepts of mercy and compassion.  The Pharisees were looked upon as devout, law-abiding citizens and models of righteousness.  But they were proud and self-righteous.  The tax collectors, on the other hand, were the most-hated group because they collected taxes for a foreign empire, and became rich by cheating people, often threatening them with false accusations.  In other words, they collaborated with the Romans and stole from the Jews.  Hence, they were considered by their fellow-Jews to be traitors, unclean and sinful.  The parable, however, shows that both men were sinners:  the difference was that the publican realized that he was, but the Pharisee did not.

The Pharisee stood in the very front section of the Temple, distancing himself from his inferiors, and his prayer was egotistical.  He looked upon himself as superior to other people, and listed all his pious acts. When he prayed he was telling the truth. When he said, “Lord, you’re lucky to have a guy like me, because I’m one of the best guys I know,” it was really true. He really was a wonderful guy.  The Jewish Law required fasting only on the Day of Atonement, but this Pharisee fasted twice a week, possibly, on Monday and Friday, the market days, when the largest possible audience would see his whitened face and disheveled clothing -- the external marks of his fasting.  Although he was required to tithe only on his agricultural produce (Dt 14:22; Nm 18:21), this Pharisee paid tithes on all his wealth.  He was sure that he had done all that the law of God required --and even more, thus creating a “surplus” of righteousness and making the Almighty his “debtor.”

The tax collector stood at the back of the Temple and would not even lift his eyes to God. He confessed his sins and humbly asked for God’s mercy:“Kyrie, eleison”- "O God, be merciful to me--a sinner."  His prayer was short, but to the purpose. His heartbroken, humble prayer won him acceptance before God.  His only virtue was his humility, which led him to repentance and prompted him to ask for mercy. 

It is a tragedy that those who justify themselves leave no room to receive grace. Morally they may be living exemplary lives, yet their self-justification leaves no room for the grace of God to take hold. God cannot give grace to them because they are not ready to receive it; they are too full.  If we are proud and complacent, there is not much room for God.  On the other hand, if we are truly humble we will find grace, mercy and peace.  There must be a space in our lives   for grace to enter and work its miracle. 
A little boy announced to his mother, "I'm like Goliath. I'm 9 feet tall." "Why do you say that?" asked his mother. "Well, I made a little ruler and measured myself with it; I'm 9 feet tall!" We all have a tendency to measure ourselves with our own measure rode. We perceive ourselves to be big fish because we are in a small pond. In the sea even the largest size fish looks small.
Human standards don't count. The only evaluation that counts is by an absolute standard! The righteousness of God Himself; with that measuring stick, we all come up short!

Mr. Pharisee about whom Jesus said "... trusted in himself that he was righteous and regarded others with contempt," so cleverly told us he came to church with one eye on himself, one eye on his neighbor, and no eye on God. Jesus said that even though this man went to church, he was not a part of the community for he was "standing by himself." And Jesus said pointedly that he was never forgiven by God, for "all who exalt themselves will be humbled." I guess we might say he was so self-conscious he lost his God-consciousness.
The second gentleman, however, the tax collector, "went down to his home justified." It seems that even though he was not satisfied with himself, God was.

So, from the text, which of these two men do I relate to in worship? I came to church today. When we leave let’s check our feelings to what happened?

Saturday, October 15, 2016

OT XXIX [C] Ex 17:8-13, II Tm 3:14--4:2,Lk 18:1-8

Once upon a time there was a lady who lived next door to an atheist. Every day, when she prayed, the atheist guy could hear her. He thought to himself, "She sure is crazy, praying all the time like that. Doesn't she know there is no GOD!" Many times while she was praying, he would go to her house and harass her, saying, "Lady, why do you pray all the time? Don't you know there is no GOD!" But she kept on praying.
One day, she ran out of groceries. As usual, she was praying to the Lord explaining her situation and thanking Him for what He was going to do. As usual, the atheist heard her praying and thought to himself, "Humph...I'll fix her."
He went to the grocery store, bought a whole bunch of groceries, took them to her house, dropped them off on the front porch, rang the door bell and then hid in the bushes to see what she would do. When she opened the door and saw the groceries, she began to praise the Lord with all her heart, jumping, singing, and shouting everywhere!
The atheist then jumped out of the bushes and told her, "You crazy old lady. God didn't buy you those groceries, I bought those groceries!' Well, she broke out and started running down the street, shouting and praising the Lord even more. When he finally caught her, he asked what her problem was... She said "I knew the Lord would provide me with some groceries, but I didn't know he was going to make the devil pay for them!"
Some people do not believe in the power of persistent prayer. They think prayer is meaningless and powerless. May be because they don’t see an immediate result or response to their prayers.
Today’s readings are mainly about perseverance in prayer, constancy in prayer and trust in God as we pray. In the first reading, Moses, after sending Joshua to fight against Amalek, is presented as making tireless intercession with constancy for the victory of Israel’s army. Both Moses and the widow in today’s Gospel story teach us how we should pray.
 By introducing the parable of the unjust judge and the persistent widow, Jesus emphasizes the “necessity of praying always and not losing heart.” Constancy in prayer is Faith in action. Jesus presents the widow in today’s Gospel as a model of the trust and tenacity with which his disciples are to pray. God is not compared to the unjust and insensitive judge, needing to be bribed or forced by our persistent prayers to give us what we need.  Jesus is asking us to persevere in prayer that opens our hearts and minds to God’s always available grace. 
Prayer does not seek to move God’s heart for what we want.  Prayer is the opening up of our own heart and spirit to what God wants for us.  God hears the cry of the people and God answers that cry speedily, although that does not seem to fit with our actual experience of unanswered prayers, even in our dire needs. How, then, does He answer? It is by His active presence in our lives. The truth is that God is intimately present in all the turmoil and terror of life, vindicating those who cry out in Faith. God is, in fact, with us, even before the cry for help leaves our mouth.
We should not expect to get whatever we pray for. This parable does not suggest that God writes a blank check, guaranteeing whatever we want whenever we want it in the form we ask for.  But we conveniently forget the fact that, often, a loving father has to refuse the request of a child, because he knows that what the child asks would hurt rather than help him (e.g., a knife). God is like that. He knows what to give, when to give and how to give it.

I heard a story which illustrates how we often confuse God's timing with ours. A country newspaper had been running a series of articles on the value of church attendance. One day, a letter to the editor was received in the newspaper office. It read, "Print this if you dare. I have been trying an experiment. I have a field of corn which I plowed on Sunday. I planted it on Sunday. I did all the cultivating on Sunday. I gathered the harvest on Sunday and hauled it to my barn on Sunday. I find that my harvest this October is just as great as any of my neighbors' who went to church on Sunday. So where was God all this time?" The editor printed the letter, but added his reply at the bottom. "Your mistake was in thinking that God always settles his accounts in October."
It is a mistake to think that God should act when and how we want him to act, according to our timetable rather than his. The fact that our vision is limited, finite, unable to see the end from the beginning, somehow escapes our mind.
Only God sees time whole, and, therefore, only God knows what is good for us in the long run. That is why Jesus said that we must never be discouraged in prayer. Instead we have to leave the answer to God’s decision saying, as he did in Gethsemane, “Thy will be done.”

In Priests for the Third Millennium, Cardinal Timothy Dolan observes that prayer must become like eating and breathing. We have to eat daily, not stock up on food on Monday, and then take off the rest of the week. Do we take ten deep breaths and say, “Good, that’s over for a while, I won’t have to breathe for a couple of hours?” Prayer is not a spare wheel that we take out in emergency but the steering wheel which we have our hands on all the time driving.

To conclude, How shall we pray every day? We need to combine formal prayers with action prayer: It is ideal that we start our prayers by reading from the Bible, especially the Psalms and the Gospels. Formal, memorized and liturgical prayers are also essential for the Christian prayer life. Personal prayer is of great importance in our life of prayer. Talking to God in our own words -- praising Him, thanking Him and presenting our needs before Him -- transforms our whole life into prayer. We should perfect our prayers by bringing ourselves into God’s presence during our work several times during the day and by offering all that we are, that we have and that we do to God. This will help us to bring all our successes and failures, joys and sorrows, highs and lows to God in prayer. Along with formal and memorized prayers, this type of prayer life enables us to pray always and pray with constancy and trusting perseverance. Any time we have distractions in prayer, bring that distracting matter actively into prayer, praying for that person or distracting situation or matter into our prayer. That way we can pray at all times as St.Paul says:  Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1Thes.5:16-18).

Saturday, October 8, 2016

OT XXVIII [C]: II Kgs 5:14-17; II Tm 2:8-13; Lk 17:11-19
Winston Churchill loved to tell the story of the little boy who fell off a pier into deep ocean water. An older sailor, heedless of the great danger to himself, dove into the stormy water, struggled with the boy, and finally, exhausted, brought him to safety. Two days later the boy’s mother came with him to the same pier, seeking the sailor who rescued her son. Finding him, she asked, "You dove into the ocean to bring my boy out?" "I did," he replied. The mother quickly demanded, "Then where’s his hat?" In today’s Gospel Jesus tells the story of nine ungrateful lepers.
The central theme of today’s readings is gratitude - in particular, the expression of gratitude God expects from us. By describing Jesus' miraculous healing of the ten lepers from a physically devastating and socially isolating disease, today’s Gospel presents a God Who desires gratitude from us for the many blessings we receive from Him, and Who feels pain at our ingratitude.  Naaman, the Syrian Military General in the first reading, was an outcast not only because of his illness; he was also a non-Israelite. But he returned to thank the Prophet Elisha for the cure of his leprosy, and as a sign of his gratitude transferred his allegiance to the God of Israel. St. Paul, in the second reading, advises Timothy to be grateful to God even in his physical sufferings and amid the dangers associated with spreading the Word of God, because God will always be faithful to His people. Today’s Gospel story tells us of a single non-Jewish leper (a “Samaritan heretic”), who returned to thank Jesus for healing him, while the nine Jewish lepers went their way, perhaps under the false impression that healing was their right as God’s chosen people.  They did not seem to feel indebted to Jesus or to God for the singular favor they had received.  Instead, they hurried off to obtain a health certificate from the priests.  “Where are the other nine?” Jesus asked the Samaritan leper and the crowd.  “Did only one come back to say 'thank you?'” 
In both the Old Testament and the New Testaments, God laments over man’s ingratitude.  “Hear, O heavens, and listen, O earth, for the LORD speaks: Sons have I raised and reared, but they have disowned me!  An ox knows its owner, and an ass, its master's manger; But Israel does not know, My people have not understood. They have forsaken the LORD, spurned the Holy One of Israel and apostatized” (Isaiah; 1: 2-4). 

St.Paul advises us: “Give thanks always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father” (Ephesians 5: 20).“And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3: 17). Gratitude is an attitude we need to develop in our life. 
" James Madison, the fourth President of the United States, is known as the Father of the American Constitution.  Madison was known for his spotless character. In his old age, the venerable ex-President suffered from many diseases, took a variety of medicines and managed to live a long life.  An old friend from the adjoining county of Albemarle sent him a box of vegetable pills and begged to be informed whether they helped him.  In due time Madison replied as follows: "My dear friend, I thank you very much for the box of pills.  I have taken them all, and while I cannot say that I am better since taking them, it is quite possible that I might have been worse if I had not taken them, and so I beg you to accept my sincere acknowledgments."

We allow the negatives of our lives to hide from ourselves the blessings we have received -- minor negatives like some health problems, financial worries, conflict with a neighbor or co-worker or spouse.    Besides, we are often thankful only when we compare ourselves with less fortunate people.  In times of need, we pray with desperate intensity; but as time passes we forget God.  Many of us fail to offer a grace before meals or allot a few minutes of the day for family prayer.  God gave us his only Son, but we seldom give Him a word of thanks.  Often we are ungrateful to our parents and consider them a nuisance, although in the past we were dependent on them for literally everything.  Hence, in the future, let us be filled with daily thanksgiving to God and to others for the countless gifts we have received.  Let us show our gratitude to our forgiving God by forgiving others, and to a loving God by radiating His love, mercy and compassion to others. May God give us an attitude of gratitude to acknowledge all the blessings we received from God and from others.