[toggle title=”Homily Week 2 ” state=”opened”]

Is 49. 3: 5-6; I Cor 1: 1-3; Jn 1: 29-34

Theme: Jesus – the Lamb of God

Lamb of God at the top of the church: A tourist visited a church in Germany and was surprised to see the carved figure of a lamb near the top of the church’s tower. He asked why it was there and was told that when the church was being built, a workman fell from a high scaffold. His co-workers rushed down, expecting to find him dead. But to their surprise and joy, he was alive and only slightly injured. How did he survive? A flock of sheep was passing beneath the tower at the time, and he landed on top of a lamb. The lamb broke his fall and was crushed to death, but the man was saved. To commemorate that miraculous escape, someone carved a lamb on the tower at the exact height from which the workman had fallen. That expresses a tiny bit of what John means when he says, “Behold, the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world” The same sense is indicated in Isaiah’s prophecy of one “who will bring salvation to the ends of the earth.”

John the evangelist does not speak about the infancy narrative or the baptism of Jesus but through the witness of John the Baptist, the evangelist answers the questions: who is Jesus? And what is he going to do (his mission)?

The Baptist spoke about Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (v. ), he is filled with the Holy Spirit (v. ) and he is the Son of God (v. 34). Jesus as the lamb reminds us of the lamb that saved the life of Israel in the Exodus journey from the land of slavery and sin to the land of freedom and promise. It was the blood of the lamb sprinkled on the doors of the houses of the Israelites that saved their lives from the wrath of God. In the same, way, Jesus offered himself on the Cross to redeem the world. To save our wounded humanity estranged from God, Jesus came as a lamb sacrificed on the Cross (1Cor 5:7) as a sin offering on our behalf. With his blood, he has cleansed us from our sins and reconciled us with the Father.

In this way, we have become a consecrated people to God in Christ, called to be holy and blameless before him.

As Isaiah had foretold, “He was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins and upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole; by his stripes we ere healed” (Is 53:5; Jer 11:19).

The self sacrifice of Jesus as a lamb is not a cultic sacrifice. He is a victorious lamb, through his death and resurrection and to him we offer praise, honor and glory (Rev 5:6-7).

This Jesus is filled with Holy Spirit which implies new creation. God’s Spirity in the beginning created a new world out of chaos. Now Jesus, the Son of God brought about the new creation of God’s people through the sacrifice of himself as a lamb and taking our sins.

Jesus’ offering himself is not a cultic ritual done in the past rather he continues to offer himself fr us in the Eucharist, and thereby his new creation of on-going salvation continued. That is the reason priest in every mass proclaims, “This is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

John the Baptist was witnessing to this identity and mission of Jesus. He was aware of his call to reveal the anointed one to Israel and to the whole world. As we consecrated to God in Christ, we have to be aware of our call to be holy to the Lord and preach the redemption to our world accomplished by Jesus.

Here we need to recognize Jesus as the lamb who takes away the sin of the world. In our efforts to bear witness to Christ and to the mystery of our redemption, we will receive grace and peace (1Cor 1:3) which implies God’s favor and reconciliation with God and neighbor.

Are we aware of our identity like John the Baptist as a consecrated people in Christ? What is important is not be mere Christians but to bring Christ to our world. How do we bear witness to Christ in a given situation of our life?

Qualities of the lamb: simple, meek, obedient and no protest – OT image: paschal lamb (Ex 12:21-27) – the blood of the paschal lamb saved the lives of Israel – daily offerings: Ex 2938-42 – the two lambs offered in the morning and the evening as a thanksgiving to God who consecrated the people saying, “I will be their God and they will know that it is I who brought them from the land of Egypt” (Ex 29:42) – it is also a symbol of the Lord’s servant from prophet Isaiah giving his life for his people.

The first reading: Bible Scholars have called this and three similar passages from this section of Isaiah (chapters 40-55), the “Songs of the Suffering Servant.” Today’s selection is from the second Servant Song. In the original author’s mind, the servant was probably a figure for the people of Israel, or for a faithful remnant within the people. The Gospels clearly show that the “suffering servant” is Jesus. The early Church, saw aspects of Jesus’ own life and mission foreshadowed in the Servant Songs, and the Church today refers to all of them throughout the liturgical year.

The second reading is the beginning of Saint Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians. The letter is for all members of the Church at Corinth. Corinth was a bawdy seaport in cosmopolitan city in Greece. The vices of every seaport, plus the philosophical ferment of ancient Greece, were part of these peoples’ lives and gave rise, in part, to the need for this letter. Paul reminds the Corinthians that they are “sanctified and called to be holy,” like all who call on the name of Jesus in faith.


John the Baptist gives testimony to Jesus by pointing out that he is the Lamb of God (vv 29, 36); a man who was before me (v 30); the one on whom the Holy Spirit remained (v 33); and the Son John the Baptist introduced Jesus to the Jews as the “Lamb of God” on the second day (Jn 1:29). He repeats it on the third day. “Lamb of God” is the most meaningful title given to Jesus in the Bible. It is used 29 times in the book of Revelation. It sums up the love, the sacrifice and the triumph of Christ. John’s introduction probably brought five pictures of the “lamb” in the mind of his Jewish listeners.

1) The Lamb of Atonement (Lev. 16: 20-22). A lamb was brought to the Temple on the Day of Atonement. Placing his hands over its head, the high priest transferred all the sins of his people on it. It was then sent into the forest to be killed by some wild animal.

2) The Lamb of Daily Atonement (Ex. 29: 38-42; Numbers 28: 1-8). This was the lamb sacrificed on the “Black Altar” of the Temple every morning and evening to atone for the sins of the Jews.

3) The Paschal Lamb (Ex. 12: 11ss), whose blood saved the first born of the Jewish families in Egypt from the Angel of destruction.” This lamb reminded them also of the Paschal Lamb which they killed every year on the Passover Feast.

4) The Lamb of the Prophets which portrayed One who, by His sacrifice, will redeem his people: “The gentle lamb led to the slaughter house” (Jer. 11: 19), “like a lamb to the slaughter” (Is 53:7). Both refer to the sufferings and sacrifice of Christ.

5) The Lamb of the Conquerors. This was the picture of a horned lamb on the Jewish flag at the time of Maccabaean liberation war, used as a sign of conquering majesty and power. The great Jewish conquerors like Samuel, David and Solomon were described by the ancient Jewish historians as “horned lambs.”

[toggle title=”Homily Week 3 “]

Is 8:23-9:3; 1Cor 1:10-13, 19; Ps 29; Mt 4:12-23

“The people who sat in darkness have seen great light” (Is 9:3)

Theme: Re-orientation in life

Once there was a university professor who was seeking for the wisdom to live a happy and meaningful life. After several years of seeking desperately, he finally came to a holy hermit and asked to be enlightened. The holy man happily invited the guest into his simple hut and served him a cu of tea. He filled the cup of his guest and still kept pouring into the cup which was overflowing and the tea was dripping onto the floor. The professor watched the overflow of tea until he could no longer restrain himself, and said, “Stop! The cup is full. No more will go in.” Now the hermit looked at him and said, “Like this cup, you are full of self-righteous attitudes, preconceptions and perfectionist ideas. Unless you empty yourselves, you cannot learn the wisdom to live your life happily and meaningfully.” Spiritual emptiness is a call to renewal in personal and communal life.

Jesus began his Galilean ministry with a proclamation, “Repent! The kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mtt 4”19). The message of this messianic proclamation contains first the call to conversion and re-orientation in life, and secondly, the reason for the invitation is the definitive display of God’s power and establishment of his rule being inaugurated in the ministry of Jesus. “Repent” means change of mind – a radical returning and reconciliation with God and others. It is a grace-filled experience of re-orientation in one’s life as a proper response to God’s kingdom.

The content of Jesus’ preaching was neither himself nor the Church but the kingdom of God. What does “the kingdom of God” mean? It signifies the realization of total human and cosmic liberation when all human alienation and all evils (physical or moral) would be overcome; when the consequences of sin like hatred, prejudiced division, unjust oppression, pain and death would be destroyed. In other words, it can be said that God’s kingdom means total, structural transformation of our world. In this way, God’s saving activity restores the foundations of all creation.

The healing miracles of Jesus (Mtt 4: ) confirm the realization of God’s kingdom and validate the power of the proclaimed message (v. 23). It is not mere human compassion that urged Jesus to heal the people of their diseases. It is the proclamation of God’s kingdom in action. The power of Jesus’ word inspired, motivated, and attracted the fishermen to follow Jesus. This shows that where God reaches out, there the world becomes whole. In order that such liberation from sin and all its personal and cosmic consequences be realized. Jesus makes tow fundamental demands: personal conversion and restructuring of our human world.

Personal conversion does not mean pious exercises but rather inner renewal which is a new mode of thinking and acting before God and others. This renewal is to be life-giving. It involves leaving our boats on the shore. It implies that the work of darkness that disturbs our happiness in the families and communities and obstructs our human growth should be left behind.

St. Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthian community to be united in Christ ((1Cor 1:10) is in fact a call for renewal. As disciples of Jesus, they must leave on the shore the boat of division and disunity, groupism and factions among them and be committed to live a meaningful Christian life with a renewed perspective to realize God’s reign.

The immediate response of the first disciples to the call of Jesus conveys the message that they left on the shore not only their material boats but also their past life encircled by personal comfort zones and riches, and thereby launched into a greater mission of human salvation for all. This is how they continued Christ mission of total human liberation.

This is the mission of everyone baptized in Christ to bring the Gospel of faith to the doubting, hope to the despairing, strength to the weak and comfort to the afflicted. In this way, we become a light in our dark world. This mission of realizing God’s rule among us involves on-going renewal and new direction in our life. There is no coming of God without being expected and willingly accepted in faith. There is no realization of God’s rule among us without transformation and re-orientation in life. Therefore, the call to repentance precedes the call to salvation. We need to realize and leave on the shore the boat of our own dark moments such as discouragements and failures, anger and misunderstanding, negligence and apathy. Then, we will be able to work for the realization of God’s kingdom and experience the total liberation inaugurated by Jesus.

[toggle title=”Homily Week 4 “]

Zeph 2:3, 3:12-13; Ps 146; 1Cor 1:26-31; Mtt 5:1-12

“God chose what is weak in the world” (1Cor 1:27)

Theme: Beatitudes – Believers’ New way of Life

God gave ten commandments to Israel through Moses, defining a way of life for them to lie faithfully as Gods chosen people (Ex 20: ). Jesus, the Son of God gave the Sermon on the Mount, defining a way of life for the believers who are the new Israel. After the call of his first disciples at the beginning of his public ministry, Jesus proposed a life of values that are highlighted in the sermon on the Mount. It forms the heart of Jesus’ preaching. The beatitudes taken together give the picture of a perfect disciple of Christ, and the nature of the life style of God’s people. It invites the believers to live a life of values in order to be perfect and compassionate as our heavenly Father is perfect and compassionate (Mtt 5:48). Being a disciple of Christ implies total availability to God’s will and open to his gift of love. Opting for simply life style makes sense only in this background.

The kid of people mentioned in the beatitudes, namely, the poor, the meek, the humble, the suffering, and the persecuted are the cursed and despised ones in the eyes of the world but they are the blessed and the privileged people in the eyes of God because he is the source of their happiness. Therefore, the beatitudes do not function as “the entrance requirements” but rather as delineation of the characteristics and actions of God’s people who will receive appropriate eschatological rewards. Those who possess the virtues listed in the beatitudes will receive the fullness of life in God’s kingdom. Here two things are very clear: first, the believers’ attitude of trust and total surrender to God both in poverty and prosperity. Zephaniah says, “The humble will take refuge in the Lord and no one shall make them afraid” (3:13. Such an attitude deepens our confidence in the power of God and creates within us a positive and optimistic approach to face the ordeals in our daily life. Secondly, we are blessed because of God’s solidarity with us through his preferential option for the poor and the oppressed. St. Paul says, “God chooses the weak and the meek to shame the strong” (1Cor 1:30), because God’s weakness is stronger than human strength” (1:230).

The beatitudes do not encourage purely material poverty or the lack of basic necessary things to live with human dignity for God himself does not will such a life of damnation. What is required of us as Disciples of Christ is the inner disposition of total dependence on God and positive attitude in faith toward life. If God has found solidarity with us I spite of our human ordinariness and unworthiness, then we are to adopt a life style to continue the Lord’s saving activities in our world.

Once there was a young priest. He was very talented, dynamic and well educated. After his ordination, his bishop appointed him as a pastor of a remote village parish. He went there with great zeal and enthusiasm. He had a great expectation and a master plan to being out a total renewal in the parish. When he went to the parish, he found that the picture of the current realities there were totally different and disappointing for him. There was no rectory. The church was in very dilapidated condition. The people were so poor and unwelcoming. They were busy with their own problems. They did not corporate with his plan. The mass attendance of the people was very poor. Seeing all these sad situation of the parish, he was so much frustrated with his ministry within a few months. The new pastor finally realized that he came with right vision to a wrong people. As a result, he decided to ask for transfer. One morning as he was praying in the church reflecting about his decision, he noticed on the crucifix, Jesus was hanging there naked and abandoned his body full of blood and crowned with thorns. Below the feet of Jesus, there was an inscription that read, “Follow me.” This scene struck him with a new insight and there he realized the meaning of his call to priesthood and where God wants him to serve. So he decided to make a preferential option for the poor and continued to serve God’s people in that parish.

Such is the life style that Jesus proposes and that must be our way of life too. Do we find the message of the beatitudes relevant for us today? What do we do to make our life of faith meaningful in our world? Let us pray for God’s grace to make a preferential option to serve and care for the poor, the suffering and the despised people in our families, communities and society that we will be able to continue the Lord’s saving activities in our world.

[toggle title=”Homily Week 5 “]

Is 58:7-10; Ps 112; 1Cor 2:1-5; Matt 5:13-16

“You are the salt of the earth; you are the light of the world” (Matt 5:13-14)

Theme: To make a difference

Once the Master asked the disciples, “How can you find out that the day has dawn for you?” One of the disciples replied, “When we hear the sound of the birds and see the rising of the sun, then we can say that the day has dawned.” “No,” the Master said. Another disciple answered, “When we see something at far and able to recognize whether it is an animal or a tree, then we can say that the day had dawned.” “. No. Not exactly,” the Master replied. The disciples anxiously asked him, “When can we say then that the day has dawned for us?” The Master answered them, “When you are able to see in others your own brother or sister, then the day has dawned for you. Until then, you are in darkness.” In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us, “You are the salt of the earth and you are the light of the world.” Here “earth and world” refer to all human beings and all creation.

Becoming disciples of Jesus has universal and cosmic meaning and relevance. The function of the disciples is illustrated by the metaphors “salt and light which are essential elements in our everyday life. Salt gives flavors to things and preserves them from being decayed. Light gives dynamism to life by dispelling the darkness and revealing the hidden things. At the same time, if we don’t use them diligently and prudently, they would cause destructive effects. So also the disciples are called to give force, add dynamism and bring meaning to our human life. It is a life of faith in action. How should it be done? As Isaiah says, “By giving bread the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked and supporting the afflicted, you light shall break forth like a noon day. The Lord will hear your cry for help and answer, “Here I am” (Is 58:2-10). This is the true worship. It is the exemplary life rooted in faith.

As the Apostle St. Paul says (1Cor 2:3), “Though the disciples are weak and insignificant, they are called to communicate the love of the Father through simple means. Our good works and concrete expressions of faith are not meant for seeking personal glory but rather to reveal the goodness and love of our heavenly Father to the world. Therefore, Jesus says, “Others may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Matt 5:16). In this light, the grace of becoming a disciple of Jesus is personal, powerful and demanding call. This is how the disciples can make a difference in the world and lead others to Jesus. SFS says, “We don’t need great opportunities to show our love for God. Simple means of our everyday life is enough to experience God’s love for and manifest our love for him.”

To be the salt and the light of this world means that believers are to improve the quality of human existence and serve as a beacon of light in our dark world in order to protect human life from all forms destruction. In this way, we are challenged as disciples to let the light of our goodness shine brightly in a given life situation as a witness to the life giving light of Christ. Today, we need to ask ourselves the question: how can I become the salt and the light of God’s love and kindness within my living situations?

When we speak of salt and light, we need to realize that these elements by nature lose their personal identity to give value and add meaning to other things. In the same way, our life as followers of Jesus involves a triangular relationship: God – I – others. Therefore, it is fundamentally human concern and care for each member of our families and communities. Our relationship with God will be jeopardized if we exclude others from us. In this perspective, our life has universal implication. When our life of faith becomes the salt and the light of our broken world, then a new say has dawned for us. A day of total liberation has dawned for the whole creation.

As SFS says, we should not wait for better things or greater opportunities to live our faith or for God to act. Every moment of our life is an opportune time for us to shine out our light of faith and to make a difference in our world. Hence, husbands and wives are to be the light to their children in the family through their life commitment and fidelity to each other. The young people can be the salt of their world by clinging on to their faith values with optimistic vision of life. As believers, we can reveal the light of Christ to the world by making use of the ordinary means of our life in the work places and in the believing community and by fulfilling our responsibilities in honesty and dedication. Our Eucharistic celebration reveals the mystery of Christ Jesus as a light for all who grope in the darkness. So it inspires us to be the salt and the light of the world to make a difference from our living situations.

[toggle title=”Homily Week 6 “]

Sir 15: 15-20, I Cor 2: 6-10, Mt 5: 17-37

Theme: “Disciples’ higher righteousness”

Once a disciple asked the Master, “What shall I do to love my neighbor?” “Stop hating yourself.” The disciple pondered seriously on these words for long and came back to say, “But I love myself too much, for I am selfish and self-centered. How do I get rid of that?” “Be friendly to yourself and your self will be contented and it will set you free to love your neighbor” (Anthony de Mello, One minute wisdom, 131).

Everyone is obliged to strive for the perfection of Christian life, because our Lord commands that we be perfect (Mt 5:48) and St. Paul says the same (2Cor 13:11). Perfection of Christian life consists in conforming our will to that of our good God, who is the sovereign standard and norm for all actions. So in order to acquire perfection we must always consider and recognize what God’s will is in everything that concerns us, so that we can flee what he wants us to avoid and accomplish what he wants us to do (SFS, Letters of Spiritual Direction, 105).

St. Peter (2Pet 1: 10) says, “Brothers and sisters, you have been called and chosen; work all the more harder to justify it.”

As we heard from the first reading today (Sirach 15:15-20), the author, exposed to the pervasive influence of Hellenistic culture against his religious values, exhorted his Diaspora Jews that there should be no compromise with the prevailing culture in following God’s law. Our God never forces us to do good or evil. It is our freedom of choice to obey or disobey God’s laws. However, we must be responsible for our own choices and decisions in living our faith. In the second reading (1Cor 2:6-10), the Apostle Paul advises the Christians to seek true wisdom in God’s revelation instead of indulging in worldly wisdom.

Jesus came to give the Torah its full meaning: The Jews believed that the Torah (Law given through Moses), was the eternal and unchangeable Self-revelation of God. Jesus, and later Paul, considered the oral Law as interpreted by the scribes a heavy burden on the people and criticized it, while honoring the Mosaic Law and the teachings of the prophets. Today’s Gospel passage, from Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount,” presents Jesus as giving the highest compliments to the Mosaic Law, although he himself would be condemned later and crucified as a Law-breaker. Jesus says that, as the word of God, the Old Testament has a divine authority, and it deserves total respect. For the Scribes and the Pharisees, the external fulfillment of the precepts of the Mosaic Law was a guarantee of a person’s salvation. For Jesus, justification or sanctification is a grace from God. Man’s role is one of cooperating with that grace by being faithful to it. Jesus then outlines the new moral standards for his disciples and explains the real meaning of three Mosaic laws concerning murder, adultery and false oaths.

Respect life in all its stages in words and deed: Jesus explains that the fifth commandment means respecting life in all its stages by honoring others in words and deeds. This means that we have to control our anger because it is the rawest, strongest and most destructive of human emotions. Describing three stages of anger and the punishment each deserves, Jesus advises his disciples not to get angry in such a way that they sin. 1) Anger in the heart (“brief stage of insanity” Cicero), has two forms: a) a sudden, blazing flame of anger which dies suddenly. b) a surge of anger which boils inside and lingers so that the heart seeks revenge and refuses to forgive or forget. Jesus prescribes trial and sentencing by the Village Court of Elders. 2) Anger in speech: Using words which are insulting (“raka“=“fool”), or damaging to the reputation (“moros” meaning a person of loose morals). Jesus says that such an angry one should be sent to the Sanhedrin or Jewish religion’s Supreme Court for trial and sentencing. 3) Anger in action: Sudden outbursts of uncontrollable anger often result in physical assault or abuse. Jesus says that such anger deserves hellfire as its punishment. In short, Jesus teaches that long-lasting anger is bad, contemptuous speech or destroying someone’s reputation is worse and harming another physically is the worst.

Jesus’ teaching on sexual sins: In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus outlines a new moral code for his followers, which is different from the Mosaic moral code. He insists that adultery, the violation of the sixth commandment, is also committed through willfully generated evil and impure thoughts and desires which remain in the mind. Our hands become causes of sin according to what we touch and how we touch, in lust or greed or violence. Our eyes become agents of sins according to what they look at. When Jesus recommends mutilation of eyes and hands he is not speaking literally, because we have more sins than we have body-parts. Besides, even if all offending parts were removed, our minds — the source of all sins – would still be intact, causing us to sin by thoughts and desires. So Jesus teaches us that, just as a doctor might remove a limb or some part of the body like an infected gall bladder, inflamed appendix, etc., in order to preserve the life of the whole body, so we must be ready to part with anything that causes us to commit grave sin or which leads to spiritual death. Hence, these warnings are actually about our attitudes, dispositions, and inclinations. Jesus recommends that our hands become agents of compassion, healing and comfort and that our eyes learn to see the truth, goodness and beauty around us.

Jesus’ clear teaching on divorce: According Matthew’s version, adultery is the only ground for sanctioning divorce. Based on the NT teachings given in Mk 10:1-12, Mt. 5:31-32; Mt. 19:3-9; Luke 16:18; and 1 Cor 7:10-11, the Catholic Church teaches that marriage is a sacrament involving both a sacred and legal contract between a man and a woman and, at the same time, is a special covenant with the Lord. “Divorce is also a grave offense against the natural law. Besides, it claims to break the contract, to which the spouses freely consented, to live with each other till death…… Divorce is immoral also because it introduces disorder into the family and into society” (CCC nos. 2384, 2385). (Fr. Tony)

Be men and women of integrity and character: According to the teachings of the Jewish rabbis, the world stands fast on truth, justice and peace; hence, liars, slanderers, scoffers and hypocrites will not enter heaven. The rabbis classified two types of oaths as offensive to God: 1) frivolous oaths using God’s name to support a false statement because this violates the second commandment. 2) evasive oaths using words like heaven, Jerusalem, my head because God is everywhere and He owns everything. Jesus interprets the Mosaic Law on oaths to mean that we should be righteous men and women of integrity and character. If one is honest in his or her words and deeds, there is no need for one to support his or her statements and transactions with oaths or swearing. How forceful are honest words! (Job 6:25). An oath is a solemn invocation of God (So Help Me, God!) to bear witness to the truth of what one asserts to be the case or to the sincerity of one’s undertakings in regard to future actions. It is necessary and admissible to ask God’s help in the discharge of an important social duty (e.g., President’s oath of office), or while bearing witness in a court of law (“I will tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth … “So help me, God.”). Jesus teaches, “Say yes when you mean yes and say no when you mean no” (Mt 5:37). That is, he invites us to live in truth in every instance and to conform our thinking, our words and our deeds to the truth.


[toggle title=”Week 1 Advent A” state=”opened”]

Is 2: 1-5; Ps 122: 1-2, 4-9; Rom 13: 11-14; Mt 24: 37-44

“Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.” (Matt 24:42)

Theme: “The Future is already in the Present”

Visitation and preparation, invitation and expectation are our everyday life experiences. We invite someone and we anxiously expect that person’s coming. When someone visits us, we will be well prepared and earnestly wait for that person. At the beginning of the Advent season, the liturgy of the word today emphasizes on the need for watchfulness and ever preparedness for the Lord’s coming. When that will be? No time table is given. It would be sudden and surprise. As believers, we believe that the Lord had already come, he is coming daily into our lives, and he will come again in glory. But until then, what are we to do? The liturgy of the word today offers us the answer that we have to be ever watchful and well prepared by living our present life meaningfully more than worrying about the exact time table of the Lord’s coming. It implies that the Lord’s future glorious coming is already implied in his present day visitation. St. Bernard speaks about three comings of Jesus. In his first coming Jesus took the human form in flesh and lived among his people. His second coming will be in glory and majesty. His intermediary coming in the in-between-time is in spirit and in power. Inspired by his first coming and encouraged by his second coming in hopeful expectation, as disciples of Jesus we are to beware of his daily coming into our life. It involves attitudes of readiness and prayerfulness that we will have the strength to withstand the challenges and tribulations, and stand blameless before the Lord.

Furthermore, we must know that the meaning of Christmas determines the importance of Advent season. If Christmas has little value for us, then Advent means nothing except as a routine change of another liturgical season. If Christmas is about the reception of the greatest gift of God’s salvation in Jesus (cf. Rom 13: 11), then Advent becomes an important season of watchfulness and readiness. In this light, Advent is rightly understood as a season of heightened awareness and inner awakening. We are reminded during every Advent season to be aware of God’s gift of blessings and new life through Jesus’ first coming by which he became human as part of our human history (cf. Jn 1: 14) to make us divinized. We are truly privileged to experience God’s love, forgiveness and eternal life as God’s children. At the same time, we have to be also aware of the Lord’s daily coming into our life, that is, Jesus’ continued presence in every experience of our life, empowering and guiding us in our faith journey. God is never absent from our life abandoning us. It is we who are at times go astray from God unaware of his life-giving presence.

As a grace-filled season, Advent enlightens us to evaluate our faith response to God’s unconditional love in Jesus. It involves the spiritual journey of examining our attitudes and approaches toward life and people, renewing our relationship with God and one another. By going through this process of life-changing and world-shaking personal conversion, we grow in our faith conviction ready to accept Jesus as our eternal peace (cf. Eph 2: 4) and become peace makers (cf. Mt 5: 9). This inner awakening will prompt us to rise above our daily cares and concerns, anxieties and worries, taking a fresh look at our life of faith with its peaks and valleys, promises and disappointments. As Isaiah says, by our life of heightened awareness and watchfulness we will be able to follow the way of the Lord and make concrete decisions to walk in his light (cf. Is 2: 3, 5), joyfully welcoming Jesus’ daily involvement in our present life. To live with the attitude of ever preparedness and inner awakening means, as the Apostle Paul instructs, “to wake up from sleep and cast off the works of darkness and we have to put on the armor of light (cf. Rom 13: 11-12). It is not the armor that creates violence, conflicts, disharmony, despair and death but the armor of Jesus Christ who came among us as the light of the world (cf. Jn 1: 3, 8: 12), establishing peace, offering joy, ensuring justice, and creating unity and solidarity among people and thus transmitting life to everyone. Such a life of hope-filled watchfulness implies that we are to be actively involved in our present life fulfilling all its responsibilities and commitments with positive attitude and trust in God. We cannot remain passively expecting Jesus’ future coming with a fixed time-table which we are uncertain about. He might surprise us with his sudden and unexpected coming. Until then, we must stay awake by fulfilling our daily faith commitments, building bridges between people to overcome hatred and disharmony. In this way we will be ready to encounter joyfully and experience Jesus in his daily coming through the members of our families and communities. Then, whenever the Lord comes, we will be ever ready and watchful to welcome him and experience his blessings of salvation.

It is said that yesterday is history. Tomorrow is but a promissory note. Today is the only reality. Live then as though each day is your last and someday you’ll be right. You learn how to die if you learn how to live. (Mitch Albon). Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating and recreating yourself. St. Francis de Sales that in order to journey steadily, we must apply ourselves to doing well the stretch of road immediately before us on the first day of the journey, and not waste time wanting to do the last lap of the way while we still have to make it through the first. Remember this well: we are sometimes so busy being good angels that we neglect to be good men and women. Our imperfections are going to accompany us to the grave. We can’t go anywhere without having our feet on the ground; yet if we fall, we don’t just lie there, sprawled in the dust. Our imperfections force us to acknowledge our misery, give us practice in humility, selflessness, patience, and watchfulness; yet, notwithstanding, God looks at the preparation of our heart and sees that it is perfect (Marie Thibert, Golden Counsels of SFS, 13-14). Therefore, let us keep listening to the words of Jesus, “Stay awake, for you do not know when your Lord will come (Mt 24: 42). Our Eucharistic celebration reminds us that as the Lord’s future coming is already implied in his daily visitation, our present life of watchfulness must be with joy-filled hope toward the future fulfillment of Jesus’ promise.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for reminding me to be always awake and ready for the sudden coming of the final day. Guide me, Lord, with your grace to understand the importance of your present day visitation in my life that I will stay alert and awake with the attitude of ever preparedness appreciating giftedness of the present life and live my faith life meaningfully to welcome you whenever be that day.

[toggle title=”Week 2 Advent B“]

Is 11: 1-10; Ps 72: 1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17; Rom 15: 4-9; Ps 72; Matt 3: 1-12

“Bear fruits worthy of your repentance” (Matt 3:8)

Theme: “Renewed life – the fruit of true repentance”

There is a saying, “I changed my attitudes and so everything is changed.” This is the message of today’s liturgy of the word that focuses on the change of one’s attitudes and approaches toward life as a result of true repentance. Once, a tourist said to his guide, “You must be proud of your town and the people. I am so impressed and touched by the number of churches in your town and amazed at the devotion of your people. Surely, this shows vividly how much the people love the Lord.” The guide replied cynically, “Very well, they may love the Lord, but sure indeed they hate each other as hell.” (Song of the Bird, 149). Through his preaching, John challenged the various groups of people inviting them to go through the process of renewal in life. By calling publicly the honorable religious leaders “brood of vipers” (Mt 3: 7), he directly challenged their natural claim of social honor and their biological claim to Abraham as their Father (v. 9). Instead he urged them to have moral basis by sincere repentance for such claims. So, the Baptist said, “Produce good fruits as evidence of your repentance” (v. 8). John’s simple clothing, ordinary food and austere life style symbolically linked him with the Old Testament prophets who resisted injustice among people and preached about the revolutionary model of personal and societal renewal. Thus, John’s preaching of repentance entails renewal in one’s personal life as well as radical reform in the society of God’s people.

People’s acceptance of John’s baptism through repentance was their radical turning away from disloyalty to faithful obedience to God. When they came to John for baptism they realized their sinfulness, believed in God’s forgiveness and resolutely decided to make a turning toward God as a sign of their new life. Their turning away from sinfulness is a reversal of human standards and adoption of divine standard of living as the result of having been restored to the original state of grace. Isaiah beautifully envisioned this perfect order of grace: “The wolf and lamb shall live together; the leopard and the child will play together, the calf and the lion will sleep together; the child will play with cobras. There shall be no harm or ruin on the Lord’s holy mountain” (Is 11: 6-9). There shall be no enmity and hatred, no vengeance and violence, no manipulation and destruction. There would be only peace and joy, unity and fraternal solidarity, blessings and prosperity because of God’s reign among us. This reflects the original order of grace at the beginning of creation prior to the experience of sin by Adam and Eve (cf. Gen 1: 3:1-7). There was complete ease, perfect harmony and delight in the world of nature. That is why it was called paradise. As this state of harmony and grace is disturbed and distorted in our world, the ideal life of grace in the messianic age will be restored by the coming of the Messiah.

Jesus as the long expected Messiah inaugurated this new age by his incarnation among us. As believers we are called to work together in hope for the realization of this happy balance in our world and journey toward its final fulfillment. Today, we hear the slogan, “If you want peace, prepare for war using any means.” Such situations show that God’s perfect order of grace and peace is manipulated and distorted in our personal life, in our families and communities. That is why we are exhorted to go through the process of true repentance bearing fruits of new life as our human response to God’s saving presence among us in Jesus. As our life of faith is determined on the basis of our actions as a response to Jesus’ call, there can be only wheat or chaff, acceptance or rejection. There can be no middle path. What is our response to Jesus’ call to repentance? The ax is already at the root of the trees that do not produce good fruit (v. 10). It is a prophetic warning for us to get awakened and listen to the voice of Jesus. Are we ready to live a renewed life of repentance by living in hope-filled attitudes, igniting the light of our faith to burn brightly? As a sign of our renewed life we must love and welcome one another as Jesus our Savior has welcomed us into God’s one family (cf. Rom 15: 4-9).

We must deepen our reflection by asking ourselves, ‘In what way have I contributed to the distortion of the order of grace and peace in my families and faith communities? What do I do to live a renewed life as the fruit of true repentance? It is true that as humans, we have contributed personally and collectively in one way or another to the existence of sin and evil in our world that continue to disturb and destroy the perfect order of harmony in God’s creation. Our acts of repentance must lead us to live a new life of goodness and kindness oriented toward the restoration of the perfect order of harmony and peace among us. We should practice reconciliation and forgiveness toward each other, and thus overcome the barriers that separate and divide us from God and others. St. Francis de Sales: persevere in overcoming yourself in the little everyday frustrations that bother you; let your best efforts be directed there. God wishes nothing else of you at present, so don’t waste time doing anything else. Don’t sow your desires in someone else’s garden; just cultivate your own as best you can; don’t long to be other than what you are, but desire to be thoroughly what you are. Direct your thoughts to being very good at that and to bearing the crosses, little or great, that you will find there. We all love what is according to our taste; few people like what is according to their duty or to God’s liking (Marie Thibert, Letters of Spiritual Direction, 112). What is our focus in life and response to Jesus’ call? During this Advent season, let us ask ourselves: “The Messiah is around here; when did I see him last?” Let us allow this question to resound in our hearts and minds that will lead us to live a renewed life as a fruit of true repentance.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for the prophetic voice of John the Baptist bolstering me to renew my life and bear fruits of true repentance. Help me with your grace to practice reconciliation and forgiveness toward others that I become worthy to welcome you in my life and joyfully celebrate your birth in our midst.

[toggle title=”Week 3 Advent C“]

Is 35: 1-6, 10; Ps 146:6b-10; James 5: 7-10; Matt 11: 2-11

“Be strong, do not be afraid” (Is 35: 4)

Theme: “Proclaiming the message of Hope”

While confronting hardships and trials in life and being beaten up by storms of problems and frustrating moments, we long for words of comfort, and someone to stand by us with gestures of consolation and encouragement, inspiring us to have hope of new possibilities. Once, the spiritual Master kept saying to everyone, “God loves his people in their suffering as much as in their success. If God loves us in the worst, then we are the living Gospel of hope.” This sums up the thrust of today’s liturgy of the word which comes as good news of hope to those who are afflicted and in despair. When Israel was defeated and taken into exile in Babylon, they asked the questions, “Is our God Yahweh powerful or weak? If he is a powerful God, how can he be silent allowing such a terrible tragedy to happen to his chosen people? They wondered whether God would restart all over again to bring them liberation from exilic suffering. This expresses the intensified pain and agony of their suffering and hopelessness in life and their attitude of despair. At times, this seems to the experience of life for all of us. To the discouraged and fearful people in exile, the prophet proclaimed the message of hope that Yahweh had not forgotten them. In fact, he would lead them back home. This journey of coming back from exile would be their second exodus into the home land of success and prosperity, joy and happiness. Thus, the despised and the discouraged people would witness the unexpected display of God’s concern for them.

Here four categories of people are singled out, namely, the deaf, the blind, the lame, and the dumb. These categories underline the pitiable condition of God’s people (cf. Is 43: 8). However, the disenfranchised people of God have their claim on him and he will surely defend and protect them. The basic motive for such a marvelous display of God’s concern is his unconditional love (cf. Is 43: 4). Therefore, the prophet proclaimed the word of hope, “Be strong; do not fear. Here is your God; he comes to save you” (Is 35: 4). This saving act of God is demonstrated very concretely by Jesus. So he answered to the disciples who carried the question from John the Baptist in the prison, “Go and tell John what you hear and see; the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them (cf. Mt 11: 3-5). By doing the activities of the Messiah, Jesus proved his identity that he is the prophesied Messiah, “the one who is to come” (Mt 11: 3). Thus, he inaugurated the time of salvation for all. Pope Benedict XVI says, “With the angel’s greeting to Mary-‘kaire’ in the Greek, which means ‘be joyful’-the New Testament begin. We could say that the first word of the New Testament is ‘be joyful,’ ‘be happy,’ in other words, ‘joy.’ This is the true meaning of Christmas: God is near us, so near that He became a child. We realize that today’s world, where God is absent, is dominated by fear, and uncertainty. Nonetheless, “the words ‘be joyful because God is with you and with us,’ truly open a new time.”

As Messiah, he gives life to those lifeless and offers hope to those who are groping into the darkness of despair and meaninglessness. We witness in our world today that in spite of tremendous growth and enormous wealth, millions of our brothers and sisters suffer poverty, and corruption, ill-treatment and various diseases. People become innocent victims of violence, injustice, oppression, manipulation and subjugation. We can find people around us vulnerably bearing the pain of hurt feelings, exclusion and separation. In such situations of pain and suffering, God’s word comes to us as a word of hope: “Be strong; do not be afraid. The Lord comes to save you.” Truly, the season of Advent is a grace-filled season stirring up our hope motivating us to incarnate hope in our daily lives by concrete actions of kindness and compassion. We cannot be mere recipients of the good news of hope. We also must become messengers of hope for our world. Jesus’ teachings and actions of love and compassion mark the eruption of God’s reign in the present age. As believers, we are called to continue the proclamation of the good news of hope through our liberating words and actions: by enabling and inspiring people to see life realities in the light of faith with positive attitudes, encouraging the discouraged, strengthening the weak with words and gestures of affirmation, and supporting in fraternal solidarity the cause of the poor and the vulnerable.

In this way, we will know that God loves us through Jesus in our suffering and struggle as much as in our success. Then we will be able to believe and announce the presence of God’s reign among us and understand that he is coming to save us. In this journey of joyful expectation and meaningfully living our faith, we need to develop the attitude of “patient endurance’ (James 5: 8) without giving up at any cost that Jesus will lead us to be messengers of hope in our world. St. Francis de Sales says: “You should never get discouraged. All that you are expected to do is to have a courage that is gentle and patient and take your time and all the care needed to heal and comfort your heart in the wake of the assaults it has endured. Have courage. Let us do our best, all we possibly can, and God will be happy with us. It is one thing sometimes to be beaten and quite another thing to be vanquished” (SFS, Conf. XVI, 63; VI, 378 from The Art of Utilizing Our Faults, 47, 49). Jesus comes to us as our Savior to be the source of our joy and hope. But, how do we proclaim the good news of hope that God is actively present among us? Do we create a situation of hopelessness and vulnerability for people around us or make efforts to proclaim the message of hope?

[toggle title=”Week 4 Advent D“]

Is 7:10-14; Ps 24:1-6; Rom 1:1-7; Matt 1:18-24

“He was unwilling to dispose Mary to be disgraced” (Matt 1:19)

Theme: “Human response important for diving response”

The development of any society depends on the response of its leads and people; the well-being of a family depends on the response of the parents and children; the success of an individual depends on his/her response to life. The liturgy of the word today brings us the message that human response is important for the divine response to work out human salvation. The scripture teaches us that God has acted in the salvation history depending on the faith response of people. Abraham (Gen 12: 1-4), Moses (Ex 3: 10-12, 4: 18-20), the prophets (1Sam 3: 3-10; Is 6: 8-9; Jer 1: 4-10), and the Apostles (Mk 1:16-20; 2:13-14; Matt4:18-22; Rom 1:1) responded to God’s call freely and in total surrender for the fulfillment of God’s plan of salvation. Joseph and Mary too responded to God’s call without resistance and reservations that resulted in the incarnation of Jesus as Emmanuel (cf. Matt 1: 25). Thus, they all made a difference. Such human response involves radical leap of faith in total surrender to God.

Daniel and Dennis were newly married couple. Daniel had a good job as a manager in a bank. He felt life for him was a blessing with a beautiful wife, nice job and good money. They were a very good and faithful Catholic couple. They began their married life with so much of happiness and joy, having a lot of hopes and dreams. Days and months passed. They began to face problems. Daniel’s parents created problems for his new wife, and she in her part didn’t adjust with his parents and family members. He was struggling to take a stand between his parents and his wife. He feeling had to maintain peace and reconciliation in the family. In the course of time, Dennis became pregnant and time came for her first delivery. Dan hoped and prayed that when his wife comes with a new baby, things will get better in the family. Dennis went to her parent’s house for delivery. Unfortunate, the sad news was that it was a pre-matured delivery and the baby had already died in the womb. The young mother was mentally affected unable to face such a terrible lose of her baby. Dan was asked by the doctors to be with his wife assisting her for three months. He didn’t have holidays and so could not take leave from the bank because of various commitments. Again he struggled between carrying on with his job or to be with his wife. He prayed about it and discerned God’s will for him. Finally, he resigned his job to be with his wife in the most difficult time of her life. Someone asked, “Why didn’t you make alternative arrangements?” Dan replied, “Yes, I could have done it but my wife needed at that time my love, comfort and personal presence.” Later, some other bank offered Dan a better job. God’s blessings may be hidden in the darkness of our troubles and trials. Joseph and Mary also had such experiences but they discerned God’s will for them, supported and cooperated with one another to find meaning and happiness in life.

The Gospel narrative toady about the birth of Jesus the Messiah focuses on the faith response of Joseph. He is presented as a righteous man (cf. Mt 1:19) who observed in loyalty the Law and his Jewish religious traditions. In the OT, a righteous man is the just one who listens to God’s word, and lives according to the divine will, fulfilling the law in faithfulness. He/she is the ideal human person by his/her wisdom, kindness and piety. Joseph resembles such a righteous person. As he was deeply religious and committed to his faith values, he must have expected God’s blessings in abundance when he began his family life with Mary. But unfortunately, everything began to take a surprising turn in his life. God’s divine plan for the salvation of humanity was revealed to him that the expected Messiah Jesus would be born from Mary through the Holy Spirit, and Joseph was called to play a responsible role in the fulfillment of this plan. However, when God’s divine plan for the salvation of humanity was revealed to him, Joseph had in front of him only two options either to accept God’s plan for the birth of the Messiah by accepting Mary with her pre-marital conception or to dispose her to disgrace. For Joseph, this was a crucial moment of decision making. He had to go through the agony of wrestling with such a difficult moment in deciding for or against God’s plan. Joseph being a righteous person did not want to put others into trouble and so he tried to come out of this problem by quietly divorcing Mary (Matt 1:19b). His deep faith in God seemed to have brought him more troubles than blessings. Yet, Joseph’s faith struggle informs us that trouble surrounds us when God enters into our life.

From our experiences we also know that our sincere commitment to God and neighbor may bring with it sometimes stings and arrows of even outrageous and unexpected troubles and hardships. We might struggle like Joseph in all such moments. However, God comforted and guided Joseph in his struggling moments assuring, “Have no fear in accepting Mary as your wife; it is by the Holy Spirit, she is conceived” (Mt 1: 20). Surely, God’s blessings may be hidden in the darkness of our troubles and trials. Moreover, when Joseph realized the divine plan for the salvation of the world, he responded freely and played a responsible role. Here he displayed his human character of concern for the weaker ones. Pope Benedict XVI says, “Joseph’s silence in the Gospel does not demonstrate an empty interior, but rather the fullness of faith that he carries in his heart. Let’s allow ourselves to be ‘infected’ by the silence of St. Joseph! Silence is so lacking in this world which is often too noisy, which is not favorable to recollection and listening to the voice of God. In this time of preparation for Christmas, let us cultivate interior recollection so as to receive and keep Jesus in our lives.”

St. Francis de Sales says: “It is very true that in order to surrender ourselves unreservedly to divine providence, we ourselves to be very trusting. But it is also true that when we let go of everything, our Lord takes care of all and manages all. If we hold back anything–this shows a lack of trust in him–he lets us keep it. It is as if he said, “You think yourself wise enough to handle this matter without me; I allow you to do so; you will see how you come out in the end” (Marie Thibert, Golden Counsels of SFS, 20). By accepting Mary with her pre-marital conception, Joseph totally surrendered himself to God’s will and made a difference. Thus, Joseph contributed to the coming of the promised Messiah which is the definitive high point in the salvation history. In the same way, God can come to us more powerfully in the midst of our own troubles promising us divine guidance, provided we respond to God’s will like Joseph in uncompromising faith and trust. Through his free response in faith, Joseph made possible the emergence of God’s nearness in Jesus as Emmanuel. This shows that our God is a God of great surprises. When we follow him in total surrender and commit ourselves to fulfill his divine plan, God would surprise us in an amazing way through unexpected display of many blessings as happened to Joseph and Mary. It might happen in many different ways and through various people and life events. How do we accept and respond to God’s plan for us? Do we follow Jesus in complete trust even in the darkest moments of our life?